Achievement Gap Narrows as High School Graduation Rates for Minority Students Improve Faster than Rest of Nation

Graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students in the nation, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas narrowed over that time, the data show.

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student – no matter their zip code – for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”

Full story of achievement gap for minority students at ed.gov

Video-on-Demand Children’s TV Programming Now Accessible for Thousands of Students with Visual or Hearing Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education today announced the availability of free, video-on-demand children’s television programming for thousands of students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing.

Dozens of children’s and family TV episodes may now be viewed online featuring closed captioning and descriptions through the Education Department’s Accessible Television Portal project. Among the shows: “Ocean Mysteries,” “Magic School Bus,” “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Expedition Wild” and “Peg + Cat.”

The portal is part of the Department-funded Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP). It includes video-on-demand content provided at no cost by the major television networks, as well as producers and distributors like PBS Kids, Sesame Workshop, Cartoon Network, Sprout (NBC), the Fred Rogers Company, Scholastic Media, Litton Entertainment, Out of the Blue and Fremantle Television.

Full story of tv programming for students with visual and hearing disabilities at ed.gov

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to Discuss Progress and the Future of Education at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches in Florida

Secretary Duncan will speak at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, March 9. He will highlight the success of key education efforts, thanks to the hard work and leadership of parents, teachers, principals, and district and state officials, and his vision for the future of education.

Duncan will outline his vision for the future and the need to replace the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—also known as the No Child Left Behind Act—with a law that delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called on Congress to create a bipartisan law that gives teachers and principals the resources they need, expands high-quality preschool for families and supports schools and districts in creating innovative solutions to problems that translate into better outcomes for students.

For more information on the event, visit ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education to End Contracts with Several Private Collection Agencies

Following a review of 22 private collection agencies, the U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will wind down contracts with five private collection agencies that were providing inaccurate information to borrowers. The five companies are: Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management.

The Department also announced that it will provide enhanced Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices monitoring and guidance for all private collection agencies that work with the Department to ensure that companies are consistently providing borrowers with accurate information regarding their loans.

“Federal Student Aid borrowers are entitled to accurate information as they make critical choices to manage their debt,” said Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “Every company that works for the Department must keep consumers’ best interests at the heart of their business practices by giving borrowers clear and accurate guidance. It is our responsibility – and our commitment – to uphold the highest standards of service for America’s student borrowers and consumers.”

Full story of contracts with private collection agencies at ed.gov

Guidance Issued on Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services

The U.S. Department of Education today released model terms of service guidance and a training video aimed at helping schools and districts protect student privacy while using online educational services and applications.

The guidance offers examples of terms of service provisions to help school officials identify which online educational services and applications have strong privacy and data security policies and practices.

“Reading and understanding terms of service agreements is tough, even for lawyers. We hope this guidance will help school officials identify privacy-friendly apps and online services and avoid providers that might abuse student information,” said Kathleen Styles, the U.S. Department of Education’s chief privacy officer.

Full story of student privacy using online education at ed.gov

New Data Show House Republican Bill Would Allow Billions in Cuts for Largest School Districts Serving High Populations of Black and Hispanic Students

The U.S. Department of Education is releasing new data today detailing the impact of potential cuts to school districts serving high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students as a result of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The data show that the House Republicans’ proposal would provide the largest 33 school districts with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students over $3 billion less in federal funding than the President’s budget over six years. The cuts in education spending would be the result of locking funding at sequestration levels and allowing states to divert money from schools serving vulnerable student populations to wealthier districts.

“The partisan proposal in the House flies in the face of what ESEA was created to do—give every child an equal opportunity to be successful. This bill is bad for children and would turn back the clock on progress. At exactly the time we should be expanding opportunity for America’s students and helping schools recover from the recession, this bill would allow unconscionable funding cuts. Our teachers and students deserve better,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Full story of bill to allow school district cuts at ed.gov

Let’s Get Every Kid in a Park

From sea to shining sea, our country is home to gorgeous landscapes, vibrant waterways, and historic treasures that all Americans can enjoy. But right now, young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside, and that means they are missing out on valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular outdoor places that belong to all of them.

President Obama is committed to giving every kid the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and unique history. That’s why today he launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which calls on each of our agencies to help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for them and their families — for a full year.

Full story of kids and outdoor activities at ed.gov

Where Are They Now? Revisiting the “12 for Life” Program

Last fall, during the 2014 Partners in Progress Back-to-School Bus Tour, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring students participating in 12 for Life, a program created by a private business called Southwire. While on a tour of the factory floor, the students shared inspiring and deeply personal testimonies about how 12 for Life has provided technical, leadership and life skills while enabling them to earn their high school diploma .

Brittany Beach’s story is one we will remember for many years to come. Brittany was pregnant when her high school counselor suggested she apply to 12 for Life. “Not one time did not graduating cross my mind,” she said, “Being here gave me the opportunity to attend school and not give up, because of the supports.” Now Brittany is enrolled at West Georgia Technical College and expects to be certified as a nursing assistant. There is a job waiting for her at the nearby veteran’s hospital, she said, and she wants to continue her training to become a registered nurse.

Full story of the 12 for life program at ed.gov

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.

“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families.”

Full story of record breaking high school graduate rate at ed.gov

U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury Continue Raising Awareness of Income-Driven Repayment Options for Federal Student Loans

The U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Education will continue working with tax preparers during the 2015 tax filing season to increase federal student loan borrowers’ awareness of income-driven repayment plans. This year, two of the largest tax preparers in the country, H&R Block and Intuit, Inc., are using their online tax preparation tools to share information about repayment options, including the President’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan and the Department of Education’s Repayment Estimator with student loan borrowers.

Income-driven repayment plans allow eligible borrowers to lower their monthly federal student loan payments to as low as 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. The Repayment Estimator enables borrowers to compare estimates of their monthly student loan payments, projected loan forgiveness where applicable, length of repayment, total interest, and total amount paid under all federal student loan repayment plans.

Full story of student loan awareness at ed.gov