Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 5, 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...
Honoring Teachers
Executive Order on Federalism Education
Events Recap
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
High School Issue Briefs
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Honoring Teachers

President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Secretary DeVos honored the 2017 National and State Teachers of the Year on April 26 in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, the President thanked the teachers for "inspiring young minds and...putting our children on the path to happiness and success—lots of success." He specifically called out National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, a ninth-grade humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. "Sydney is the first teacher from Massachusetts ever to win the award, and the first from a public charter school," he explained. "That is really something special" (video).

A day later, the Secretary gave remarks at the Council of Chief State School Officers' National Teacher of the Year Gala. "Teaching is a selfless calling; you are serving the needs of others. And that is what makes your work so critically important," she said. "We must do more to affirm the important role of teachers in our society. Because let's face it: teachers are the foundation of every other profession. Teachers shape our nation's future directly. You are educating the rising generations of leaders, thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and artists. You are helping to launch the problem-solvers and innovators of the future."

Next week, the Administration will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8-12) with a variety of activities and outreach.

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Executive Order on Federalism Education

Also on April 26, President Trump signed an executive order delivering on his commitment to ensure education decisions are made by those closest to students. It directs Secretary DeVos to review and, if necessary, modify and repeal regulations and guidance previously issued by the Department that overstep the legal authority of the federal government. The Department's Regulatory Review Task Force will manage this process, among other critical regulatory issues, working with the public to help determine what regulations and guidance are inconsistent with federal law, and, in 300 days, submit a final report to the White House.

"For too long, the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments. The result has been education that spends more and achieves far, far, far less," the President said at the signing. "My Administration has been working to reverse this federal power grab and give power back to families, cities, [and] states. Give power back to localities.... We know that local communities do it best and know it best" (remarks and video).

Earlier, senior Department official Rob Goad held an on-the-record press call on the executive order.

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Events Recap

  • Last week, President Trump, Ivanka Trump, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins made a special Earth-to-space call from the Oval Office to congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for her record-breaking stay aboard the International Space Station. Commander of the station's Expedition 51 crew, Whitson recently broke the U.S. record for most cumulative days in space, surpassing NASA astronaut Jeff Williams' record of 534 days. Moreover, she is the first woman to command the station twice and has the record for the most spacewalks conducted by a female astronaut (remarks, blog post, and voluntary STEM on Station educational materials).

  • Next, on April 25, honoring the Month of the Military Child, Secretary DeVos visited Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia. She toured the school, read to students, and engaged with parents. She was also a guest on the children's news show. (Note: Prior to the Secretary's visit, Ashland students donated a Month of the Military Child-themed quilt to the Department.)

  • Then, on April 26, honoring National Reentry Week, the Secretary visited Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland, to learn about the facility's educational programs. "For formerly incarcerated youth and adults whose goal is to turn their lives around, access to education has proven to be transformative," she said in a statement. "During National Reentry Week, and throughout the year, we can recognize and support education's power to help those leaving our justice system rebuild their character, reform their lives, and realize their true potential."

  • Additionally, on April 27, during Autism Awareness Month, the Secretary convened a roundtable with parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (statement).

  • Furthermore, on April 28, the Secretary visited with students, parents, and educators at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California, the site of a tragic shooting last month. She also met privately with the families of the victims. "My heart aches for the children and families impacted by this senseless tragedy, but my spirit soared to see the resiliency of the students and staff," she said in a statement.

  • This week, during National Charter School Week, President Trump and Vice President Pence joined Secretary DeVos for a school choice event with students in the Roosevelt Room of the White House (President's remarks, Vice President's remarks, and video).

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IRS Data Retrieval Tool

As part of an ongoing effort to provide additional assistance to students and families impacted by the suspension of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool, Secretary DeVos announced new flexibilities available to institutions to use for verification of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) information. The options are designed to support those applicants who may not have had all of their required tax-related documentation available when applying. They include:

  • IRS Tax Return Filers—In lieu of using the tool, or obtaining an IRS transcript, institutions may consider a signed paper copy of the 2015 tax return that was used by the tax filer for submission to the IRS as acceptable documentation to verify information provided on the FAFSA.
  • Verification of Non-Filing—Institutions are no longer required to collect documentation obtained from the IRS or other tax authorities verifying that the applicant, the applicant's spouse, or the applicant's parents did not file a 2015 tax return.

The new flexibilities begin immediately and apply to both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA processing and verification cycles (see letter to institutions and blog post).

Also, on May 3, the Department's Chief Information Officer Jason Gray and Chief Operating Officer James Runcie testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on operational and cybersecurity decisions made by the agency concerning the Data Retrieval Tool.

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High School Issue Briefs

The Department released several issue briefs on strategies that high schools use to strengthen the rigor and relevance of high school programs for at-risk students. Based on data from a national survey of secondary school principals, these briefs provide descriptive information on the prevalence and characteristics of key dropout prevention strategies for students who may be struggling in school. The briefs cover: (1) transition activities to ease students' transition from middle to high school, (2) academic tutoring for students behind academically, and (3) college-level coursework that delivers postsecondary learning experiences for students while they are still in high school.

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Odds and Ends

  • A separate executive order signed by President Trump establishes the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, with the Secretary of Education as a member, to prepare a report recommending legislative, regulatory, or policy changes to promote rural America (remarks and video).

  • Hyperlinks are now available to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plans that have been determined to be complete and sent forward for peer review.

  • The Department announced the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine institutions of postsecondary education are being honored for innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. Honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony and reception in Washington, D.C., on July 19. (Note: To learn much more about these honorees, see the nomination packages and highlights document.)

  • Also, the Department announced the 2017 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. Up to 161 graduating high school seniors are named annually, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living aboard, 20 scholars in the arts, and 20 scholars in career and technical education. Scholars will be recognized at a medallion ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 18.

  • The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) is actively seeking 2017 HBCU All-Stars.

  • Secretary DeVos announced the hiring of Liz Hill as the Department's Press Secretary.

  • The Department published a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for this year's Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant competition, providing funding to increase the number of highly effective educators by supporting the implementation of evidence-based preparation, development, or enhancement opportunities. (Note: The SEED program has compiled a range of resources to help organizations design and implement evaluations that are consistent with What Works Clearinghouse standards.)

  • "The Debt Burden of Bachelor's Degree Recipients," a new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) brief, explores student loan repayment and outstanding debt for 2007-08 bachelor's degree recipients four years after graduation, as well as how those loan repayment outcomes varied by employment and advanced degree enrollment.

  • Another NCES brief, "Teacher Professional Development by Selected Teacher and School Characteristics," provides a snapshot of teacher professional development activities among public school teachers during the 2011-12 school year.

  • To learn more about NCES's work, watch this five-minute video and follow the center on Twitter and Facebook.

  • "The Nation's Report Card: 2016 Arts" shows no overall score changes in music and the visual arts since the last arts assessment of eighth-grade students in 2008 but does reveal changes in access to and participation in music and visual arts activities, varying by gender, income, and region.

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Quote to Note

"As educators, you have the opportunity and responsibility to inspire our children to acquire the knowledge to succeed. It is a critical role—one that cannot be assumed by just anyone. Debates in Washington and in state capitals often consider students as numbers, statistics, or data. But students aren't numbers—they're people. They're people with unique gifts and unlimited potential. Each student has challenges, problems, and fears, and you are there to help them as they navigate these realities. One-size-fits-all solutions never work for any student in your classrooms, so why should we think they will ever work on a larger scale? Every student is different, so we should not then insist that their challenges can be addressed with the same solution.... You know this reality—and you live it every day. You know how to educate your students. That's why I see my job as getting Washington out of the way, so that you can do yours."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (4/27/17), in remarks at the National Teacher of the Year Gala

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Upcoming Events

On May 10, Secretary DeVos will serve as the keynote speaker for Bethune-Cookman University's spring commencement ceremony.

The public is invited to the opening of a new student art exhibit at the Department, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Through individual pieces, 3-D installation murals, spoken word performances, songs, short films, and a Youths' Bill of Rights, Lawrence, Massachusetts-based Elevated Thought will question the nature of education and present their views, insights, and experiences that culminated in a renewed vision of education in their city and beyond. To RSVP to attend or learn more about the agency's year-round art exhibit program, please contact Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov.

On May 23, the Department will host an Educators' Family Engagement Forum for teachers, administrators, and family engagement professionals. Participants will be informed of the positive impact of family engagement and participate in small group discussions on innovative practices currently being implemented by educators in schools. To participate, please contact Carrie.Jasper@ed.gov.

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Last Modified: 05/05/2017