Press Room NEWSLETTERS
April 29, 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...
From the White House
ESSA Update
Supporting Student Borrowers
Honoring Sustainability
Funding Opportunities
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

From the White House

Education was a recurring theme at the White House these past two weeks.

First, on April 21, the White House, in close partnership with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and Invest in US, hosted the first-ever symposium to highlight the importance of promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning among the nation's youngest children and celebrate more than 200 public and private sector commitments to promoting early STEM learning across the country. The agencies also released a set of early STEM resources for families and educators called "Let's Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM!" These tip sheets—in English and Spanish—provide resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and infant, toddler, and preschool educators on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines, as well as suggestions for activities to engage young children in STEM learning (video and joint blog post). (Note: The agencies have also invited comment on some key questions to inform the development of a joint policy statement on the role of technology in early learning later this year.)

Second, on April 22, the My Brother's Keeper Task Force released its second year report and announced a series of new commitments spotlighting continued progress. The report tracks progress achieved over the past year on efforts to make a measurable difference in the lives of young people. These priorities fall into three interdependent priorities articulated by the President: (1) engaging state and local communities; (2) increasing engagement by business, philanthropic, and non-profit organizations; and (3) reviewing and reforming public policy. (Note: Don't miss this video of President Obama and the NBA's Stephen Curry on mentoring).

Third, in his April 23 weekly address, the President discussed his continued efforts to build a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system. And, in support of National Reentry Week, the Department of Education released a toolkit providing guidance to educators and other stakeholders to support a successful reentry system for formerly incarcerated youth and adults, while the Departments of Education and Justice announced $5.7 million in new grants aimed at improving outcomes for students who have been involved in the juvenile justice system through career and technical education. This investment builds on previously released joint guidance on correctional education.

Fourth, on April 25, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden celebrated 27 new free community college programs launched in states, communities, and institutions and announced a $100 million investment for America's Promise Job-Driven Training Grants (public service announcement).

And fifth, on April 26, the First Lady honored graduating high school seniors who will pursue a postsecondary degree at a College Signing Day event in New York City, joining some 1,000 communities nationwide hosting similar events. (Note: Today, Secretary King will participate in Washington, D.C.'s College Signing Day event.)

The White House's focus on education will continue next week with a Teacher Appreciation Week event, honoring the National Teacher of the Year, the State Teachers of the Year, and other great educators. Meanwhile, the Department will be hosting teacher events all week, including TED talks on improving teacher preparation, a call-a-thon to directly thank thousands of teachers, a summit on steps that can be taken to increase diversity within the profession, and a pep rally for math teachers at a local high school in the spirit of treating teachers with the same adoration afforded professional athletes.

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ESSA Update

At the conclusion of negotiated rulemaking on proposed regulations in two areas of Title I, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Department issued the following statement.

"We greatly appreciate the thoughtful and diligent work of the committee members in representing openly and honestly the interests of stakeholders from across the education system to develop regulations to support student success. We are pleased that they have reached consensus on Title I, Part A assessments and note that the public will have an opportunity to comment on the regulations agreed to by the committee this summer. All of the negotiators remained committed to reaching agreement throughout the discussions. Although they did not ultimately come to consensus on the other topic before them—ensuring that federal funds supplement, not supplant, state and local funds—their deliberations have helped our thinking on these issues, and the Department will continue to take their input into account as we move forward with the regulatory process."

Also, separate from the previous request for comments on potential areas for regulation under Title I of the ESSA, the Department is seeking input on areas of the new law on which it could provide non-regulatory guidance to assist states, school districts, and other grantees in understanding and implementing the ESSA. Such non-regulatory guidance is not binding and does not impose any requirements beyond those in the statute and regulations; rather, it is intended to help the public understand the law, how the agency is interpreting the law, and provide clarification and examples of best practices. For example, the Department seeks thoughts, comments, and suggestions on: ways to expand early learning; strategies to recruit, develop, and retain teachers and leaders (Title II); fiscal requirements; student support services (Title IV); and other areas. The Department also plans to develop guidance for students in foster care, homeless children and youth, and English Learners (Title III). Input should be directed—with name and organization—to ESSA.Guidance@ed.gov. (Note: In order for feedback to have the most impact, it needs to be submitted by May 25.)

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Supporting Student Borrowers

Yesterday (April 28), the White House announced new actions and underlined the progress already made to help ensure the 40 million Americans with student loan debt understand their repayment options and access high-quality customer service, strong consumer protections, and targeted support to pay their debt.

Among the actions:

  • New Goal to Enroll Two Million More Borrowers in Plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE). Leveraging key improvements in loan servicing and customer service, better tools and resources, targeted outreach to borrowers, and partnerships with external organizations through the Student Debt Challenge, the Administration declared a new goal to enroll two million more borrowers in plans like PAYE by this time next year.
  • Launch of StudentLoans.gov/Repay. To help borrowers navigate student loan repayment options, the U.S. Digital Service and the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) launched StudentLoans.gov/Repay to help drive students to their best repayment option in five steps or less.
  • Strengthening Consumer Protections through New Standards for Student Loan Servicing. The Departments of Education and Treasury, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), have developed student loan borrower rights and protections in three areas: (1) providing accurate and actionable information about account features, borrower protections, and loan terms; (2) establishing a clear set of expectations for minimum requirements on communication and services provided by loan servicers; and (3) holding servicers accountable for fixing errors, responding to borrowers, and resolving problems by ensuring borrowers, federal and state agencies and regulators, and law enforcement officials have access to appropriate channels of recourse when there are violations of federal and state consumer laws.

Also, in a letter sent to all federally recognized accrediting agencies, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell urges agencies to use the full extent of the law to monitor student achievement and struggling institutions. The letter offers detailed guidance on examining schools, with emphasis on using quantitative measures such as retention, graduation, and student loan default rates to judge quality. It also assures agencies of the flexibility they have to steadily ratchet up pressure on struggling institutions. "Accreditors need to utilize all the tools at their disposal to monitor and take action on institutions that put students and taxpayers at risk," he noted in the letter. "Accreditors have not only the flexibility but the responsibility to focus their resources on the institutions that present the greatest risk."

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Honoring Sustainability

In celebration of Earth Day (April 22), Secretary King announced 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Joined by Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Secretary praised 47 schools, 15 districts, and 11 postsecondary institutions chosen for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways (video and blog post). All honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony and reception in Washington, D.C., on July 20. (Note: To learn more about the honorees, see the nomination packages and highlights document.)

There are resources available for all schools—preschool through postsecondary—through the agency's Green Strides portal.

Furthermore, the White House announced that over two dozen entities have signed on to the President's Every Kid in a Park initiative, committing to funding trips to national parks and other public lands and waters for nearly half a million fourth-grade students.

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Funding Opportunities

The Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) is soliciting applications under several grant competitions.

The Investing in Innovation (i3) program announced its Development competition, focusing on generating new approaches to implementing rigorous standards and assessments, improving school climates and developing alternatives to exclusionary school discipline, improving student outcomes and closing opportunity gaps for underserved students through fostering racially and socioeconomically diverse schools, and addressing the unique challenges of rural areas. The competition will award up to $3 million each to 9-11 grantees. Applications are due by May 25.

The Charter Schools Program announced its State Educational Agencies (SEA) grant competition for states to create and expand new high-quality charter schools. The competition will award $160 million to 8-12 grantees. Applications are due by June 1.

And, the Magnet Schools Assistance Program announced its competition to support theme-based schools that welcome a racially and socioeconomically diverse group of students and help ensure every student has an opportunity to excel academically. The competition will award $91 million to 8-10 grantees. Applications are due by June 1.

In the weeks ahead, OII will launch additional grant competitions, to create new Promise Neighborhoods, teacher preparation programs, and district-level educator support systems.

Note: This map includes detailed information about all OII grant awards made between 2009 and 2015.

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Odds and Ends

  • As part of his recent series of school visits on well-rounded education, Secretary King visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a discussion on testing. For the event, the Department published case studies on state and district efforts to administer fewer, better, and fairer tests for students. The agency also outlined proposed priorities for Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grants.

  • States, municipalities, and tribes are invited to apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3). This initiative enables up to 10 pilots a year to test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieve significant improvements in educational, employment, and other outcomes for disconnected youth by blending together existing federal funding and seeking waivers of associated program requirements.

  • Because beneficiaries are having a difficult time navigating and completing a new application portal, the Universal Service Administrative Company extended the application window for the E-Rate program—the federal Internet subsidy for schools and libraries—to May 26.

  • The "Digest of Education Statistics, 2014," the 50th in a series of publications initiated in 1962, provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

  • "The Nation's Report Card: 2015 Reading and Mathematics for Grade 12" indicates scores were steady in reading but lower in math since 2013, while just 37% of students are academically ready for college. (Note: Secretary King's statement on the results is available here.)

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Quote to Note

"We know that simply locking people up doesn't make communities safer. It doesn't deal with the conditions that lead people to criminal activity in the first place, or to return to prison later. After all, there's evidence that a 10% increase in the high school graduation rate leads to a nearly 10% decrease in arrest rates. A 10% wage increase for men without a college degree lowers crime by as much as 20%. And, a growing body of research suggests that the longer people stay in jail, the more likely they are to commit another crime once they get out. Every year, more than 600,000 people are released from prison. We need to ensure that they are prepared to reenter society and become productive, contributing members of their families and communities—and even role models."

        President Barack Obama (4/23/16), in his weekly address on criminal justice reform

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Upcoming Events

Over the next month-and-a-half Secretary King will deliver commencement addresses at a high school in northern Virginia that benefitted from a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), a two-year career/technical college in Milwaukee, and an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Tallahassee. (Note: Other Department senior officials are also delivering commencement addresses.)

On May 4, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Endowment for the Arts will host a discussion on an arts education research funding opportunity from the Department that will support investigations into the links between arts education programs and policies and student academic outcomes and/or social and behavioral competencies. Register here.

On May 17, at 9:00 a.m. ET, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) will release the first-ever results on technology and engineering literacy, webcasting live from the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. Register here.

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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—Lindsay O'Mara, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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Last Modified: 05/13/2016