Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 5, 2016

ED Review ... ...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
Computer Science For All
Student Assessment Guidance
ESSA Update
Don't Be Fooled
New Number Two
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Computer Science For All

In his January 30 weekly address, President Obama discussed his plan to give all students across the nation the chance to learn computer science in school. "In the new economy, computer science isn't an optional skill. It's a basic skill, right along with the three R's," he said. "Nine out of 10 parents want it taught at their children's schools. Yet, right now, only about a quarter of K-12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don't even allow it to count toward a diploma."

Under the new Computer Science for All initiative, the President is requesting $4 billion for states and $100 million directly for school districts in his forthcoming budget to increase access to computer science in P-12 schools by training teachers, expanding access to high-quality instructional materials, and building effective regional partnerships; investing more than $135 million by the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support and train computer science teachers; and calling on more governors, mayors, education leaders, business CEOs, philanthropists, creative media, and technology professionals to get involved in the efforts (fact sheet).

"We have to make sure all our students are equipped for the jobs of the future, which means not just being able to work with computers but developing analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy," he explained. "Today's auto mechanics aren't just sliding under cars to change the oil; they're working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code. That's 100 times more than the Space Shuttle. Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records. Machinists are writing computer programs. Workers of all kinds need to be able to figure out how to break a big problem into smaller pieces and identify the right steps to solve it.... So, I've got a plan to ensure all students get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities."

Also last week, the White House welcomed "Champions of Change" in computer science for discussions on increasing access to computer science and improving upon existing standards (blog post).

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Student Assessment Guidance

This week, Acting Secretary King announced new guidance to help states identify and eliminate low-quality, redundant, and unhelpful student testing. The guidance outlines how federal funding may be used to help reduce testing in schools, while still ensuring that educators and parents have the information they need on students' progress to improve learning. It also shines a light on innovative work already happening in states and districts to use high-quality, useful, and well-constructed tests and eliminate redundant and burdensome assessments.

The Acting Secretary talked about the guidance in a video.

The guidance builds on the President's Testing Action Plan, explaining that tests must be worth taking and of high quality, enhance teaching and learning, and give a well-rounded picture of how students and schools are doing.

In addition to the guidance, the Department has:

  • established "office hours" for any state or district that wants to consult on how it can best reduce testing while still meeting policy objectives and requirements under the law;
  • awarded resources under the Enhanced Assessment Grants competition to support development of better tests; and
  • provided expertise to states through proactive outreach and other technical assistance.
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ESSA Update

Also this week, the Department published in the Federal Register a notice of intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on topics related to student assessments and supplement not supplant requirements. The notice requests nominations for negotiators representing key stakeholder constituencies significantly affected by the topics identified. The deadline for submitting nominations is February 25.

Meanwhile, the agency issued a Dear Colleague letter to states articulating flexibilities available in the 2016-17 school year designed to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA. In general, Fiscal Year 2016 formula grant funds will be awarded and administered in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). However, there are certain exceptions to this general rule regarding formula funds. These relate to school and district interventions and supports, interventions for English language learners, and highly qualified teachers provisions. Notably, state plans to ensure equitable access to excellent educators that states submitted in spring 2015 remain in effect for both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

A reminder that this information is posted on the Department's ESSA web page—all resources have been moved onto a subpage—and questions may be directed to ESSA.questions@ed.gov.

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Don't Be Fooled

Buyer beware! Borrowers never need to pay for help with their student loans. The Department will help borrowers, at no cost, lower monthly payments, consolidate federal loans, check on loan forgiveness, and get out of default.

The Acting Secretary addressed debt relief scams in a video.

Unfortunately, some debt relief companies act unethically or illegally to get business. They misrepresent themselves as having an official relationship with the Department by using the agency's logos, violating students' privacy by inappropriately using their Federal Student Aid (FSA) IDs, and claiming that government programs are their own. In fact, the Department issued "cease and desist" letters to two companies because they have inappropriately used the agency's logos (blog post).

Moreover, the Department took action to end the participation in federal student financial aid programs of 23 Marinello Schools of Beauty campuses in California and Nevada and three Computer Systems Institute campuses in Illinois. FSA investigations uncovered serious violations at both institutions—submitting false job placement rates, requesting federal aid for students based on invalid high school diplomas, under-awarding federal aid to students, charging students for excessive overtime, and engaging in other acts of misrepresentation. The schools may submit factual evidence to dispute the findings; if the evidence causes a change in determination, the schools could continue participating in federal financial aid programs.

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New Number Two

Acting Secretary King recently announced that James Cole, who is currently serving as General Counsel to the Department, will assume the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Education. In his new role, Cole will manage the agency's operations and lead its work on the President's My Brother's Keeper Task Force. He will also continue to be General Counsel, serving as the chief legal officer for the Department and as legal advisor to the Acting Secretary.

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Odds and Ends

  • The President is proposing nearly $6 billion in new funding to help over a million young people gain experience, skills, and networks that come from having a first job. Also, the Administration is taking a new step to connect more young people to work with a $20 million grant competition—using existing Department of Labor funding—to expand summer jobs programs into "Career Pathways for Youth" opportunities. Furthermore, the President is proposing a $3 billion American Talent Compact; a $500 million Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund; and a $2 billion Apprenticeship Training Fund (fact sheet).

  • On January 30, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks at the School Counselor of the Year award presentation in the East Room of the White House.

  • In an op-ed, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett and Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation David Wilkinson spotlight Utah's Pay for Success preschool program as a "worthy innovation."

  • Every year, hundreds of thousands of students from preschool through twelfth-grade reflect on a common theme to create original art in six mediums—dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. For the ninth year, the Department hosted the National PTA Reflections awards ceremony, drawing 35 honorees from 21 states and more than 200 other attendees. The ceremony ended with a signature ribbon-cutting opening an exhibit of Reflections literature and visual arts winners.

  • In a blog post, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Nancy Veatch details steps to uplift the teaching profession.

  • Twenty-one large districts have come together with the support of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) to accelerate environmental action within school communities. Collectively, the districts—eight of which are among the 12 largest districts in the U.S.—serve 3.6 million students in 5,726 schools and 550 million square feet of building area. They pledged to reduce their climate and ecological impact, connect their students to nature, and educate and engage their societies on climate and conservation.

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Quote to Note

"As everyone in this room knows, the education policy discussions of the last few years have been characterized by more heat than light. Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students. Some politicians have exacerbated this difficult climate by painting with a broad brush of failure, or by denying the challenges students and their families face or the glaring inequities in resources that impact our schools.... All of us—at the local, state, and federal level, the Education Department included—have to take responsibility for the climate that exists. There is no question the contentious tone has made it harder to have productive conversations.... But, the ESSA gives us an opportunity for a fresh start on this conversation, a much needed do-over."

        Acting Secretary of Education John King (1/21/16), in his remarks at a teacher town hall in Philadelphia

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Upcoming Events

Among other observations, February is African-American History Month, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, and National Magnet School Awareness Month.

Calling all teacher leaders! Do you have a great idea for your school or district that you want to put into action? The Teach to Lead team is accepting idea submissions for the seventh Teach to Lead Summit, April 9-10 in New Orleans, through February 8.

On February 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department will brief stakeholders on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. Stakeholders are welcome to join in person (in the auditorium of the Lyndon B. Johnson Building, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202) or watch online. That same day, budget materials will be posted here.

The Department is accepting applications for summer 2016 internships through March 15. Interns will have an opportunity to learn about federal education policy while developing a variety of other skills, including communication, researching, and writing. They will also participate in group events, such as lunches with senior agency officials, local tours, and movie nights.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement—Joseph P. Walsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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Last Modified: 03/07/2016