Higher Education News
A Congressional task force, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, assails the Education Department for burdening colleges with an increasing volume of rules and reporting requirements.
An external probe of admissions practices challenges Bill Powers’s image as a bulwark against political meddling.
For more than a decade, states and schools throughout this country have worked within the narrow confines of the No Child Left Behind law. It’s long past time to move past that law, and replace it with one that expands opportunity, increases flexibility and gives schools and educators more of the resources they need.
Today, seven years after the law was due for renewal, there is real movement on Capitol Hill toward a new law, with many important decisions happening in just the next few weeks. But it is by no means certain what that law will look like — or whether it will, indeed, be a step forward.
No Child Left Behind is the title applied to the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the most important education law in the country, which turned 50 years old in January.
Since its beginnings in 1965, ESEA aimed to give students living in poverty, minority students and others who had historically struggled for a fair chance, in part, by providing billions of dollars in Title I funds to schools with high concentrations of poverty, and by supporting teacher professional development, and other essentials. When he introduced it in January 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said the law would establish “full educational opportunity as our first national goal,” and said, “I believe deeply [that] no law I have signed, or will ever sign, means more to the future of America.”
In hundreds upon hundreds of conversations with educators, I have heard about frustrations with the 2001 No Child Left Behind law, and I am hopeful that lawmakers will find their way to a bipartisan agreement on a law that serves students, teachers and principals better.
The intentions of the No Child Left Behind revision were good, but the implementation, for many, has been frustrating. It aimed to bring transparency and meaningful responsibility for the learning progress of “subgroups” of students who had struggled in the past — students in poverty, minority students, those with disabilities, those learning English and others. That’s a good idea. But in practice, the law created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed.
I believe we need to do precisely the reverse, giving schools more resources, more support and more flexibility. I believe we need to scrap No Child Left Behind and replace it with a far better law — a law that continues key supports for equity in education as a national priority, rather than making equity of opportunity optional.
Recently, I laid out core ideas for a new law that ensures real opportunity. Teachers, principals, students and families have helped to spur enormous progress in education throughout the country — leading to our highest high-school graduation rate in history, dropout rates at historic lows, and a million more black and Hispanic students in college than there were in 2008.
I believe we need to double down on that kind of progress and expand opportunity for America’s children — not turn back the clock. In order to do that, I called for doing several things that have enormous relevance to educators.
First, we must make sure that schools and educators have the resources they need to do their vitally important work. Among significant increases for education in the budget the President recently laid out, he requested $2.7 billion in new funding for ESEA, including a billion-dollar increase for Title I.
A new ESEA should ensure that students are ready for school, by making high-quality preschool available and affordable for every family that wants it.
It should support teachers better throughout their careers, including through improved training.
It should provide support and funding to cut back on the time devoted to standardized testing in places where testing is excessive, without walking away from annual statewide assessments that provide valuable information to drive improvement and are critical to measuring growth instead of just proficiency.
In fact, the law should focus on the learning growth of all students, including subgroups that have struggled in the past, and ensure that where groups of students or schools do not make progress, there will be a plan for action and improvement.
It should help to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education that includes the arts, physical education, financial literacy, the sciences, and much more.
It should ensure that funds intended for high-poverty schools actually get to those schools.
It should ensure that all students have the benefit of high, state-chosen standards aligned with readiness for college and career.
And it should support innovation by educators at the state and local levels that drive improvements in student learning.
All of these steps will help accelerate the progress that America’s students are making, strengthen opportunity for all students, and ensure greater economic security for our nation.
I am hopeful that lawmakers from both parties will be able to come to agreement on a law that does all these things. I have been clear about my concerns about early proposals that have gone in a very different direction — one that would impose painful cuts on our schools, including a potential loss of as much as $675 million in the neediest schools. But I’m delighted to see that the leading Republican and Democrat on education in the Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, have announced their intention to develop a bipartisan bill.
I believe that ensuring a strong education for our young people — and ensuring that schools and educators have the resources they need to provide that education — is among the nation’s most important responsibilities.
I am hopeful that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will work together to reach bipartisan agreement on a bill that holds true to the promise of real opportunity.
I urge you to get the facts about this vital decision.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
Earlier this week, the Road Map Project, a Seattle-area partnership of school districts, local government, colleges and nonprofit organizations, released the latest results from their efforts to double the number of students in the region that are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020. While there is still hard work ahead, the Road Map Project has led remarkable progress for Washington students since they began in 2010.
With support from a $40 million Race to the Top – District grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, schools and their partners in the Road Map Project region are working to boost student achievement from early childhood through college. Together, they have some made impressive gains for their youngest children:
- This year, all incoming students across the seven participating school districts are enrolled in full-day kindergarten
- 43 percent of low-income children in South Seattle (which comprises a portion of the Road Map Project region) were enrolled in formal early learning opportunities in the 2013–14 school year, in large part due to a city-led program
In addition, elementary school students have made large gains since the project started. And the Road Map Project partners are building a pathway to provide their students the tools they need to obtain meaningful educational or career opportunities after high school:
- Nearly two-thirds of high school graduates took rigorous, college-level courses in 2014, a 6 percentage point increase over 2013—and American Indian and African American students made the biggest gains, with a 10 and 12 percentage point gain over 2013, respectively
- 8 percent of 9th graders had suspension(s) or expulsion(s), down from a peak of 19 percent in the 2010–11 school year, and like other districts across the country, Road Map Project districts are revising their disciplinary policies and practices to address racial disproportionality
- While the region’s overall submission rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, decreased slightly from the previous year, the Tukwila School District’s submission rate in 2013–14 was 84 percent— a 13 percentage point increase over last year, and a model the rest of the region can learn from
These are encouraging results that speak to the dedication of local educators, parents, service providers and community leaders who work diligently every day to expand opportunities for the region’s students. By setting common goals and being transparent about their results along the way—including what’s working and where additional attention is needed—the Road Map Project team is building the shared commitment, resource alignment and accountability that it takes to get great results for their students. Check out the Road Map Project’s 2014 Results Report to learn more about their efforts to make college a reality for all.
Nadya Chinoy Dabby is the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.
The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, which is the highest rate since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating grad rates five years ago.
In a statement, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.”“This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country.”
Starting in 2010, states, districts and schools starting using a new, common metric called the adjusted cohort graduation rate. Before this, comparing graduation rates between states was often unreliable because of the different methods used. The new method is more accurate and helps states target support to ensure students are graduating on time and are college and career ready.
See the data here, including what the graduation rate is in your state. Check back in the coming weeks when we hope to release grad rates for minority students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.
Of course, although this progress is a big milestone, we can’t slow down now. Learn how the Obama Administration is working to maintain and accelerate progress and opportunity through an overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
In June 2013, I joined the President in Mooresville, NC, to launch ConnectED – an initiative to close the technology gap in our schools and bring high-speed Internet to 99 percent of America’s students within five years. This vision – that all students should have access to world-class digital learning – is well on its way to becoming a reality.
Thanks to the leadership of the President and the FCC, the resources are in place to meet the President’s connectivity goal. In addition, various private-sector partners are making over $2 billion worth of resources available to students, teachers, and schools. These include tablets, mobile broadband, software, and online teacher professional development courses from top universities. Fewer than 40 percent of public schools currently have the high-speed Internet needed to support modern digital learning.
But now we have the resources to solve this problem. We just need help from our nation’s superintendents and school technology chiefs.
Last year, the FCC approved the first major update to the E-Rate program since it was created in 1997. E-Rate (also known as the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries) makes it more affordable for schools and libraries to connect to high-speed Internet – with the goal of making the gigabit speeds we see in cities like Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Chattanooga, Tennesseethe norm in schools across the country.
These updates have unlocked funding to support internal Wi-Fi network upgrades in schools and libraries this year for the first time since 2012. Wi-Fi is important because no matter how fast the Internet connection is to a school, students can’t take full advantage of it without a robust wireless network within the school.
To secure E-rate support for Wi-Fi, schools and libraries must submit a form describing their project needs to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC then posts the request for competitive bidding. The Department of Education has prepared an Infrastructure Guide to help district leaders navigate the many decisions required to deliver cutting-edge connectivity to students. That said, schools and libraries have the final say when they submit an application to USAC for approval.
Bringing our schools up to speed is a major priority, and E-rate provides an opportunity to make doing so much more affordable. For all of the superintendents and technology officers: If you haven’t yet done so, get your requests submitted by February 26, 2015, and your applications in before March 26, 2015 (requests must be up for 28 days before a school can choose a vendor). Your students, your community, and your country will thank you for bringing our classrooms into the 21st century.Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
UNC-Chapel Hill distances itself from its head wrestling coach’s combative blog, which argues that accused male students have little chance of defending themselves.
The report, funded by the Gates Foundation, assesses policies in 35 states and spotlights the strategies that seem to work best.
The Institute of International Education, a nonprofit group, is attempting to enlist schoolteachers in its bid to double the number of American college students who study abroad.
Overall enrollments fell 6.7 percent from the fall of 2009 to the fall of 2013, the latest survey by the Modern Language Association finds.
Andy Schwarz, known for his irreverent commentary on the economics of college sports, has punched holes in one university's rationale for killing football.
The public is sharply divided on whether the city should bid for the Games. But many of the region’s institutions are all-in.
I wish all my mornings could be like this – visiting schools filled with excited students, as they explore their options and take action to turn their college dreams into realities.
Students, teachers and administrators packed the Media Center at Gaithersburg High School (GHS) in Gaithersburg, Maryland as they prepared for their “FAFSA Fill-in Day” to encourage seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at school, and find out more information regarding other financial aid options, and scholarships. They’d been kind enough to ask a team of us from the Department to join them – and there was no way I was going to miss out on the experience!
School spirit filled the room. A sea of blue Gaithersburg apparel adorned the crowd in the Media Center, with the phrase “Blue Crew” emblazoned on shirts and sweaters. Multiple flags from around the world hung from the ceiling, celebrating the diversity of the Gaithersburg High School community.
In the crowd, a familiar face stood out to our Department of Education (ED) staff. GHS English Resource Teacher and former Teacher Ambassador Fellow, Ms. Jennifer Bado-Aleman, welcomed attendees and announced that Federal Student Aid representatives were on hand to answer questions about the application. As seniors began filling out their forms, I was invited to a roundtable where students described their experiences in using the FAFSA, shared their college and career aspirations, and even opened up about some higher education fears.
“I always knew I wanted to go to college. Unfortunately, I didn’t look into it until last year,” one senior explained. “We need to start a plan by our freshman year,” interjected another. When I asked about the college information they needed, some mentioned: information about which majors specific colleges offer, guidance on how much to emphasize extra-curricular activities on their college applications, and how much their average SAT scores would count in how colleges considered candidates. Others said they took a step further and first looked at careers they wanted to pursue, before narrowing down their list of schools with a strong focus in that field.
They were pleased to learn that ED had released our College Ratings framework. President Obama asked our Department to design a ratings system that will give parents and students more information about their college choices by recognizing institutions that focus on accessibility, affordability and completion. The students also offered their opinions on how and by which measures colleges should be rated, including the quality of their majors, their graduation rates, and the employment rates of their graduates. Others chimed in on ratings options as the conversation continued:
“Financial aid to students,” Blake volunteered.
“Internship placements,” added Joanne.
“Tuition rates,” said Hakeem.
Parker thought colleges should be rated on “freshman retention, and the employment of their graduates. [Colleges] need to consistently be living up to their expectation.”
I was glad to be able to share the many ED resources and tools that help students guide and focus their college search, like the College Navigator, which allows students to search for colleges based on majors, institution type and geography, and the College Scorecard, which gives students access to more information about a school’s affordability and value.
Paying for college was another important theme; and several students expressed fears about student debt. “My siblings all went to college and now struggle to pay their loans,” DJ noted. Blake told me he’d been considering out-of-state schools, but didn’t want to be saddled with years of loans to repay.
I’ve heard from many students who worry about how they will manage their student debt. That is why President Obama outlined a set of actions that can help borrowers better manage their student loan debt, including expanding his Pay As You Earn plan so more borrowers can cap monthly payments at 10 percent of their income. In addition, those that enter public service full-time may have their loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Since President Obama took office, our Department has made key investment in federal student aid such as creating the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, raising the maximum Pell Grant award by $1,000, and bringing millions of dollars back into the hands of students by eliminating billions of dollars of subsidies to banks.
The first step in receiving federal student aid is filling out the FAFSA, just like so many of the students I visited in Gaithersburg did. Getting help to pay for college is the best investment any student can make in their future. So, go for the green! Learn more and help us spread the word by visiting StudentAid.ed.gov.
Ted Mitchell is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education.
This post originally appeared on The Root.
WATCH: Secretary Duncan Visits FergusonFollowing Michael Brown’s tragic death, people across the country—and the world—have grieved together and engaged in critical conversations about race and community relationships. When President Obama hosted a dialogue with young people on the issues in Ferguson, I asked the youngest members of the Ferguson Commission how I could be helpful. They asked me to visit Ferguson—to listen to the stories of the people who live there—because youth, in particular, were hurting.
I listened. Recently, I traveled to Ferguson, Missouri. I visited the Clyde C. Miller Career Academy High School, Grandview High School, Ferguson Library, and the Greater St Mark Family Church to meet with students, educators, and community leaders to hear their thoughts on race, equity, and trust since the death of Michael Brown.
The stories I heard from students showed a real sense of fear and uncertainty about the future that far too many young people in communities across this country feel. During one of several stops through Ferguson, I met with Gbemisola Fadeyi, a student at Hazelwood East Middle School. Gbemisola said, since the death of Michael Brown, “I feel like it would be a blessing to get to the age of 16 without being killed by someone. I am so fearful of a lot of things now, and I shouldn’t be scared, I shouldn’t be scared.”
She’s right—all young people should grow up free from fear and violence. But there are too many neighborhoods and communities where fear and violence are part of a student’s daily life. Gbemisola and other young people said that they have been scared not only for themselves—but also for their family members—particularly since Michael Brown’s death.
From the students, to the teachers, to superintendents and school board members, to union leaders—what I felt was searing honesty as well as a deep sense of selflessness. Diamond Smith, a junior at Riverview Gardens High School, shared that in an effort to help her community, she gave her entire paycheck from her after-school job to a homeless man who was feeling broken and hopeless. Stories like these from Gbemisola and Diamond are both heart-wrenching and inspiring.
In Ferguson, I also saw a willingness to reflect and a commitment to long-term action. While there is a great deal of hurt and anger, there’s also great interest among the youth, community leaders, and educators to work together to turn around a very tough situation—to ensure trust and to build strong relationships among law enforcement and other officials and the communities they serve. The students I met with at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy High School, for example, are reviewing their old classroom notes on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the hope of organizing their own movement toward social justice in 2015. They’re seeing and sensing that they are a part of rewriting the history of their own community.
Like Civil Rights leaders who came before them, these students and educators see education as a means of addressing inequities and injustices. They noted that they are tired of the disparities in their local schools systems—whether it’s a lack of access to quality early childhood education, to Advanced Placement classes, to adequately funded schools, to strong instruction, or to after-school programs.
Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future. I don’t believe that we are going to solve the challenges in Ferguson and places like it from Washington alone; but, we can be part of the solution if we listen closely to the people living in these communities. Making things better for kids, their families, and their schools will take all of us working together. We can—and we must—get to a better place.
President Obama and this entire Administration are committed to finding practical solutions to seemingly complex problems. In keeping his promise to find a way to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve, the President established the Task Force on 21st-Century Policing, which will be releasing its recommendations by March. I also have assigned members of my team to continue to work with the Ferguson community. In the long term, we are committed to growing opportunity through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and through laying out principles for equity that must guide a new Education and Elementary Secondary Act.
Yesterday I had the chance to visit the amazing students at Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The students, teachers and school leaders at Cardozo are making big gains through an all-hands-on-deck effort to help every student graduate prepared for college and career, and ready to achieve their dreams.
With incredible leadership from its educators, smart community partnerships, and the help of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Cardozo has seen double-digit gains in attendance; reading proficiency is up 10 percent; suspensions are down; and 54 percent fewer students failed math last year.
This year, the entire Cardozo community is working overtime to keep up the progress, and bring new solutions to persistent challenges. Cardozo’s TransSTEM Academy and Project Lead the Way are creating hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The Diplomas Now team is making sure that all students stay on track through 1:1 supports. And Cardozo students have designed a nationally acclaimed app to boost student attendance and academic achievement in their school.
Across the country, schools like Cardozo are leading a groundswell of innovation in education. Local educators are working hard to do things better than we have in the past—and also to share what they’re learning so that more students, educators, and communities benefit from their efforts. That’s what innovation is all about: smart investments that can expand opportunities for all students.
In Washington, there is an active debate about whether or not to continue supporting the kind of innovation that is helping educators get results for the students who need us the most. Now is not the time to turn back on investing in innovation. We need to support students, educators and their communities as they continue to drive innovation, so that all students have the opportunity to live out their dreams.
Nadya Chinoy Dabby is the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement
At many Southern institutions, tackling the problem isn’t as simple as changing a name. It requires a reckoning with history.
Given the frequency with which students change majors and their apparent importance to alumni success, you’d think the issue would draw more attention.
We’ve updated our FAFSA Completion Tool!
Back in March of 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of this innovative tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators, and practitioners track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country.
Over time, we enhanced the Tool to not only provide FAFSA submission and completion totals for high schools during the current year but also totals for the same time the year before and other key benchmark dates.
The 2015 version provides updated information on a weekly basis during the peak FAFSA application period. This means that counselors and administrators will have access to current data so they can more accurately gauge the impact of outreach efforts and identify successful local strategies.
Before we developed the tool, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had was from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.
Now, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. This is incredibly important because studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.
We encourage high schools to use this data as one component of a comprehensive college access and completion program within their school. To help educators, counselors, and others with this and other aid awareness and loan repayment efforts, we’ve created the Financial Aid Toolkit.
The Toolkit consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database, making it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support their students. It also provides counselors with access to valuable resources, such as how to host a FAFSA completion workshop. We’re also encouraging folks to help us get the word out about FAFSA completion on their social media accounts – and we’ve even written some sample posts to help get the conversation started!
The Tool is a critical component of President Obama’s FAFSA Completion Initiative and this year, local completion efforts are getting a boost from Mrs. Obama’s “FAFSA Completion Challenge,” a video competition the First Lady recently launched to encourage more high school students to complete the FAFSA.
FAFSA data isn’t just for determining eligibility for federal student aid. Many states, institutions, and private organizations rely on the FAFSA to determine eligibility for non-federal sources of aid.
Last year, over one million high school seniors did not submit the FAFSA, which made them ineligible for federal grants and loans, as well as most state-based and institutional aid. When students complete the FAFSA, they help themselves and make a positive contribution to their school, communities, and states.
The promise of the FAFSA Completion Tool lies in its simplicity and its use of current data to effectively measure the success of FAFSA completion efforts. Last year, it provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 25,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and all U.S. territories.
For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Tool data by high school for the senior class of 2015, visit StudentAid.gov/FAFSA-HS-Data.
Todd May is Federal Student Aid’s Director of Communication Services and Greg Fortelny is the Acting Director of Federal Student Aid’s Customer Analytics Group.
Colleges employ student-run intervention programs to combat high-risk drinking and sexual assault.
Francis S. Collins believes better times are ahead for his agency and medical researchers after a decade of tough budgetary constraints.