E-Update for the Week of October 8, 2018

E-Update for the Week of October 8, 2018

Highlights:

  • On October 2, USED Secretary DeVos announced New Hampshire is the second state to receive approval for its participation in the Innovative Assessments pilot, as allowed under ESSA.
  • On October 3, USED announced it will miss the November 1 deadline to rewrite the borrower defense to repayment and gainful employment rules. By missing the deadline, the Department will not be able to implement any changes to the rules until July 2020.
  • On September 28, POLITICO reported that Diane Auer Jones, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Postsecondary Education, recommended that Secretary DeVos grant a one-year extension of the federal approval for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). However, since the announcement, other major accreditation organizations have claimed ACICS does not meet the “widely accepted” standard in order to receive federal approval.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):

New Hampshire approved for Innovative Assessments pilot: USED Secretary DeVos announced New Hampshire is the second state to receive approval for its participation in the Innovative Assessments pilot, as allowed under ESSA. New Hampshire will use its Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) system as part of its participation in the pilot program. The PACE system uses assessments that are informed by local teachers, day-to-day student work, and relies on minimal standardized testing. The press release is here.
October 2, 2018

Congress:

House:

On September 28, the House went into recess until after the midterm elections on November 6.

DHS Inspector General reports Administration unprepared to address family separation: House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) commented on a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General report regarding the Administration’s capacity and ability to address the family separation crisis at the border. “This new independent report shows that the Trump Administration had no plan in place to track the children they separated from their families in the name of the United States,” Ranking Member Cummings stated. Ranking Member Cummings’s statement is here.

The DHS Inspector General report found that the Department was “not fully prepared to implement the Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects.” The report cites limitations with resources, information technology systems, and integration between DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services systems as main contributors to the inability to implement successfully. Further, the report claims DHS struggled to “identify, track, and reunify families separated” under the policy. The DHS Inspector General report is here.
October 2, 2018

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

DeVos completes ‘Rethink School’ tour: USED Secretary DeVos completed her three-day “Rethink School” tour, and visited schools in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. “We know the current system is leaving too many students unprepared, so we must question everything about the way we do school in this country,” Secretary DeVos stated. During the tour, the Secretary considered several questions regarding the current system of education. Such questions include asking why limit educators; why assign kids to schools based on their addresses; why group kids by age; why force all students to learn at the same speed; why measure education by hours and days; why suggest a college degree is the only path to success; and why believe learning stops at graduation. The press release is here.
October 5, 2018

USED higher education advisor resigns: POLITICO reported that Adam Kissel, USED deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs, resigned from the Department. A spokesperson for the Department, Nathan Bailey, confirmed Kissel’s resignation but did not offer specific details.
October 4, 2018

UC Davis awarded $5 million for open textbooks pilot: USED announced it has awarded $4.9 million to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) in order to lead a pilot program to develop free, open textbooks in targeted subjects. UC Davis will lead a consortium of 12 campuses that will create open textbooks targeted toward “high-enrollment courses” such as chemistry and career and technical education (CTE) fields. “This program is an important step toward reducing barriers, expanding access and increasing choice for students who want to attend college or learn a trade,” USED Secretary DeVos stated. The press release is here.
October 3, 2018

USED to miss deadline to rewrite borrower defense, gainful employment rules: USED announced it will miss the November 1 deadline to rewrite the borrower defense to repayment and gainful employment rules. The borrower defense to repayment rule allows student borrowers to seek relief from student loan payments due to fraud or other misrepresentation by their college or university. By missing the deadline, the Department will not be able to implement any changes to the rules until July 2020. In response to the announcement, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, Steve Gunderson, criticized the Department and stated the delay “will only invite more litigation, more legal confrontation, and more uncertainty and chaos in the operation of our schools.”

POLITICO has more information here. A statement by House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here.
October 3, 2018

DeVos creates center to focus on improving charter school facilities: USED Secretary DeVos announced she is directing $2.4 million in federal funding in order to create the Charter School Facilities Center. The Center, which will be run by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, will focus on helping charters “access better and more affordable facilities and facility financing.” The grant was awarded under the Charter Schools Program, authorized by ESSA. The press release is here.
October 1, 2018

USED dropping key information from College Scorecard: Inside Higher Ed reported USED is changing the College Scorecard tool, as it will be dropping key outcome measures for individual colleges. According to the article, the updated Scorecard will no longer show how a college relates to other institutions in terms of net price, graduation rate, repayment rate, and typical earnings for graduates. The tool will still show this information for an individual college, but will not show it in context of other colleges. The full Inside Higher Ed article is here.
October 1, 2018

USED official recommends accreditation for ACICS, other groups contest report: POLITICO reported that Diane Auer Jones, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Postsecondary Education, recommended that Secretary DeVos grant a one-year extension of the federal approval for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The accreditor’s approval was originally terminated under the Obama administration. Auer Jones, in her recommendation, noted ACICS had failed to meet two of the 21 federal standards she reviewed, but was confident the accreditor would be able to meet compliance within the next year. The September 28 article from POLITICO is here. A statement by House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here.

Related, on October 4, POLITICO published a follow up article describing the recommendation from Auer Jones to accredit ACICS may have overstated endorsements from other major accrediting organizations. As part of the accreditation process, an organization must be “”widely accepted”” in the higher education community. According to the article, organizations that the Department claimed had supported ACICS in fact did not submit letters of support for the organization. ACICS also failed to meet this standard when the Obama administration originally terminated its accreditation status. Nathan Bailey, a spokesperson for the Department, said there was an “inadvertent error in the editing process… and are working to formally correct.” The Department has not commented on if the recommendation to approval ACICS will stand. The October 4 POLITICO article is here.
September 28 and October 4, 2018

U.S. Department Justice (DOJ):

DOJ awards $70 million to address school violence: The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had awarded more than $70 million in grants as part of the STOP School Violence Act. The grantees will use funds to increase school safety through prevention and crisis response training. Ninety-one municipalities and state agencies will receive $25 million to train law enforcement personnel on how to prevent and handle student violence, and improve coordination between schools and local agencies. Eighty-five grants, totaling $28 million, will be awarded to local agencies to educate students, staff, and law enforcement officers on preventing violence and responding to mental health crises, and 68 grants will be awarded to fund threat assessment and crisis intervention teams within state law enforcement agencies, school districts, and municipalities. The press release is here. The list of grantees is here.
October 2, 2018

U.S. Federal Courts:

District Court judges dismisses Title IX case: A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit against USED Secretary DeVos and the Department’s temporary rules for schools investigating sexual harassment allegations under Title IX. The judge ruled the plaintiffs, a collection of advocacy groups, did not have proper standing and the Department guidelines were only temporary. The full ruling is here.
October 1, 2018

Upcoming Events (Congressional & Administration):

  • On November 8-9, the USED Office of Education Technology will host a convening in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign in Washington, D.C. The convening will bring together stakeholders for two days of “sketching, prototyping, and building solutions to help states design family-friendly approaches to report cards.” Teams will be asked to focus on two major “challenge points”: the landing page or “at-a-glance” pages, and data on per pupil expenditures. More information and registration is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 10 at 8:45 am, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is hosting an event titled, “AEI Election Watch: The 2018 contests.” During the event AEI fellows will analyze trends in polling data, and predict potential outcomes of the upcoming midterm election. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 10 at 6:00 pm, New America is hosting an event titled “Decoding the Cost of College: Making the Case for Transparent Financial Aid Offers.” The event will focus on research conducted by New America and discuss the need for federal requirements on how financial aid information is communicated to students. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Congressional & Administration):

  • On October 1, the USED Inspector General released a report titled “Nationwide Audit of Oversight of Closed Charter Schools.” The report, which describes results of an audit, determined the Department was not properly overseeing charter school closures and the return of federal funding after such closures. The audit focused on Arizona, California, and Louisiana between 2011 and 2013, which occurred during the Obama administration. The report recommended the Department pay greater attention to at-risk charter schools and the risk they pose to federal funding. The full report is here.
  • On September 28, the USED Inspector General released a report titled, “The Department’s Oversight of the Indian Education Formula Grant Program.” The report finds that the Department’s oversight of the grant program has been “insufficient” and it is unclear if grantees have been making progress toward program goals and spending funds appropriately. The audit covered fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which occurred during the Obama administration. The report calls for improved oversight and for better use of collected data, as there is currently “little evidence that the data are used to provide assistance to grantees in implementing the program successfully.” The full report is here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 4, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report titled, “Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Access and Equity.” The report analyzes trends in state funding for public institutions of higher education and find that funding for public two-year and four-year colleges in 2018 was $7 billion dollars less than the 2008 level. The report also finds that overwhelmingly institutions have raised tuition by an average of 36 percent since 2008, and have reduced course offerings and student services. The full report is here.
  • On October 3, the National Center for Learning Disabilities published a report titled, “Assessing ESSA: Missed Opportunities for Students with Disabilities.” The report summarizes ESSA state plans focusing on 15 indicators specifically for supporting students with disabilities. Key findings include only 18 states have identical long-term goals for students with disabilities and students without disabilities; 33 states do not include academic performance of specific student groups; only 10 states have detailed descriptions of interventions that will support students with disabilities; and only half of all states included a description of how ESSA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) goals are aligned. The full report is here.
  • On October 2, the Center for First-Generation Student Success published a report titled, “First-Generation Student Success: A landscape analysis of programs and services as four-year institutions.” The report examined how institutions have addressed the unique needs of first-generation college students and details the impact thereof. Key findings include that only 27 percent of first-generation college students attain their degree within four years; 73 percent of institutions have a formalized definition of first-generation student; 75 percent of institutions house their support programs within the office of Student Affairs; and of institutions offering programming, 54 percent offer cohort-based programming. Cohort-based programming would keep first-generation students together throughout their college career. The full report is here.
  • On October 1, NWEA published a report titled, “Evaluating the Relationships Between Poverty and School Performance.” The report concludes there is a strong positive correlation between a student’s income level and their academic performance. The report also provides a series of recommendations for how to address this relationship. Such recommendations include transparently reporting data at the school level; include growth and progress measures; and publicly reporting of sub-group achievement within schools and districts. The full report is here.
  • On October 1, ExcelinEd released a policy toolkit titled, “Perkins V Reauthorization: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks for States.” The toolkit outlined three main “buckets” for where state policymakers should focus on when addressing their Perkins state plans – (1) program planning; (2) program funding; and (3) program impact and accountability. The full toolkit is here.

Legislation:

H.R.7021
A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for distributions from 529 plans to pay certain early education expenses.
Sponsor: Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)

H.R.7023
A bill to support the preparation and retention of outstanding educators in all fields to ensure a bright future for children and youth in under-resourced and underserved communities in the United States, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)

S.3535
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to clarify the treatment of technical errors in applications for Federal TRIO programs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

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