“School Days” Video Features Plans for Making College More Affordable

The January 2012 edition of “School Days,” the monthly video journal of the U.S. Department of Education, features President Obama’s State of the Union message and his plans for making college more affordable, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s challenge for college sports programs to strike a better balance between athletics and academics, a convening of State education leaders to talk about their Race to the Top plans, and a new performance piece called “Teachers’ Lounge” – and much more.  Watch “School Days”:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application Released

“Successful early learning programs are not just about education but about the whole child – including their physical and emotional health,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on a conference call this afternoon with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to announce the Obama Administration’s release of the final application for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC).

The two Departments have worked together over the last four months in an unprecedented effort.  Nearly 350 organizations and individuals provided comments to the draft criteria put out in early July.

RTT-ELC will provide $500 million in state-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs with States getting about $50 to $100 million. The goal of the Challenge is to ensure more children with high-needs from birth to age five—including those from low-income families—enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

“Brain scientists tell us that the early years are when critical cognitive development takes place. Social scientists tell us that the investments we make in early childhood programs can have a huge payoff down the road,” said Secretary Sebelius.

States chosen for the RTT-ELC will need to demonstrate a commitment to improving their early learning and development programs as well as adopt common standards within the State that will help determine what young children should know and be able to do, as well as define program quality.

States awarded funds under RTT-ELC will also implement appropriate assessments to help monitor students’ progress to inform practice and improve program quality. Secretary Duncan explained that “we are not asking three year olds to take bubble tests.” Just as good early childhood educators are doing now, we are asking that early childhood educators have the observation and documentation skills they need to evaluate a child’s progress along a set of appropriate early learning and development standards.

Read the press release of today’s announcement, and click here to learn more about the RTT-ELC and to view the application.

Tune In to the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge TV Special

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Three weeks ago President Obama traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to deliver the commencement address to the graduating class of Booker T. Washington High School, the winner of this year’s Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.  Booker T. Washington High School beat out over 400 high schools from across the country with their efforts to prepare students for college and career and help meet the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

In a new television special premiering this week, viewers will have the chance to follow the experiences of students at Booker T. Washington High School, as they win this year’s competition and the opportunity to host President Obama as their commencement speaker.  The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge Special, produced by Viacom and the Get Schooled Foundation in partnership with the White House, will air on Viacom’s cable networks over the next week. Get a sneak peak in an interview later today on BET’s 106 & Park with Christopher Dean and Cassandra Henderson, the two seniors profiled in the special.

In the meantime, check out this behind-the-scenes video of President Obama surprising students at Booker T. Washington right before the commencement ceremony.

Lauren Paige is Director of Message Planning at the White House

ED Releases FY 2011 Budget Tables

The Department of Education posted new budget tables today showing final program funding levels for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The Obama administration had to accept some very difficult budget cuts in the continuing resolution that Congress passed in April to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, and ED faced one of the toughest budget environments in recent history.

The Department of Education sought to make the necessary cuts in order to meet President Obama’s goal of reducing the deficit, while also making critical investments in programs that will help our country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.

Despite the need to make cuts, the Obama administration successfully fought for, and received, a $5.5 billion increase in funding for Pell Grants, ensuring that more than 9 million college students will continue to receive Pells up to a maximum of $5,550.

The Department also received funding for several of President Obama’s top education priorities, including $700 million for Race to the Top, $150 million for the Investing in Innovation program, $30 million for Promise Neighborhoods, as well as funding to maintain levels for key formula programs such as Title I and IDEA.

Click here to find the FY11 budget tables.

Celebrating Collaboration and Race to the Top

Image of Secretary Duncan visiting a classroom at Howard High

Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visit a classroom and talk to students at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware, March, 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Secretary Duncan joined Vice President Joe Biden earlier today in Wilmington, Del., to celebrate the first anniversary of Race to the Top, and to highlight the importance of collaboration between labor and management.  Delaware received $100 million in Race to the Top funding one year ago, and the grant has helped the state make significant progress in improving its education system.

Race to the Top is the most meaningful education reform program in a generation. It rewards states that have comprehensive plans to adopt college- and career-ready standards, build data systems, create policies to support great teachers and leaders, and turn around low-performing schools.  Read Delaware’s Race to the Top application for more information on their plan to implement positive reforms. The Department awarded Race to the Top grants to 10 other states and the District of Columbia to support their bold reform plans.

Today’s visit also highlights Delaware’s successful labor and management collaboration, and follows on the success of the U.S. Department of Education’s recent Labor-Management Collaboration Conference in Denver, which brought together leaders from over 150 school districts.  Secretary Duncan recently noted that he and President Obama “are convinced that labor and management can collaborate to solve many of our nation’s enduring educational challenges. And we believe that progress more often follows tough-minded collaboration than tough-minded confrontation.”

More background information on today’s visit can be found through the White House, and don’t forget to subscribe to ED’s blog to keep up-to-date on all education matters.