One from the neo-liberals…
Volume 14, No. 7
April 14, 2014
In This Issue:
GET CONNECTED: Obama Announces Winners of $107 Million in Federal Grants to Better Prepare High School Students for Today’s In-Demand Jobs
On April 7, President Obama announced twenty-four winners of $107 million in federal grants that reward school districts for integrating real-life work experience into academic curriculum. The grants, which range from $2.2 million to $7 million, fall under the Obama administration’s Youth CareerConnect program, an investment that the president believes will prepare today’s students for the “in-demand jobs of the future.”
“We challenged America’s high schools … [and asked], ‘What can you do to make sure your students learn the skills that businesses are looking for in high-demand fields?’,” Obama said. “And we asked high schools to develop partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on real-life applications for the fields of the future—fields like science and technology and engineering and math. And part of the reason we have to do this now is because other countries, they’ve got a little bit of a lead on us on some of these areas.”
The White House describes the program as a national competition administered by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor, to “start redesigning America’s high schools for the 21st-century economy.” Schools are encouraged to partner with local businesses, organizations, and education agencies to incorporate on-the-job skills into traditional classroom learning. Upon mastering these skills, students in these programs across the country are able to earn certificates in different professional fields.
BUDGET BEAT: Secretary Duncan Discusses President’s Budget Request Before House Appropriations Subcommittee
In his April 8 testimony before the U.S. House Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Appropriations Subcommittee on President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended the president’s decision to fund new competitive grant programs while flat-funding formula grant programs such as Title I. Duncan stressed the need for high standards, but he said they did not need to be “common” and highlighted the president’s proposals to close achievement gaps, expand preschool access, support educators’ use of technology and data, and make college more affordable in order to ensure students can compete in a global economy.
“The fact is that we are falling further behind our international competitors educationally,” Duncan said. “We should recognize that as an urgent wake-up call. But we are sleeping through the alarm. In the U.S., we are still just talking about the steps many leading countries are actually taking to prepare their students for a competitive global economy. Falling behind educationally now will hurt our country economically for generations.”
Subcommittee members from both political parties pressed Duncan on Obama’s continued reliance on competitive grant programs. In his FY 2015 budget, Obama proposed a new Race to the Top–Equity and Opportunity initiative, which will focus on improving the academic performance of students in the nation’s highest-poverty schools, and would reserve a portion of funds from state formula grant programs, such as career and technical education and special education, for competitive awards. In response, Duncan noted that approximately 89 percent of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget goes to formula programs, compared to 11 percent that goes to competitive programs. He also said that providing larger grants to innovators for models that could be replicated would go further in the long run than spreading smaller amounts across the country.
E-RATE UPDATE: Alliance for Excellent Education Calls on FCC to Boost Funding for E-Rate Program
In comments submitted April 7, the Alliance for Excellent Education called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize the federal E-rate program in order to lay the foundation for expanding the program through increased funding. The comments were in response to the E-Rate Public Notice issued by the FCC on March 6, regarding its plan to expand, modernize, and simplify E-rate, the federal government’s program for connecting the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet.
“The common-sense measures currently under consideration by the FCC are a necessary first step toward the permanent expansion of the E-rate program. I applaud the FCC’s progress and urge them to quickly modernize the program so that additional funding can be secured and used effectively and efficiently to provide 99 percent of America’s students with access to high-speed broadband within the next five years,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
ADVANCING ADOLESCENT LITERACY: Pennsylvania Literacy Program Improves Student Opportunities, Outcomes, New Alliance Report Finds
As one of only six states receiving a federal Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grant, Pennsylvania has designed and implemented an innovative program that focuses on improved instruction and interventions to ensure every student is literate and graduates from high school ready for college and a career. A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education describes Pennsylvania’s grant initiative and highlights the state’s emphasis on professional learning and development to improve instruction, and ultimately, student achievement outcomes in literacy. The report, Advancing Adolescent Literacy: Pennsylvania’s Keystones to Opportunity Comprehensive Literacy Program, includes a set of policy recommendations at the local, state, and federal levels.
“In a time when students must have reading and writing skills that compare with—and can compete with—their international peers, Pennsylvania has created a road map for improving literacy that all schools, districts, and states should observe closely,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
Pennsylvania, along with Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, and Texas, will receive a five-year federal SRCL grant, the report notes. Subsequently, through a competitive application process, Pennsylvania awarded $36.7 million to fifty-three districts and two charter schools to improve literacy instruction and outcomes for students with the greatest needs.
FALLING OUT OF THE LEAD: New Ed Trust Report Presents Stark High School Experiences Among High-Achieving Low-Income and Students of Color, Compared to White Peers
Black and Latino students from low-income families who enter high school as high achievers typically finish high school with lower grades, lower Advanced Placement (AP) exam pass rates, and lower SAT and ACT scores than their high-achieving white or more financially advantaged peers, according to Falling Out of the Lead: Following High Achievers Through High School and Beyond, a new report from the Education Trust (Ed Trust). Although high-achieving black and Latino students take similar courses in high school as their white peers, they attend schools where instruction, school culture, support, and guidance “render [them] less competitive upon high school graduation,” the report notes.
“These are the students who arrive at high school most ready to take advantage of rigorous and high-level instruction,” said Marni Bromberg, research associate at Ed Trust and coauthor of the report. “But to reach the academic levels that they are capable of, they need exposure to challenging curriculum as well as support and guidance from their schools, including in selecting a college that can really challenge them.”
Straight A’s: Public Education Policy and Progress is a free biweekly newsletter that focuses on education news and events in Washington, DC and around the country. The format makes information on federal education policy accessible to everyone from elected officials and policymakers to parents and community leaders. Contributors include Jason Amos, editor; Cyndi Waite; and Kate Bradley.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal education policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance, visit www.all4ed.org. Follow the Alliance on Twitter, Facebook, and the Alliance’s “High School Soup” blog.
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