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Federal Update: November 14, 2013
posted by: Ruthie | November 14, 2013, 06:12 PM   

Department of Education to Scale Back NCLB Waiver-Renewal Mandates

The U.S. Department of Education is planning to streamline and modify the process of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver renewals. In August, the administration announced new difficult mandates for waiver approval. However, the Department of Education will soon release an updated mandate process, which includes a significant relaxation of equity in teacher distribution.

While states will continue to ensure low-income and minority students have access to quality teachers, the department is working on a 50-state strategy that will build on Title I and Title II laws. The current two-year waiver plan will change to a one-year plan, making it more manageable for schools to improve. They will have 60 days after they receive their federal monitoring report to apply for waiver extension.

While the new program will put less emphasis on teacher evaluation and equality for minority students, it is built on the idea that schools are spending enough time on implementing common core and teacher evaluations, without having to grapple with the significant amount of work involved with teacher distribution mandates.

According to reports, the revised mandates will garner criticism from civil rights groups. However, many argue that the change will only help schools with flexibility. Chris Minnich, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers’, said the CCSSO believes firmly in the equity agenda and that its states are already working on it. He asserts that using waivers to advance it was the wrong mechanism. "This has little to do with backing away from anything," Minnich said, adding that the CCSSO will work with the department on the 50-state strategy. "The states are very committed to this agenda."

Higher Education Update: College Rating System 


By Thanksgiving, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will have hosted four public forums across the country to gather public input about President Obama’s proposals to address rising college costs and make college more affordable for American families. 


These forums coincide with the Department of Education’s upcoming request for information to ask experts to weigh in on methods for creating a college rating system that would better inform students and encourage institutions to improve.  “One of the best ways to address the challenges to our higher education system is through shared input,” Secretary Duncan asserted.  “We plan to engage as many stakeholder groups and individuals as possible to help us develop proposals that are useful to students and take into account the diversity of America’s colleges and universities.”


The administration will use all the feedback it receives to inform the development of college rating metrics, which it will share in the spring for public comment. Click here to view transcripts of the forums. Click here to share ideas to be presented at the remaining forums or to be reviewed later. 

Hearing Today on Simplifying Federal Student Aid


Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee examined how to streamline the process of federal student aid (FAFSA), making it easier for students and their families to understand the higher education investment.


Confusing applications, redundant paperwork, and unclear information about loan programs and repayment initiatives have created overwhelming confusion for many students and their families. As the committee prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, today’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to explore proposals to reorganize the federal student aid system.


Click here to read Representative John Kline’s statement on the hearing.

Click here to watch a webcast of the hearing.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Issues Statement on Universal Pre-K Programs    

As the House and Senate continue to work on the evolving pre-k programs, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement on newly introduced House and Senate proposals regarding the program:


“We can all agree on the importance of ensuring children have the foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life. However, before investing in new federal early childhood initiatives, we should first examine opportunities to improve existing programs designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable children, such as Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant.”  

Click here to read Representative Kline’s full statement and details about the proposal. 

NAEP Scores Reveal Mixed Progress

According to the recently released NAEP scores, or the "Nation's Report Card," reading and mathematics achievement for American 8th graders has improved in the last two years. However, 4th graders' achievement has remained sub par. Overall, there have been gains in both subjects since the assessments in the early 1990s.


According to the data, 8th graders' average math scores have risen 1 point since 2011, and reading scores have risen 3 points, on NAEP's 500-point scale. While 4th graders gained 1 point in math, there was no statistical gain in reading. Additionally, both 4th and 8th grade students are less than 50% proficient in math and reading - with 8th graders at 36% proficiency in math and reading, and 4th graders at an average of 38.5% proficiency. 


In addition to the raw data, the results showed a need for remedying the disparity between students’ socioeconomic backgrounds/genders and scores. Data showed 51% of Asian students and 46% of white students reached proficiency in 4th grade reading, but only 20% of Hispanic students and 18% of black students reached this level. In terms of gender - 42% of girls were reading at or above the proficient level in 8th grade, while only 31% of boys were doing so. Only 25% of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals reached proficiency in 4th grade math, compared with 59% of their wealthier peers.

Statement by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Veterans Day


In honor of Veterans Day, Secretary Arne Duncan issued a statement on veterans and education.


"Thanks to the GI Bill, America's Veterans have helped develop our education system and build the middle class. One million Veterans, service members, and family members have benefited from the Post-9/11 GI Bill since the program's inception in August 2009, demonstrating the importance of helping Veterans reach their educational goals. While many have left the Armed Forces, they continue to serve their country in new ways as teachers, coaches or mentors for our children. As they have served us, we should continue to serve them by ensuring they have access to a high quality education system and affordable college programs. Veterans Day is a day of remembrance and reflection to honor those that have served."    

Click here to read the entire statement. 


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