On the Road Again
STEM Education Newsletter
Better Serving Borrowers
Combatting Sexual Assault
From the Federal Register
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
The Department recently launched a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) information and resources web page for schools and school personnel. This page, which will be regularly updated, features the most current information on COVID-19 (primarily from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]), as well as guidance and resources for everyday disease prevention strategies. Any questions for the Department may be directed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Road Again
Last week, Secretary DeVos traveled to Tennessee to highlight the Administration's Education Freedom Scholarships proposal. The visit was a follow-up to her April 2019 roundtable discussion with Governor Bill Lee and more than 30 families, educators, stakeholders, and elected officials at the State Capitol concerning the policy proposal. While in the state, in celebration of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, she also toured Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Nashville, which is strategically investing federal Perkins V funding in students and their futures (CTE visit video).
About the same time, the Secretary shared via Twitter that surveys are showing bipartisan support for education freedom policies, especially "among families with the most at stake," and directed followers to an op-ed by former New Mexico Secretary of Education Christopher Ruszkowski expounding upon the data.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary Mitchell Zais traveled to the Texas, stopping by Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth and Blanson CTE High School in Houston; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Aimee Viana visited Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia, witnessing multiple CTE offerings; Director of Special Education Programs Laurie VanderPloeg traveled to Illinois for a training conference and toured an elementary school and an early learning center in Springfield; and Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump visited Mill Run Elementary School in Ashburn, Virginia, observing teacher cadets from nearby Briar Woods High School provide classroom instruction.
STEM Education Newsletter
Subscribe today to the Department's new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) monthly newsletter, with news, events, and unique opportunities relevant to the STEM community and other education stakeholders.
Better Serving Borrowers
On February 24, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced transformative upgrades to StudentAid.gov. The updated web site now features new tools, providing students with detailed information about the grants and loans they have received and guiding them to a personalized recommendation for a loan repayment plan. FSA also launched a pilot that allows a subset of borrowers, for the first time ever, to make loan repayments directly on StudentAid.gov (press release and blog post).
These updates complement the President's budget request, which includes calls to simplify student loan types, amounts, and repayment options and provide customers with access to an online portal with tailored information to help them easily understand their options and make informed decisions throughout the financial aid lifecycle.
The Aid Summary feature allows borrowers to see specific information for each grant and loan they have received, including type, date received, repayment plan, and interest rate. Borrowers can use this tool to track their remaining eligibility for federal Pell Grants and Direct Loans. They will also be able to see their progress toward repaying their loans, receive alerts about their account, and track the number of qualifying payments they have made toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
The Loan Simulator helps borrowers chart a course to successful repayment by allowing them to compare options. The tool combines information entered by a customer, like earnings and family composition, with loan data provided by FSA to develop a personalized repayment strategy. Borrowers can use this tool to compare repayment plans and test-drive which plan provides them with the lowest monthly payment, fastest payoff term, or lowest amount paid overall.
Also, borrowers whose federally managed loans are in repayment and assigned to either Great Lakes or Nelnet can participate in the Make a Payment pilot. This pilot program allows borrowers to schedule upcoming monthly payments right on StudentAid.gov. Eventually, all Direct Loan customers will be able to repay their loans through StudentAid.gov.
Separately, FSA launched the myFSApay pilot program for students as the University of California-Riverside, the University of Georgia, Purdue University, and Jackson State University. This pilot allows students at the participating schools to choose to receive their financial aid refunds — after expenses, such as tuition, fees, and room and board, are paid — on a pre-paid card with a linked online account accessible through the myStudentAid mobile application. There is no cost for students or schools to participate in the pilot, and schools will be added throughout 2020 (press release).
Combatting Sexual Assault
On successive days last month, Secretary DeVos announced major actions regarding Title IX protections.
First, on February 26, the Secretary announced a new Title IX enforcement initiative, led by the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), to combat the troubling rise of sexual assault in K-12 public schools. This effort will enhance OCR's enforcement of Title IX in elementary and secondary public schools and strengthen the ability of schools to respond to all incidents of sexual harassment and assault. It also builds on the Department's work to implement the "Pass the Trash" provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which prohibits schools from simply moving employees who have committed acts of sexual misconduct.
OCR's initiative will include the following activities:
- Compliance Reviews. OCR will conduct nationwide compliance reviews in schools and districts, examining how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX, including sexual incidents involving teachers and school staff. OCR will work with districts to identify and correct compliance concerns.
- Public Awareness and Support. OCR will focus on raising awareness of the issue of sexual assault in schools, including making information available to educators, school leaders, parents, and families.
- Data Quality Reviews. OCR will conduct data quality reviews (DQRs) of the sexual assault/offenses data submitted by districts through the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). As part of conducting DQRs, OCR will partner with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and work with districts to ensure that incidents of sexual assault/offenses are being accurately recorded and reported under the CRDC.
- Proposed CRDC Data Collection. OCR has proposed, for the 2019-20 data collection, to collect more detailed data on sexual assault. The proposed data collection includes incidents perpetrated by school staff or personnel. If adopted, the inclusion of this data would make the CRDC collection the first universal collection to gather such data systemically by school.
Then, on February 27, the Secretary announced that OCR will require the University of Southern California (USC) to make sweeping changes to its Title IX procedures after finding that the institution failed to protect students from Dr. George Tyndall, formerly employed as a gynecologist at USC's student health center, since as far back as 1989. As a result of the systemic failures at USC, the Department is requiring the institution to overhaul its Title IX processes, conduct a formal review of current and former employees to determine if they responded appropriately to notice of possible sexual discrimination, and permit OCR to monitor its compliance for three years. The Resolution Agreement also requires USC to make reasonable efforts to contact the nine patients who complained of misconduct by Dr. Tyndall and notify current and former students, and current and former institution employees who may have interacted with him, to offer to remedy the harm done. Remedies may include academic accommodations and counseling.
Under the leadership of Secretary DeVos, OCR has moved aggressively to investigate schools that fail to protect students from sexual misconduct and bring them into compliance with civil rights laws. Notably, the Department has required sweeping reforms to protect students in Chicago Public Schools and at Michigan State University.
From the Federal Register
Just in case you are not visiting the Federal Register on a daily basis, below are a few items of note.
A February 26 notice announces the existence and location of the Department's Guidance Portal. This portal is designed, pursuant to Executive Order 13891, to make it easy for education stakeholders and other interested parties to find the agency's guidance documents. The Department will not retain in effect any guidance document without including it in this portal, nor shall it, in the future, issue guidance without including it in the portal.
A March 2 notice announces opportunities for individuals to participate in the Department's peer review process for reviewing applications for competitive grant funding. The notice spotlights specific needs of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). The Department will accept submissions on a rolling basis, although requests should be submitted at least four weeks prior to a program's application deadline. (Note: The Department has also issued a toolkit titled "How to be considered as a Peer Reviewer for programs administered by the Department of Education.")
A March 4 notice provides information to parties on submitting written comments for accrediting agencies currently undergoing review for purposes of recognition by the Secretary of Education.
Odds and Ends
- The Ad Council is set to launch a national advertising promotion for postsecondary education and training alternatives to the four-year college degree.
- During Statistics in Schools Week (March 2-6), classrooms have been taking part in engaging activities that underscore the importance of responding to the 2020 Census and counting everyone, especially children. At the end of the week, teachers will distribute a take-home flyer to every student. This flyer, available in English and 12 other languages, is intended to help the adults in students’ homes on the Census. (Note: The material on the Census Bureau’s web site is being provided for convenience as a potential resource for schools and educators. It was not developed by the Department, and the Department does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of the information. Furthermore, the inclusion of any hyperlinks and the content presented is not intended to convey their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed or products or services offered. The Department does not control, direct, or encourage any information in a curriculum. The use of Census Bureau materials or other materials by a school or educator is strictly a state and local matter.)
- The Department’s latest “Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)” shows the number of students receiving special education services is on the rise: more than 6.1 million students across the U.S. ages 6 to 21, or 9.2% of all students, were served under IDEA in 2017, up from 8.6% in 2008.
- On February 25, OSERS Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Schultz moderated a panel discussion of transition services experiences, which has been added to the resources (including Success Stories) on the Vocational Rehabilitation 100th anniversary page.
- New from NCES: information about state-level revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public K-12 education system for the 2016-17 school year and Fast Facts on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Quote to Note
"I think the President would respect any decisions that are made at the state and local level…. Those are decisions that governors, in consultation with local health officials, will make as they deem that necessary. But, other than in areas where there are individuals that have been infected with the Coronavirus, people need to understand that, for the average American, the risk does remain low. We're ready."
Vice President Mike Pence (3/1/20), from an interview with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” when asked about closing schools due to the spread of COVID-19
Among other observations, March is Women's History Month.
The Department's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) will livestream its "Attract, Prepare, and Retain: OSEP National Summit on Improving Effective Personnel for Children with Disabilities" on March 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
Registration is now open for the third in a series of convenings designed to help rural community colleges identify, plan, and design critical projects for federal grant applications. This convening, co-hosted by the Department and the American Association of Community Colleges, will be held March 19 and 20 at the Community College of Denver and cover the same content as past offerings in Racine, Wisconsin, and Gulfport, Mississippi.
In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Department is holding a webinar -- the second in a series during 2020 -- on March 25, from 3 to 4:15 p.m. ET, discussing anti-trafficking strategies at the state, district, and school level. The event is designed to provide school-level administrators, teachers, and instructional staff with strategies, rooted in trauma-informed and survivor-centered approaches, for preventing students from falling prey to trafficking activity.
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