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AAE Federal Update April 16, 2012
posted by: Alix | April 16, 2012, 10:44 PM   

Funds for Early Learning Earmarked in Competitive Grant Program

The Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services

announced last week that $133 million from the 2012 Race to the Top program will be available so that additional states can make investments in comprehensive early learning education reform.

"The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge has demonstrated the dedication among states and early education and child development experts to raise the bar on early learning," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.

In 2011, 35 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico applied to Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, and in December 2011, nine states were awarded grants. Both departments have invited five other states that were finalists-Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin-to apply for 2012 grants.

The $133 million for additional Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge state grants will come from a larger $550 million fund provided by Congress through the Department of Education's fiscal year 2012 budget. Additional dollars from the 2012 appropriation will be used to run a new district-level Race to the Top competition. More details on the new competition will be available later this spring.  

Youth Violence Prevention

Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice hosted the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, bringing together mayors, police chiefs, school officials, students, and other local representatives to report on their efforts to prevent youth violence in connection with the administration's National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.

Violence prevention and bullying awareness have been top priorities of the Obama administration in 2012. Participants included Secretary of Education Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. All are expected to work together to combat school violence and bullying in the years ahead.

In addressing the conference, Secretary Duncan commended the work of six cities (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Salinas and San Jose, CA) that have developed comprehensive plans to help reduce youth and gang violence, improve opportunities for youth, and encourage innovation at the local level.

Also unveiled at the conference, Secretary Duncan announced the re-launch of website, with new tools and information about who is at risk of being bullied, how to tell if a child is bullying someone else, and concrete steps that individuals, families, and communities can take to address bullying. Duncan tied bullying to school violence in noting, "Bullying can no longer be seen as a normative rite of passage."

Click here
to visit the new website.

International Summit on Teaching

Education leaders from 23 high-performing and rapidly-improving countries and regions convened in New York City last month for the second International Summit on the Teaching Profession, sharing common challenges and best practices on training and supporting teachers and leaders. The conference is designed to give U.S. leaders insight on effective teaching strategies worldwide.

"We come to this work with real humility, coupled with a tremendous sense of urgency," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stressed.  "The truth is the U.S. has a great deal to learn from countries that are out-educating us."

Various practices and policies were discussed throughout the summit, including the need to attract talent to the education profession through competitive pay scales; the benefits of providing support through school-to-school, principal-to-principal, and teacher-to-teacher collaborative networks; and the value of identifying high-level, common standards that are consistent from pre-K through high school in order to prepare students for college and careers.

The Department of Education called the conference a great opportunity to learn from competing nations. "Accomplishing this goal of educating students will depend on our ability to attract and retain great talent over the short term so the U.S. can effectively shape public education for generations to come," cited officials

Before the summit, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a background paper providing an international overview of various methods and programs for recruiting, preparing, and developing teachers and leaders.  In the coming weeks, the Asia Society will again lead host organizations in publishing a summary paper to document insights shared and lessons learned.

A third summit will be convened in Amsterdam next year.  Click here for more information on the conference.

Report: Art Education Programs on the Decline

As states and districts come to terms with a new financial climate under the recession, a new Department of Education survey reports arts education is suffering the most under today's budgets, particularly in high-need communities.

At a school in Washington, D.C. last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that overall the survey reports mixed results. Among the positive findings, in many districts there has not been a dramatic narrowing of arts curriculum. Music and visual arts classes are still widely offered nationwide and there hasn't been a decline in dance or drama offerings at the middle and high school level, despite conflicting reports.

While the findings are neutral for suburban districts, urban district programs are on the decline. The report finds that music and arts classes are still out of reach for many in high-need, high-poverty, and urban school districts. Duncan claimed, "It is deeply troubling that all students do not have access to arts education today." In 1999, 100% of school districts with a majority of "free or reduced lunch" students had music programs. Today, the figure stands at just 81%.

Among programs outside of music and art, far fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than a decade ago. The drop was most prominent in drama, from 20% of schools offering drama in 1999 to just 4% in 2009.

Obviously in examining this survey, the most troubling data shows an "equity gap" between the availability of arts instruction as well as the depth of course offerings for students in various areas. The Department of Education claims to be tackling this equity gap through their targeted waiver plan that would allow states greater budget flexibility.

Click here
to view the full report.

Report: High School Graduation Rates Rise to 75%

According to a new report issued by America's Promise Alliance, the Everyone Graduates Center, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and Civic Enterprises, the United States is making gradual progress in improving high school graduation rates. While the nation's overall graduation rate rose by 3.5% to 75% from 2002 to 2009, about 1 out of 4 students still fails to graduate in four years. That number increases to 40% when analyzing minority graduation rates, signaling that more work needs to be done to prepare our students in a global economy.

The report indicated that progress varies significantly by state and region. Twelve states accounted for the majority of gains, while 10 states had lower graduation rates in 2009 than in 2002. Tennessee and New York saw the biggest gains. Each state posted double-digit increases-Tennessee's graduation rate by 18% and New York's 12% respectively. Other states with major gains are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The 10 states whose graduation rates have worsened in that period are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Utah. Interestingly, Nevada stands as the nation's outlier. The state's graduation rate declined by 15.6% during the same period, more than triple the decline in any other state.

The high school graduation issue stands as a priority for the Obama administration. During the State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to pass a measure aimed at requiring students to finish high school. Reacting to the report, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented on the mixed results, "This year's report proves struggling schools are not destined to fail. The reality is that even one dropout factory is too many."

Click here to view the full report.

Secretary Duncan Testifies Before Congress about 2013 Budget Priorities

Late in March, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee in reference to the administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget and policy priorities for the Department of Education.

In the latest budget proposal, the President has requested $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, a $1.7 billion increase over last year's funding level. This is in addition to $13.3 billion in additional mandatory spending for Pell Grants, bringing the total budget request to $83 billion - a 40% increase from Fiscal Year 2008.

Secretary Duncan claimed that the increased investment was necessary to achieve results. "We must educate our way to a better economy," Duncan asserted. Coupled with increased spending, Secretary Duncan outlined a broad reform agenda, mentioning an increased investment in competitive grants, including President Obama's flagship program, Race to the Top.

Republicans in Congress have been concerned about the growing federal role in education. Chairman Kline(R-MN) stated, "When we met this time last year... my colleagues and I reiterated our support for a less costly, less intrusive federal role in the nation's classroom. Regrettably, the administration has taken a markedly different course, advancing several programs and initiatives that make the federal role in education more costly and more intrusive."

Education is seen as a potentially bipartisan issue in Washington; however, in an election year, insiders predict that little will be done to advance committee legislation or encourage a real resolution to No Child Left Behind in 2012.

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