Superintendent Monthly: June 2011

Superintendent Monthly is a regular e-newsletter for superintendents and district staff that provides updates from Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.
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JUNE 2011

Message from Dr. Meléndez

As the school year draws to a close, I hope you've had some time to reflect on the past year's successes and challenges, as well as celebrate the accomplishments of your students and graduates! I love graduations myself -- when I was superintendent, I made sure to attend every single high school graduation, and shake hands with all of the nervous graduates. It's a wonderful reminder of why we do this work every day.

You may already have your sights set on the next challenge of the 2011-2012 school year. But first, I want to thank you for your tireless work throughout the year on behalf of our students. Being an educator is one of the toughest jobs out there, but I know that you have chosen this field because of your passion for helping children. We in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education are committed to better supporting you in your work, and I hope you'll continue to share with us ways that we can partner with you to ensure that all of our students are successful in school, and in life.


ESEA Reauthorization

On June 12, Secretary Duncan penned an op-ed explaining the urgency of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and, if necessary, addressing No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) problems through regulatory flexibility.  He stressed regulatory flexibility will not replace comprehensive reform or give states and school districts a pass from accountability.  Instead, the goal is to “unleash energy at the local level, even as Congress works to rewrite the law, giving states, districts, and schools the flexibility they need to raise standards, boost quality, and improve our lowest-performing schools.”

The Administration released a Blueprint outlining proposed changes back in March 2010, and, last March, President Obama reissued a call for reform. Learn more: http://1.usa.gov/kgl3tl.


Diverse Populations

Meet the Expert: Dr. Meléndez Featured on Colorín Colorado

ColorinColorado.orgColorín Colorado, a free web-based, bilingual service that provides information, activities, and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English language learners, has posted a new video interview with Dr. Meléndez for their "Meet the Expert" series.

Through this series of videos, Dr. Meléndez talks about her thoughts on how educators and administrators can better support the growth and success of English learners and shares her memories of her favorite teacher and growing up as an English learner. Learn more: http://bit.ly/lrMg1l.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Speaks at Foster Care Event

On June 2, Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin shared the stage with Commissioner Bryan Samuels of the Administration of Children, Youth, and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a national event, "Building Partnerships, Impelmenting Change: Educational Stability for Students in Foster Care." The event, co-sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the National Education Association, and Casey Family Programs, convened participants from education and child welfare arenas to collaborate on implementation of the educational stability mandate of the Fostering Connections Act of 2008. In his remarks, Mr. Yudin spoke to the broad efforts at the Department of Education to ensure a quality education for every child, including those in foster care.


Grant Information

Innovation Grants

On June 3, The Department of Education (ED) kicked-off the 2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition to continue support for evidence-based practices in education. This second round of i3 makes $150 million available to individual school districts, consortia of districts, and non-profit organizations in partnership with districts or groups of schools. Three absolute priorities remain from last year’s grant competition: supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools.  For this year’s competition, ED has included two new absolute priorities focusing on achievement and high school graduation rates in rural schools and promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. 

ED will offer pre-application workshops in the coming weeks (June 17 in Washington, D.C., June 24 in San Francisco, and June 28 in Houston), along with several webinars on key topics. 

Deadline to Apply: Applications are due on August 2, but applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a notice of intent to apply by June 23.  Awards will be made no later than December 31. 
Type of Grant: Discretionary/Competitive
Who May Apply: Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and non-profit organizations
Learn more: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/

Fiscal Year 2011 Grants Forecast

ED’s Fiscal Year 2011 Grants Forecast (as of June 21) lists virtually all programs and competitions under which the agency has invited or expects to invite applications for awards and provides actual or estimated dates for the transmittal of applications under these programs.  Learn more: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/grant/find/edlite-forecast.html.  (Note: This document is advisory only and not an official application notice of the Department of Education.)


OESE News

Announcing the Office of Safe and Healthy Students and the Office of School Turnaround

Last week, Dr. Meléndez announced the creation of two new offices within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE): the Office of Safe and Healthy Students and the Office of School Turnaround.

The Office of Safe and Healthy Students will house programs formerly administered by the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. This addition will broaden the scope of OESE's grant portfolio, strengthening the Department's ability to assist States, districts, and schools improve the quality of education offered to the nation’s children and youth.

Building off of the successes of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) team, OESE's Office of School Turnaround will help focus ED's support to States, districts, and schools as they implement critical reforms to turn around our lowest-performing schools.  The Office of School Turnaround will be responsible for the administration of the SIG program and will play an important role in ensuring that our support of State and local turn around efforts is coordinated across ED programs. The office will be led by Jason Snyder, who will serve as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy.

The structure and staffing of both offices will be determined in the coming months and we will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Dr. Meléndez Speaks at the National Conference of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

On June 16, Dr. Meléndez gave a keynote speech at the national conference of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS). In her remarks, Dr. Meléndez reaffirmed the commitment of BBBS to serving the country's neediest youth, particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds. Studies have shown that mentors have a positive effect on all aspects of their mentees' lives -- in school, at home, and with friends. Organizations like BBBS are also critical partners for schools and districts across the country that provide the necessary support students need for academic and personal success.

Dr. Meléndez was invited to speak at the event by one of her own mentors, Dr. Raymund Paredes, who serves as the chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Nationwide Hispanic Advisory Council, and is currently the commissioner of higher education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. She said, "I'm honored to be able to share my own experiences with wonderful mentors like Dr. Paredes and to provide encouragement to current mentors who are changing lives, one on one."


Department of Education Updates

Gainful Employment

Recently, after an 18-month negotiation with the higher education community, the Administration released final regulations requiring career college programs to better prepare students for “gainful employment” or risk losing access to federal student aid.  While many career college programs are helping to prepare America’s workforce for the jobs of the future, far too many students at these schools are taking on unsustainable debt in exchange for degrees and certificates that fail to help them get the jobs they need or were promised.  The regulations, which go into effect on July 1, 2012, are designed to ramp up over the next four years, granting colleges time to reform while protecting students and their families from exploitative programs. Learn more: http://1.usa.gov/jlhnvm.

Equal Access

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students are the targets of a disproportionate share of bullying.  According to a new survey, more than 90% of LGBT students in grades 6-12 reported being verbally harassed, and almost half reported being physically harassed during the 2008-09 school year.  In a June 14 “Dear Colleague” letter, Secretary Duncan reminds public secondary schools of their obligation under the Equal Access Act to treat all student-initiated groups equally, regardless of the religious, political, philosophical, or other subject matters discussed at their meetings, including matters involving sexual orientation and gender identity.  A set of legal guidelines issued by the Department affirms the Equal Access Act’s principles by providing schools with the information and resources they need to help ensure that all students have a safe place to learn, meet, and share experiences. Learn more: http://1.usa.gov/my7E6B.


Upcoming Events

June 30 - League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC) National Convention

Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin will participate in a panel discussion at the LULAC National Convention titled "Strategies for Enhancing the Success of Latino Students." Mr. Yudin will discuss ED and OESE’s initiatives to support the success of all learners, including Latino and other diverse learners.

July 11 - National Principals Leadership Institute and Panasonic National School Change Awards

Deputy Assistant Secretary Carl E. Harris will provide remarks at the National Principals Leadership Institute and the Panasonic National School Change Awards ceremony, which honors schools across the country for dramatic improvement. In addition to celebrating the accomplishments made by the award winning schools, Dr. Harris will reiterate ED's commitment to the school turnaround process and to supporting schools and districts as they undertake the difficult work.

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