Press Room NEWSLETTERS
December 16, 2016 (Happy Holidays!)

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...
A Look Forward
School Ambassador Fellows
Update: Testing Action Plan
Update: My Brother's Keeper
Civil Rights Reports
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Editor's Note

This is the final issue of ED Review for 2016. Publication will resume January 6, 2017. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

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A Look Forward

In his final education policy address, delivered December 14 at the Center for American Progress, Secretary King called on supporters of public education to set aside political and policy differences and work together to ensure all students—especially the most vulnerable students—have the chance to be successful. Specifically, he laid out a vision for how the country can come together and move forward in promoting equity and excellence in public education—from preschool through higher education. "For all those who believe that strong, equitable public education is central to a healthy democracy and a thriving economy, now is the moment for us to set aside the policy differences that we have let divide us," he asserted, "and move forward together courageously to defend and extend this fundamental American institution" (video of remarks and subsequent question-and-answer session).

During his speech, the Secretary highlighted passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago, as an opportunity to "strike a better balance," and he called on those who have been on either side of debates over issues such as testing, accountability, effective teaching, and charter schools to come together around shared values. "Today, we have a choice to make," he stated. "We can continue to argue amongst ourselves about our disagreements. Or, we can work together in pursuit of larger goals. Now, I am not saying that we have to agree on every strategy or tactic. We won't. But, I am saying that we can reject false dichotomies and disparaging rhetoric. We can stop questioning our natural allies' intentions and fight side-by-side for the belief that every student across America has the right to a great public education."

He also called for equitable funding for the students, schools, and school districts that need the most help, reiterated the benefits of school diversity (see below), and called on leaders to remain focused on preschool quality and college completion. "We must continue to press on, firm in the knowledge that when we pull others up, they do not pull us down. When the light of opportunity shines on those who lack it, it does not dim for those already in its glow."

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School Ambassador Fellows

The Department announced the availability of the online application for the 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellowship. This program is designed to broaden the agency's Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and Principal Ambassador Fellowship programs to allow other professional school personnel—like counselors, librarians, parent liaisons, and assistant principals—to apply. The goal is to create a cadre of outstanding educators to inform the work of the Department, while expanding their own knowledge and expertise as they participate in and help lead the national education dialogue. As in previous years, applicants may choose to apply as Washington Fellows—a full-time appointment where fellows are based in residence at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.—or as Campus Fellows—a part-time appointment where fellows collaborate with the agency while maintaining their regular school responsibilities in their home communities. The application closes January 23, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Update: Testing Action Plan

Last week, the White House brought together state and district leaders, educators, parents, technologists, developers, and philanthropic leaders to discuss the impact of the President's Testing Action Plan and what more can be done to ensure that assessments are better, fairer, and fewer. As part of the convening, the White House and Department announced new efforts to help states and districts improve tests and evaluate the totality of their assessments (video of opening remarks and blog post). Among these efforts:

  • The Department announced nearly $8 million in funding for two projects under the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program. This round of EAG provides resources to improve the quality of state assessments used to measure academic achievement; support innovation through the use of technology and the development of new, innovative item types; and devise better scoring mechanisms for communicating and using test results to support students and teachers. The projects being funded this year are led by two states, working collaboratively with a total of eight other states, to develop high-quality science assessments.
  • The Department released final regulations designed to give states and districts clarity and flexibility as they implement the assessment provisions under Title I of the ESSA. The rule for state assessment systems—the result of consensus when the agency conducted negotiated rulemaking with a diverse group of stakeholders earlier this year—ensures that states continue to administer tests that are valid, reliable, and fair measures for all students, while allowing states to take advantage of a range of innovative approaches to reduce overall burden. The rule for the innovative assessment demonstration authority will allow up to seven states to scale up alternatives to traditional, end-of-year, large-scale assessments. (Note: Any associated application process will be during the next administration.)
  • The Department also released non-regulatory guidance underscoring how states and districts can use federal funds under the ESSA to ensure high-quality assessments for all students; reduce testing time; eliminate redundant, duplicative assessment; and provide clear, transparent, and actionable information to students, families, and educators.

Moreover, the agency issued profiles (1 and 2) detailing the steps taken by two districts to reduce and improve assessments, while the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) released a blog post on IES-funded technology-delivered assessments.

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Update: My Brother's Keeper

This week, the White House brought together some 300 leaders from My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Community Challenge cities, towns, counties, and tribal nations; federal, state, and local policymakers; and business, non-profit, and foundation leaders for the final MBK National Summit. The summit featured many new and recent federal commitments in support of MBK (video of opening remarks and blog post). Among these commitments:

  • The White House gathered stakeholders to discuss progress made and work ahead on implementing supportive school discipline practices (press release—featuring a First Look briefing on discipline) and published a capstone report with updates on projects launched in response to the Administration's Rethink Discipline initiatives.
  • The Department released final regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to address a variety of issues related to significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race or ethnicity (fact sheet), as well as released a Dear Colleague Letter to remind states, districts, and schools of legal obligations to prevent racial discrimination in special education.
  • The Department also released new guidance and technical assistance materials to help leaders provide transition assistance to those youth re-entering the community from juvenile justice facilities (audio of press call and Dear Colleague Letter).

Plus, to help low-income youth and their families apply for federal student aid for college and other postsecondary opportunities, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $2.5 million to public housing authorities to hire "education navigators" to guide them through the application process.

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Civil Rights Reports

This month, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released two reports spotlighting the achievements and challenges in protecting students' fundamental right to receive a quality education. According to OCR's annual report, the number of complaints filed last fiscal year jumped to a record 16,270 at a time when OCR's staffing levels remained at a near all-time low. Still, OCR resolved 8,625 cases and initiated 13 proactive compliance reviews. According to OCR's second narrative—describing progress from 2009 to 2016—76,022 complaints were filed over the previous eight years, with 66,102 cases resolved and 204 compliance reviews initiated. Also, during the same time period, OCR issued 34 guidance documents; monitored, on average, 2,000 resolved cases a year to ensure compliance with resolution agreements; and conducted three major Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) surveys (see video on civil rights progress and webcast of release event).

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Odds and Ends

  • President Obama signed into law a Continuing Resolution (CR), extending funding for education programs and other parts of the federal budget at FY 2016 levels—minus a 0.1901% across-the-board reduction—through April 28, 2017.

  • Secretary King has been visiting schools as part of the final leg of the "Opportunity Across America" tour, which began in January 2016.

  • In Louisville, Kentucky, where the district is voluntarily and intentionally pursuing diversity because of the positive impact on teaching and learning, the Secretary announced a new grant program—Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities—to support districts in increasing socioeconomic diversity in schools to improve student achievement. As part of this competition, the Department will invest $12 million in up to 20 districts or groups of districts to support the development of blueprints for increasing socioeconomic diversity in schools and complete pre-implementation activities. Districts with schools that receive or are eligible to receive School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding may apply for the completion, which is open until February 13, 2017. (Note: The Secretary also announced the latest Magnet Schools Assistance Program competition.)

  • Yesterday, the Department announced the selection of 51 institutions to participate in an experiment to identify promising loan counseling practices. These institutions will test the effectiveness of requiring loan counseling more often than the statutorily required one-time entry and exit counseling. A rigorous evaluation will determine what types of additional counseling are most effective in boosting repayment outcomes and helping students manage debt. (Note: The agency also released a toolkit with promising practices on increasing college completion rates from a dozen institutions.)

  • To help states developing new program reporting systems, the Department released non-regulatory guidance on the teacher preparation regulations.

  • The Department is informing institutions currently accredited by the Accrediting Council on Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) of operating conditions required for continued participation in the federal student aid program. These additional provisions follow Secretary King's decision to withdraw federal recognition of the accrediting agency. Notably, the Department may provisionally certify ACICS-accredited institutions for up to 18 months. This period allows institutions to seek accreditation from another federally recognized accrediting agency. ACICS accredits 250 institutions, enrolling 300,000 students who receive federal aid (blog post and letter to students at affected sites).

  • The "Digest of Education Statistics, 2015," the 51st in a series of publications initiated in 1962, provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

  • The results from the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that average reading and science scores for U.S. 15-year-olds were not significantly different from any of the past comparisons years, while math scores declined.

  • Last month, student artists from around the world and their families and teachers—joined by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, who founded VSA 40 years ago—celebrated the opening of the Department's 12th-annual VSA Art Exhibit, titled "Yo Soy...Je Suis...I am...the World."

  • Supporting Computer Science for All: this year alone, 14 new stats have expanded computer science education, more than 500 organizations have responded to the President's call to action, and an Advanced Placement (AP) computer science course launched that is already being offered in 2,000 classrooms.

  • The Department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) co-hosted a first-ever Adult Schools Growth Forum, focused on expanding quality schools for low-skilled learners.

  • The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) approved a new strategic vision for the Nation's Report Card, calling for substantially expanding outreach efforts and partnerships to spread the word regarding how students are performing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

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Quote to Note

"I know some will argue that equity conflicts with liberty. But, it's not liberty when the happenstance of birth binds a child to a life of limited possibilities. True liberty is the opportunity to take our lives as far as our drive and talent allow. The Pledge of Allegiance, heard in American classrooms each day, affirms that, in this republic, liberty and justice are the dual and enduring birthright—not for some, but for all. As long as that pledge stands, we can never separate the quest for liberty from the fight for social and economic justice."

        Secretary of Education John King (12/14/16), from his final education policy address

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Upcoming Events

The Department's Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) extends an invitation to a series of webinars about the non-regulatory guidance on the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment (ESSA Title IV, Part A) grants. These grants seek to increase the capacity of states, districts, schools, and communities to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education; improve school conditions to boost student learning; and improve the effective use of technology to increase the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. The first webinar—an overview of the grants—is January 12, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The annual Speak Up survey on leveraging technology in schools remains open through January 13, 2017. There is no charge for schools and districts to participate. Participants will receive local data results with state and national comparisons.

The agency is accepting applications for summer 2017 internships through March 15, 2017. 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 Dworkin, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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Last Modified: 12/16/2016