The last three years have seen a historic shift in the relationship between the federal government and states, with more than 40 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico receiving flexibility from the prescriptive, top-down requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This flexibility has allowed states and districts to develop creative solutions tailored to their individual cultures, with major benefits for all students, regardless of background. This is a shift away from simple compliance and toward creativity with high expectations.
The law has been due for reauthorization since 2007, but in the absence of reauthorization, the Obama Administration began to grant waivers from the law in 2012 for states that promised to adopt college- and career-ready standards and assessments; create accountability systems that target the lowest-performing schools and schools with the biggest achievement gaps; and develop and implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account student growth—among multiple measures—and are used to help teachers and principals improve their practices.
As a nation, it is critical that we prepare all students for success in college, careers, and in life. High school graduation is a vital point along that path, and the latest state-by-state graduation rates demonstrate our continued progress as a nation tackling this challenge.
This is the third year that states are using a common method, called the adjusted cohort graduation rate, to calculate four-year high school graduation rates. The new data, for the 2012-13 school year, indicate that 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85 percent, up from 16 states in the 2011-12 school year and nine in 2010-2011. This progress is a tribute to the tireless efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and other educators and staff, and of the students themselves. In this progress is consistent with the announcement this year that the nation’s overall graduation rate has hit 80 percent – the highest in our history.
It’s also worth noting the performance of individual states with the highest graduation rates, both for all their students and for traditionally underserved populations.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small team to visit Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College. We were there to meet with faculty and campus leaders who are administering Department-sponsored programs that support student success. I was impressed with their understanding of the student population, the variety of programs they were using to support degree attainment, and their collective commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students they serve.
My favorite part of site visits is the opportunity to meet with students. During this visit, I had the chance to talk with students from a variety of backgrounds, all of whom face serious barriers to obtaining a college degree. Some were veterans struggling to afford college, children of migrant workers, or adults recovering from addiction, while others were technically homeless or battling learning disabilities. All of these students made it clear that the help they received from Department-sponsored programs was giving them the tools, resources, and guidance they needed to obtain a college degree. Setting my federal position aside, as a human being I was moved by their optimism, resilience, persistence, and dedication to obtaining a college education. Each of them made a direct connection between postsecondary education and the ability to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today the 26 highest-rated applications for the U.S. Department of Education’s $129 million Investing in Innovation (i3) 2014 competition aimed at developing innovative approaches to improving student achievement and replicating effective strategies across the country.
These 26 potential i3 grantees selected from 434 applications and representing 14 states and the District of Columbia, must secure matching funds by Dec. 10, 2014, in order to receive federal funding. All highest-rated applications in previous years have secured matching funds and become grantees. To date, the Department’s signature tiered-evidence program has funded 117 unique i3 projects that seek to provide innovative solutions to pressing education challenges.
Yesterday, the Administration announced new regulations to protect students at career colleges from ending up with student loan debt that they cannot pay. The new rules will ensure that career colleges improve outcomes for students — or risk losing access to federal student aid.
To qualify for federal student aid, the law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at private non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” The new rules are part of President Obama’s commitment to help reduce the burden faced by student loan borrowers and make postsecondary education more affordable and accessible to American families.
The U.S. Department of Education is committed to helping schools, districts, states, and the federal government use funds as wisely as possible – which means in ways that yield better results for students. As part of that, we are working to build evidence of effective practice – and one of the ways we do that is through conducting evaluations that offer useful guidance for future investments. We are looking to the field to help figure out what evaluations are most useful.
The Congressionally enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 allows the Department to strengthen the impact of our evaluation work by pooling resources across Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs. This makes it possible to fund rigorous evaluations of individual Federal education programs that currently lack sufficient evaluation dollars, and to evaluate the impact of various strategies that cut across a wide range of ESEA programs.
When Kenneth Scott became principal of Mae Jemison Elementary School in Hazel Crest four years ago, there was little parent involvement and few after school activities for children. To change that, he started a basketball team and cheerleading squad. But, because the school only had 15 uniforms for each, not many students could participate.
Scott knew he needed to do more. That recognition was strengthened by data from a first-ever survey about the school’s culture and learning environment, administered in spring 2013 to the school’s students, teachers and parents. “The parents wanted their children to be part of the school culture and community even if they didn’t have a great jump shot,” he said. He started clubs for art, chess and computers as well as groups to mentor girls and boys. The response was gratifying. Thirty-one of the school’s 400 students signed up for the chess club alone, and whereas he had previously set up 250 chairs for parents and students attending the school’s Christmas or Black History presentations, he now needed more than 600. The growth in parent involvement was “exponential,” he said.
The Department of Education announced publication of a final rule to strengthen the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program today helping more students and families pay for college, and ensuring they have the tools and resources to make informed decisions about financing their educational pursuits. The new regulations will both expand student access to postsecondary education and safeguard taxpayer dollars by reflecting economic and programmatic changes that have occurred since the program was established more than 20 years ago.
“The Department’s top priority is to ensure more students can access and successfully complete a postsecondary education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The updated borrowing standards for the PLUS loan program demonstrate our commitment to ensuring families have access to the financing they need to reach their goal, while being good stewards of taxpayer money.”
The Obama Administration today announced publication of the final rule implementing changes made to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) by the Violence Against Women’s Authorization Act of 2013. That law and the new rule strengthen the Clery Act to more effectively address, and ultimately reduce, sexual violence on college campuses, including, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
The Clery Act requires institutions of higher education to comply with certain campus safety- and security-related requirements as a condition of participating in the Federal student financial aid programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
“The Department has the responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These new rules require institutions to ensure that students and employees have vital information about crime on campus and the services and protections available to victims if a crime does occur, which will be significant assets in addressing the growing problems of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on our nation’s campuses.”