Federal Update for April 20, 2012
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in order to provide a more accurate picture of student persistence and completion and address concerns from institutions about the limitations of existing success measures, it has released an action plan that takes steps to augment current measures of student success in postsecondary education. Graduation rate reporting now required for institutions of higher education will be broadened to include part-time and other students who have previously attended higher education. (Current law excludes a substantial portion of the student population by only requiring that schools track graduation rates for full-time, first-time students
The action plan responds to the final report of the Committee on Measures of Student Success (CMSS), which was created under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) to help two-year institutions comply with the law's disclosure requirements and develop alternate measures of student success. The 15-member committee, appointed by Secretary Duncan in June 2010, held five public meetings over 13 months and made a number of recommendations that are incorporated into the action plan. The broader measures of student success will be implemented for two- as well as four-year schools.
The action plan also includes activities and grant opportunities to help institutions and states strengthen capacity to collect and disseminate data. Among them: developing templates that schools can use to meet the HEOA's disclosure requirements; making improved data collection and reporting a focus in its postsecondary education initiatives and grant programs; continuing to provide incentive funding to strengthen states' data infrastructure through Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants, which will make its fifth round of awards this spring; and convening a summit, this year, to highlight promising practices in the collection of data related to student success, such as student learning and employment.
This week, during a two-day visit to Wisconsin and Iowa, Secretary Duncan released the Administration's blueprint for transforming career and technical education (CTE), by reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The last Perkins authorization, in 2006, introduced changes in federal support for CTE, to improve the learning experiences of students.
The blueprint seeks to transform the Perkins program in four key areas:
Alignment. Ensuring the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors.
Collaboration.Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that CTE programs offer high-quality learning opportunities.
Accountability.Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build job and technical skills
Innovation.Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level.See more information..
In related news, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter testified before a Senate subcommittee on "filling jobs today and training workers for tomorrow".
Also this week, Together to Tomorrow, a joint initiative of the Department, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Corporation for National and Community Service to spur community engagement in turning around the nation's lowest-performing schools, launched its School Improvement Challenge for the 2012-13 school year. The Challenge is an opportunity for schools and districts, higher education institutions, and non-profit organizations to join with other partners in efforts to improve their neediest schools by raising key measurable student outcomes: attendance, behavior, course performance, and college access. Plans may be submitted to catalyze new partnerships as well as spotlight and expand exemplary initiatives already working to raise student achievement and strengthen a community culture of educational success. Plans may encompass a single local community or a regional, state, or national endeavor with multiple sites. The Challenge is not a new grant program but, rather, an approach to better coordinate resources and initiatives. All schools and communities that meet the criteria will garner national recognition and become part of a learning network. Selected applicants will also be invited to attend a special event in Washington, D.C. Plans must be submitted by June 29. See more information.
Also this week, the White House Rural Council visited the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where U.S. Education Secretary Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack signed an interagency agreement to advance agricultural education. See more information.
President Kevin Reilly and all the Chancellors of the UW System sent a letter to Wisconsin's congressional delegation requesting assistance in addressing two major concerns the TRIO community has raised with the U.S. Department of Education, i.e., the transfer of funds from the McNair program to Upward Bound Math/Science and delays of grant proposal competitions and award notifications after the expiration of the prior grant. The letter stated, "We sincerely hope there is willingness on the part of the U.S. Department of Education to restore funding for the McNair program, as well as improve the TRIO grant proposal competition process." View the letter to Congressman Petri.
(The U.S. Department of Education and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)