Press Room NEWSLETTERS
August 26, 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...
Back To School
Concerning Early Learning
Concerning Higher Education
Teacher and Principal Fellows
Constitution Day
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Back To School

Throughout the week, the Department's Digital Team has highlighted the nation going Back to School, focusing on a different theme each day.

On Monday, the focus was on early learning, including a blog post by a parent sending her child to preschool and a Facebook Live interview of a District of Columbia preschool teacher (see more below).

On Tuesday, the focus was on P-12 education, with the launching of a Back to School web portal with resources for students, parents, and educators and a blog post with Back to School tips for parents. Also, to combat chronic absenteeism—defined as missing two days of school each month, or 18 days total over the school year—the Department, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Ad Council have partnered to create the "Absences Add Up" public service campaign. The campaign features a series of digital and out-of-home PSAs that drive parents to a web site with information and resources to help ensure children attend school every day.

On Wednesday, the focus was on educators, featuring former Department employee now first-year teacher De'Rell Bonner taking over the agency's Snapchat account, as well as a Twitterstorm where teachers shared #BackToSchoolTips.

Yesterday, the focus was higher education, including a post on Medium with College Survival Tips from Department employees. Also, the First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative and the Department announced ThinkZone Games as the grand prize winner of the Reach Higher Career App Challenge, a competition promoting the development of mobile solutions to help students navigate education and career pathways. ThinkZone Games' winning app, Hats & Ladders, provides repeat exposure to a broad spectrum of careers, enabling students to draw connections between personal attributes and multiple pathways to career success (see more below).

Today, the focus will be the many White House initiatives for educational excellence.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau's latest "Facts for Features" edition presents Back to School statistics, and the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides Back to School Fast Facts.

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Concerning Early Learning

More on the early learning front:

First, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced a $1 million investment in the Technical Assistance on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to implement the Pyramid Equity Project. The agencies will partner with Preschool Development Grant recipients Clifton Early Learning Academy in Clifton, New Jersey, and Cambridge Early Learning Center in Antioch, Tennessee, to establish national models to address issues of implicit bias and uneven implementation of discipline, including suspensions and expulsions, in early learning programs. These efforts respond to recommendations put forth by the President's My Brother's Keeper Task Force to abolish suspensions and expulsions in preschool and other early learning settings and allow families and caregivers to tackle children's physical, socioemotional, and behavioral needs as early as possible (blog post).

Second, the agencies announced the availability of $2.8 million for a Preschool Pay for Success (PFS) grant competition for state, local, and tribal governments interested in exploring the feasibility of PFS to expand and improve early learning. These studies will determine if this model is an effective strategy to implement preschool programs that are high-quality and yield meaningful results. The studies will be shared publicly to help other communities interested in pursuing this work to decide if it is right for them. The deadline for submitting an intent to apply notice is September 12, and applications are due October 6. Grants will be awarded before December 31 (blog post). (Note: Identical technical assistance webinars for potential applicants are scheduled for August 30 and September 8.)

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Concerning Higher Education

More on the higher education front:

First, the Department of Education launched a pilot to allow a limited number of colleges and universities to test the effectiveness of more flexible loan counseling policies on federal student loan borrowers. This experiment will permit selected institutions to require, as a condition of receiving federal Direct Loan funds, loan counseling to students beyond the statutorily mandated one-time entrance counseling and one-time exit counseling. The experiment will assess whether requiring additional loan counseling is effective in boosting academic outcomes and helping students manage debt. The Department is launching this pilot under the experimental sites authority of the Higher Education Act (HEA). To be considered for participation, institutions must submit a letter of interest by September 29.

Second, the Department invited selected partnerships between colleges and universities, non-traditional providers, and independent quality assurance entities to participate in the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment. These partnerships will allow students—particularly low-income students—to access federal student aid to enroll in training programs offered by non-traditional providers, such as coding bootcamps, online courses, and employer organizations. The goals of the experiment include: (1) testing new ways of allowing students from all backgrounds to access innovative learning and training opportunities that can lead to good jobs but that fall outside the current financial aid system and (2) strengthening approaches for outcomes-based quality assurance processes that focus on academic and employment outcomes for students.

Third, 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 student loan portfolio. For the first time, the center will include metrics on applications received for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Since the agency implemented its voluntary process to assess borrowers' potential eligibility under PSLF, nearly a million applications have been submitted, with two-thirds approved. Also, new data reveals more borrowers are enrolling in income-based repayment plans—a 36% increase from June 2015, and a 110% increase from June 2014. Moreover, new defaults and delinquency rates continue to fall.

Fourth, yesterday, the Department took a series of actions to protect students and taxpayers by banning ITT Educational Services from enrolling new students using federal financial aid funding and stepping up financial oversight of the for-profit educational provider. These moves follow determinations made by the institution's accreditor that ITT "is not in compliance, and is unlikely to become in compliance, with accreditation criteria." This comes amid increasingly heighted financial oversight measures put in place by the Department in 2014 and continued and expanded in June 2016 due to significant concerns about ITT's administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability, and ability to serve students (blog post).

Also: Last week, Secretary King held a roundtable discussion on access, affordability, and completion with local students and campus leaders at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland.

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Teacher and Principal Fellows

On August 18, the Secretary announced seven teachers selected to be Teaching Ambassador Fellows and three principals selected to be Principal Ambassador Fellows for the 2016-17 school year. Two of the teachers and one of the principals will serve as full-time employees at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the other seven will continue in their schools and participate on a part-time basis. These fellowship programs invite outstanding teachers and principals to gain in-depth knowledge of national policy issues in education and contribute their expertise to those discussions. In turn, they share what they learn with colleagues across the country, facilitating their understanding of federal initiatives and gaining their input into policy and programs designed to improve education at all levels. This year's cohort of fellows brings the total number of educators who have served in this role to 113 (press releases from the Department, NNSTOY, and joint principal organizations).

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Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funding hold an educational program about this seminal document. To assist students and educators in their studies, the National Archives and Records Administration offers key resources, such as "The Constitution at Work," a match game connecting primary resources to constitutional articles, and "Exploring the U.S. Constitution," an eBook that explores the roots of the three branches of government. Likewise, free online resources are available from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Senate. This year is also the 225th anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights—the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

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Odds and Ends

  • The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities announced its third class of HBCU All-Stars, recognizing more than 73 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from 63 HBCUs for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, and civic engagement.

  • President Obama named 213 math and science teachers as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued a call to action to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through the use of active learning.

  • Secretary King recorded a message on the significance of social studies in a well-rounded education.

  • On August 15, the Department awarded $48 million in grants to 143 colleges, universities, and organizations under the TRIO Educational Opportunity Centers program, offering college guidance to 200,000 adults who may not otherwise quickly decipher the steps needed for college admissions and continued success through graduation.

  • Days later, the agency awarded $7 million in grants to seven states under the State Personnel Development Grants Program, to help recruit and train teachers, principals, and other personnel to provide quality education for children with disabilities.

  • The agency also awarded a fourth Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant—totaling $300,000—to the Wounded Knee School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The grant will be used to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following numerous student suicides, beginning in December 2014. Since 2010, the Department has awarded $1 million in Project SERV grants to four schools on the reservation.

  • A few other notable blog posts: on National Summer Learning Day in Indianapolis; on the Let's Read! Let's Move! event in Washington, D.C.; and on youth sharing experiences with homelessness with the Secretary.

  • On September 1, under the President's Every Kid in a Park initiative, fourth-grade students nationwide may visit a web site to obtain a pass for free access to all federal lands and waters. The pass is valid for the 2016-17 school year and grants entry for the student and three accompanying adults—or an entire car for drive-in parks—at more than 2,000 national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries. The web site also offers educators and parents activities, trip planning books, safety and packing tips, and other helpful information.

  • According to the latest student readiness report from ACT, 38% of high school graduates showed strong college readiness, meeting benchmarks in at least three of the four core subject areas (English, math, reading, and science), a decrease from 40% in 2015. In contrast, 34% of graduates did not meet readiness levels in any of the subjects, an increase from 31% in 2015. ACT notes this decline can be explained in large part by the addition of seven more states that funded the ACT for all eleventh-grade students under their state assessment systems.

  • In #ParentPerspectives, Secretary King and his wife, Melissa Steel King, share their voices as parents raising two daughters who attend public school.

  • And, in a NBC News editorial, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Director David Johns and graduate intern Andrene Jones-Castro assert maximizing literacy development and multiple forms of literacy for black children.

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Quote to Note

"Part of our job as educators and caring adults is to make school a place where all students can find productive outlets for their emotions in response to the adversity and trauma they experience. But educators do not bear the sole responsibility for helping communities recover or changing systems that perpetuate injustice. To do that, communities must come together across lines of difference to find ways to work better together in support of our children and youth. Educators must work with community leaders, faith-based organizations, youth advocates, families, employers, and law enforcement officers to make our neighborhoods safer for all students. By working together, we can 'make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share,' as President Obama said in Dallas at the funeral of slain police officers."

        Secretary of Education John King and General Counsel delegated the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Education James Cole (8/17/16), in commentary published in SmartBrief

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Upcoming Events

This weekend, the Department will release a four-part multimedia series on Medium telling the story of how Justin Mesteth, a 17-year-old Native American student on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, gets accepted to Wesleyan University in Connecticut and the adults in his life who have helped him succeed. The series is based on the idea "It takes a village," and each piece identifies a specific person who has impacted his life and spotlights their contributions to it. The series also touches on the obstacles Justin and his family have faced, including a mother who struggled with alcoholism, becoming a single parent household, dealing with chronic illness, and the unique challenges of growing up on a reservation.

On September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, volunteers will spruce up schools, paint and refurbish homes, run food drives, and support veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders.

The Department is accepting applications for winter/spring 2016 internships through October 1. Interns will have an opportunity to learn about federal education policy while developing a variety of other skills, including communication, researching, and writing. They will also participate in group events, such as lunches with senior agency officials, local tours, and movie nights.

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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: 08/30/2016