E-Update for January 6, 2014

E-Update for January 6, 2014

E-Update for January 6, 2014


Before adjourning for the year, the full House and Senate approved an important budget compromise reached by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) that provides a high-level framework for federal spending for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 and modestly alters the sequester.  The House approved the deal (332-94) on December 13, 2013.  The Senate approved the agreement (64-36) on the following day and President Obama signed it on December 26.

As illustrated in the table below, the budget deal restores approximately $22.4 billion to non-defense discretionary spending.  In other words, the deal will restore approximately 61% of the sequestration cuts slated for FY 2014 for non-defense discretionary spending that were scheduled to begin in mid-January 2014.  Notably, OMB has not yet published estimated reductions in discretionary spending that would be needed under current law to meet the sequestration caps established for FY 2015, therefore we do not know, with accuracy, what level of spending would be restored by the Murray/Ryan agreement for FY 2015.  As you can see, however, the proposed increase in the spending cap for FY 2015 is less than half the amount provided for FY 2014, so the amount of likely restored education spending would appear to be substantially less for FY 2015 (probably a 20-30% restoration).  Nonetheless, the deal represents an important step forward.  Congressional appropriators have until January 15, 2014, when the current continuing resolution expires, to allocate funding under these spending caps for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014.

Caps on Discretionary Budget Authority Under Murray/Ryan
  Defense Discretionary Spending Non-Defense Discretionary Spending
  FY’14 FY’15 FY’14 FY’15
Current Law $498,082,000,000 $512,046,000,000 $469,391,000,000 $483,130,000,000
Proposed Cap $520,464,000,000 $521,372,000,000 $491,773,000,000 $492,456,000,000
Total Increase $22,382,000,000 $9,326,000,000 $22,382,000,000 $9,326,000,000



Senate returns on January 6, 2014 in the afternoon for the 2nd Session of the 113th Congress
House reconvenes on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

New Legislation

H.R.3663 : Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act
Sponsor: Rep Noem, Kristi L. [SD] (introduced 12/5/2013) Cosponsors (5)

H.R.3690 : To increase the participation of women, girls, and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, to encourage and support students from all economic backgrounds to pursue STEM career opportunities, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Kennedy, Joseph P. III [MA-4] (introduced 12/10/2013) Cosponsors (1)

H.R.3692 : To authorize a competitive grant program to implement and evaluate digital learning in rural locales.
Sponsor: Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] (introduced 12/10/2013) Cosponsors (None)

H.R.3694 : To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make technical improvements to the Net Price Calculator system so that prospective students may have a more accurate understanding of the true cost of college.
Sponsor: Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] (introduced 12/11/2013) Cosponsors (2)

H.R.3697 : To increase access to adult education to provide for economic growth.
Sponsor: Rep Hinojosa, Ruben [TX-15] (introduced 12/11/2013) Cosponsors (None)

H.R.3778 : To direct the Secretary of Education to award grants to States to pay the Federal share of carrying out full-day prekindergarten programs.
Sponsor: Rep Davis, Susan A. [CA-53] (introduced 12/16/2013) Cosponsors (None)

S.1796 : A bill to increase the participation of women, girls, and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, to encourage and support students from all economic backgrounds to pursue STEM career opportunities, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 12/10/2013) Cosponsors (None)

S.1803 : A bill to require certain protections for student loan borrowers, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (introduced 12/11/2013) Cosponsors (3)

U.S Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education Announces Awards to Seven States to Continue Efforts to Turn Around Their Lowest-Performing Schools:U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that seven states will receive over $43.4 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through the Department’s School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. Two of the states – Arkansas and Kentucky – will receive awards to run a new competition for previously unfunded schools.  Five states will receive continuation funds for the third year of implementing a SIG model. These states are Missouri, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  School Improvement Grants are awarded to State Educational Agencies (SEAs) that then make competitive subgrants to school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to provide adequate resources to substantially raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools. Under the Obama Administration, the SIG program has invested up to $2 million per school at more than 1,500 of the country’s lowest-performing schools. Early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools. Findings also show that many schools receiving SIG grants are improving, and some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities.

December 23, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Race to the Top Early Learning Competition Winners:The Department of Education announced the winners of the third Race to the Top Early Learning (RTT-ELC) challenge. Six states will share $280 million in competition funding: Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Vermont.  The grants aim to help build comprehensive systems that improve the quality of early learning and development programs. RTT-ELC supports state efforts to align, coordinate, and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age five.  Combined with the first two rounds of grants, the RTT-ELC has awarded over $1 billion to provide a strong start for our nation’s youngest children and to put them on the path to a bright future.

December 19, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Race to the Top District Competition Winners:The U.S. Department of Education announced that five applicants had won a share of approximately $120 million in the second round of the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition.  The grants will support locally developed plans to personalize and improve student learning, directly increase student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student for success in college and careers.

The grantees were selected from 31 finalists, representing 80 school districts across 21 states. The Department received more than 200 applications for the competition. The winners represent a range of districts, both rural and non-rural, from both Race to the Top states and non-Race to the Top states.  Grantees were selected based on their vision and capacity for reform, as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and careers.  The districts’ plans were focused on transforming the learning environment to meet all students’ learning abilities and on making equity and access to high-quality education a priority.

The following districts won RTTD awards:

  • Clarendon County School District Two (a consortium of four rural districts), South Carolina: located in central South Carolina, it describes itself as ‘very diverse,’ as it encompasses districts with both rural and urban poverty, a high percentage of minority students, and a rapidly increasing population of English-learners. Its winnings totaled approximately $25 million.  Clarendon wants to increase access to digital devices for students and create individualized learning plans for each student.
  • Clarksdale Municipal School District, Mississippi: it is a rural, mostly African-American district with 3,350 students. Its winnings totaled approximately $10 million.  Clarksdale will focus on expanding its 9th grade academy.
  • Houston Independent School District, Texas: it is a 200,000-student urban district, and it has won the Broad Prize twice.  Its winnings amount to $30 million.  Houston is working on a 1:1 digital conversion starting in January for students in grades 9-12 to get a laptop to take home, which will foster 24/7 learning.
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts): after narrowly missing the first RTT-D competition in 2012, this consortium of 18 rural districts had winnings of $30 million.  The Kentucky Valley consortium will expand distance learning and better train teachers to use technology.
  • Springdale School District, Arkansas: located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, this district near the Tyson Foods headquarters enrolls 20,500 students, including many English-learners. Its winnings totaled $25.9 million.  Springdale plans to expand career academies, require 9th graders to take an online course, and improve its data dashboard.

December 17, 2013

Education Department Releases Updated Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to Provide Students with Additional Transparency in College Costs:USED released an updated version of the administration’s financial aid model award letter, known as the Shopping Sheet, on December 13 and announced that nearly 2,000 institutions of higher education have voluntarily committed to using this important consumer tool.  Unveiled in July 2012, the Shopping Sheet is a resource developed jointly by the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to make it easier for students to understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for, and easily compare aid packages offered by different higher education institutions. The Shopping Sheet gives students a standardized, yet personalized, form that clearly spells out how much grant money student will receive and how much they may need to take out in loans to cover out-of-pocket expenses before they enroll.

December 13, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Highest-Rated Applications Secure Match Funding and Become Grantees for Investing in Innovation 2013 Competition:The U.S. Department of Education announced that the 25 highest-rated applications for the fourth round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) program competition have secured private-sector matching funds and will be awarded approximately $134 million by the end of December to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement.  The 25 grantees were selected from 618 applications, representing 13 states and the District of Columbia. With this new cohort, the i3 program will encompass a total of 117 projects that are using more than $1 billion in federal funds and nearly $200 million from the private-sector to address some of the most important challenges in education.

December 13, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Appoints Members to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI):Sec. Duncan announced five appointments to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which advises the Secretary on accreditation issues and the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education. It is charged with recommending to the Secretary which accrediting or specific state approval agencies should be recognized as reliable authorities for judging the quality of postsecondary institutions and programs. Schools must be approved by a recognized accrediting agency to be eligible to participate in federal student aid and other federal programs.  The Committee’s new members, appointed for a six-year term, are:

  • Simon Boehme, student member, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and currently a student at Cornell University; and,
  • Roberta (Bobbie) Derlin, Associate Provost, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Incumbent members re-appointed for a six-year term are:

  • Susan Phillips, provost and vice president for academic affairs, University at Albany, State University of New York;
  • Frank Wu, chancellor and dean, University of California Hasting College of the Law, San Francisco, Calif.; and,
  • Frederico Zargoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development, Alamo Colleges, San Antonio, Texas.

December 9, 2013

U.S. Department of Education to Redo SIG Analysis Due to Contractor Error:USED is revising its recent analysis of the second year of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, after it became clear that an outside contractor charged with crunching the data erroneously left out too many schools that should have been included in the mix. The analysis, which was released on November 21, excluded about half of the schools that entered the newly revamped SIG program in its first year (the 2010-11 school year) and about a third of the schools that started in the second year (the 2011-12 school year).  USED has now determined that the contractors were a little careless in deciding which schools to toss out, as spokesman Cameron French said on December 11.  Overall, the analysis showed that about two-thirds of schools improved, while another third saw stagnant student performance (or even slipped backward). It is unclear if the do-over will significantly change those conclusions.   The department is pulling the SIG data from its website, for now and is hoping to re-release an updated analysis, with more schools included, in January.

December 11, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Launches Principal Ambassador Fellowship with Three Principals Selected for Inaugural Program:Secretary Duncan announced the names of three principals selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s first Principal Ambassador Fellows (PAFs) program. They are:

  • Sharif El-Mekki, Mastery Charter School – Shoemaker Campus, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  • Jill Levine, Normal Park Museum Magnet, Chattanooga, Tenn.; and
  • Rachel Skerritt, Eastern Senior High School, Washington, DC.

The principals will serve from now until August 2014 as part-time employees to lend the perspective of school principals to the work of the Department. As the first PAFs, they will also help design the fellowship program for future participants.

December 9, 2013

New Financial Aid Toolkit Part of Department’s Efforts to Improve College Access and Affordability:The U.S. Department of Education announced the launch of an online “one-stop shop” aimed at guidance counselors and other advisers, such as staff or volunteers at community-based organizations, who assist students through the process of selecting and financing their higher education. The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database, making it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support their students.  Sec. Duncan formally introduced the toolkit to more than 6,000 financial aid professionals attending the 2013 Federal Student Aid Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals.

December 4, 2013

National and State Headlines

Kentucky Chief Holliday Is New CCSSO President; Will Focus on Career Readiness:Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday will be the new president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Holliday had served as the organization’s president-elect over the past year, and has been Kentucky’s top K-12 official since 2009.  He has said that he plans to focus on “career readiness” and educating parents and other members of the broader community about the Common Core State Standards during his tenure as CCSSO president.

December 31, 2013

Arizona Department Seeks Moratorium on A-F Accountability, Reading Retention: The Arizona education department wants the state legislature to let it institute a one-year moratorium on its A-F school ratings and on retaining 3rd graders with weak reading skills. It says it needs to time to transition to its next assessment system.  This is the last year the state will be giving its Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) assessment to students. It will be moving to a different test for 2014-15 that will measure students’ grasp of the Common Core State Standards. With that upcoming test in mind, state education officials say it makes sense to take a break from the A-F accountability and the 3rd grade reading retention policies while the state gets used to the performance cutoff scores on new tests.  As many states face similar testing transitions, the Arizona department’s request could presage several more in other states that might want to “reset” the data used in their accountability systems, and revisit the way they make certain decisions about students.  

December 26, 2013

Advocacy Groups Push Back on California’s Testing Plan: In October 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education of Arne Duncan declared he was not happy with California’splan to suspend most of its accountability testing for a year in order to help the state’s schools get up to speed on new tests aligned with the Common Core standards.  Now, a number of state and national advocacy organizations, including StudentsFirst, Teach Plus, The Education Trust-West, and the Alliance for a Better Community, are also arguing that this suspension of testing is detrimental to student performance.  The groups argue that by not explaining to teachers and schools how their students (particularly subgroups of students, like English language learners) perform on assessments is a major missed opportunity for professional development.  The groups made their case in letter sent to Sec. Duncan on December 23. The letter intimates that they are hoping that the Secretary will include some additional reporting requirements for the state education agency when the department considers California’s recent request for a “double-testing waiver.”

December 24, 2013

Tom Luna of Idaho Joins Chiefs for Change; Second New Member in December: Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has joined Chiefs for Change, the second state K-12 chief to do so in December.  Mr. Luna, along with Delaware chief Mark Murphy, who signed on with the group Dec. 10, brings the group’s total to eight members.

December 23, 2013

Head Count: Executive Orders and State Parties on Common Core: On December 16, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has become the latest Governor to issue an executive order affirming the state’s power over curriculum under the Common Core.  Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was the other recent governor to issue an executive order affirming state’s rights under the Common Core, joining Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.  The executive orders issued by these governors are ostensibly meant to calm fears of local constituents about federal intrusion into schools and other aspects of the standards.  They do not mean that the governors are ordering the standards to be dropped. It is far from clear that these orders will satisfy opponents’ concerns about the standards, because they do not alter the adoption of the standards.

Also on December 16, the South Carolina Republican Party recently approved a resolution officially opposing the standards because of stated fears about cost and a lack of oversight in how the standards were adopted. It joins the State Republican Parties of Alabama, California, Iowa, Kansas, and Utah to pass a resolution officially opposing the Common Core.

December 18, 2013

South Carolina Superintendent Zais Won’t Seek Second Term in 2014: South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais has decided not to run for a second term next year, opening up the field to at least two challengers.  Mr. Zais pushed for expanded school choice in South Carolina and also expressed consistent opposition to the Common Core State Standards.

December 16, 2013

Nebraska Picks Regional K-12 Official Blomstedt as New State Superintendent:  The Nebraska state board has picked Matthew Blomstedt to be the state’s next K-12 superintendent.   Mr. Blomstedt told state board members during his interview that it might make sense to align Nebraska’s academic standards with the common core.

December 13, 2013

Okla. Governor to Feds: Stay Away From Our (Common Core) Standards:Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order Dec. 4 that the said she will shield the state from Washington overreach into its public schools, even as the state implements new, “more challenging” standards, also known as the Common Core State Standards. Oklahoma becomes the latest state where a governor has officially announced through an executive order that he or she will not tolerate federal intrusion into classrooms through the common core and asserts the supremacy of the state in making decisions about standards. Other governors to take this path include Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, and Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona.  This sort of executive order, however, does not mean that a state is repealing the common core.

December 5, 2013

Two States Approved for ESEA Teacher Evaluation Extension Waiver: Two states—Nevada and Mississippi—will get extra time to implement the teacher-evaluation portion of their waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, the USED announced on December 4. These are the first two states approved for the so-called “waiver waiver,” which allowed states to get an additional year to fully implement systems that gauge teacher performance using student outcomes.

December 4, 2013

Release of 2012 PISA Scores: The global assessment compares reading, math, and science “literacy”—or knowledge and application of skills—among 15-year-olds internationally. U.S. performance in reading, math, and science has remained stagnant since 2009 as other nations have advanced, according to the 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Nineteen countries and education systems scored higher than the United States in reading on the 2012 PISA, which up from nine systems when the test was last administered in 2009. In mathematics, which was the primary focus on the assessment, 29 nations and jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin. The nations that eclipsed the U.S. average included South Korea, Singapore, Austria, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.  In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009.  Overall, U.S. performance in reading and science was on par with the average for the 34 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). U.S. scores were below the OECD average in math.  The United States continued to have its strongest showing in reading, though there was no measurable change from its 2009 scores.

Among the 65 participating education systems, the highest performer in all three subjects was Shanghai.

For the first time, the report also includes separately reported results for public school students in three American states: Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts.  Massachusetts demonstrated an especially strong performance on the global stage: It scored better than the average for leading industrialized nations in all subjects.

December 3, 2013


Digest of Education Statistics, 2012

The 48th in a series of publications initiated in 1962, the Digest’s purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of education from prekindergarten through graduate school. The Digest contains data on a variety of topics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons.

December 31, 2013

Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2012; Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2004-2009; and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012: First Look (Provisional Data)

This provisional First Look report includes fully edited and imputed data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) spring 2013 data collection, which included five survey components: Enrollment for fall 2012; Graduation Rates within 150 percent of normal program completion time for full-time, first-time degree/ certificate-seeking undergraduate students beginning college in 2006 at 4-year institutions or in 2009 at less-than-4-year institutions; Graduation Rates within 200 percent of normal program completion time for full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students beginning college in 2004 at 4-year institutions or in 2008 at less-than-4-year institutions; Finance for fiscal year 2012; and data on employees in postsecondary education for Fall 2012.

December 31, 2013

NAEP Reading 2013 District Snapshot Reports

Each district that participated in the NAEP 2013 reading assessment receives a one-page snapshot report that presents key findings and trends in a condensed format. The reports in this series present bulleted text describing overall student results, bar charts showing NAEP achievement levels for each year in which the district participated, and tables displaying results by gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch. In addition, bulleted text describes the trends in average scale score gaps for gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch.

December 18, 2013

NAEP Mathematics 2013 District Snapshot Reports

Each district that participated in the NAEP 2013 mathematics assessment receives a one-page snapshot report that presents key findings and trends in a condensed format. The reports in this series present bulleted text describing overall student results, bar charts showing NAEP achievement levels for each year in which the district participated, and tables displaying results by gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch. In addition, bulleted text describes the trends in average scale score gaps for gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch.

December 18, 2013

The Nation’s Report Card, A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading Trial Urban District Assessment

This First Look report highlights some of the major findings for 21 participating urban districts from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8. Results showing district score increases from 2011 to 2013 and from earlier assessment years can be explored in more detail on the new online Nation’s Report Card.

December 18, 2013

Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Mathematics, Science, and Reading Literacy in an International Context-First Look at PISA 2012

First Look at PISA 2012 reports average scale scores and the percentage of 15-year-old students reaching selected proficiency levels, comparing the United States with other participating education systems. Results for the three U.S. states are also reported.

December 3, 2012

The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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