DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION STAKEHOLDERS MEETING
Audrey Busch (firstname.lastname@example.org )
January 25, 2010
On Monday, January 24, the U.S. Department of Education hosted another in its ongoing series of Stakeholders Forums to update advocates, national education organizations and parent and community organizations about the Department’s reform efforts and program activities. This briefing included information on the upcoming Labor-Management Conference, the launch of the U.S. Education Dashboard, an update on the School Improvement Grants and an address to the audience by Secretary Arne Duncan who gave an overview of his expectations for 2011.
• Arne Duncan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
• Jo Anderson, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education
• Tony Miller, Deputy Secretary of Education
• John Easton, IES Director
• Tom Snyder, NCES Program Director
• Sandra Abrevaya, Press Secretary at the
• Massie Ritsch, Deputy Assistant Secretary, External Affairs and Outreach Services, U.S. Department of Education (Moderator)
Describing the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration funded by the Ford Foundation and hosted in partnership with the Department of Education by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Jo Anderson framed the intent, the format, and the commitment of the two-day event being held February 15 -16. Anderson expressed the critical need for reform in schools but acknowledged “We need to implement reforms with not to teachers.” Over 1,000 districts across the country that were recipients of federal grants received invitations to attend this conference, with the prerequisite of attendance based on participation of the board president, superintendent and teacher union or teacher association leaders during the two-day briefing. Currently, there have been 240 responses and 150 districts, totaling 450 people, will be present. ED’s goal is to create a “movement of innovation” that will resonate long after the conference. Attendees will also include marquee education players from across the country that can support the momentum this event is expected to create and foster an environment where key stakeholders can make good on their commitments.
SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN
Taking the podium after Jo Anderson, Secretary Duncan, eternally optimistic in his hopes for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 112th Congress, spoke to his recent and future activities and aspirations. Most recently, the Secretary visited the House Education and Workforce’s Chairman John Kline’s (R-MN) district where “24 schools will be labeled as failing if nothing happens with ESEA.” Given what the Secretary saw as “a lot of common agreement” between Chairmen Kline and the Administration’s stance on ESEA reauthorization, the Secretary stated he was “very optimistic” about the commitment from both sides of the aisle to take action and reauthorize this law in the near future. Furthermore, the Secretary, upon request, highlighted the places where the Administration and Republicans find agreement, which include: 1) a smaller federal “footprint” and allowing more state control; 2) more flexibility; 3) shortening of ESEA; 4) providing better incentives to obtain faster rates of growth; 5) the importance of comprehensive education that includes music, art and financial literacy; and 6) supporting research and development.
Additionally, Duncan noted that the President has “put a lot on the line” to further necessary education reforms and will demonstrate his continued commitment to the endeavor during his State of the Union address. Speaking to the financial hardship states are facing, the Secretary explained “these decisions reflect our values.” These few dollars that are available should be used to protect precious learning time for the students. “This crisis is an opportunity and we must put money behind what is making a difference in people’s lives.” Duncan touched on the newly launched Data Dashboard that is supporting the Administration’s policy of transparency which, through a “host of indicators, will track district and state progress or stagnation and allow for a public debate and dialogue.”
Lastly, Duncan highlighted the current underinvestment in parent engagement services and the Administration’s proposal to double funding from $140 million to $280 million to support programs that have a proven track record of success and “engage parents in a meaningful way.”
UNITED STATES EDUCATION DASHBOARD
Aligning with the Administration’s consistent message of transparency, Tony Miller described the launch of the new United States Education Dashboard, www.dashboard.ed.gov , as key to providing clarity through the aggregation of data and making it easily accessible for all stakeholders. Using data to create greater transparency allows the education community to “focus on best practices that yield the best results in tough budget times” and enables a better informed discussion regarding education reform. The data spans from cradle to career and each of the 16 data sets featured are intended to “inform decision making, serve as a data portal to access all data, and allow viewers to understand trends within and between states.” A portion of the data used was retrieved from requirements associated with the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Overall, however, there are three points the Dashboard provides, Miller explained: 1) trends in student improvement; 2) wide variation between states in student performance; and 3) large gaps in the current collection of data sets (i.e. metrics on early learning programs and services).
John Easton explained that the critical indicators thus far on this website include measures for equity, early education, and STEM education—admittedly, these indicators represent only a small set of the key measures needed to measure national progress, but, according to him, it was a “tough decision on what indicators would be chosen.” Each indicator is aligned with ED’s priorities, and more indicators will be added as the site grows. Audience members voiced their support for including indicators pertaining to arts education, and special education. Both John Easton and Tom Snyder urged the education community to submit comments to ED on how to improve this site or what additionally should be included.
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT GRANTS
Sandra Abrevaya relayed that the Department has awarded approximately $4 billion in School Improvement Grants. Of those funds, $3 billion was from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $500,000 was from FY2009 funds. Districts will use the money in the lowest performing schools across the country to implement one of the four familiar school-turnaround strategies: 1) Transformation; 2) Turnaround; 3) Restart; and 4) School closure. Throughout 44 states, in both rural and urban settings, 1,000 districts are implementing the “turnaround” model. Soon to be launched is a map of where these schools are and information regarding the schools’ demographics and the improvement model chosen.
Massie Ritsch concluded the forum by urging stakeholders to watch the State of the Union on Tuesday evening and highlighted the online roundtable discussion the White House will be hosting on Wednesday, January 26 at 3:15 pm to analyze and discuss the President’s State of the Union address. A video and transcript of the forum is available at: http://www2.ed.gov/news/events/forum.html .