Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Education Department issues guidelines for supporting homeless students

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New guidance, aligned with the new federal education law, aims to help the more than 1.3 million homeless students in U.S. public schools. (iStock)

With millions of students across the United States set to begin returning to school in coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance Wednesday for states and school districts on how to respond to the specific needs of homeless students.

The guidelines, provided in response to new provisions in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, emphasize practices aimed at providing stability and safety for the homeless public school population, which included more than 1.3 million students in the 2013-2014 school year.

“Homeless children and youth face a number of barriers to getting the education they deserve and the services they need to succeed in school and beyond,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said in a statement. “It is our hope that the guidance we are releasing today will serve as a tool to help states and districts better serve homeless children and youth – we can and we must do better.”

The department’s guidance addresses changes in the new law and is intended to help states and districts understand and implement provisions under the reauthorized McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program. Those provisions affect homeless students in numerous ways, including how homeless students are identified; the coordination between schools and other homeless and social service providers; protecting privacy of student records; and increasing college and career readiness.

“Homeless children and youths must have access to the educational and related services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state academic standards to which all students are held,” department officials wrote in an executive summary. “In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment.”

The guidance drew praise from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who had helped shepherd passage of ESSA through Congress last year.

“I was proud to fight for these improvements in our new education law and I thank the department for working with me to prioritize and serve these students so they can achieve at the highest levels and secure a pathway to the middle class,” Murray said in a statement.

The department’s guidance, which is non-binding for states and districts, emphasized paying particular attention to “services for preschool-aged homeless children, which data show compose a major share of the overall homeless population.”

The department also offered new guidance on making it easier for homeless students to access financial aid for college and helping them better navigate federal financial aid forms. Students who are designated as homeless will be considered independent and will not need to provide their parents’ financial information.

>> Via Washington Post

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Five eye-opening figures from the U.S. Education

Department’s latest civil rights data dump…

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Catherine Lhamon, who leads the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, speaking last month during the GLSEN Respect Awards in New York. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for GLSEN Respect Awards)

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday released a trove of data drawn from surveys of nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. This latest installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection, from the 2013-2014 school year, offers a sobering look at the wide disparities in experience and opportunity that divide the nation’s 50 million students.

By the fall, anyone will be able to look up data on a specific school or school district online. GreatSchools, the website that provides information about school test scores and demographics, also is planning to incorporate the civil rights data into its school profiles.

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

A growing body of research has shown that children who are chronically absent from school are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out. It makes sense: Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

High school counselors often have tough jobs. They keep track of their students’ progress toward graduation. They help students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process. They also help kids navigate their lives outside of school, which can be made complex by poverty, violence and family trouble. And because counselors often are one of the first positions to be cut when budgets get tight, there are almost never enough to go around. The national average is close to 500 students per school counselor; many student have no counselor at all.

3. 1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor.

The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection for the first time counted how many schools have a sworn law-enforcement officer: 24 percent of elementary schools and 42 percent of high schools. Among high schools with predominantly black and Hispanic populations (i.e., more than 75 percent of students were black and Latino), more than half — 51 percent — had an officer.

Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely than white students to attend schools like this. The same students of color are more likely than white students to attend schools where more than 20 percent of teachers are in their first year of teaching.

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Activists and journalists have helped draw attention to disparities in school discipline in recent years. The Obama administration has also called attention to the gaps and pressed schools to address them. Even with all that attention, the difference in suspension rates among the youngest children are still surprising.

Stay tuned: In the next civil rights data dump, two years from now, the Education Department expects to include new data that promises to be just as interesting — including on corporal punishment in preschool, allegations of bullying based on sexual orientation and religion, teacher turnover and discipline-related transfers to alternative schools.

via Emma Brown Washington PostUSA-Flag-Wallpaper-01

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Senior Education official collapses after heated four-hour hearing on Hill

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Education Department Chief Information Officer Dr. Danny Harris testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on ‘U.S. Department of Education: Investigation of the CIO’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

A senior executive at the U.S. Department of Education who was the target of a four-hour interrogation by members of Congress on Tuesday collapsed after the hearing and was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital.

Danny Harris, 56, the department’s chief information officer, fell ill after he fielded pointed questions and stinging criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A department spokeswoman said Harris was conscious and stable as of late Tuesday afternoon.

The lawmakers’ concerns centered on an inspector general’s investigation that found Harris ran an after-hours car-detailing and home theater installation business that employed two subordinates from his agency and also allegedly accepted payments from other subordinates for the work.

The hearing also examined Harris’s effort to help a relative find work at the department and his close friendship with an agency vendor whose company has been awarded about $10 million in contracts to perform work that falls under the purview of his office.

Harris also failed to report an estimated $10,000 in income from his outside activities on federal disclosure forms and to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal officials.

 Although Harris told lawmakers that he exercised “poor judgment,” he said that his side work were hobbies, even as he earned money for them and paid subordinates to help him. He also had created business cards and a logo for the business.

“These are hobbies that I enjoyed for the greater part of my life,” said Harris, who joined the agency as a summer intern in 1985 and steadily rose through the ranks. “The employees that wanted to engage me, two of them wanted to learn from me. I am a teacher — that is what I love to do.”

But members of the committee were disbelieving.

They were also infuriated to learn that Harris was not subjected to disciplinary action and received regular $17,000 annual bonuses on top of his yearly salary of $180,000 even as he was being investigated by the inspector general. The bonuses also came during a period when Harris’s department failed to meet federal goals concerning data security.

“Let me tell you what you’re conveying to the American people and, more importantly, to the 4,000 employees of the Department of Education,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “You can bend the rules — it’s just a matter of who you are.”

The agency’s inspector general’s office launched an investigation into Harris’s activities in 2011 after receiving anonymous complaints. By 2013, it had confirmed most of the allegations, said Deputy Inspector General Sandra Bruce. The inspector general made a criminal referral to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which declined to prosecute, citing the availability of administrative punishments.

But the most that happened to Harris was that he was “counseled” by Acting Secretary of Education John King Jr. and his two predecessors, as well as the agency’s ethics officer.

When a string of lawmakers asked King whether he believed that Harris did anything wrong, he repeatedly said “based on the recommendation of our general counsel, I do not believe there was a violation of regulation, law or policy.”

That mantra seemed to anger members of the committee, who turned their focus to King.

“Outside this bubble of Washington, D.C., the rest of the country would view what Mr. Harris did as a violation of law or regulation,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).

“Your job is not to protect Mr. Harris. It is to set a proper tone, standards of conduct for your agency. . . . You can’t use the shield of relying on the advice of your attorney. It is your job to make the right decision. You made the wrong one.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the panel, was more blunt.

“Mr. King, you’ve been given this mantle of trust from the president of the United States, and you’re failing,” he said.

Via Washington Post

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Maryland bill introduced to protect student data and privacy

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Delegate Kelly Schulz has submitted HB22, an important education-related bill this session that sets limits on the collection and disclosure of student records. It restates on a Maryland level the protections on student data imposed by a federal statute called the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). The PPRA prohibits the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) from requiring students to submit to required federal surveys which collect certain sensitive information. See list of sensitive data in the bill language here.

Most importantly, the bill would prohibit the disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to the USDE when such disclosure is tied to federal funds, such as the Race To The Top (RTTT) federal grant.

HB22 is a much-needed piece of legislation, but falls short of its goal. Maryland needs to restate federal protections on the state level so we are not subject to amendments on the federal level, but must strengthen those protections against the loopholes currently being employed that make those federal statutes inadequate.

The PPRA is able to be skirted because the language only covers “required” federal surveys, not voluntary ones. So, regardless of how intrusive and over-reaching the surveys are, the school system does not need parental consent if they simply make the surveys “optional” or “voluntary”. The federal grants that spawned several intrusive surveys in Maryland in recent years, such as Safe and Supportive Schools (MDS3), the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), theMiddle School Coping Power Program, the Speak Up Survey, and the PBIS, only require low participation rates in the neighborhood of 40% in order to qualify for the grant funds. School systems can easily place a survey in front of students, tell them its voluntary, and fulfill the participation requirement. Parents are not always informed of the surveys, much less consenting.

HB22 restates the PPRA protections, but does not address the required versus voluntary language.

>>> Read more Examiner 

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Teacher Preparation Issues

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If you plan to comment on the proposed federal regulations to judge teachers’ colleges and education programs by the test scores of the students of their graduates, you cannot do so by email. You may comment on the “Federal eRulemaking Portal” or send mail. You may not comment by fax or email (except by entering the Federal eRulemaking Portal)

Comments are due January 2 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Comments are due to the U.S. Department of Education by February 2.

Here are the proposed regulations.

Summary

The Secretary proposes new regulations to implement requirements for the teacher preparation program accountability system under title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), that would result in the development and distribution of more meaningful data on teacher preparation program quality (title II reporting system). The Secretary also proposes to amend the regulations governing the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program under title IV of the HEA so as to condition TEACH Grant program funding on teacher preparation program quality and to update, clarify, and improve the current regulations and align them with title II reporting system data.

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