Press Room NEWSLETTERS
August 12, 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...
Supporting All Students
Early Learning Tour
ESSA Update
Innovative Assessment Grants
Celebrating Summer Reading
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Supporting All Students

Over the last three weeks, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) took a number of steps to clarify schools' obligations under federal law and help ensure all students receive the educational support and services they need to thrive.

First, on July 22, OCR announced a series of actions to confront discrimination and promote inclusive school environments, including unveiling a new web site on religious discrimination, updating its online civil rights complaint form to make clear when OCR can investigate complaints of discrimination involving religion, and expanding its survey of public schools on religious-based bullying (press release and blog post).

Second, on July 26, OCR issued guidance detailing the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. OCR also released a new “Know Your Rights” document for students with ADHD. In the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in K-12 programs, and more than 10% involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD (press release).

Third, on August 4, OSERS issued guidance (with summary for stakeholders) emphasizing the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. The guidance also explains that the repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that students with disabilities may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and support through the Individualized Education Program (IEP). And, OSERS released two resource documents: assisting teachers with classroom management strategies and assisting schools in implementing school-wide behavioral strategies (press release, blog post, and #Rethink Discipline web site).

Finally, on August 11, OSERS issued guidance to clarify some of the specific requirements in Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that apply to public virtual schools. The guidance addresses states' general supervision responsibilities regarding virtual schools and the applicability of IDEA's child find provisions to children attending such schools. It further outlines the responsibility for the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities attending such schools (press release and blog post).

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Early Learning Tour

Last week, Secretary King participated in a two-day tour in Colorado and Delaware to highlight the work these states are doing to improve access to high-quality early learning. He stopped by preschool sites in Denver and Wilmington, Delaware, for classroom visits and roundtable discussions with state and local officials and early learning stakeholders on the importance of providing high-quality early learning opportunities for all children. He also engaged with educators around the country in a Twitter chat and joined New Jersey preschool teacher Raquel Lima for a Facebook Live interview.

Colorado and Delaware are among the 20 states that received over $1 billion in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants to increase the number of children in rigorous early learning and development programs.

During this tour, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a national RTT-ELC update and individual state RTT-ELC annual performance reports (APRs). The agencies also released a fact sheet summarizing the Administration's investment in expanding access to high-quality early learning. And, in a separate letter, the agencies elevated a joint policy statement (with summary for stakeholders) that sets a vision and offers recommendations to states, schools districts, schools, and early childhood programs for implementing effective family engagement policies and practices to improve outcomes for young children.

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ESSA Update

Last month, the Department released guidance to states and districts on new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting students experiencing homelessness. The guidance aims to assist state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law in order to better protect and serve children and youth affected by homelessness and help schools in providing these students with much needed stability, safety, and support. It was informed by input from diverse stakeholders consulted during the development of the resource (letter on guidance and press call audio).

The guidance, which is non-binding, offers clarity in the form of questions and answers, touching upon: identification of students experiencing homelessness; ensuring coordination with other service providers; removing enrollment barriers; providing school stability, including the expansion of school of origin to involve preschools and receiving schools and provision of transportation until the end of the school year, even if a student becomes permanently housed; and increasing emphasis on college and career readiness.

The provisions for children and youth affected by homelessness in the ESSA take effect October 1, 2016.

With the guidance, the Department also released a fact sheet for teachers, principals, counselors, and other staff with an overview of the unique needs of students experiencing homelessness, a summary of the protections for these students under federal law, and recommendations for how educators can help (see related ABC News and Glamour magazine articles).

And, the agency recently announced changes to the way students affected by homelessness gain access to financial aid for college. All students who indicate on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that they are homeless will automatically have the option to select they have already received an unaccompanied homeless youth determination, which means they will be considered “independent” for purposes of financial aid eligibility and will not need to furnish any of their parents' financial information. A Q&A document is available to help students affected by homelessness navigate the FAFSA.

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Innovative Assessment Grants

This month, the Department announced the next step in President Obama's Testing Action Plan: a grant competition to help states secure the resources they need to innovate and improve the quality of assessments, enhance reporting for parents, educators, and other stakeholders, and reduce redundant and ineffective testing in states and districts. When done well, assessments can provide meaningful information and clear, objective, and actionable data that can be used to improve academic outcomes and promote equity. When done poorly, assessments can provide inaccurate or misleading information and detract from valuable classroom time (blog post and press call audio).

Enhanced Assessment Grants seek to improve the quality of assessments and provide opportunities for innovative solutions to create better, more meaningful tests, so that parents and educators will have the information they need and states and districts can better identify resources to support students and schools. Applicants will compete for $8.86 million in funding. The Department will select grantees that demonstrate a focus on: collaborating with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of state academic assessments; gauging student academic achievement using a variety of measures; charting student process over time; and evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment.

Applications are due September 22, and the Department expects to announce grantees in January 2017.

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Celebrating Summer Reading

On August 5, Secretary King spotlighted the importance of summer reading at two events.

In the morning, he joined Executive Director of the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative Debra Eschmeyer, White House Chief Horticulturist James Adams, chef Carla Hall, and U.S. National Arboretum Director Richard Olsen to read to pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students during a Let's Read! Let's Move! event in celebration of the Washington Youth Garden's 45th anniversary at the U.S. National Arboretum. Let's Read! Let's Move! aims to boost awareness about summer learning, nutrition, and physical activity. Students heard "Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cornin and ran through Olympic-themed obstacle courses.

In the afternoon, Secretary King joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Executive Director of the National Book Foundation Lisa Lucas to read to elementary school-level students for "Read Where You Are" digital day of action, in support of the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative (see web site).

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Odds and Ends

  • Secretary King discussed education and sports on a CBS Sports Radio's "Brown and Scoop" podcast.

  • The Secretary met with leaders of rural education advocacy organizations to learn about the struggles rural schools face. This initial dialogue will continue over the next few months, with listening sessions in rural locations across the country. The feedback will inform a rurally-focused review of the agency as required under the ESSA.

  • In a letter to college presidents, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell urges colleges to not move any priority financial aid deadlines earlier than for recent years, even though the FAFSA will be available three months earlier than in prior years.

  • The Department denied a request from the Center for Excellence in Higher Education, a Utah-based chain of for-profit career colleges, to convert to non-profit status for federal student aid, meaning that the colleges' programs must continue to meet requirements under the gainful employment regulations.

  • On August 1, the Department released the latest findings from the Race to the Top-District program, showing that implementing personalized learning has resulted in a systemic shift in the mindset among teachers, school leaders, and other staff toward engaging and empowering students. These findings include a case study report, focused on the implementation of personalized learning in four districts, and two performance profiles, examining more common aspects of personalized learning: partnerships and technology.

  • On August 2, the Department awarded $144 million in grants under the TRIO Talent Search program, which will assist over 300,000 youth across 49 states in gaining the skills they need to graduate from high school and prepare for college.

  • In a blog post, Secretary King and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez lay out "5 Things You Should Know about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act [WIOA]."

  • Another blog post debunks myths behind U.S. Department of Education-Green Ribbon Schools.

  • Over the past seven months, the Department has published on the Homeroom blog more first-hand accounts from practitioners than virtually any other source, pairing major policy announcements with Voices from the Classroom written by teachers and principals who describe why these policies matter.

  • A new Teach to Lead web page is dedicated to sharing stories of successful teacher leadership projects, encouraging educators at all levels to commit to expanding teacher leadership in their communities.

  • New information out of the Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES): data reports on undergraduate students who do not apply for financial aid, trends in bullying, use of hate-related words, and other unfavorable conditions at school, and conditions and trends in the education of students by racial and ethnic group; a synthesis of IES-funded reach on mathematics teaching and learning between 2002 and 2013 (blog post); and a What Works Clearinghouse practice guide with strategies for teaching foundational reading skills in the early grades.

  • From the Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the Newcomer Toolkit provides a discussion of topics relevant to understanding, supporting, and engaging newcomer students, as well as their families; tools, strategies, and examples of classroom and schoolwide practices, along with professional learning activities for use in staff meetings or professional learning communities; and selected resources for information and assistance, most of which are available online at no cost.

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Quote to Note

"Educators, schools, and states can do far more than the federal government can…to reduce incarceration. Every year, our schools suspend roughly 2.8 million students — the vast majority of them for non-criminal activities — and refer a quarter of a million students to police. Students of color, especially black students and those with disabilities, are suspended and referred to police at disproportionate rates. These students are more likely to fall behind academically, drop out of school, and wind up in prison. The Department of Education has assembled a number of resources — all of which are available online — to help educators rethink their discipline policies, so that schools are not contributing to the problem. Rethinking discipline may also require re-examining how local resources are spent. New data released this past spring showed that 1.6 million students attend schools that employ a sworn police officer but do not have a counselor on staff. That's a prime example of displaced priorities."

        Secretary of Education John King (7/26/16), in a commentary published in Education Week

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Upcoming Events

Today, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is hosting the biannual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit. This entire event is being streamed online.

On August 19, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department will host a special webinar on Zika virus response planning. Dr. Eric Dziuban, Chief Medical Officer in the Division of Human Development and Disability, will provide an overview of the CDC’s interim guidance for kindergarten through twelfth-grade district and school administrators for public health actions pertaining to Zika. Earlier, Secretary King sent a letter to Chief State School Officers referring them to CDC’s information and resources on viruses spread by mosquitos, such as Zika.

Teach to Lead will host a teacher prep-focused Teacher Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on November 3 and 4. Teachers and institutions of higher education are encouraged to apply by submitting an idea proposal addressing a current area of growth or a problem of practice within their teacher preparation program by September 6. Space is limited; all submissions will be reviewed, and invitations for participation will be issued to those accepted by September 23.

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Last Modified: 08/12/2016