Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 8, 2019

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
Freedom Is Not a Threat
ESSA Update
Funding Opportunities
Digest of Education Statistics
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

State of the Union

On February 5, President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address (text and video). He called on Congress to enact new school choice legislation and fund paid family leave for new parents.

"To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America's children," he proclaimed. "I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave—so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child."

In response, Secretary DeVos—who attended the speech as a member of the President's Cabinet—issued a statement. "Too many American students are far too limited by the current education 'system' that assigns them to a school building based solely on where they live. That means their family income largely dictates their education options. But the freedom to choose the right education should not only be for the rich, powerful, and connected. All students should have the freedom to pursue an education that develops their talents, unleashes their unique potential, and prepares them for a successful life. The President was exactly right...to remind the nation of his call to expand education freedom. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress on ways to give students opportunities to pursue the education that engages their curiosity, unlocks their creativity, and empowers them to reach their fullest potential. It's time to do what's best for kids and get to work."

Among the President's and First Lady's special guests for the address were Joshua Trump, a sixth-grader from Delaware who has been bullied in school due to his last name (a reminder that bullying prevention is a component of the First Lady's "Be Best" campaign); Tom Wibberley, the father of a Navy seaman with a passion for computer science killed in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, who created a scholarship fund in his son Craig's memory that gives out four $1,000 scholarships each year to students studying computer science; and Matthew Charles, the first prisoner released as a result of the First Step Act.

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Freedom Is Not a Threat

Last week, in a prelude to her State of the Union response, the Secretary delivered remarks at the National School Boards Association's Advocacy Institute. She asserted that students, parents, and teachers all need more freedom to meet their potential. The following are key excerpts from her remarks.

"[T]oday, there are students across our country who are far too limited, who have no education freedom. Right now, a student is bored in her math class, but her school building doesn't offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Another student wants to apprentice at a local bank to earn [money] while she learns to pursue a career in finance, but her school district doesn't credit such opportunities. Another student is breathing in mold, another is dodging fists, and yet another is stepping over rats. And each one is forced to stay in the school that doesn't work for them, simply because they're assigned there by their zip code. Those students are relying on us to un-limit their education, to expand their freedom.

"Our nation's teachers need freedom as well. Teachers are on the front lines, and they know what their students need. Yet, too often, they don't have a voice in their school. Sixty percent of teachers recently told their own union that they have moderate to no influence over what's taught in their own classrooms. Too many teachers express frustration that they aren't trusted with more autonomy; that they aren't honored with more flexibility; and that they aren't respected as professionals who know their students and what each of them needs to learn and achieve.

"Freedom is not a threat. The only folks who are threatened by education freedom are the same ones who have a vested interest in suppressing that freedom. The limitations on freedom will persist only if the rest of us do nothing. But we can do something, and we must. When Americans encounter problems, we find solutions. It's what we do.

"We all need the freedom to be problem-solvers—including and especially students. When we un-limit students, it will unleash their creativity, and they will change the world. Not a single student can wait any longer for adults to get this right. I challenge you to join with families across the country and embrace education freedom."

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ESSA Update

Also last week, the Secretary released proposed, non-regulatory guidance to support school districts' compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act's (ESSA) requirement that federal funds supplement, and do not supplant, state and local funds. The guidance explains how ESSA changed the long-standing requirement in order to reduce administrative burden, simplify the compliance demonstration, and promote effective spending. (Note: The Department welcomes stakeholder comment on the proposed guidance directed to OESE.Feedback@ed.gov through February 25.)

While important and well-intentioned, the supplement not supplant requirement was restrictive and burdensome, to the point that some districts made ineffective spending choices in an effort to avoid non-compliance. Under ESSA, the requirement changed to provide more flexibility to districts while still ensuring that federal funds are supplemental to state and local funds and cannot be used to replace them.

In order to comply, a district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school's Title I status. For many districts, the requirement can be met using the district's current methodology for allocating state and local resources.

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Funding Opportunities

Over the last two weeks, the Department issued notices inviting applications for several competitive grant programs. A few examples are below. For a complete list of open competitions, visit here.

  • State Assessments Program. The purpose of this program is to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by states for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary education students. This competition includes six absolute priorities and two invitational priorities (around promoting literacy and promoting science, technology, engineering, and math [STEM] education, with a particular focus on computer science). About $17.6 million is available for states, with applications due March 29.
  • Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program. EIR provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students and rigorously evaluate such innovations. The program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students. There are three types of grants under this program: early phase, mid-phase, and expansion. These grants differ in terms of the level of prior evidence of effectiveness required for consideration of funding, expectations regarding the kind of evidence and information funded projects should produce, the level of scale funded projects should reach, and, consequently, the amount of funding available to support each project. Around $125 million is available for states and districts, with applications due April 2.
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. SBIR provides funding to firms and their partners for the research, development, and evaluation of commercially viable educational technology products. Funding of up to $1.1 million is in two phases: $200,000 for rapid prototype development and evaluation for Phase I, and $900,000 for full-scale product development and evaluation under Phase II. Phase I applications are due March 18.

Separately, Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) is a unique initiative that offers state, local, and tribal governments more flexibility to innovate to improve the outcomes of some of the nation's most disadvantaged youth. Specifically, P3 enables government entities to obtain waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements that impede effective service delivery to disconnected youth and also gives them the ability to blend together funds from multiple federal programs, eliminating the need to account for and report on each of them. The deadline for applications is April 29. (Note: Examples of possible waivers are in the Federal Register notice, while a list of waivers previously granted for prior pilots is on the Youth.gov program page.)

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Digest of Education Statistics

The "Digest of Education Statistics 2017," from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is the 53rd in a series of publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by NCES. The digest has data on the number of schools, students, and teachers in the U.S., as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. (Note: Information on population trends, education attitudes, labor force characteristics, and federal aid, among other measures, provides useful background for evaluating education data.)

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Odds and Ends

  • An NCES Data Point highlights dual enrollment participation and characteristics.

  • In a Homeroom blog recognizing National School Counseling Week, 2019 School Ambassador Fellow Andrea Donegan—herself a school counselor in Wisconsin—salutes school counselors as "experts who our students can turn to about career pathways and postsecondary options in our schools, poised to guide, advocate for, and support students on their journey." (In a related video, counselors share their lessons learned while serving in schools nationwide.)

  • Four educators, from Alaska, Oklahoma, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, have been selected as finalists for 2019 National Teacher of the Year.

  • The Department is contacting individuals who are eligible to request TEACH Grant reconsideration.

  • At the American Enterprise Institute, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander outlined his agenda for updating the Higher Education Act (HEA).

  • Additional Homeroom blogs identify "3 Ways to Spot a [Student Loan Debt Relief] Scam" and "How to Deduct Student Loan Interest on your Taxes (1098-E)."

  • The Department's "English Learner Family Toolkit," created to help families choose educational services that meet their child's needs, consists of six chapters—the first two of which are now available.

  • The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) awarded $25 million to establish three national research and development centers. Two of these centers—at the University of Missouri and Harvard University—will focus on improving rural education. A third, at the University of California-Irvine, will focus on improving the writing skills of high school students.

  • On January 31, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the Administration's "National Drug Control Strategy," establishing priorities for addressing the challenge of drug trafficking and use. (In related news, First Lady Melania Trump spoke to more than 500 youth at a Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America leadership forum and visited ONDCP for a briefing.)

  • A new fact sheet from the Department's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center targets opioid emergencies.

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Quote to Note

"During my first campaign to be Chicago's mayor, in 2011, I promised to put education reform at the forefront of my agenda. Having participating in Washington policy debates for the better part of two decades, I felt confident that I knew what to do. Then, as now, education reformers preached a certain gospel: hold teachers solely accountable for educational gains; expand charter schools; and focus relentlessly on high school graduation rates.... For most of my career, I preached the old gospel of education reform. But now research and experience suggest that policymakers need to embrace a new path forward and leave the old gospel behind. Principals, not just teachers, drive educational gains. The brain-dead debate between charter and neighborhood schools should be replaced with a focus on quality over mediocrity. To get kids to finish high school, the student experience should center on preparing them for what's next in life. Finally, classroom success hinges on the support that students get outside school. If other cities follow Chicago's lead in embracing those ideas, they're likely to also replicate its results."

        Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (2/5/19), in a piece for The Atlantic magazine

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Upcoming Events

Celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month by participating in the annual Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) Twitter chat. It will take place February 19 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Be sure to use #CTSOchat when responding.

Digital Learning Day (February 28) spotlights examples of how great teaching paired with technology can improve student outcomes.

The Library of Congress is soliciting nominations for its 2019 Literacy Awards, which encourage development of innovative methods for promoting literacy and wide dissemination of the most effective practices (deadline: March 8).

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Last Modified: 02/08/2019