Press Room NEWSLETTERS
October 12, 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...
Hurricane Michael
Back to School Tour
ESSA Update
Federal Student Aid
Blue Ribbon Schools
Education Appropriations
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Hurricane Michael

In response to the severe impacts of Hurricane Michael, the Department has activated its emergency response contact center. Education stakeholders seeking informational resources, as well as those seeking relief from agency-based administrative requirements, may contact the Department at 1-844-348-4082 or HurricaneRelief@ed.gov. The agency is also posting relevant information on its Disaster Relief web page.

Moreover, the Department has directed federal student loan servicers to provide impacted borrowers flexibility in managing their loan payments during this time. Borrowers may contact their servicer directly or call 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to find out their servicer's contact information.

The full extent of Michael's impact will not be known for some time, but the agency will remain in close contact with its state and local partners.

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Back to School Tour

Last week (October 3-5), Secretary DeVos traveled to four states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) as part of her rescheduled "Rethink School" back to school tour. "I'm excited to highlight pockets of innovation around the country that are truly challenging the status quo and working to ensure all children can have access to the education that fits their learning style and prepares them for a successful future," she noted. Combined with travel by senior agency officials last month (see below), the Department visited 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in celebration of back to school.

On Day 1, the Secretary was in Georgia and Alabama. First, she visited the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta to learn about its student programming. She and the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Wayne Johnson also co-led a roundtable discussion for students to demonstrate the newly launched myStudentAid mobile application (see below). Then, she toured the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center and U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she saw hands-on, out-of-the-classroom learning experiences for students. She also delivered remarks on the importance of rethinking education in order to improve outcomes for students (video).

On Day 2, the Secretary was in Alabama and Mississippi. First, she visited the RISE Center on the University of Alabama main campus in Tuscaloosa to observe its blended early childhood education and special education learning environment. Then, she visited Shelton State Community College, also in Tuscaloosa, to learn about its unique career and technical education programs and community partnerships. Later, she visited Holmes County Central High School in Lexington, Mississippi, which is providing promising students with access to advanced coursework in class using key strategies: in-class instructors, online resources, college student tutors, and residential university camps. Additionally, she participated in a special learning activity with the families of home-schooled children in the Jackson, Mississippi, area.

On Day 3, the Secretary was in New Orleans, Louisiana, joined by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. First, she visited Edward Hynes Charter School to observe its academically rich, innovative programs, read to a group of students, and participate in a roundtable discussion with educators and community leaders. Then, she toured New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy, learning more about its Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer's Training Corps (JROTC) and academic and character development programs.

Meanwhile, the Department's Homeroom blog has been running daily recaps of senior officials' visits:

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ESSA Update

In Mississippi, the Secretary released a parent-friendly guide to the important flexibilities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guide consists of a 19-slide presentation that summarizes each flexibility and explains its impact on students and families. A separate build your own presentation PowerPoint deck is designed to allow school and school district officials to pick and choose their flexibilities, while a summary document provides statute-heavy paragraphs about each flexibility for district and state leaders. All of these materials are posted here, under the header "ESSA Flexibilities." The agency's press release includes a number of supportive statements for these materials.

The Secretary also recently announced that New Hampshire will be the second state to test new, innovative assessments as part of a pilot program authorized by the ESSA. "I'm thrilled to see [the state's] Commissioner [of Education Frank] Edelblut step up to the plate and utilize this important new flexibility afforded by ESSA" she said. "This [Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority] pilot program gives states the opportunity to make assessments more relevant to classroom learning, while still providing important information about student achievement and growth."

New Hampshire's Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) is grounded in a competency-based educational approach designed to ensure all students have meaningful opportunities to achieve critical knowledge and skills. PACE will use local assessments as part of the annual determination of student proficiency for accountability. These assessments will be informed by local teachers, integrated into students' day-to-day work, and reduce the overall amount of standardized testing.

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Federal Student Aid

On October 1, the Department officially launched its first-ever mobile application. The myStudentAid mobile app allows students and parents to easily and securely complete the 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) using the app's myFAFSA component. "The future of the FAFSA is here," the Secretary stated. "Now, students and their families have federal student aid tools in the palm of their hand, which will help them achieve their higher education goals, learn more about the schools to which they are applying, and gain greater access to important information about their financial future. Many said this wasn't possible, but we refuse to let anything limit us from doing what's best for students." The app may be downloaded from the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).

Aside from being able to fill out the FAFSA, the myStudentAid mobile app will help students and parents:

  • manage their username and password (FSA ID) through the Profile feature;
  • view federal student aid history using the myFederalLoans option;
  • get in touch with FSA contact centers to have questions answered; and
  • access StudentAid.gov, FSA's primary source of information about federal student aid programs, application processes, and loan repayment options.

The app also offers many other useful features. Students can use the app's myCollegeScorecard feature to view and compare additional information about the schools they select on their FAFSA. Students and parents may also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to electronically transfer federal tax return information into their FAFSA forms. Moreover, students and parents in certain states can transfer their FAFSA information into state aid applications. Participating states include Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

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Blue Ribbon Schools

Also last week, via video, Secretary DeVos announced 349 schools as 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at the highest levels or where progress is being made on closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 7 and 8. In its 36-year history, the program has bestowed this coveted award on more than 8,800 schools. (Note: School profiles and applications are posted here.)

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Education Appropriations

Late last month, President Trump signed into law the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019, providing full-year funding for the Department of Education for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill increases the agency's discretionary funding by $581 million from FY 2018. Among the programs receiving large increases: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I grants to school districts (up $100 million, to $15.9 billion); special education grants to states (up $87 million, to $12.4 billion); career and technical education state grants (up $70 million, to $1.27 billion); ESEA Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (up $70 million, to $1.17 billion); and charter school grants (up $40 million, to $440 million).

Further, the bill boosts the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 to $6,195 for the 2019-20 academic year.

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Odds and Ends

  • Regarding disaster relief aid, the Secretary announced nearly $2.8 million in supplemental funding for financially needy college students in North Carolina and South Carolina impacted by Hurricane Florence. The money is being made available under the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program.

  • Regarding safe schools, the Department of Justice announced more than $70 million in grants under the STOP School Violence Act to bolster school security, educate and train students and faculty, and support law enforcement officers and first responders who arrive on the scene of school violence.

  • To help stem the rising cost of college textbooks, the Department of Education recently announced a $4.9 million grant to the University of California-Davis to lead a program to develop free, open textbooks in targeted subjects. Under the Open Textbooks Pilot Program, UC Davis will head a consortium of 12 campuses that will begin by creating open textbooks focused on high-enrollment courses like chemistry, as well as career and technical education fields.

  • The Department supports the establishment of some 20 Comprehensive Centers to provide capacity-building services to state, regional, and local educational agencies and schools to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, and improve the quality of instruction. It is proposing that regional comprehensive centers focus on implementing and scaling evidence-based programs, practices, and interventions that directly benefit students from low-income families, recipients that are implementing improvement and support activities, and recipients in rural areas. It is also proposing a national center that will provide high-quality resources and professional learning opportunities to help states address common implementation challenges and emerging national trends. (Note: The public may comment on the program's proposed priorities through October 29.)

  • Secretary DeVos appointed five leaders from around the country to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card.

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Quote to Note

"Everyone has a role to play in making [learning dynamic and spontaneous] for every student. I think of the words I heard while crowded around my family's black-and-white television set when Neil Armstrong climbed off Apollo 11 and on to the surface of the moon: 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' Our astronauts' individual actions were ordinary—but the implications were extraordinary. Small steps taken by a teacher, a principal, a parent, a peer, could unlock a child's potential, enabling them to achieve dreams, make great leaps, and discover new frontiers. So let's stop asking 'why?' Let's stop being afraid!... If given the freedom, teachers, parents, and students don't wait around for an answer from government—or from someone else. When Americans encounter problems, we find solutions."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (10/3/18), in remarks at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

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Upcoming Events

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools has conducted a Green Strides Tour since 2013, allowing schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions to celebrate their achievements and share their work with community leaders and policymakers. This year, on October 24 and 25, the tour will spotlight honorees in Missouri. All are welcome to join the tour and see how schools use their grounds, with gardens, habitats, nature trails, and wetlands, to engage with students in STEM, nutrition, and agriculture, as well as art, literature, and social studies.

On October 25, more than two million people around the world will read the same book on the same day, as part of Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" campaign.

Since 2003, the annual Speak Up survey (open October 15, 2018, through January 31, 2019) has collected data from students, educators, and parents about how to leverage technology in schools to promote learning.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 11/23/2018