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AAE Federal Update March 20, 2012
posted by: Alix | March 20, 2012, 06:32 PM   

Secretary Duncan Advocates for Tech Advances

At the South by Southwest Education (SXSWedu) conference in Austin, Texas, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the crowd in a widely-attended speech that implementing new technologies and outfitting schools with new tech-friendly equipment will be the key to future success in our country.  "The future of American education undoubtedly includes a laptop on every desk and universal internet access in every home," Secretary Duncan said, "But a great teacher at the front of the classroom will still make the biggest difference in the lives of our students."

Duncan addressed a large audience of educators and technology entrepreneurs at the annual conference that focuses on innovations in learning. The Secretary spoke to the importance of technology in education and noted that the Department of Education remains committed to doing "all we can at the federal level to support the use of technology."

In 2010, the Obama administration issued a comprehensive education technology plan to support the broader trends in education today. Among the elements, the Department of Education is committed to aligning new materials with college and career-ready standards, as well as building up technology infrastructure with a focus on collaboration for educators.

Duncan explained that technology has become essential to learning, not optional. In a nod to tech-naysayers, he also reminded the audience that even if Beethoven would have had a computer, "the Fifth Symphony would still have come from the mysterious gray matter between his ears."

Click here to read more about the Department of Education's technology initiatives.

New Federal Study: Minority Students Experience Inequalities in Public Education

According to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), minority students across the country face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.

In an event at Howard University attended by a bipartisan group of civil rights and education reform groups, federal education officials released new data from a national survey of more than 72,000 schools serving 85% of the nation's students.  The data covers a range of issues including college and career readiness, discipline statistics, school finance numbers, and student retention.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the findings a harsh reality and wakeup call for education leaders. "The power of the data is not only in the numbers themselves, but in the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change.  The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.  It is our collective duty to change that."

Among the key findings of the report:

  • African-American male students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.  Black students make up 18% of the students in the CRDC sample, but 35% of the students suspended once, and 39% of the students expelled.
  • Students learning English (ELL) were 6% of the CRDC high school enrollment, but made up 12% of students held back.
  • Only 29% of high-minority high schools offered high-level courses like calculus, compared to 55% of schools with the lowest minority enrollment.
  • Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.
Click here to view the full report with state by state breakdowns.

Committee Approves K-12 Education Reform Legislation

Earlier this month, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved two pieces of legislation to rewrite elementary and secondary education law, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) largely on party lines.  The Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) was approved by the committee in a vote of 23 to 16. The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990) was approved in a vote of 23 to 16.

Chairman Kline (R-MN) called the votes a victory. "With these proposals, we aim to shrink federal intrusion in classrooms and return responsibility for student success to states and school districts. We'll untie the hands of state and local leaders who are clamoring for the opportunity to change the status quo and revive innovation in our classrooms."

Congressman Kline was quick to point out that the bills were drafted after lengthy input from leaders across the country. "The policies in these bills weren't drawn up behind closed doors in Washington. They come from the ideas, accomplishments, and creativity of superintendents, school chiefs, principals, and parents around the country," Chairman Kline continued. "I am pleased the committee took another step closer to lifting the burden of an ineffective law by approving the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act."

While the bills have been approved in committee, they have yet to be scheduled for a full U.S. House of Representatives vote.

Click here
to learn more about the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act. 

President Obama Calls on Governors to Invest in Education


In late February, President Obama called on the nation's governors to "invest" in education at an all-governors meeting at the White House. The meeting came at a political crossroads for the administration. On the heels of the President's State of the Union address that stressed K-12 education, the President highlighted the importance of ensuring all students in states across the country are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

In the wake of budget realities, the President called on the group to make education a priority. "Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state as the decisions you make about where to invest," he asserted.  "Budgets are about choices.  So, today, I'm calling on you to choose to invest more in teachers; invest more in education; invest more in our children and their future."

While President Obama advocated for increased spending, he also mentioned the delicate balance between spending and education reform in his remarks. "That doesn't mean you've got to invest in things that aren't working.  That doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to break some china and move aggressively on reform.  But, the fact of the matter is we don't have to choose between resources and reform.  We need resources and reform."

Click here
to view the administration's blueprint on proposals outlined in the State of the Union address.

Secretary Duncan Endorses Green School Models

Secretary Arne Duncan visited the Green Schools National Conference in Denver last month, where he praised the 1,500 educators in attendance for their commitment to greening America's schools, developing environmental literacy, and nurturing a culture of sustainability in student communities.

"In the past, skeptics of green schools and the value of environmental literacy have claimed that reducing our ecological footprint and increasing understanding of the environment was a kind of zero-sum game," Secretary Duncan claimed.  "Green schools and environmental literacy in fact complement the goals of providing a well-rounded education for the 21st century, of modernizing schools at reduced costs, and of accelerating learning."

Secretary Duncan asserted that green schools nurture unique skills and knowledge that matter more than ever in today's shifting economy. "Reducing disease, developing renewable sources of energy, curbing pollution, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are no longer challenges that stop at our borders." According to Duncan, by educating students about these green initiatives, whole communities will have a better understanding of these emerging issues.

The conference attendees included principals, teachers, facility and energy managers, school nutrition professionals, and students-all of whom were engaged in local green school programs.  Secretary Duncan thanked crowd for their advocacy and highlighted the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools program, which he noted recognizes schools across the country for participating in activities that promote and encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly learning environments.

Click here to learn more about the Green Ribbon Schools awards.

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