Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 25, 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...
Santa Fe School Shooting
Disaster Relief Aid
ESSA Update
Travel Log
Honoring Sustainability
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Santa Fe School Shooting

President Trump and Secretary DeVos addressed the tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

"We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack," the President said in remarks during the White House Prison Reform Summit. "To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High: We're with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My Administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, [to] secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe. May God heal the injured, and may God comfort the wounded, and may God be with the victims and with the victims' families."

The President also issued a proclamation honoring the victims.

"My heart is heavy from watching the horrific events that unfolded at Santa Fe High School today," the Secretary said in a statement. "My prayers are with each student, parent, educator, and first responder impacted. Our schools must be safe and nurturing environments for learning. No student should have to experience the trauma suffered by so many today and in similar events prior. We simply cannot allow this trend to continue.

"Every day, the Federal Commission on School Safety is working to identify proven ways to prevent violence and keep our students safe at school. Our work remains urgent. Our nation must come together and address the underlying issues that lead to such tragic and senseless loss of life."

Regarding the Commission, on May 17, the Secretary held an informational meeting with authors of official reports following incidents of school violence and survivors and family members impacted by mass shootings. "In order to move forward, we must take a hard look back," she noted. "We convened this meeting of experts and survivors to help give us a clear-eyed look at what has gone wrong in the past, the lessons learned, and areas where we continue to fall short as we work to keep our nation's students and teachers safe at school. It's imperative that we as a nation join together to ensure every student attends school in a safe and nurturing learning environment, and this meeting will lay the foundation for the critical work that lies ahead" (readout and video).

For the first session, presenters included:

  • Troy Eid, ex-officio member of the Columbine Review Commission (statement)
  • Michael Mulhare, Assistant Vice President for Emergency Management at Virginia Tech University (statement)
  • Dr. Marisa Reddy Randazzo, Director of Threat Assessment for Georgetown University (statement)
  • Bill Modzeleski, senior consultant with several groups specializing in school safety, threat assessment, emergency management, and homeland security (statement)

For the second session, presenters included:

  • Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School
  • Dr. Derek O'Dell, a survivor of the Virginia Tech University shooting (statement)
  • Scarlett and Joseph Lewis, who lost their son and brother, respectively, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (statements 1 and 2)
  • Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina Petty in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

A reminder that members of the public with recommendations on how to improve school safety may submit them via safety@ed.gov. Department staff are monitoring the mailbox, and suggestions received will inform the Commission's work.

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Disaster Relief Aid

Also last week, Secretary DeVos announced some $97.6 million in new federal disaster assistance under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program. These awards provide initial funding to eligible state educational agencies (SEAs) to help meet the needs of local educational agencies (LEAs), charter schools, and private schools in defraying expenses related to restarting school operations and restoring the normal learning environment for students and families impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. Awards were made to two SEAs that applied for assistance in the following amounts: Florida Department of Education—$84.5 million and U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Education—$13.1 million.

Earlier, the Department made initial awards to three other SEAs (California, Texas, and Puerto Rico), and program staff are reviewing applications from two additional SEAs (Georgia and South Carolina).

For further information on all five disaster assistance programs, visit the agency's Disaster Relief web page.

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ESSA Update

The Secretary recently announced the approval of several consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Alaska and Iowa (press release) were among the states to request more time to finalize their plans. "I am pleased to approve these plans which comply with the requirements of the law," she stated. "I encourage states to use their plans as a starting point, rather than a finish line, to improve outcomes for all students."

To date, the Secretary has approved plans for 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. All remaining states have received feedback and are working on revisions.

Meanwhile, the Department will host webinars on new flexibility for school districts to create equitable, student-centered funding systems under a pilot program authorized by ESSA. The first webinars—on May 30, 2-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time and May 31, 12:30-2 p.m. ET—will focus on describing how student-centered funding systems function and how to complete the pilot application. The second webinars—on June 20, 2-3:30 p.m. ET and June 21, 12-1:30 p.m. ET—will detail the requirements of the program and address lessons learned during the spring 2018 submission cycle. All these webinars will be recorded, and the recordings, as well as the slides, will be posted on the program web page. (Note: Applications are due by July 15 for districts intending to use the flexibility during the 2019-20 school year.)

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Travel Log

Secretary DeVos was on the road May 14-16, making several stops in New Hampshire and New York.

In New Hampshire, she focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, touring Southern New Hampshire University's new College of Engineering, Technology, and Aeronautics and participating in a roundtable discussion with administrators (photos). She also visited Founders Academy Public Charter School's science lab.

In New York, she observed classrooms, participated in a roundtable discussion with school leaders, teachers, and community members, and had lunch with a group of students at Manhattan High School for Girls (readout). She also visited Yeshiva Darchei Torah Boys School, where she met with students and held a roundtable discussion with teachers and staff.

In between these school visits, the Secretary gave remarks at a breakfast hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation and Champions for Quality Education, organizations that support Catholic schools. "Our country has an ugly history of unjust laws that force families to violate their consciences or that disrespect their preferences," she stressed. "These Blaine provisions prohibit taxpayer funding of sectarian—a euphemism at that time for 'Catholic'—activities, even when they serve the public good. Activities like addiction recovery, hospice care, or—the amendments' main target—parochial education. These amendments are still on the books in 37 states.... These amendments should be assigned to the ash heap of history, and this 'last acceptable prejudice' should be stamped out once and for all.

"You've heard me described as 'pro-school choice.' Well, I am, but choice in education is not limited to a student picking this building or that school—using this voucher or that scholarship. And, it's not public versus private. Parochial versus charter. Homeschool versus virtual. Choice in education is bigger than that. Choice is about freedom! Freedom to learn, and to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from failing, and to get back up and try again. It's freedom to find the best way to learn and grow, to find the exciting and engaging combination that unlocks the God-given potential in every individual."

The Secretary then returned to Washington, D.C., to announce a free summer camp for girls and testify before the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

First, she joined with new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Director Ellen Stofan—notably, the first woman to lead the museum—to introduce the "She Can" Summer Camp at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Throughout the free two week camp, students will participate in many aviation activities, including hands-on flight instruction on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified simulators, a 30-minute discovery flight with a local flight school, a high-altitude weather balloon launch, and indoor skydiving. They will also meet women working in a variety of fields, such as air traffic control, commercial aviation, and cyber security. The camp is open to sixth- through eighth-grade girls in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Participants must be from Title I-eligible schools or receive free or reduced-price lunch. An application is available on the Smithsonian's camp web page. (Note: As a result of President Trump donating his second-quarter salary last year to the Department, the agency was able to partner with the Smithsonian and double the number of girls who could be part of this unique experience.)

Second, the Secretary was on Capitol Hill, as the sole witness in a House committee hearing titled "Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education." After delivering prepared remarks, reviewing "progress made" (in ESSA implementation, federal student aid, and regulatory relief) and "where we are going" (challenging the Department and every teacher, administrator, and parent to rethink school), she fielded questions on a wide range of topics (video).

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Honoring Sustainability

On May 16, the Department announced 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. A total of 46 schools, six school districts, and six postsecondary institutions—nominated by 25 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity—were selected for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways (blog post). All honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony and reception in Washington, D.C., on September 19. (Note: To learn more about the honorees, see the nomination packages and highlights document.)

There are resources available for all schools—preschool through postsecondary—through the agency's Green Strides portal.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Trump Administration's Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions details the actions administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term. By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, or obsolete, the Administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty.

  • President Trump announced his intent to nominate Scott Stump of Colorado to be the Department's Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

  • Secretary DeVos congratulated Dr. Mitchell Zais on being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as Deputy Secretary of Education.

  • The Department announced two new grant competitions with a STEM/computer science emphasis: Teacher Quality Partnership and Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship for High School Career and Technical Education Students (with pre-application webinar on June 5).

  • A video highlights agency activities celebrating Public Service Recognition Week and Teacher Appreciation Week.

  • A Homeroom blog recaps the opening of Rose Tree Media, Pennsylvania, school district's "Interpretations of Portraiture" student art exhibit at the Department.

  • On May 23, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released "The Condition of Education 2018," a congressionally mandated report to the country on education in America today. The report presents 47 indicators under four areas: pre-primary, elementary, and secondary education; postsecondary education; population characteristics and economic outcomes; and international comparisons. It also spotlights three issues of policy interest: early childhood care arrangements; characteristics of public school teachers who completed alternative route to certification programs; and trends in student loan debt for graduate school completers (blog post).

  • A new evaluation brief from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) examines characteristics, experiences, and post-high school outcomes of a national sample of youth with disabilities.

  • The Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) launched a process for federal student loan borrowers to be reconsidered for loan forgiveness under a temporary expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This limited opportunity was made possible by a special appropriation through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018.

  • Building on the first release in 2011, "Music Matters" explores the demonstrated effects of music education and how it helps students develop foundational capacities for lifelong success (blog post).

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Quote to Note

"Our commitment to every student's success is one we must renew every day, but first we must ensure our children are safe at school. When evil visited Parkland, Florida, it shocked us. It angered us. And, it pained us. The tragedy at Santa Fe High School in Texas was only the most recent, devastating reminder that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence.... I'm pleased that Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Azar, and Secretary Nielsen are joining me on the Federal Commission on School Safety. We are seeking input from students, parents, teachers, counselors, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals—anyone who is focused on identifying and elevating practical solutions. Naturally, the primary responsibility for the physical security of schools rests with states and local communities. The Commission looks forward to delivering best practices and findings by year's end."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (5/22/18), in prepared remarks to the House Education and the Workforce Committee

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Upcoming Events

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday.

The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched a new technical assistance initiative for schools, districts, SEAs, colleges and universities, and libraries in making web sites and online programs accessible to individuals with disabilities. Through webinars—May 29, 1:00 p.m. ET; June 5, 1:00 p.m. ET, and June 12, 1:00 p.m. ET—OCR will provide information technology professionals with key information on accessibility. (Note: To participate in a webinar, send a request—including name, contact information, and preferred webinar—to OCRWebAccessTA@ed.gov.)

Calling teacher leaders! Do you have an idea to improve science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) in your school, district, or state? The Teach to Lead team is accepting idea submissions through July 9 for its sixteenth Teacher Leadership Summit, September 28-30 in San Jose, where teams will receive critical support to turn their ideas in action.

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Last Modified: 05/25/2018