Press Room NEWSLETTERS
March 4, 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...
Congressional Testimony
Equity in IDEA
Combating Chronic Absenteeism
Summer Opportunity Project
Open Educational Resources
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Congressional Testimony

In a span of just 28 hours, Acting Secretary King testified three different times on Capitol Hill. First, on February 24, he testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the Department's Fiscal Year 2017 budget request (statement and video). The request focuses on three major priorities: advancing equity and excellence for all students; expanding support for teachers and school leaders; and improving college access, affordability, and completion. The request also makes a commitment across the budget to promoting greater use of evidence and data to maximize results for students and taxpayers. Next, on February 25, he testified before the same committee on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (statement and video). He emphasized "ESSA honors the [original Elementary and Secondary Education Act's (ESEA)] civil rights heritage, and the responsibility to ensure that its implementation honors that heritage rests with each state, school district, and school—but also with all of us here." After outlining the agency's path forward on implementation, he added, "Our goal is a renewed federal-state partnership that will support school districts and their schools in their charge of helping every student succeed." Then, also on February 25, he participated in a confirmation hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on his nomination as Secretary of Education (statement and video). "In so many ways, this is a unique moment in our nation's educational journey," he noted. "The passage of ESSA should not be the end of the road; it should be the beginning of many. Let's harness the bipartisan momentum of last year to make this year one of continued progress." The committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination on March 9.

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Equity in IDEA

The nation's special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), strives for fairness in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities. But, disparities persist. Students of color remain more likely to be identified as having a disability and face harsher discipline than their white classmates. To address widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, the Department is proposing a new Equity in IDEA rule (press release and press call audio and transcript).

To address inequalities, IDEA requires states to identify districts with "significant disproportionality" in special education—that is, when districts identify, place outside a regular classroom, or discipline children from any racial or ethnic group at markedly higher rates than their peers. According to an analysis by the Department of data submitted under IDEA, hundreds of districts around the country with large disparities go unidentified. For example, 876 districts gave African-American students with disabilities short-term, out-of-school suspensions at least twice as often as all other students with disabilities for three years in a row. Yet, in 2013, states identified fewer than 500 districts in total with significant disproportionality.

Once identified as having a significant disproportionality, the district must set aside 15% of its IDEA Part B funds to provide comprehensive, coordinated early intervening services. Furthermore, policies, practices, and procedures must be reviewed and—if necessary—revised to confirm compliance with IDEA.

The new rule proposes to amend regulations under Part B of IDEA by:

  • establishing a standard methodology states must use to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the state and in its districts;
  • clarifying that states must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities;
  • clarifying requirements for the review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures when significant disproportionality is found; and
  • requiring that districts identify and address the factors contributing to significant disproportionality as part of comprehensive, coordinated early intervening services and allow such services for children from age 3 through twelfth-grade, with and without disabilities.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) has a 75-day comment period, which ends May 16.

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Combating Chronic Absenteeism

On February 19, the White House and the Department announced two campaigns to address and eliminate chronic student absenteeism: the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Success Mentors Initiative—with 10 initial participating cities—and a multi-million dollar Ad Council campaign to engage parents on this issue. Chronic absenteeism is a nationwide challenge with devastating consequences for five to seven million students, and, in low-income communities, the impact is more prevalent. These efforts are a part of the Every Student, Every Day campaign and are in response to the MBK Task Force's recommendation that federal agencies launch a cross-sector national absenteeism initiative to improve the outcomes for young people, including those in underserved communities (blog post).

The MBK Success Mentors Initiative aims to reduce chronic absenteeism by connecting over a million sixth- and ninth-grade students in high-need communities with caring mentors. It is the nation's first-ever effort to scale an evidence-based, data-driven mentor model to reach and support the highest-risk students—using existing resources already linked to schools, and the metric of chronic absenteeism to drive school and life success. The initiative is underway in districts in Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, Miami-Dade, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, San Antonio, and Seattle; additional districts are expected to join the effort this spring. Mentors include teachers, coaches, administrative staff, AmeriCorps members, tutors, and others. They will serve as trained and supported motivators, problem-solvers, connectors, and advocates to form supportive relationships, celebrate students' strengths, promote attendance every day, and connect students with the necessary supports to keep them on track (see video on how one student has been inspired by her mentor).

The Ad Council, in partnership with the Department and the Mott Foundation, is simultaneously launching a parent engagement campaign to elevate the conversation about the devastating impact of chronic absenteeism, specifically targeting parents of kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students. The effort will include billboards, outdoor bus shelter Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and community posters for schools, barbershops, and doctor's offices. It will also include a new web site, with resources for parents, educators, and community leaders in the areas that contribute to student absences.

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Summer Opportunity Project

Summer is a critical time for young people, and, for many, it is also a crucial time to look for a first job—an important step in building skills and experiences for their future. Yet, for a young person looking to start in the workforce, the prospect of finding a job with a blank resume, limited education, and no meaningful connections to employers can be daunting. Last summer, nearly 46% of youth who applied for summer jobs were turned down. The summer "opportunity gap" can contribute to gaps in achievement, employment, and college and career success, particularly for low-income students who lose access to supports that keep them safe, healthy, and engaged during the school year.

To meet this challenge, state and local leaders, philanthropic and community organizations, private sector leaders, schools, and other youth-serving agencies have come together to establish a set of supports that enable strong transitions from school year to school year and from high school to college and create careers by implementing and spreading proven interventions. The Summer Opportunity Project is a multi-agency effort in partnership with the National Summer Learning Association and other collaborators to provide support to communities. The project aims to significantly increase the percentage of youth in evidence-based summer opportunity programs, significantly decrease the percentage of youth experiencing violence over the summer, and—more broadly—make sure that young people have the support they need to get their first job (President Obama posted on LinkedIn about his first job).

The White House also recognized Champions of Summer Opportunity.

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Open Educational Resources

On February 26, the Department announced 14 #GoOpen states committed to supporting districts and educators as they transition to utilizing high-quality, openly licensed educational resources in their schools. This inaugural cohort of states joins leaders from an expanding number of #GoOpen districts and innovative platform providers in setting a general vision and creating the environment where students and educators can access the tools, content, and expertise necessary to thrive in a connected world. States and districts were recognized at the #GoOpen Exchange, a gathering of state and district leaders and innovators from education technology companies and non-profit organizations. At the event, several companies unveiled new platform features that enable the integration of openly licensed educational resources into their platforms and sharing between platforms via the Department's Learning Registry.

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Odds and Ends

  • Last month marked the seven-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The President delivered remarks on the Recovery Act's success, and the White House issued a series of fact sheets (1, 2, and 3).

  • Also last month, in celebration of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, Acting Secretary King posted on LinkedIn about the important role CTE plays in ensuring the success of students in college and careers.

  • The Department announced it is more than tripling—from $5.3 million to $17.4 million—the availability of funding for grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready. The funds are being provided for Native Youth Community Projects, as a next step toward implementing the President's commitment to improving the lives of American Indian and Alaska Native children.

  • Open eBooks is now available to millions of students offering unprecedented access to thousands of digital books.

  • As part of the President's commitment to protect the country's unique outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them, the Every Kid in a Park initiative allows all fourth-grade students nationwide to obtain a pass for free entry for themselves and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters for a full year—from September 1 to August 31. This is the second year of this annual program, and Scholastic has developed activities for students and educators.

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Quote to Note

"Education is—and should remain—primarily a state and local responsibility. What we do at the federal level is support states and districts to improve opportunity for all students, invest in local innovations, research and scale what works, ensure transparency, and protect our students' civil rights, providing guardrails to support educational opportunity for all children. We at the Department take that responsibility very seriously. The ESSA is a big and complex law, with a lot of new pieces—including new data-reporting requirements, new opportunities for state-designed accountability systems, new programs, and new authorities. Everyone, from the parent whose first child just enrolled in preschool to the superintendent, has questions about how this all comes together in practice. As someone who is a parent of public school children and who has been a teacher, a principal, and a state commissioner of education, I can tell you the prospect of a new law of this magnitude and scope is exciting and daunting. There is an incredible amount of work to be done at all levels to implement the law."

        Acting Secretary of Education John King (2/25/16), in testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on ESSA implementation

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Upcoming Events

Today, the Department will post on the ESSA web site the individuals that will engage in negotiated rulemaking in two areas of the ESSA: (1) assessments under Title I, Part A and (2) the requirement that Title I, Part A funds be used to supplement, and not supplant, non-federal funds. Also, the agency will post issue papers to inform the discussion, corresponding to the topics identified in the Federal Register notice establishing the negotiated rulemaking committee.

On March 12, in honor of Women's History Month, the Smithsonian Institution is hosting a special edition of its annual Museum Day Live!, encouraging everyone—in particular, girls and women of color—to participate in a day of exploration, hands-on learning, and fun. Hundreds of museums, science centers, libraries, zoos, and aquariums across the nation will be opening their doors for free to celebrate the theme "Inspiring Women and Girls of Color" (blog post).

The First Lady is again challenging the most creative junior chefs to put their talents to good use and whip up delicious lunchtime recipes. The "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids' State Dinner" invites children ages 8-12, with the help of an adult, to create and submit an original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty. Fifty-six children and their parent or guardian—one pair from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories—will be flown to Washington, D.C., to attend a special Kids' State Dinner at the White House, where a selection of winning recipes will be served. Recipes may be submitted online through April 4.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 05/13/2016