Press Room NEWSLETTERS
July 28, 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...
Editor's Note
Summer Learning
Supporting Individuals with Disabilities
On School Choice
Honoring Sustainability
Promise Neighborhoods
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Editor's Note

As we move into August, there will be a break in ED Review's regular publication cycle. In the interim, please visit ED.gov and check the news. Also, watch for the August 18 issue of ED Review, which will cover the major activities of the previous three weeks.

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Summer Learning

This week, Secretary DeVos and Adviser to the President Ivanka Trump continued the Department's summer reading program at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. This program is designed to help students stay actively engaged in their education while on summer break. Local young girls in attendance had the opportunity to read with the Secretary and Ms. Trump, explore the museum's Spark!Lab, and participate in several science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-focused activities (highlights video and full video).

A day later, joining White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her daily press briefing, the Secretary spotlighted the event. "[Y]esterday, Ivanka Trump and I hosted a summer reading event...where the focus was on getting young girls, ages six to ten, excited about learning science, technology, engineering, and math," she told the press corps. "It was fun to see their eyes light up as they got to explore, create, and experiment in a collaborative environment" (transcript and video).

At the briefing, Sanders announced that President Trump was donating his second-quarter salary -- totaling $100,000 -- to the Department to help fund a STEM-focused camp for students. "I want to start by saying how grateful I am to the President for this generous gift," the Secretary noted. "He and I have had many conversations about how best to put students' needs first and to ensure we are setting them up for a lifetime of success.... Today's and tomorrow's economy requires engaged students, boys and girls, are prepared for STEM careers. That's why we have decided to use the President's second-quarter salary to host a STEM-focused camp for students at the Department of Education. We want to encourage as many children as possible to explore the STEM fields, in the hope that many develop a passion for these fields" (blog post).

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Supporting Individuals with Disabilities

The Office of Special Education Programs' (OSEP) Leadership Conference took place earlier this month, bringing together many state leaders who work with infants, children, and youth with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The gathering allowed participants to build and strengthen partnerships with colleagues from other states and the wider community. Sessions were led by experts in the field, including discussions of evidence-based practices and other strategies to enhance leadership roles.

The Secretary delivered the keynote address. "We should celebrate the fact that, unlike some countries in the world, the U.S. makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools," she said. "Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It's but one of America's many compelling attributes."

"That promise requires the acknowledgement that every child is unique, with different strengths and challenges," she added. "It could be easy to get frustrated or discouraged when it comes to educating students with disabilities. But that's because there are too often artificial barriers and roadblocks that limit your ability to focus on meeting their individual needs."

"A unanimous Supreme Court -- and that doesn't happen every day -- displayed common sense and interpreted IDEA to apply a better standard for Endrew F. and all our students," she concluded. "This is our opportunity to do better.... Ensuring that all children with disabilities have appropriately ambitious goals and the chance to meet challenging objectives is a priority for the Department."

Separately, OSEP announced conforming changes to regulations, based on revisions to the IDEA statute made through the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (Federal Register notice and summary of changes).

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On School Choice

On July 20, the Secretary addressed state legislators at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting in Denver. Below are some key excerpts (remarks and video).

"I'm no stranger to state-based advocacy; it was a primary focus of mine for 30 years before I entered public service.... This advocacy has led to some -- let's call it -- 'excitement' on the Left.... But I consider the 'excitement' a badge of honor, and so should you. Our opponents, the defenders of the status quo, only protest those capable of implementing real change. You represent real change.... Instead of seeking today's headlines, you've played the long game.... Through your leadership, your respective states have truly become the laboratories of democracy our Founders intended."

"School choice reforms continue to gain momentum across the nation precisely because they have been driven from within states.... Last year, in Florida alone, 111,000 students utilized Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Gardiner education savings accounts, and McKay scholarships for students with disabilities -- and the numbers grow every year to meet increasing parental demand. And new waves of legislation are sweeping through state capitals. Kentucky passed its first-ever charter law this year.... North Carolina's Legislature overrode their Governor's veto to provide special needs students with education savings accounts.... And Arizona now provides ESAs to every student in the state. What a huge accomplishment! These are just a few examples of school choice's increasing momentum. In the first six months of this year, 40 legislative chambers in 23 states have passed bills expanding school choice for students and their families."

"What, exactly, is education if not an investment in students? I was reminded of something another Secretary of Education once said.... Lady [Margaret] Thatcher regretted that too many seem to blame all of their problems on 'society.' But, 'Who is society?,' she asked. 'There is no such thing! There are individual men and women, and there are families' -- families, she said -- 'and no government can do anything except through people, and people look to themselves first.' The Iron Lady was right then, and she's still right today! This isn't about school 'systems.' This is about individual students, parents, and families. Schools are at the service of students, not the other way around."

"Now, let's be clear: providing more educational options isn't against public schools. It's actually not against anything. School choice is about recognizing parents' inherent right to choose what is best for their children. That's the manifestation of expanding human liberty in America. And for those of you here today, who have been on the front lines, you understand the struggle at the core of this debate: there are those who defend a system that by every account is failing too many students, and there are those who know justice demands we give every parent the right to an equal opportunity to access the quality education that best fits their child's unique, individual needs."

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Honoring Sustainability

Senior officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Campaign for Environmental Literacy, and the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools joined the Department's Assistant Secretary for Management Holly Ham to congratulate the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. During the event, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine higher education institutions were honored for their leadership in reducing environmental impact and costs, promoting better health, and ensuring effective environmental education. Ham also announced the 2017 Green Strides Tour, with the theme "Taking Learning Outside," which will be held in September in Georgia. (Note: Federal agencies and program partners offered optional activities for honorees, such as a visit to the Department of Energy.)

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Promise Neighborhoods

On July 21, the Department announced the 2017 Promise Neighborhoods grant competition, which will award a total of $30 million to four to six grantees to provide their communities with a coordinated, comprehensive suite of services and school supports aimed at improving outcomes for students and their families. This year's competition is the fifth round of new awards but the first under the ESSA. New grantees will build on an existing portfolio of Promise Neighborhood grants in 54 communities nationwide, representing an overall federal investment of nearly $370 million. The eligible applicants are non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Indian tribes. Pre-application webinars are scheduled for August 3 and 10, with final applications due by September 5 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Odds and Ends

  • A new guide from the Department's Office of Educational Technology (OET) provides practical, actionable information to help K-12 school and district leaders navigate the many decisions required to build a technology infrastructure that supports digital learning.

  • The Department's July 19 "Convening on Systems of Support for Excellent Teaching and Leading" (captured via Storify) assessed the alignment of systems of support for educators to core principles identified through outreach and research.

  • On the Homeroom blog, Principal Ambassador Fellow Jean-Paul Cadet discusses the leadership imperative.

  • A new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) gives details on the educational progress and challenges students face by race and ethnicity, with 28 indicators on topics spanning preschool through higher education, as well as labor force outcomes.

  • Another report from NCES examines a range of issues concerning school crime and safety, including the frequency of school crime and violence, disciplinary actions, the presence and activities of school-based security staff, and school practices related to the prevention and reduction of crime.

  • Also, a "First Look" report from NCES presents preliminary data on postsecondary tuition, fees, and degrees.

  • "America's Children 2017," prepared by the 23 federal agencies of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (including NCES), is a useful compendium of the latest data and trends regarding children and their families. A special feature in this year's report looks at student victimization in the third-grade.

  • The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) recently launched Instructional Tips, a new resource designed to help educators implement the evidence-based recommendations from its Practice Guides. The first such publication accompanies the guide on improving fourth- through eighth-grade students' mathematical problem-solving skills.

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Quote to Note

[J]ust as we applaud the federal government's return of decision-making power and flexibility to states under ESSA, I want to go a step further and challenge you to grant that same flexibility to your state's districts, principals, and -- importantly -- teachers. Teachers are on the front lines, and they know how to best meet the needs of their students. Yet, too often, their voices aren't heard. Last week, I met with a number of teachers who no longer teach. I wanted to understand why they aren't doing what they all professed to really love doing.... These talented ex-teachers expressed frustration that they weren't entrusted with more responsibility, honored with more flexibility, and weren't respected as professionals who know their students and what each of them needed to learn and achieve. Their 'system' mandated that teachers follow the same written and unwritten rules, rather than do what is right for students."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (7/20/17), in remarks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting

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Upcoming Events

The U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools sponsors an annual Green Apple Day of Service, during which students, parents, teachers, businesses, and organizations are encouraged to help transform schools into safe, healthy, and sustainable learning environments. The Center offers support, including funding, volunteers, and other resources, for local service projects registered in September or October.

Registration is now open for the 2017 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference in Orlando (November 28-December 1). This event will provide the most up-to-date information on Higher Education Act (HEA) Title IV programs and federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners.

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Last Modified: 07/28/2017