Press Room NEWSLETTERS
April 1, 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...
Strengthening College Performance
Protecting College Students
ESSA Update
Improving School Climate
Educator Equity Lab
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Strengthening College Performance

On March 24, as part of the Administration's commitment to helping all Americans complete a quality, affordable college education, the Department released a report highlighting the efforts of colleges and universities to promote access, opportunity, and success for low-income students and identifying areas of much-needed improvement. This report, "Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need," shines a light on institutions across the country that have a strong record of success when it comes to ensuring that low-income students are not just attending college but also completing their degrees. It also spotlights colleges that excel in providing federal Pell Grant-eligible students with access, as well as colleges with strong performance on measures of college success for Pell-eligible students, and recognizes the important role that community colleges play in serving more than 40% of the nation's undergraduate students.

Additionally, the report is a call to action for colleges with significant gaps between completion rates for Pell-eligible students and overall completion rates and colleges that, despite positive outcomes, have not succeeded in enrolling a significant proportion of low-income students. Similarly situated colleges have divergent outcomes on key measures of college access and success. A major takeaway from the report is that the actions of institutions matter and that colleges can do much more to help Pell-eligible students on their campuses reach their educational goals and career aspirations (press call audio file and transcript).

The data file supporting the report draws from certain information available in the College Scorecard and incorporates the findings of analyses by outside groups focused on student success.

The report's release complements efforts to accelerate the momentum to strengthen college performance. For example, Secretary King and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell convened college presidents, trustees, and campus leaders, including several included in the report, at the Department to celebrate promising and proven practices developed by the institutions to advance success for low-income students and encourage broader conversations throughout the field to advance the work. The Secretary delivered wide-ranging remarks on "Ensuring Higher Education for All."

In related news:

  • Secretary King spoke with student reporters from colleges (press call audio file), explaining loan repayment options that allow college students to pursue their careers and manage their loans (fact sheet).
  • The Department is inviting public comment on how to further reduce the burden of collecting Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information for federal student aid. Already, President Obama announced a plan that will allow students and families to apply for financial aid earlier—starting in October, as the college application process gets underway—rather than in January. Also, most students and families filling out the FAFSA will be able to electronically retrieve tax information filed for an earlier year, rather than waiting until tax season to complete their applications.
  • Both the Secretary and the Under Secretary engaged with students from a variety of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds about the idea of "belonging" during a recent Student Voices session on college completion.
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Protecting College Students

A day later, Secretary King announced that students defrauded at 91 former Corinthian College campuses nationwide have a clear path to loan forgiveness under evidence uncovered by the Department while working with multiple state attorneys general. These campuses represent the largest group of borrowers eligible for loan relief so far from the ongoing investigation into the for-profit college operator. In total, the Department has made findings of fraud against more than 100 of Corinthian's one-time campuses.

Students who attended Corinthian schools operated under its Everest and WyoTech brands in more than 20 states can apply for debt relief through the form posted here.

Last summer, the Department developed a similar form for students at 12 Heald College campuses after fining Corinthian $30 million for misrepresenting job placement rates to current and prospective students.

Also, the Department's Special Master Joseph Smith delivered his third report on borrower defense, outlining that the agency has approved loan discharges for more than 8,800 former Corinthian students, totaling over $130 million. Smith and Department staff have been working closely with attorneys general from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and other states to identify wrongdoing that may provide former Corinthian students a basis for relief under federal law. The agency hopes to replicate these partnerships in other states.

Meanwhile, Under Secretary Mitchell penned a blog post on strengthening college accreditation, noting the Department is "increasing the rigor of our fact-finding process with accreditors coming up for review this summer, as well as in other review and recognition processes going forward." The public is encouraged to help inform these reviews. Approximately three months before every meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)—which makes recommendations to the Department on accrediting agency recognition—a list of agencies scheduled for review is posted in the Federal Register. The agenda for the June 2016 meeting, with specific instructions for submitting public comment, is posted here. Comments for those agencies are due by April 8.

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ESSA Update

Responding to calls from stakeholders across the education system to provide clarification in key areas of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—particularly those essential to the equity and excellence goals of ESSA and to protecting the civil rights of students—the Department began the process of negotiated rulemaking last month in two areas of Title I, Part A: student assessments and supplement not supplant requirements. And, it will begin shortly the regulatory process on state accountability systems and reporting, submission of state plans, and Title I, Part B innovative assessment demonstration authority. While the Department will continue to seek input on where guidance and technical assistance would be helpful, it does not plan to propose regulations on any other areas of the new law this year.

There will be numerous opportunities for stakeholders to engage in the regulatory process. Along with the regulations currently under development through negotiated rulemaking (in fact, reflecting conversations from the first negotiating session, new materials—including draft regulations—will be posted soon on the ESSA web site for the negotiating committee to review and discuss), the public will be invited to comment on the Department's draft regulations on accountability and reporting, state plans, and innovative assessments later this year. The Department will also provide guidance and make additional technical assistance resources available beginning this summer.

We greatly appreciate the thoughtful feedback and suggestions thus far from individuals and groups and look forward to a continuing conversation on how we can work together to help ensure every student is ready to graduate from high school and thrive in college and careers. Please continue to direct questions about the ESSA to ESSA.questions@ed.gov.

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Improving School Climate

This week, the Department released new school climate surveys and a guide on making school climate improvements to help foster and sustain safe and supportive environments that are conducive to learning for all students. The School Climate Surveys and Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements will enable states, school districts, and schools to collect and act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real time. These free, adaptable resources will empower educators to understand and create environments where every child can be successful.

The resources build on two Administration initiatives: President Obama's Now is the Time Plan and his My Brother's Keeper Task Force, which recommended the Department work on school climates.

Aside from the Quick Guide, a series of tools will be released later this spring and summer as part of the School Climate Improvement Resource Package, a web-based suite of action-oriented, research, and evidence-based resources to help create and support positive environments.

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Educator Equity Lab

Also this week, in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Education and the equity organization Partners for Each and Every Child, the Department held an Educator Equity Lab at Jackson State University. This was the first of a series of labs planned across the country to focus on educator equity, as part of the Excellent Educators for All initiative. Both designed and led by the Department's Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows on behalf of the agency, these labs provide educators, community leaders, government officials, and other stakeholders with the opportunity to come together to carry forward the work embedded within states' Educator Equity plans, approved by the Department last fall to advance equitable access to excellent educators for all students and close existing equity gaps in schools.

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Odds and Ends

  • Secretary King stressed the Department's commitment to improve equity and excellence for all students—including English learners—in his remarks to opening general session of the California Association for Bilingual Education conference.

  • The Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) announced the availability of more than $3.2 million in grants to provide effective instruction to Native American students who are identified as English learners. Under the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program, funds will be used to support the teaching, learning, and studying of Native American languages. Among the goals is to increase the English language proficiency of students served to achieve the same rigorous state academic standards for all students.

  • Given what is known about the benefits of diversity, the Department is interested in exploring how the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program can be used to promote voluntary, community-supported efforts to expand socioeconomic diversity in schools and improve student outcomes (blog post). Evidence shows exposure to students from a wide array of backgrounds can boost empathy, reduce bias, and increase group problem-solving. Comments are welcome through April 12.

  • Secretary King has joined U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy as co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), a broad-based, government-wide effort to improve opportunities for AAPIs by facilitating increased access to and participation in federal programs.

  • The Department has proposed new regulations to update the Equity Assistance Centers program, which renders technical assistance in the preparation, adoption, and implementation of public schools' desegregation plans.

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Quote to Note

"My sincere condolences to the family and friends of the first-ever Secretary of Education, Shirley Hufstedler. She was a trailblazer and a champion for equity, defining the Department's role as a protector of civil rights. She will remain on our minds and in our hearts as we continue the work to ensure that all students are prepared for success in school, work, and life. As we remember and celebrate Secretary Hufstedler's legacy, let us recommit to expanding equity in education for all students."

        Secretary of Education John King (3/30/16), in a statement on the passing of Shirley Hufstedler

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Upcoming Events

During this year's Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6), the Department wants to extend a personal thank you to some great teachers. Help us by recommending a colleague, a friend, your child's teacher, or the teacher who inspired you. While we cannot guarantee reaching every teacher during the week, we may use submitted information for other highlighting purposes throughout the year.

Six years ago, President Obama made history by hosting the first-ever White House Science Fair. He will host the final science fair of his Administration on April 13. While only a limited number of students can participate at the White House, all students are encouraged to share their story of discovery and invention using the hashtag #WHScienceFair (blog post).

Through the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, K-12 educators can apply for grants to engage in 2-8 week collaborative projects abroad. Teachers may travel to Botswana, India, Mexico, or Vietnam, and grants cover travel costs, lodging, meals, local transportation, and related costs. The deadline for applications is April 18 for summer 2016 programs and May 9 for fall 2016 programs.

The Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Program aims to educate federal employees, students, teachers, and the public about the Holocaust, as well as other acts of genocide. This free event is held each year at a Washington, D.C., theater or hall. This year, it will be held May 4 at the Lincoln Theatre.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 05/13/2016