Press Room NEWSLETTERS
March 10, 2017

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...
Presidential Address
Visiting a Catholic School
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
Focus on HBCUs
Women and Girls in STEM
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Presidential Address

On February 28, President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress. Following are the education-related excerpts from his remarks.

"We must enrich the mind and souls of every American child. Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.

"Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather. As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third-grade twice. But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning—a great learning center—with the help of a tax credit and a scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school but from college. Later this year, she will get her master's degree in social work. We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty—just like Denisha.

"Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job."

In a statement after the President's remarks, Secretary DeVos asserted, "Tonight, President Trump delivered on his promise to support school choice and offer students access to quality options. No child, regardless of their zip code or family income, should be denied access to quality education.... I look forward to working with President Trump and Congress to implement the reforms needed to help students learn and thrive. Kids are 100% of our future. We owe it to them to give them the education needed to succeed."

Later, in a March 2 op-ed in USA Today, the Secretary elaborated on the theme of the President delivering on his promises, noting "We cannot hope to get America back on track if we do nothing to improve education for the poorest among us.... For too long, Washington has focused on issuing edicts from its bubble, rather than empowering and amplifying solutions found at the grassroots level. We need to retire Washington's top-down approach and, instead, empower answers from the bottom up."

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Visiting a Catholic School

At the end of last week, the President and Secretary visited St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, the high school attended by Denisha Merriweather (meet special guests attending address). On site, they visited a fourth-grade classroom and participated in a listening session with parents and teachers (remarks and video). The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program allows businesses to receive tax credits for donating to non-profit scholarship organizations that provide tuition assistance to students.

In a statement following the visit, the Secretary emphasized, "Today's discussion at St. Andrew illustrates the transformative and positive impact of school choice. Children should not be denied the right to attend a high-quality school that allows them to pursue the American Dream.... Regardless of the type of school, we must support great schools, great teachers, and offer every child an equal opportunity to a great education."

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IRS Data Retrieval Tool

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool on FAFSA.gov and StudentLoans.gov is currently unavailable. We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. However, at this time, the IRS anticipates the online tool will be unavailable for several weeks.

This does not limit families' ability to apply for federal student aid. Applicants have other options while the tool is unavailable. Applicants completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan can manually provide the requested financial information from copies of their tax returns. The online FAFSA and IDR application remain operational.

As part of a wider, ongoing effort at the IRS to protect the security of data, the IRS decided to temporarily suspend the tool as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could be misused by identity thieves. The scope of the issue is being explored, and the IRS and Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) are jointly investigating the issue. We believe the issue is relatively isolated, and no additional action is needed by taxpayers or those using these applications (statement).

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Focus on HBCUs

Over the course of two days, senior Administration officials engaged with more than 60 presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), capped by President Trump's signing of an executive order regarding HBCUs.

On February 27, the President and Secretary met the leaders in the Oval Office, and the White House's Domestic Policy Council held a listening session. During the listening session, Vice President Pence and Secretary DeVos—joined by representatives from several executive agencies—offered remarks on ways they could help improve education and enhance infrastructure. HBCU leaders shared expert insights on policy issues impacting their individual campuses (Vice President's remarks and official readout).

On February 28, the Secretary gave remarks at the HBCU Congressional luncheon. "HBCUs are such an important piece of the fabric of American history—one that encompasses some of our nation's greatest leaders, talented artists, gifted athletes, and patriotic citizens," she said. "HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had previously been closed to so many. You have made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity."

That same day, the President signed an executive order re-establishing the White House Initiative on HBCUs, "housed in the Executive Office of the President and led by an Executive Director designated by the President." The Initiative will "work with agencies, private sector employers, educational associations, philanthropic organizations, and other partners to increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest quality education to an increasing number of students." The order also re-establishes the President's Board of Advisors on HBCUs in the Department, to "advise the President, through the Initiative, on all matters pertaining to strengthening the educational capacity of HBCUs" (President's remarks).

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Women and Girls in STEM

The President also signed two bills into law last week, expanding federal efforts to get more women and girls into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act encourages the National Science Foundation's entrepreneurial programs to "recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world." The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Act directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a plan to encourage women and girls to study STEM disciples, pursue aerospace careers, and further the nation's space exploration. The President's remarks at the signing ceremony are here. Secretary DeVos' statement on the bill signings is here.

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Odds and Ends

  • On National Read Across America Day, commemorating Dr. Seuss' March 3 birthday, both First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary DeVos read a favorite Seuss book—Oh, the Places You'll Go!—to children in a hospital in New York City and at a reading party in Washington, D.C., respectively.

  • This week, the Secretary met with leaders of Agudath Israel of America and students, parents, and advocacy leaders from the transgender community.

  • The Secretary's official biography is available on ED.gov, and she can be followed on Twitter at @BetsyDeVosED.

  • Recently, two of the Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAFs) shared their experiences about the fellowship program and meeting with Secretary DeVos.

  • National Blue Ribbon School applications contain a wealth of information about effective practices. Excerpts are currently gathered for college- and career-readiness, extended learning opportunities, pre-kindergarten education, arts education, whole child education, professional development, and parent/family engagement.

  • Also, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program features interviews with state liaisons who develop nomination plans, identify eligible schools, support nominated schools during the application process, review application content, and promote effective schools statewide.

  • According to a What Works Clearinghouse intervention report, research shows that dual enrollment programs have positive effects on high school achievement and completion, as well as college access, enrollment, and degree attainment.

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress administers the National Indian Education Study to allow more in-depth reporting on both the achievement and experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native students in fourth- and eighth-grades. The 2015 study focuses primarily on two themes: (1) to what extent are American Indian/Alaska Native culture and language part of the curricula? and (2) to what extent are resources available for improving American Indian/Alaska Native achievement? (blog post).

  • The Department's most recent student art exhibits featured remarkable works from the National PTA Reflections Program and the Military Child Education Coalition.

  • In honor of Women's History Month, federal agencies are commemorating and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

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Quote to Note

"Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people. Cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And, streets where mothers are safe from fear, schools where children learn in peace, and jobs where Americans prosper and grow are not too much to ask. When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before—for all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But, we can only get there together."

        President Donald Trump (2/28/16), in his remarks to a joint session of Congress

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Upcoming Events

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) recently launched a new version of its web site, with new and improved tools for education researchers. Please join the WWC on March 15 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time for an online presentation, tailored to researchers, that explains how the WWC can support their work.

The Library of Congress is soliciting nominations for its 2017 Literacy Awards (deadline: March 31). These awards encourage continuing development of innovative methods for promoting literacy and wide dissemination of the most effective practices.

A new survey for students in teacher preparation programs and their professors opened just last week and will remain open through May 1. Project Tomorrow wants to know how the next generation of teachers is preparing to use technology for teaching and what they are expecting when it comes to technology within the classroom.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2017