Press Room NEWSLETTERS
September 23, 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...
Advancing Opportunity and Success
Back to School: Bus Tour
ESSA Update
Next Gen High Schools
Federal Student Aid
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Advancing Opportunity and Success

As Secretary King boarded the bus for his Back to School tour of the American Southeast (see below), the Department posted on Medium a series of fact sheets highlighting the nation's educational progress over the last eight years. Thanks to the hard work of educators, state and local leaders, communities, families, and students, high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, more students are completing college than ever before, and there is expanded access to pre-kindergarten, free community college, and computer science courses. To build on the nation's prosperity and competitiveness, the Obama Administration has worked to partner with states and communities to make a positive difference for students and sustain the momentum to deliver on the promise of a world-class education for every child.

The fact sheets, with infographics, cover:

For a succinct summary of educational successes, watch the "8 Ways Education has Improved Under the Obama Administration" video.

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Back to School: Bus Tour

Last week was the Administration's seventh and final Back to School bus tour, titled "Opportunity Across America." Over five days, Secretary King and senior Department officials held 13 events in 11 cities and six states. The tour web site has many stories, pictures, and videos chronicling the tour. Also, throughout the tour, participants have been using social media (#OpportunityTour).

On Day 1 [Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Virginia], the Secretary delivered a kick-off address during a rally on the Department's plaza (enhanced video) and visited Buford Middle School in Charlottesville to spotlight STEM programming, including computer science (fact sheet), supported by a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant.

On Day 2 [Bristol, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tennessee], the Secretary observed how high-speed wireless networks and interactive devices has allowed Vance Middle School in Bristol to personalize student learning and teacher professional development, supported by the federal ConnectED initiative (students interview the Secretary and the Secretary interviews students); engaged with students benefitting from the state's two-year, tuition-free scholarships at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, calling for more states and communities to offer similar opportunities for low-income students (America's College Promise playbook, press call audio and transcript, and "College Can Be Expensive" video); and facilitated a panel discussion at Battle Academy in Chattanooga on the Teach to Lead initiative, drawing attention to efforts underway in the district and across the country to boost teacher leadership and announcing a new web site to elevate teacher leadership in the STEM fields.

On Day 3 [Harvest, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee], the Secretary visited Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest, where, under the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, incarcerated students have access to 11 training programs ranging from carpentry and welding to horticulture and mechanical design taught by Calhoun Community College (Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge commitments and "Importance of Second Chance Pell" video); delivered remarks on college access and affordability at a college fair and rally at Craigmont High School in Memphis (fact sheet and blog post on latest College Scorecard data and "Easier College Choices with the College Scorecard" video); and stopped by Lafayette's Music Room, where Spotify was celebrating teachers' commitment to engaging students through music (Secretary King's Spotify playlist).

On Day 4 [North Little Rock, Arkansas, Indianola, Mississippi, and Monroe, Louisiana], the Secretary read to children and conversed with educators and community leaders at Pike View Early Childhood Center in North Little Rock, which receives federal Preschool Development Grants funding (fact sheet and "High-Quality Early Learning is Essential" video); toured a Promise Neighborhoods program in Indianola, which provides comprehensive wrap-around services, including early learning and after-school activities, to create equitable opportunities for students and their families (Promise Neighborhoods stories); and was briefed by teacher candidates and their mentor teachers at Sallie Humble Elementary School in Monroe on the state's "Believe and Prepare" teacher preparation program, supported by federal Race to the Top funding.

On Day 5 [Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana], the Secretary met with resilient students and teachers recovering from severe flooding at University Terrace Elementary School in Baton Rouge, announcing a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant of up to $1.5 million to support education-related services for the next six months in districts hardest hit by the recent storms and distributing school supplies donated by Yobbi; delivered remarks and participated in a fireside chat with Louisiana State University President King Alexander on college access and completion (fact sheet); and visited Cohen College Prep in New Orleans, which, supported by an i3 grant and federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), has grown from a low-performing school to achieve a 100% college acceptance rate.

Along the route, talented students, teachers, and local artists in each community drew on a side of the bus, creating a collaborative mural focused on the definition of "opportunity."

Additionally, senior Department officials fanned out across the country for events on similar themes.

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ESSA Update

At the end of the tour, the Department released non-regulatory guidance, "Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments," to help stakeholders make more effective education investments by leveraging relevant, rigorous evidence to improve outcomes for students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The first part of the document describes steps for using evidence as part of a larger decision-making process, which also includes identifying local needs, engaging stakeholders, and continuous improvement. The second part of the document provides clear guidance on the definition of "evidence-based" in ESSA, including recommendations on how to identify the level of evidence for various interventions.

Also, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)—the independent research and statistics arm of the Department—launched a new web site for the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). This site features an enhanced "Find What Works" tool that allows educators and policymakers to find programs and interventions that evidence shows have had a positive impact on student outcomes. The site also allows users to download "practice guides" with evidence-based recommendations for improving teaching and learning and search thousands of studies reviewed against the WWC's rigorous standards.

Then, today, the Department released non-regulatory guidance to help states, districts, and schools provide effective services to improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement of English Learners (ELs) through Title III of the ESSA. This guidance is an effort to ensure that students who are English learners receive the high-quality services they need to be college and career ready. Among other topics, the guidance touches upon: use of Title III funds to serve ELs; design and delivery of language instruction educational programs—which include educators of ELs; information on parent, family, and community engagement; information on distinct populations of ELs, including early learners, former ELs, immigrant students, and ELs who are also students with disabilities; and publications and resources for administrators and educators who work with ELs.

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Next Gen High Schools

On September 12, the Administration brought together leadership teams from six states and more than 20 districts to commit to redesigning their high schools—efforts estimated to reach over 600,000 students. This second White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools builds on progress made during the first summit in November 2015, which generated $375 million in public and private sector commitments to rethink the high school experience. Today's successful high schools are better engaging students by providing stronger connections to the educational needs and interests of individual students; opening new opportunities to personalize and tailor academic content and wrap-around student supports; challenging students with rigorous courses, including new economy subjects such as computer science; using innovative approaches and strategies to restructure the scope and time spent learning; and employing innovative educational technologies, project-based learning, and competency-based progressions to empower learners—ultimately, equipping youth with the content knowledge, collaboration opportunities, and critical skills needed to meet the demands of the 21st century economy while preparing them to embark upon a lifetime of learning (fact sheet and web site).

Among the new federal resources to advance next gen high schools are:

  • a progress report detailing key metrics of success from the commitments made at the first summit;
  • the first of 13 issue briefs, "Early Warning Systems," to provide descriptive information on the prevalence and characteristics of strategies designed to help at-risk students graduate from high school; and
  • a resource that focuses on six evidence-based strategies to improve critical student outcomes, such as high school completion and readiness for college and careers.

Furthermore, the Department's Office of Educational Technology (OET) launched a blog series to define core dimensions of exemplary personalized learning systems.

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Federal Student Aid

This week, the Department joined Beyond 12 and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) in announcing a new online package of supports to aid students affected by college closures. The resources—available at NextStepsEdu.org—will match students with experienced academic and financial aid counselors nationwide who can provide critical guidance as they determine how to continue their studies. Also, the Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs (VA) are partnering with the Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) to help in building awareness of options and resources for students. Labor is supplying information to its network of 2,500 Job Centers. VA has joined FSA webinars to assist with questions unique to servicemembers and veterans (blog post).

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Odds and Ends

  • Secretary King addressed the nation's teachers and principals in a September 16 Back to School letter, thanking them for their commitment to students and wishing them the best of luck this school year.

  • The Department awarded Advanced Placement (AP) Test Fee grants to 41 states and the District of Columbia to help defray the costs of taking AP and other tests for students from low-income families.

  • Also, the agency awarded grants to the Baltimore, Chicago, and St. Louis school districts to promote student resilience following significant trauma-related episodes of civil unrest in their communities.

  • At the September 19 "Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline" convening, the Department released "Safe Place to Learn," an online, interactive resource package to support efforts to create a positive school climate and healthy learning environment, and a document on issues for districts to consider when developing sexual misconduct policies (fact sheet).

  • Dr. Jill Biden and Mayor Eric Garcetti penned a joint op-ed on the launch of the new Los Angeles College Promise program.

  • In commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Secretary King issued a statement in English and Spanish.

  • The Department of Agriculture's Back to School toolkit contains resources for schools to share with parents and families on how to make healthy eating fun and easy (blog post).

  • The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), with oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is seeking nominations for four open positions—an elementary school principal, a testing and measurement expert, and two general public representatives—by October 28.

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Quote to Note

"Fifteen years ago, our world changed forever when horrific acts of terrorism shook the country. I was a school principal in Boston then, and I vividly remember our staff, students, and families consoling each other and struggling to grasp the unspeakable tragedies. As we take the time today to reflect on this moment in history and the lives lost on September 11, 2001, we also honor the first responders and everyday heroes of that day and pay tribute to families who still live with the loss of loved ones. Let's commit once again to be a little kinder to each other, to find more time to serve our communities, and to continue embodying the American spirit that no act of terror can ever extinguish."

        Secretary of Education John King (9/11/16), in a statement on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks

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Upcoming Events

Today, the Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is hosting a Multiliteracy and Dual Language Symposium. Secretary King will recognize state leaders who have adopted the Seal of Biliteracy.

Since 2003, the annual Speak Up survey (open October 12 through December 16) has collected data from students, educators, and parents about how to leverage technology in schools to promote learning.

On October 20, Lights On Afterschool!, a coast-to-coast rally organized by the Afterschool Alliance, will illuminate the nation by celebrating afterschool programs and the need they meet in keeping students safe, helping working families, and improving academic achievement. This year, 7,500 afterschool programs, including many of the Department-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers, will host activities.

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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: 09/27/2016