Secretary Duncan Announces Education Department’s First-Ever Guide for Ed Tech Developers

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the first-ever guide for developers, startups and entrepreneurs from the department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET).

The Ed Tech Developer’s Guide: A Primer for Developers, Startups and Entrepreneurs is a free guide that addresses key questions about the education ecosystem and highlights critical needs and opportunities to develop digital tools and apps for learning.  Written with input from knowledgeable educators, developers, and researchers who were willing to share what they have learned, the guide is designed to help entrepreneurs apply technology in smart ways to solve persistent problems in education.

“Technology makes it possible for us to create a different dynamic between a teacher and a classroom full of students. It can open up limitless new ways to engage kids, support teachers and bring parents into the learning process,” Duncan said, addressing the ASU+GSV Summit 2015 in Scottsdale. “We need tools designed to help students discover who they are and what they care about, and tools that create portals to a larger world that, in the past, would have remained out of reach for far too many students.”

Full story of ed tech developers at ed.gov

New Report Shows Greater Need for Access to High-Quality Preschool for America’s Children

The U.S. Department of Education released a new report today detailing the unmet need across the country for high-quality preschool programs.

According to the report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of the approximately 4 million 4-year olds in the United States, about 60 percent – or nearly 2.5 million – are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start and programs serving children with disabilities. Even fewer are enrolled in the highest-quality programs.

The report highlights the need for an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that expands access to high-quality early learning opportunities and makes the law preschool through 12th grade, rather than K-12. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the report today during a visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Full story of high quality preschool for american children at ed.gov

11 Ex-Atlanta Public School Employees Found Guilty In Cheating Scandal

They were found guilty of conspiracy when they switched student test scores. The verdicts close a dark chapter for the school system and the city of Atlanta. One defendant, a teacher, was acquitted.

A jury has found 11 former educators guilty of racketeering and other charges. The defendants who used to work at Atlanta Public Schools were accused of conspiring to cheat on tests that measured student achievement – their motive? – to boost scores and earn bonuses. From member station WABE, Martha Dalton has the story.

Full story and audio of the cheating scandal at NPR

Why Babies Love (And Learn From) Magic Tricks

To survive, we humans need to be able to do a handful of things: breathe, of course. And drink and eat. Those are obvious.

We’re going to focus now on a less obvious — but no less vital — human function: learning. Because new research out today in the journal Science sheds light on the very building blocks of learning.

Imagine an 11-month-old sitting in a high chair opposite a small stage where you might expect, say, a puppet show. Except this is a lab at Johns Hopkins University. Instead of a puppeteer, a researcher is rolling a red and blue striped ball down a ramp, toward a little wall at the bottom.

Full story of infants learning from magic tricks at NPR

Why Many Smart, Low-Income Students Don’t Apply To Elite Schools

Right now, high school seniors across the country are trying hard not to think about what is — or isn’t — coming in the mail.

They’re anxiously awaiting acceptance letters (or the opposite) from their top-choice colleges and universities. But this story isn’t about them. It’s about a big group of seniors who could get into great schools but don’t apply: high-achieving students from low-income families who live outside of America’s big cities.

These students often wind up in community college or mediocre four-year schools. It’s a phenomenon known in education circles as “undermatching.”

Full story of smart low income students and elite schools at NPR

Are Women’s Colleges Doomed? What Sweet Briar’s Demise Tells Us

Sweet Briar College in Virginia will close its doors in May, after 114 years of teaching women at its scenic campus in western Virginia.

The school’s board of directors says the school has been unable to increase revenue, and as a result the institution cannot survive. The announcement shocked students and alumnae and created a movement — Saving Sweet Briar — to keep the school open. They’ve asked the president and the board to step down.

The financial troubles and declining enrollment at Sweet Briar in recent years have once again raised the question: Are women’s colleges a relic of the past?

Full story of women in teaching at NPR

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