Press Room NEWSLETTERS
January 6, 2017 (Happy New Year!)

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...
Cabinet Exit Memo
New Grant Awards
Reminder: School Ambassador Fellows
Supporting College Students
Civil Rights Guidance
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Cabinet Exit Memo

Yesterday, Secretary King issued his Cabinet exit memorandum, titled "Giving Every Student a Fair Shot: Progress under the Obama Administration's Education Agenda." "I would like to share with you the great progress our nation has made in spurring systemic reform and promoting innovation across America's education system—from preschool through college—over the last eight years, and highlight critical areas where we must build on promising practices and success," he notes. "President Obama came into office with a strong vision for improving education to advance all students' opportunity and success. Elements of that vision included expanding access to quality preschool, raising graduation rates, and taking actions to help all students achieve to high standards. It also included promoting quality instruction; measuring student achievement so schools and families would know if students were succeeding; supporting great educators, especially for our highest-needs students; improving students' access to technologies that can personalize learning; and increasing college accessibility, affordability, and completion. I am proud to say that the country has made significant progress toward that vision." The memo goes on to outline notable progress and offers a "roadmap" to sustain and accelerate progress.

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New Grant Awards

On December 15, the Department announced the launch of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant competition for 2017. EIR is a new program established under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the successor to the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which invested a total of $1.4 billion in 172 projects across all 50 states.

Like i3, EIR supports efforts to develop, implement, and take to scale innovative and evidence-based projects. However, EIR differs from i3 in key ways: states, in addition to school districts, will be eligible to receive grants, and states and districts may collaborate with a wide range of organizations on projects. EIR will award grants for both new and ongoing projects. Early-phase grants are focused on launching, iterating, and refining practices that have the potential for further scaling, while mid-phase and expansion grants require increasingly rigorous levels of evidence in order to justify further replication and scaling of practices. All grantees are expected to focus on underserved students, though the competition encourages projects that address persistent educational challenges, such as preparing students for college and careers, improving school climate, and supporting principal training efforts.

Applications for EIR grants are due April 13. They will be evaluated by peer reviewers. The agency will announce its inaugural cohort of grantees in fall 2017, pending Congressional appropriations for the program. (Note: The Department also announced that all 2016 i3 highest-rated applicants secured required matching funds for their projects and will receive their federal grants.)

On December 20, the Department announced six grants under the 2016 Promise Neighborhoods competition, awarding $33 million to help communities launch, scale up, and sustain educational supports and community-based services to meet the comprehensive needs of children and families. Grantees provide educational, health, safety, and family support services in high-poverty neighborhoods. To date, the program has awarded over $286 million, spanning approximately 700 schools and 1,000 community partners (press release). (Note: This year's grantees include, for the first time, an Indian tribe; the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians [California] will reorganize their community's elementary and high school programs to help ensure all students are prepared to master grade-level content.)

On December 22, the Department announced more than $3 million in eight grants to states, districts, and other local government agencies to explore whether Pay for Success is a viable financing mechanism for expanding and improving preschool in their communities. Pay for Success is an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors to provide resources for service providers to deliver better outcomes—producing the highest return on taxpayer investments. Through Pay for Success, the government agrees to pay for concrete, measurable outcomes, but taxpayer funds are spent only if those outcomes are achieved (press release). (Separately, the agency released case studies of five programs; these programs are aligning preschool through third-grade instruction and differentiating instruction in order to build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool.)

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Reminder: School Ambassador Fellows

Apply now for the Department's 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—including 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. 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 on January 23 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. (Note: The Department will host an informational webinar about the fellowship on January 9 at 8:00 p.m. ET.)

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Supporting College Students

Last month, the Department took several actions to support higher education students and families.

First, the agency released final regulations to improve oversight and protect 5.5 million distance education students at degree-granting institutions, including three million exclusively online students. To ensure institutions offering distance education are legally authorized and monitored by states, as required under the Higher Education Act (HEA), the regulations clarify state authorization requirements for institutions to participate in federal student aid programs. The regulations also address state and federal oversight of American colleges operating in foreign locations (press release).

Next, the agency posted a series of updates to its Federal Student Aid (FSA) Data Center, a collection of key performance data about the federal student aid portfolio. These updates, which continue the Department's commitment to greater transparency, include three new reports by loan status, repayment plan, and delinquency status, as well as a report about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Among the findings: enrollment in income-driven repayment plans is increasing (up 33% from 2015 and 101% from 2014); new defaults and delinquency rates continue to decrease; and tracking shows borrowers are moving toward public service loan forgiveness. Furthermore, the agency issued a preliminary report on the FSA feedback system, an online portal to submit complaints, provide positive feedback, and report suspicious activity. This report will be used to refine the Department's analysis of system data, ahead of issuing a final report.

Then, the agency released an analysis revealing that many for-profit schools would likely exceed the 90%/10% federal funding limits if revenue from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense programs were included in the calculation the same way that HEA, Title IV funds are included. According to the latest 90%/10% report, 17 for-profit colleagues are currently out of compliance with existing federal funding limits. If Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are counted, the number of schools receiving at least 90% of their revenue from federal education programs would jump to nearly 200. To protect servicemembers and veterans from targeting by predatory institutions, President Obama has proposed including all federal education programs in the calculation and reverting back to the original 85% threshold. If the threshold was lowered, the number of non-compliant schools would increase to 563 (press release).

Meanwhile, at the request of members of Congress, the Department commissioned an independent audit to evaluate federal loan servicer Navient's compliance in awarding benefits to eligible servicemembers, which found that Navient complied in all material respects with applicable Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) requirements and isolated incidents of improper denial of benefits had since been retroactively remediated.

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Civil Rights Guidance

Last week, the Department released three new sets of guidance to assist the public in understanding how the agency interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting students with disabilities. These documents clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn. The documents include a parent and educator resource guide to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in public schools; a Dear Colleague letter and question-and-answer fact sheet on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a Dear Colleague letter, question-and-answer fact sheets (1 and 2), and a Know Your Rights overview concerning the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under both Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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Odds and Ends

  • The Department recently announced the first grant competition under the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive Program, providing funding for states, districts, and non-profit entities to support, train, and reward excellent teachers and school leaders.

  • To promote literacy and boost educational outcomes for children living in public housing, the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Education and several non-profits partners launched a Book-Rich Environment (BRE) Initiative.

  • As a follow-up to its 2014 and 2015 reports and the culmination of its Advancing Equity work stream, the White House Council on Women and Girls released an updated report and hosted a forum, spotlighting innovative solutions and placed-based work that is happening throughout the country to advance equity for women and girls of color (fact sheet).

  • The Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a set of data tables and accompanying documents with information about reports on bullying and cyber-bullying in schools (blog post).

  • The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has launched a free, online training series on Group Design Standards. This training offers an easy-to-access way to learn about elements of the WWC standards, increase transparency of the review process, and promote the use of high-quality research. Moreover, completing the training is a first step in WWC Reviewer Certification (blog post).

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Quote to Note

"At a time when we turn the page on one year and look ahead to the future, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for everything you've done to make America stronger these past eight years. We've made extraordinary progress as a country these past eight years.... Here's the thing: none of it was inevitable. It was the result of tough choices we made, and the result of your hard work and resilience. And, to keep America moving forward is a task that falls to all of us. Sustaining and building on all we've achieved... that's going to take all of us working together. Because that's always been our story: the story of ordinary people coming together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government. It's been the privilege of my life to serve as your President. As I prepare to take on the important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding—that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams."

        President Barack Obama (12/31/16), in his weekly address delivered on New Year's Eve

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Upcoming Events

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month (fact sheet). Trafficking can involve school-age youth, particularly those made vulnerable by challenging family situations, and can take a wide variety of forms, including forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation. Need some guidance? "Human Trafficking in America's Schools" is a guide for school staff with information on risk factors, recruitment, and how to identify trafficking; what to do if you suspect trafficking, including sample protocols and policies; and other resources and potential partnership opportunities. Also, see the webinar: "Integrating Human Trafficking with Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) for K-12 Schools."

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 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 16 by making the holiday a day ON—versus a day off. MLK Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site offers up a toolkit to plan for the day of service, enables organizers to register projects nationwide, and provides free lesson plans on Dr. King's legacy of service.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 01/06/2017