Press Room NEWSLETTERS
June 24, 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...
Protecting Student Borrowers
Second Chance Pell
ESSA Update
President's Education Awards
Pay Gap: Early Learning Teachers
Gender Equity: Career And Technical Education
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Protecting Student Borrowers

Over the last two weeks, the Department has taken a number of steps to further protect student borrowers in their pursuit of postsecondary education.

First, the agency announced proposed regulations to clarify, simplify, and strengthen existing regulations that grant students loan forgiveness if they were defrauded or deceived by a higher education institution. The proposed regulations would streamline relief for student borrowers who have been wronged and create a process for group-wide loan discharges when groups of students have been subject to the misconduct. They would also establish triggers that would require institutions to put up funds if they engage in misconduct or exhibit signs of financial risk. Additionally, they would require any financially risky institutions and proprietary schools where students have poor loan outcomes to provide plain-language warnings to prospective and current students and the public. Finally, in a significant step to help prevent institutions from shirking responsibility for the injury they cause, they would prohibit the use of so-called mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class action waivers. Institutions would no longer be able to use enrollment agreements or other arbitration agreements or clauses to force students to go it alone by signing away their right to pursue relief as a group or to impose gag rules that silence students from speaking out. The public comment period ends August 1. The Department will publish a final regulation by November 1 (fact sheet, Frequently Asked Questions, and press call audio and transcript).

Next, the Department submitted staff recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) regarding the 15 higher education accrediting agencies up for review as part of the regular review process. Accreditation is an important signal to students, families, and the Department about whether an institution offers a quality education. Accreditors have a responsibility under federal law to make sure schools earn that seal, thus making them eligible for federal student aid. Department staff recommended that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS, should no longer be recognized as an accreditor, and, at its recent spring meeting, NACIQI voted 10-3 in support of the recommendation not to re-recognize ACICS. That recommendation now comes to the Department for a decision (blog post, Frequently Asked Questions, and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell's prepared remarks at NACIQI's spring meeting).

Then, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) posted a series of updates to its data center, a collection of key performance data on the federal student aid portfolio. This quarterly report, which continues the agency's commitment to transparency on federal student aid and other key financial aid metrics, includes district-level Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates and fiscal year-to-date amounts recovered in defaulted student loans by guaranty agency and collection type. Among the key findings in the report: enrollment in plans such as Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay as You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) is increasing; hardship deferments, delinquencies, and new defaults are decreasing while income-driven repayment (IDR) enrollment has increased; and the delinquency rate has experienced year-over-year decreases.

In the coming weeks, FSA will release information about its institution oversight responsibilities, including data on institutions that paid fines over the past five fiscal years for violating laws and regulations and historical data about institutions required to submit a letter of credit to continue in federal student aid programs.

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Second Chance Pell

Today, the Department announced 67 colleges and universities selected for the Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program, an experiment to test whether participation in high-quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. The program will allow eligible incarcerated students in federal and state penal institutions to receive federal Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education and training with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. It builds on the Administration's commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity (fact sheet).

Selected institutions will partner with over 100 federal and state penal institutions to enroll approximately 12,000 incarcerated students—likely to be released in five years—in education and training programs.

The vast majority of selected institutions are public two- and four-year institutions that will offer classroom-based instruction on-site at corrections facilities. Others will offer online education or a hybrid of classroom/online instruction. More than 10% are Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and about 30% percent will offer prison-based education for the first time.

Secretary King will join Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a moderated discussion exploring Administration efforts to promote reintegration and rehabilitation and reduce recidivism among justice-involved individuals.

Last month, the Department released a Beyond the Box resource guide for colleges and universities that encourages alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during admissions and provides recommendations to support a more holistic review of applicants. This month, the Administration announced 25 institutions, serving over one million students, as founding partners in launching the Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge, a commitment to reduce unnecessary barriers to college access. In 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice released a correctional education guidance package to improve education programs in juvenile justice facilities and clarify existing rules around Pell Grant eligibility for youth housed in juvenile justice facilities and individuals held in local and county jails.

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ESSA Update

Yesterday (June 23), the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released guidance to states, school districts, and child welfare agencies on new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children and youth in foster care. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the law and inform state and local collaboration between educational and child welfare agencies. It was informed by promising practices from states and districts and input from diverse stakeholders consulted during the development of the resource (letter on guidance).

The guidance, which is non-binding, offers clarity in the form of questions and answers, touching upon: educational stability requirements; procedures for jointly determining which school is in a child's best interest; procedures for jointly determining transportation to maintain children in their original schools; transfer of relevant records; and protecting student data and privacy (blog post).

The foster youth provisions in the ESSA take effect December 10, 2016 (letter on timelines).

This guidance is the first in a series of ESSA guidance packages. The Department of Education plans on releasing guidance for early learners; homeless children and youth; English Learners (Title III); recruiting, preparing, and training teachers and principals (Title II); and student support and academic enrichment (Title IV). The agency is also still reviewing feedback from the field to determine what, if any, additional guidance is a priority for full implementation of the law in the 2017-18 school year.

In addition to the guidance, the Department released a letter stressing the importance and utility of stakeholder engagement as states and districts transition to the ESSA. This letter, from Secretary King, is meant to be a starting point as state and local leaders consider how to begin meaningful engagement at the beginning of implementing the law, so they can design the best possible education systems for students. The letter provides suggestions about which stakeholders to include throughout implementation and how to improve engagement by removing systemic barriers to participation and resources for states and districts as they approach the work (blog post).

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President's Education Awards

Since 1983, the President's Education Awards Program (PEAP) has bestowed individual recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence. School principals determine the number of qualifying students based on selection criteria and verify orders for awards. There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria. Students receive a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President and the Secretary. This year, nearly three million elementary, middle, and high school students from over 30,000 schools were recognized under PEAP. (Note: A list of 2016 PEAP participating schools by state is posted online.)

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Pay Gap: Early Learning Teachers

A new report from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, released in conjunction with the United State of Women Summit, shines a spotlight on the gap in pay for early learning teachers—97% of whom are women—and the impact that inequity has on schools' ability to attract and retain experienced, quality staff with higher levels of education. The national median annual wage for preschool teachers is $28,570, just about half of the wages earned by kindergarten teachers ($51,640) and elementary school teachers ($54,890). This gap is mirrored in most states, with median preschool teacher earnings across early childhood settings (public and private schools, child care centers, Head Start, and charitable organizations) significantly lower in comparison to the median earnings of special education preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and elementary school teachers (fact sheet, national graphic, and state graphics).

President Obama's Preschool for All proposal—$75 billion over 10 years—aims to accelerate the work of states to expand and raise the quality of preschool for four-year-olds through a federal-state partnership. Funding would be used to improve outcomes for children by expanding the number and availability of high-quality, inclusive preschool programs for children from low- to moderate-income families. Among the key requirements is that preschool teachers would be paid a comparable salary to their K-12 counterparts.

Also, Congress approved $750 million to support competitive grants to states to develop or expand high-quality preschool through the Preschool Development Grants (PDG) program. The grants support 230 high-need communities that are providing more than 100,000 additional children with access to high-quality preschool. In expanding opportunities, states were required to meet research-based standards of quality, such as a bachelor's degree for teachers and salaries that are comparable with K-12 education.

Before releasing the report, Secretary King shadowed Raquel Lima, a preschool teacher in New Jersey, who demonstrated what it takes to be a strong early learning educator (video).

And, in a blog post, Texas kindergarten teacher Cody Summerville details the "advantages students gain from [a] high-quality preschool program."

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Gender Equity: Career And Technical Education

Also as a part of the United State of Women Summit, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing all students—regardless of their se—must have equal access to the range of career and technical (CTE) programs offered. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act requires states to meet targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are non-traditional for their sex. Yet, despite states' efforts, disparities persist in certain fields.

The letter was announced at a Summit-related event at the Department. The event, "Shattering Stereotypes: Creating Opportunities for Women and Girls in Non-Traditional Career and Technical Education Fields," showcased CTE programs that are improving outcomes for non-traditional students and gave honored students the opportunity to share how participation in CTE has impacted their educational and career trajectories (video).

Building on this guidance, OCTAE is also developing an advancing equity in CTE toolkit. It will highlight resources and strategies to support states and districts, teachers, administrators, counselors, and parents in implementing equitable high-quality CTE programs, services, and learning practices.

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Odds and Ends

  • In recognition of National Week of Making, Secretary King called on schools to help foster making by giving students space for innovation in an op-ed published in U.S. News & World Report.

  • Also, the Secretary announced 10 winners in the CTE Makeover Challenge at the White House Champions of Change for Making event. Each winner will receive $20,000 in cash and a share of in-kind prizes from the $378,000 sponsor prize pool to build or renovate their makerspaces.

  • The Department awarded more than $113 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to 16 states to continue efforts to turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools. Awards to other states will be made on a rolling basis over the coming months.

  • Secretary King issued a statement (in English and Spanish) on the anniversary of President Obama's 2012 announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

  • As part of the #RefugeesWelcome United Nations' campaign, the Department released a video from Secretary King's chat with a refugee and first-generation college student from Sierra Leone.

  • The Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has launched a new tool to make it easier and more cost-effective for states and districts to evaluate the impact of their programs. RCT-YES is free, user-friendly software that supports analysis and reporting of results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and other types of evaluation designs. The tool can support a growing culture of research use in education.

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Quotes to Note

"I want to acknowledge the grief and dismay that all of us are feeling after the horrific, hateful killings that occurred in Orlando on Sunday [June 12]. This week, my thoughts have been with the families and LGBT and Latino community who have experienced such unspeakable loss.... The words Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Roseburg summon strong emotions for all Americans, but particularly for educators who hold memories of young lives ended too early and potential unrealized. Educators who experience the death of a student also need our support and whatever comfort we can provide. I call on our full team to offer support for educators across the country—but especially in Florida—as they discuss the attack with their students and try to help them make sense of the terrible act that is beyond understanding."

        Secretary of Education John King (6/17/16), in a message to Department staff on the mass shooting in Orlando

"More than ever before, today's students need to be prepared to succeed in a diverse, global workforce. Diversity benefits communities, schools, and students from all backgrounds, and research has shown that more diverse organizations make better decisions with better results. It is no surprise, then, that CEOs, university presidents, the military, and other leaders have expressed a strong interest in increasing diversity. I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin's admissions plan. The Department will continue to be a strong supporter of diversity and will work to ensure that all students benefit from school environments as diverse as America itself. As a nation, we are stronger together."

        Secretary of Education John King (6/23/16), in a statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

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Upcoming Events

The 2016 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit (August 12 in Washington, D.C.) will focus on strategies that schools, students, parents, and community members can use to ensure all students have supportive educational environments. This year, there will be an emphasis on issues confronting transgender youth, students with disabilities, and Muslim and Sikh students.

Teach to Lead, jointly sponsored by the Department, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, ASCD, and more than 120 education organizations, will be holding a Teacher Leadership Summit September 24-25 in Long Beach, California. To attend, teachers must submit actionable teacher leadership ideas by July 25.

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Last Modified: 07/11/2016