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AAE Federal Update February 7, 2011
posted by: Alix | February 07, 2011, 11:25 PM   

Obama Talks Education in State of the Union

President Obama devoted an unprecedented amount of time to education in the State of the Union address. Using his yearly platform, the President put education front and center on the national stage and challenged the newly divided Congress to come together on this traditionally bi-partisan issue.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," Obama said, using the classic cliché regarding the 1960's launch of the Soviet satellite. According to Obama, the time is now to increase spending and make necessary changes in America education.

Although the President called for a freeze to federal spending, he advocated for increased "investments" in education. "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine," Obama said. "It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact."

Obama reiterated his plans for changing the nine-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, focusing on his March 2010 Blueprint for reauthorization. He framed the law's renewal as an attempt to build on the $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition, highlighting that the program's success as justification for a federal government presence in education.

"Race to the Top," Obama said, "is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation."

Obama also announced an initiative to recruit and train 100,000 new teachers in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering, or STEM subjects. He mentioned teachers throughout his speech, calling for young people to consider a career in teaching, particularly in the STEM subjects.

In fact, some of his strongest applause came from his rhetoric on teachers. "Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones," Obama stressed as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan nodded in agreement.

Reactions regarding the speech were positive. Sen. Lamar Alexander, ranking member of the Senate's K-12 policy subcommittee told Education Week that reauthorizing ESEA "is an area where we can be bipartisan," adding he's "hopeful" for its passage.

Race to the Top Commencement Challenge 2011

On February 1, the White House officially opened the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge for the second year in a row. Students and teachers across the country are invited to participate by showcasing their school as a an environment that prepares them for college. The winning school with host President Obama at their spring commencement ceremony.

The application includes essay questions and statistical information that illustrate how schools are promoting college and career readiness while establishing a culture of success for students and teachers.

Once the application deadline has passed, the finalists will produce videos that will be posted on the Department of Education website where the public will be able to cast their vote for their favorite school. Last year, more than 1,000 schools applied, and some 170,000 individuals weighed in on short videos and essays from the six finalists.

President Obama will personally choose the winner from the three finalists. The two remaining schools will have senior Department of Education officials speak at their commencement.

The application deadline is February 25.
Click here for more information about how to apply.

DoEd Releases Education Dashboard Website

The Department of Education has launched a website that provides convenient access to key national and state education data and reports. The new site, "Education Dashboard," highlights the progress being made at every level of the education system and encourages individuals and interested parties to engage in informed conversations about their local schools.

This first version of the Education Dashboard contains a set of 16 variables, ranging from student completion of post secondary education, to indicators on teachers and leaders and equity. This version also includes a section which supplies data on whether subgroups are performing sufficiently.

The new site allows users to easily find information they need and view it in several different ways. For example, on a single webpage, those interested are able to view indicators of student performance and measure it against another state or grade level. The interface also allows users to download customized reports for further analysis.

The Dashboard website is in its first stages; however, the Department is committed to regularly updating the Dashboard's data and to enhancing the tools on the web site. The indicators will be updated as new information becomes available, and users are encouraged to send comments to so that usability and functionality can be improved.

Click here to browse the new site.

The Nation's Science Report Card Released

The Nation's Report Card: Science 2009 was recently released and presents the achievement of fourth, eighth, and twelfth-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in science.

National results for each of the three grades are based on representative samples of public and private school students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense schools. Only 34% of fourth-graders, 30% of eighth-graders, and 21% of twelfth-graders nationwide performed at or above the proficient level in science.

The report provides a current snapshot of what American students know and can do in science and will serve as the basis for comparison with future assessments. The report comes on the heel's of recent Obama rhetoric about shifting the academic focus to the STEM subjects for a new and changing economy.

Click here to view the full report.

Arne Duncan Advocates for More Minority Males in the Classroom

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, filmmaker Spike Lee and Congressman John Lewis joined forces last week to speak to a group of black undergraduate males at Morehouse College about the teaching profession as part of the Department of Education's TEACH campaign.

Duncan stated recently that the nation's teacher workforce does not reflect the diversity of its students when only one in 50 teachers is a black male. "This is a national problem," he said, "and one in which most schools of education have not shown leadership or foresight."

Duncan has been making similar visits to traditionally black universities in an effort to promote the teaching profession to minority students. He recently visited Howard University with musician John Legend to promote teaching, calling for undergraduates to "give back to their communities."

This initiative to recruit minority males for a career in teaching is just one of the many facets of the TEACH campaign to attract successful undergraduates to teaching.

For more information and celebrity testimonials, visit

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