Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 2, 2018

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...
State of the Union
ICYMI
ESSA Update
Higher Education Update
OCR: Pending Cases
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

State of the Union

On January 30, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address (text and video). He briefly mentioned education and several related issues—immigration, child care, and regulations. Specifically, he encouraged career and technical education. "As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training," he said. "Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential."

In response, Secretary DeVos—who attended the speech as a member of the President's Cabinet—issued a statement. "America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy," she stressed. "I join the President in calling on Congress to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways."

Among the President's and First Lady's special guests for the address was Corey Adams, a skilled welder at Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio. During 2017, he and his wife were able to become first-time homeowners. They will invest their additional money from tax reform into their two daughters' education savings.

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ICYMI

Succinctly recapping National School Choice Week (January 21-27) from a federal perspective, the President issued a proclamation; the Secretary, who earlier joined a rally, shared a quote and infographic and co-authored an op-ed with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx; Department senior officers traveled to Rhode Island and South Carolina to participate in school choice events with state and local leaders and educators; School Choice Liaison Denisha Merriweather and other agency staff visited District of Columbia choice options; and, throughout the week, the Department highlighted success stories of students who were able to find the right fit for their education.

Also last week, the Secretary addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Jobs, Education, and the Workforce Standing Committee and Educational Excellence Task Force, asserting "a fundamental disconnect between education and the economy." "Today, across states and industries, there are six million job openings, as the 'blue collar' jobs of yesterday become the 'blue tech' jobs of today," she explained. "Coding is as common and necessary a skill today as riveting or stamping was a few decades back. But employers—many in your communities—report they cannot find qualified people to fill those openings. The jobs require specific skill sets and customized certification..... There are many avenues to gain what individual students want and what employers need: industry-recognized certificates, two-year degrees, stackable credits, credentials and licensures, advanced degrees, badges, four-year degrees, micro-degrees, apprenticeships. All of these are valid pursuits. No stigma should follow a student's journey to success."

This week, the Department launched an interactive web page dedicated to data on English Learner (EL) students. The site uses colorful maps, bar graphs, and charts to provide a clearer understanding of America's diverse EL population in a data story format. The data reveals nearly every state has at least one school district where the EL population has increased by over 50% since the 2010 school year and answers three main questions: who are ELs?, where are ELs?, and what languages do ELs speak?

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ESSA Update

The Secretary recently announced the approval of several consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, and New Hampshire (press release) were among the 34 states and Puerto Rico to submit their state plans by the final deadline of September 18.

The following are some of the unique elements from each state's approved plan:

  • Georgia focuses on the "whole child" through its College and Career Ready Performance Index, which measures student access to fine arts education, world language instruction, physical education, Advanced Placement (AP)/International Baccalaureate (IB) enrollment, and career pathways.
  • Hawaii recognizes chronic absenteeism as an early indicator for under-performance, addressing it through inclusion of a chronic absenteeism measure in its accountability system.
  • Indiana aims to close the achievement gap in English/language arts and math for all student subgroups by 50% by 2023.
  • By 2030, Kansas seeks to have 75% of all students proficient in English/language arts and math and 95% of all students graduate within four years.
  • Montana enriches professional development opportunities through its online Teacher Learning Hub for teachers and administrators.
  • New Hampshire aligns its education goals to its workforce goals, such that 65% of residents (ages 25-64) will attain a postsecondary degree or work-based credential by 2025.

To date, the Secretary has approved plans for 33 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. All remaining states have received feedback and are working on revisions.

Meanwhile, the Secretary announced new flexibility for school districts to create equitable, student-centered funding systems under a pilot program authorized by ESSA. The flexibility will allow districts to combine eligible federal funds with state and local funding in order to allocate resources to schools based on the number of students and the corresponding level of need. This type of system, often called "student-centered funding" or "weighted student funding," is widely considered to be a modern, transparent, and quantifiable way to allocate resources to the students most in need.

ESSA provides for up to 50 districts to receive the flexibility during the first three years of the program. Districts receiving flexibility are expected to design and implement a system meeting all statutory requirements of the pilot, including the use of weights that allocate substantially more funding to students from low-income families, to English Learners, and to any other educationally disadvantaged student group identified by the district. Districts receiving the flexibility must also provide an assurance that parents, teachers, school leaders, and other relevant stakeholders are consulted in the development and implementation of the system. The application will open on February 7. For those intending to use the flexibility during the 2018-19 school year, applications are due by March 12; for those intending to use the flexibility during the 2019-20 school year, applications are due by July 15 (see Frequently Asked Questions).

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Higher Education Update

As work continues to improve the customer service and operations of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), Secretary DeVos announced the formation of a Strategy and Transformation Unit to upgrade the delivery of financial aid to students and their families. The Secretary asked Dr. Wayne Johnson to lead the unit. James Manning will lead FSA as Acting Chief Operating Officer.

"In my capacity as COO of FSA, it became crystal clear to me that the greatest contribution I can make to FSA is to dedicate the fullest measure of my time and attention toward making the FSA Next Generation operating vision a reality," Dr. Johnson emphasized.

The Department subsequently announced additional personnel changes. First, Frank Brogan has been delegated the duties of Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. He will also continue to serve as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Brogan, a longtime educator who has served at every level of education, has been nominated by the President to be Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. He just testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and is awaiting Senate confirmation. Second, Kathleen Smith will be responsible for managing the daily operations of FSA. Most recently, she served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. She previously worked as a policy advisor with the Senate HELP Committee, was Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, Policy, and Member Services at Access Group, and served as Chief of Staff for the Department's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) from 2009 to 2013. (Note: Also announced were Dr. Andrea Ramirez as Acting Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Holly Ham as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.)

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OCR: Pending Cases

On January 12, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published a list of pending cases currently under investigation at elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools, sorted by aspects of the law that OCR enforces—age discrimination, disability discrimination, race and national origin discrimination, sex discrimination, and the Equal Access Act. The inclusion of an institution on this list does not mean that the institution violated a federal anti-discrimination statute; rather, it means that a complaint was filed with OCR, and the agency determined the complaint should be opened for investigation or the agency has opened a compliance review. OCR is still investigating these cases or otherwise working to resolve them.

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Odds and Ends

  • On January 22, President Trump signed into law the Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018, providing funding at approximately the Fiscal Year 2017 level through February 8 for the ongoing work of the federal government, including education. It also reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

  • Homeroom blogs recount the innovative summits (K-12 and Higher Education) held late last year at the Department. Over two nearly four hour sessions, Secretary DeVos listened as extraordinary educators spoke of creativity inside and outside of the classroom focused on helping each student realize his or her potential.

  • The Department published the list of candidates for the 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.

  • The Department has extended the deadline for applications for the 2018-19 School Ambassador Fellowship to February 14 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

  • On January 23, the Secretary announced the appointment of Kent Talbert, who previously served as General Counsel for the agency, as Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Education. Talbert has also been delegated the duties of the Deputy Secretary, pending the confirmation of Mitchell Zais by the Senate.

  • The "39th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2017" describes the nation's progress toward the provision of a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities and early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities.

  • A new "Statistics in Brief" report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examines who public high school students view as their main influence when considering postsecondary education and careers. Family members and students themselves were most often reported as the main influence—with school staff (teachers and counselors) less frequently reported.

  • A new NCES "First Look" report presents findings from the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, on the financing of higher education by a number of variables. Among the findings: 63% of undergraduates received grants averaging $7,400 in total grant aid, 38% took out an average of $7,600 in loans, and 39% received federal Pell Grants averaging $3,700.

  • The What Works Clearinghouse has created a new topic area exploring the impacts of charter schools on students. This topic area launched with the release of three intervention reports.

  • In a video, four members of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) share how their leadership roles inform their work maintaining the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

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Quote to Note

"My heart breaks for the survivors of Larry Nassar's disgusting crimes. What happened at Michigan State [University] is abhorrent. It cannot ever happen again—there or anywhere. Students must be safe and protected on our nation's campuses. The Department is investigating this matter and will hold MSU accountable for any violations of federal law."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (1/26/18), in a statement on the Larry Nassar sexual assault case

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Upcoming Events

Among other observations, February is African-American History Month, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, and National Magnet School Month. Also, National School Counseling Week (February 5-9) spotlights the significant impact counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.

The "Family Engagement Summit: Powered by Teach to Lead," March 9-11 in Baltimore, will convene teacher leaders, family members, and other school and community stakeholders to collaborate, problem-solve, and develop action plans to benefit students and schools. The deadline to submit an idea to participate has been extended to February 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Calling all teacher leaders! Do you have a great idea for your school or district that you want to put into action? The Teach to Lead team is accepting submissions for its 15th Teacher Leadership Summit, April 27-29 in Nashville. Submit an idea by February 28.

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Last Modified: 02/02/2018