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Beyond the Bubble

Ohanian Comment: I get these biweekly announcements from the US Department of Education but I don't know that I've ever before noticed their subhead: A biweekly update on activities of the U. S. Department of Education relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate Community and other stakeholders.

If you're not Corporate, you must be "other."

If you read clear through to the end of the DOE newsletter, you'll see the message we welcome your feedback! Here's Rob Bligh's feedback--plus the announcement itself.

From: Rob Bligh
Date: Friday, October 25, 2013 10:49 AM
Subject: ED Review (10/25/13)

Mr. Honeysett,

This particular "Donuts" Duncan dirt-for-brains pronouncement is timelier than most, given that Halloween is just around the corner.

This clown makes the threat of a government shutdown seem quite appealing.

If we could just get him involved in more pickup basketball games, maybe Secretary Duncan would inflict less damage on children and their schools.

Rob Bligh
Omaha, NE 68135


Ed Review: A biweekly update on activities of the U. S. Department of Education relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate Community and other stakeholders


On September 30, fresh off his "Strong Start, Bright Future" Back to School bus tour across the American Southwest, Secretary Duncan returned to the National Press Club for his annual report on the state of American education. "What I can tell you after nearly five years in Washington is that the public narrative that you hear inside the [Washington] Beltway and online doesn't reflect the reality I see in classrooms and schools all across America," he said. "This town, which so often thinks that it's somehow the center of the universe, is, instead, an alternative universe. . . .. Fortunately, many of the people in the real world outside the Beltway and the blogosphere have tuned out this false debate. They’re too busy actually getting the real work done. They’re focusing on students -- whether they are three-years-old, 13-years-old, or 33-years old.”

Compare and contrast:

  • "In the real world, the vast majority of people aren’t debating if college- and career-ready standards are needed. They’re not advancing false narratives about a federal takeover of schools by mind-controlling robots. They’re just doing the hard work of putting high standards into practice.

  • "They're not questioning if a thoughtful system of evaluation and support is needed for teachers and principals. They know that evaluation has been generally meaningless, has failed to support the development of teachers and principals, and that the system is broken. They’re working together to help educators strengthen their craft and build real career ladders that recognize and reward excellence."

  • "In the real world, most people are not against meaningful testing. They know we need some kind of test to know if kids are actually learning and to hold everyone accountable, including students themselvesâ€Â¦. Working together, the vast majority of states are creating better tests that measure essential skills, such as critical thinking."

  • "Parents don't debate if it's possible to turn around a low-performing school. They can see for themselves if something is working or not working. And they are helping lead these turnaround efforts themselves."

  • "Here in the Washington bubble, the prevailing narrative is that reformers and unions are in a constant state of war. But, in the real world, many unions are in fact partners in reform. While the media flocks to noise and controversy, the quiet, courageous work goes uncovered or unrecognized."

  • "As the new school year gets underway, I am inviting any member of Congress to join me as I continue to travel around the country and highlight reforms at work," the Secretary concluded. :I invite journalists, bloggers, and policy leaders as well. Let's go see for ourselves what is working, and then let’s bring those positive lessons back to Washington. Let's talk to students and see what they want and what they need -- for their future, not our presentâ€Â¦. I am optimistic and inspired because of what is happening outside the Beltway, in schools, at colleges and universities, and in communities all across America."

    More from Secretary Duncan:

  • He penned a related op-ed, titled "Why I am Optimistic," published in the Christian Science Monitor.

  • He delivered remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

  • He was interviewed [Education Nation] on his priorities for the remaining years of the Obama Administration and kicked-off a panel [Education Nation] on how the nation can grow the world's best-skilled and most innovative workforce using education for NBC News' latest Education [sic]Nation Summit.
  • ______________________________________________________________________


    The Department received 228 applications for the 2013 Race to the Top-District program, which will provide almost $120 million to support school districts in implementing local education reforms that personalize instruction, close achievement gaps, and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and careers. This year's applications -- submitted by districts and consortia of districts -- represent approximately 700 school systems in 44 states. The Department expects to make five to 10 grants. Awards will range from $4 million to $30 million, depending on the population served through the plan. Grants will be announced no later than December 31.

    Also, the Department received 17 applications for the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, which will provide $280 million in state-level grants to help improve the quality of early learning and development programs and close educational gaps for children with high needs. Applicants include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. The Department expects to make three to eight grants. Awards will range from $37.5 million to $75 million, depending on the population served through the plan. Again, grants will be announced no later than December 31. ______________________________________________________________________


    The Secretary recently announced that both Texas and Puerto Rico will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In exchange for this new flexibility, they have agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness. The Department has now approved waiver requests from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Four applications remain under review, and five states have not requested flexibility through this process.

    In the interest of transparency and to help inform other states, the Department has posted here initial and approved flexibility requests, highlights of each state's plan, and peer review notes, as well as the agency’s letter regarding peer review feedback and the Secretary’s approval letter.



    This week, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter addressed the annual conference of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, highlighting President Obama’s proposal to make college more affordable for students and families and resources that provide consumers with easy-to-understand information about college costs, including the College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

    Meanwhile, later today, Secretary Duncan will join more than a dozen college presidents from Hispanic-Serving Institutions, briefing participants on the President’s higher education agenda and gathering feedback on those proposals.

    Late last month, the Department announced the official FY 2011 two-year and official FY 2010 three-year federal student loan cohort default rates. The national two-year cohort default rate increased from 9.1% for FY 2010 to 10% for FY 2011. The national three-year cohort default rate rose from 13.4% for FY 2009 to 14.7% for FY 2010. For-profit institutions continue to record the highest average two- and three-year rates at 13.6% and 21.8%, respectively, followed by public institutions (at 9.6% and 13%) and private, non-profit institutions (at 5.2% and 8.2%). As required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the agency is in the process of switching from a two- to a three-year cohort default rate calculation. Congress mandated this transition because there are more borrowers who default beyond the two-year window. Thus, the three-year rate better reflects the percentage of borrowers who ultimately default on their loans. Schools with excessive default rates (of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years) may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs. This year, eight institutions are subject to sanctions. (Note: The public can search for individual school default rates online.)

    Speaking of borrowing:

    · "Degrees of Debt," a new report from the Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), examines the rate of borrowing and cumulative student loan debt of three cohorts of bachelor's degree recipients a year after they attained their degrees.

    · Another new NCES report, “Student Financial Aid,” presents data findings on student financial aid, including the number of undergraduate students receiving aid and the amount of aid received by those students for the 2011-12 academic year.

    · Moreover, the College Board issued its annual studies on trends in college pricing and student aid, as well as the benefits of postsecondary education.

    Also, the Departments of Education and Justice released new guidance offering colleges and universities information about the ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas and reiterating the agencies’ steady position on the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity in higher education.



    Earlier this month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented initial results of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which evaluates the skills of adults in 24 countries. The survey shows that high-quality initial education is an important predictor for success in adult life. However, nations must combine this with flexible, skills-oriented learning opportunities throughout life, especially for working-age adults. (Note: An analysis by IES of U.S.-specific results is here.)



  • Before the federal government shutdown, the Department awarded grants under a number of competitive programs, such as the School Leadership Program, the Arts in Education Program, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, the Charter Schools Program, theMagnet School Assistance Program, the Strengthening Higher Education Institutions Program, the new Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Initiative, and the Educational Facilities Clearinghouse Program.

  • NCES just published the results of its effort to link the score scales of two assessments: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). With this study, all 52 states/jurisdictions that participate in the 2011 NAEP math and science assessments can compare the performance of their eighth-grade students with those of other countries. Overall, 36 states bested peers abroad in math, while 47 states topped peers abroad in science.

  • In a blog post, Secretary Duncan invites the public to learn more about the many accomplishments of this year's National Blue Ribbon Schools, captured in a series of one-page profiles.

  • Further, state officials blogged about their experiences on the fifth leg of the "Education Built to Last" Best Practices Tour, visiting several U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) in southern California, and an article by ED-GRS Director Andrea Falken, titled Resources for Going Green, was published in the American School Board Journal.

  • Fordham Law School's Center for Law and Information Policy has released as free, open source documents a first-ever curriculum for privacy education geared to middle school students. Educators are welcome to use the instructional materials to address the many privacy issues teens face as their use of technology skyrockets.

  • ______________________________________________________________________


    "One of my proudest days on the job yesterday, seeing our team’s joy & enthusiasm in being able to come back to work."

    -- Secretary Arne Duncan (10/18/13), in a tweet after the end of the federal government shutdown, which furloughed 4,200 Department employees for 16 days

    "Kids need less access to guns & more access to school counselors & caring adults. Tragically, one of those adults lost his life in Sparks, Nevada."

    -- Secretary Arne Duncan (10/22/13), in a tweet following the school shooting at Sparks Middle School in Nevada ______________________________________________________________________


    There are still a few days remaining in this year's Connected Educator Month. The updated calendar features hundreds of events. Educators are also encouraged to develop, host, and run their own activities, publish content, and generally promote the month.

    Register today to join a live webinar releasing “The Nation’s Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, Grades 4 and 8,” hosted by the National Assessment Governing Board, on October 31 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. During the event, a select panel of experts will take an in-depth look at national and state-level data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The new report card, to be presented for the first time in an interactive, online format, will allow users to view results side-by-side and feature dynamic videos that will guide users on how to explore and interpret results.

    The 2013 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals in Las Vegas (December 3-6) is designed to provide the most up-to-date information on Title IV programs and evolving federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners.


    Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:

    Program Analyst -- Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov

    To be added or removed from distribution, or submit comments (we welcome your feedback!),

    contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/.

    — US Department of Education





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