Press Room NEWSLETTERS
October 7, 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...
Federal Student Aid
Blue Ribbon Schools
ESSA Update
New Grant Awards
Native Student Resources
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Federal Student Aid

On September 29, Secretary King briefed the White House press corps on steps the Department is taking to further streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and connect students and families with the College Scorecard and other helpful resources to support them to and through college (transcript and video). This year's FAFSA became available on October 1 -- three months earlier than the traditional January 1 date -- so more students can access federal financial aid and have better information to compare costs and student outcomes at different colleges sooner, while they are searching for and applying to colleges. Also, because the underlying data that powers the Scorecard is published through an open application programming interface, a growing number of organizations are building the tool and data into their products and advising (fact sheet and Google blog).

"Saturday's launch is the latest in a series of steps the Administration has taken to make filling out the FAFSA faster and easier than ever before," the Secretary said. "Since the President took office, there have been more than 160 million FAFSAs completed, most by first-generation and low-income students -- students for whom financial aid can be the difference between earning a college degree or not.... We're also pleased that third parties around the country continue to use Scorecard data to create their own products to help students and families navigate the college choice process. Just today, Google announced that it would put information like graduation rates and future earnings front and center in their search results."

Also, in collaboration with the First Lady's Better Make Room campaign (blog post), CollegeHumor released a video to raise awareness about the importance of completing the FAFSA.

And, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) worked with comedian Adam Conover -- known for countering misconceptions of everyday topics -- to create a video and web page focused on dispelling financial aid myths.

Plus, on September 30, the White House honored individuals from across the country as "Champions of Change for College Opportunity" (blog post).

In related news, for his latest Student Voices session, Secretary King met with students for a discussion on experiences with federal financial aid.

The Department also announced the official three-year federal student loan cohort default rate has dropped to 11.3% for students who entered repayment in Fiscal Year 2013, down from 11.8% in FY 2012.

This is the third straight year that the overall default rate has fallen, from a high of 14.7% in FY 2010. Default rates fell for public and proprietary schools, while rising slightly for private and foreign schools. Schools with high default rates may lose eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs. This year, 10 schools are subject to loss of eligibility for default rates 30% or greater for three consecutive years, more than 40% for the latest year, or both (press release). (Note: The public may search for individual school default rates -- by name, city, state, institution type, or eligibility status -- online.)

Furthermore, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published reports on "Changes in Pell Grant Participation and Median Income of Recipients" and "Undergraduate Students Who Borrow the Maximum Amount in Federal Direct Loans."

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Blue Ribbon Schools

Also last week, via video, Secretary King announced 329 schools as 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at the highest levels or where progress is being made on closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 7 and 8. In its 34-year history, the program has bestowed this coveted award on less than 8,500 schools. (Note: Applications are posted here.)

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ESSA Update

Following on guidance supporting foster children and youth, students experiencing homelessness, and English Learners, the Department released non-regulatory guidance to support the nation's educators and elevate the teaching profession. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides multiple opportunities to better innovate and build on evidence with Title II, Part A funding. This guidance highlights some of the key areas leaders can invest these funds to support the workforce through better preparation, mentorship and induction, increased diversity, and bolstering teacher leadership (fact sheet). (Note: OZY reporter Nick Fouriezos interviewed Secretary King about the guidance, before a live chat with educators nationwide.)

Also, the Secretary shared insights from visiting Shanghai, China, and Singapore, two of the world's top-performing education systems.

And, the Department released updated schoolwide guidance, detailing the use of Title I funds for serving all students in a schoolwide program.

Meanwhile, the agency's latest education stakeholder forum included an update on ESSA regulations and guidance and featured a panel discussion on stakeholder engagement.

At the forum, the Secretary also announced the Department's first-ever Family Ambassador to increase parent and family engagement in education policy. Frances Frost, a parent, teacher, coach, author, and blogger, will bring the family voice to conversations at the national level and facilitate discussions between the agency, families, and family engagement stakeholders. The position is made possible by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation and an agreement with the Campagna Center of Alexandria, Virginia (blog post).

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New Grant Awards

Before the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30), the Department announced a number of competitive grant awards. Among them:

  • Innovative Approaches to Literacy -- $26 million to 29 grantees to help develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through twelfth-grade in high-needs school districts and schools.
  • Charter Schools Program -- $177 million in new grants to eight states to support about 490 new and expanded public charter schools and $68 million in new grants to 15 high-quality, non-profit charter management organizations that serve students from low-income families.
  • Magnet Schools Assistance Program -- $91 million to nine districts in five states to help create rigorous academic programs attracting a diverse group of students.
  • Special Education Programs -- $4.4 million to five centers and programs to improve literacy skills, outcomes, and results for children with disabilities; $2 million to the University of Minnesota to support states and districts in increasing participation and improving the results for children with disabilities on assessments; and $39 million to five states to help students with disabilities prepare for postsecondary education and competitive integrated employment.
  • International and Foreign Language Education Programs -- $71 million in new and continuation grants to strengthen the capacity and performance of American education in world languages, cultural understanding, international studies, and research.
  • Teacher Quality Partnership Program -- more than $5 million to four grantees implementing innovate teacher preparation models focused on rural communities.
  • Equity Assistance Centers -- $6.5 million to four regional centers to support schools and communities creating equitable educational opportunities for all students.
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Native Student Resources

At the eighth-annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, the Department announced new resources to close the achievement gap so all native students -- whether in traditional or tribal public schools -- have the opportunity to succeed.

First, the Department of Education, in close partnership with the Department of the Interior, approved the first phase of the Navajo Nation's request to implement an alternative system of accountability for schools. This new system will unite 66 Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, allowing the tribe to take greater control of the education of its students under a single system of standards, assessments, and accountability -- rather than implementing the systems of each state where schools are located. The initial approval applies retroactively to the 2015-16 school year, as well as the current school year (news article).

Second, the Department sent a Dear Colleague Letter to states outlining the responsibilities of certain districts to consult with tribal stakeholders as part of implementing the ESSA. Under the law, districts with tribal students are required to collect feedback from tribes and tribal leaders on any plan or application for federal funding. These requirements take effect for the 2017-18 school year.

Third, the agency awarded $18.2 million in Native Youth Community Projects grants to 32 recipients and $6.7 million in Indian Professional Development Program grants to 20 recipients.

These announcements build on the work by the Administration to improve the lives of native students and are a key element of the Generation Indigenous (Gen I) initiative.

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Odds and Ends

  • As part of its "My American Success Story" series, CNN Money profiles "former high school rebel" Secretary King.
  • In The Undefeated, the Secretary "explains his platform and how he overcame his own obstacles in a family of firsts."
  • A new video recaps the sights and sounds of the Secretary's "Opportunity Across America" bus tour.
  • This October marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of Public Law 99-457, mandating Part B, Section 619 and establishing Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which have played a critical role in upholding the rights and improving the results of infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities and their families.
  • Since the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards' inception in 1923, it has become the nation's best-known recognition program for teenage artists and writers -- and their largest source of scholarships. About 250 people attended the Department's 13th annual celebration of the winners and the opening of the agency's 2016 exhibit. The works covey myriad themes -- from love, death, and identity to politics, peace, and technology.
  • The Secretary recently appointed six education leaders to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). The new members include two state legislators, a testing and measurement expert, a local school board member, a non-public school leader, and a general public representative. Appointees will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation's Report Card.
  • The College Board released results from its 2016 SAT Suite of Assessments.
  • NCES' "Projections of Education Statistics to 2024" provides national data on enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary education level and enrollment and degrees at the postsecondary level for the past 15 years and projections to year 2024.
  • "Education at a Glance," the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual report, compares education systems in 35 member countries using a range of indicators, such as student participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and educators, and the state of lifelong learning (blog post).
  • The White House Healthy Campus Challenge aims to engage community college, college, and university campuses in Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment efforts.
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Quote to Note

"This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are. It helps us better understand the lives of the President, but also the slave; the industrialist, but also the porter; the keeper of the status quo, but also of the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo; the teacher or the cook, alongside the statesman. By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together. It reaffirms that all of us are America -- that African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story, it's not the underside of the American story, it's central to the American story. That our glory derives not just from our most obvious triumphs, but how we've wrested triumph from tragedy, and how we've been able to remake ourselves, again and again and again, in accordance with our highest ideals."

        President Barack Obama (9/24/16), in remarks dedicating the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture

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Upcoming Events

On October 27, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, NAGB and NCES will release the results of the 2015 NAEP in science at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The report, measuring students' knowledge of physical, life, and Earth and space science, as well as science practices such as using scientific principles and engaging in scientific inquiry, will feature both national and state-level results at grades 4 and 8 and national results at grade 12. Interested parties may register to participate in person or via webcast.

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Last Modified: 10/07/2016