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In March 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of an innovative FAFSA Completion Tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators and practitioners both track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country. Prior to publishing this data, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had were from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.
Through the FAFSA Completion Tool, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.
Last month, FSA updated and enhanced the FAFSA Completion Tool by revealing FAFSA submission and completion totals for the current year, as well as FAFSA submission and completion totals for the same time last year. With this addition, the FAFSA Completion Tool—updated biweekly during the peak application period—now provides every high school in the country whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2013–14 application year as well as comparison data from the 2012–13 FAFSA application year.
Last year’s data provides a baseline by which school districts can gauge their efforts, set goals to improve on last year’s performance, and subsequently increase FAFSA completion within their school district.
Last year, the Tool provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 24,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and all U.S. territories. More than 30,000 visitors accessed the data throughout the spring of 2012 to inform their local FAFSA completion strategies and overall college access initiatives. There are indications the Tool has contributed to raising FAFSA awareness across the country with more than 500,000 seniors having submitted a 2013–14 FAFSA through the end of January this year. This represents a nine percent increase compared to early submissions during January 2012.
For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Data by High School for the senior class of 2013, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa-hs-data.
Federal Student Aid
Glimpses of life in academe from around the world.
There has been a noisy debate in Washington over whether sequestration’s harm is real and at what point our public schools will feel the pain, but for educators outside of Washington, that’s a settled question. They’re not wasting time debating it, because some had already eliminated jobs and cut programs in anticipation of Congress’s dysfunction. Right now they are focused on figuring out how to deal with an even worse situation next school year.
This week I joined a handful of superintendents from around the country whose school districts are especially reliant on federal funding because of their locations in areas with little to no local property tax base. It is a particular shame that among the earliest and worst hurt are schools that serve large numbers of military families and those on tribal land serving Native American students.
Here’s some of what they said while visiting Washington for a conference of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.
- Window Rock Unified School District, in Fort Defiance, Ariz., serves 2,400 students in the capital of the Navajo Nation. Two-thirds are homeless or live in substandard housing. Anticipating the cuts that sequestration would make to Impact Aid and other federal programs that amount to 60 percent of her budget, Superintendent Deborah Jackson-Dennison eliminated 40 staff positions going into the current school year. Her plan for the upcoming year includes cutting 35 more teachers, 25 support staff and five administrative positions, and potentially closing three of her district’s seven schools. (Some children would face hour-long bus rides to school, on the reservation’s dirt roads.) Unemployment in Jackson-Dennison’s community exceeds 50 percent, so these layoffs due to sequestration and other budget pressures will drag down the local economy even more.
Ron Walker is superintendent in Geary County, Kan., which is home to Fort Riley and the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Last year, pessimistic that Congress would act to prevent the sequester—he turned out to be right—Walker eliminated the jobs of more than 100 paraprofessionals, many of whom worked one on one with children with disabilities. Sequester compounds the pressure already on his budget, he said. “This is a slow-bleed process,” Walker said. “It’s like someone stuck needles in you and is draining your blood. You don’t die overnight. But you will die.”
- In York County, Va., where Dennis Jarrett is chief financial officer, the district has reduced 124 positions over the last four years, he said. One of them was a guidance counselor—a tough position to keep unfilled when 42 percent of your students are connected to the military or some other branch of federal government. Parents’ deployment and frequent moves put unusual emotional strain on children. “What we’re concerned about…is the quality of life for our students,” Jarrett said.
These superintendents and their colleagues said something over and over that I know well from my days leading Chicago’s public schools: Any reduction in funding, and any uncertainty, causes managers to make more conservative decisions, which means fewer jobs.
In a recent survey by the American Association of School Administrators, more than three quarters of school district leaders indicated their district would have to eliminate jobs as a result of sequestration. Indeed, local school districts, along with states, will have to decide how to absorb these cuts.
The amount of money being cut from education programs and Head Start is the equivalent of about 40,000 teachers’ jobs. Instead of cutting jobs entirely, districts could furlough their teachers and staff for a period of time—which is disruptive for kids—or shorten the school day or year. No one here in Washington can precisely predict how they’ll cope—not Congress, not the President, not Republicans, not Democrats, not think-tanks, interest groups or the news media.
But one thing is certain: cutting $85 billion out of federal programs that support low-income students, students with disabilities, seniors, energy and medical research, the environment, national security and public safety won’t be good for our citizens, our communities or our country. And in education, where personnel costs are about 80 percent of local budgets, you can be certain that some teachers and staff won’t have jobs come September. You can’t make cuts like these without harming your people.
Am I saying there’s not money in our education system that could be put to better use? Absolutely not. I’m not in the camp that says “more, more, more” without considering what it buys you.
But rather than indiscriminately cutting the education budget, as the sequester does, let’s make smart investments. Let’s fund preschool for all children. Let’s redesign high schools to prepare students to succeed in college and our workforce. Let’s make college more affordable.
Taking an ax to America’s school budgets is bad policy. It endangers the progress our education system and economy have made in the last few years. Educators and parents get this. I urge Congress to undo this policy, which will only hurt children and our nation.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
Efforts to revise rules that govern the ethics of biomedical and behavioral human-subjects research appear stalled, perhaps by a divided mission.
Other key factors include the cost, as well as students' ignorance of programs that can help pay the expenses.
Net tuition revenue made up 47 percent of public colleges' educational costs in 2012, an increase of six percentage points in one year, a report says.
The program, one of several featured at a panel discussion, has brought more minority men into the university system and improved their success rates.
The College Park campus's University Senate will consider a report that calls for giving those instructors more pay, security, and clout.
A campaign that began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pressing for changes nationwide, just as Congress has passed the first major campus-security legislation in years.
The Center for Open Science, which has attracted a wave of foundation grants, aims to "rejigger" the incentives that drive researchers.
The percentages of black, Asian, and Hispanic provosts all declined from 2008 to 2013, a troubling pattern since many provosts later become presidents.
At a British Council event in Dubai, participants seemed largely unbothered by recent moves by the U.A.E. to restrict foreign universities' activities.
Where can you go to find— in one place— Arne Duncan, Mark Zuckerberg, Marco Rubio, Stephen Hawking, and Snoop Dogg agreeing with each other? Not sure? Now add into the mix Dr. Oz, Richard Branson, and Michael Bloomberg. Give up?
The answer is the overflowing, impressive testimonial page on CODE.org, a new nonprofit created to promote the teaching of computer coding into America’s schools. Founded by Hadi Partovi, CODE.org shines a light on 21st century society’s need for computer scientists and programmers. According to stats on the CODE.org website, 90 percent of American schools currently don’t offer coding while, by 2020, there will be about a million more computer jobs than computer science students. Partovi aims to connect engineers with schools and to help educators bring computer programming to their classrooms.
The linchpin of the awareness campaign is a short video featuring Zuckerberg, Will.i.am, NBA All-Star Chris Bosh and a host of other tech leaders and trendsetters. The video, directed by Lesley Chilcott, a producer of An Inconvenient Truth, portrays learning to code as fun, not exceptionally difficult, and the gateway to a creative, fulfilling career. Released February 26, it has already accumulated over 9 million views.
The moment for this is now. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is a priority area for our country. In 2010, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report entitled Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education for STEM and America’s Future, which claimed:
“The success of the United States in the 21st century—its wealth and welfare—will depend on the ideas and skills of its population. These have always been the Nation’s most important assets. As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of these national assets will be determined in no small measure by the effectiveness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States. STEM education will determine whether the United States will remain a leader among nations…“
Through CODE.org, Hadi Partovi is rightly asserting the need to include the teaching in K-12 schools of computer science amongst the critical STEM disciplines. As the PCAST report makes clear, the stakes are high. And if you don’t trust that, just listen to Bill Clinton and Ashton Kutcher.
— Dan Brown
Dan Brown is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education for the 2012-13 school year. He is a National Board Certified Teacher at The SEED Public Charter School of Washington, D.C
By Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius. Reposted from the Huffington Post.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke forcefully about America’s basic bargain that people who work hard and shoulder their responsibilities should be able to climb into a thriving middle class. Restoring that bargain, he said, is the unfinished work of our generation.
But for millions of young children in this country, the first rung on that ladder is missing because they are cut off from the kind of early learning that would set them up for success in school — with consequences that could last the rest of their lives. Our Administration is committed to closing that costly, unfair opportunity gap through a new plan that will deliver high-quality preschool for every American child, and enhance early learning services for children from birth through age three.
Study after study confirms what every teacher knows: young children who experience secure, stimulating environments with rich learning opportunities from an early age are better prepared to thrive in school. Indeed, both of us have watched our own children expand their worlds and their minds in the years before they entered school, whether at home or in quality early learning settings. Unfortunately, many American children don’t receive these opportunities.
Fewer than three in 10 American 4-year-olds attend a high-quality preschool program filled with well-organized learning experiences, guided exploration, art, and storytelling, and led by a skilled teacher. The availability of high-quality care and educational services for infants and toddlers is even lower. And the gap is especially pronounced in low-income communities.
Our failure to ensure access to strong preschool is morally indefensible and economically counterproductive. Strong early learning can translate into school success, which can lead to college and good jobs, and ultimately a robust economy. Research shows that every public dollar spent on high-quality early childhood education returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice programs.
That’s why President Obama has announced a comprehensive plan to help every child develop a strong foundation for future success. Recognizing that this is a time for fiscal caution, the President has been clear that, when combined with his plan for balanced deficit reduction, none of these proposals will add a dime to the deficit. But ultimately, this is an investment that we can’t afford not to make. Under his plan, we will work together to:
- Make universal, high-quality preschool available to four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families through a partnership with states, while also expanding these preschool programs to reach additional children from middle class families and providing incentives for full-day kindergarten. This new partnership would provide incentives for states to cover all families who want to send their children to preschool and offer high-quality preschool, with low class sizes, qualified teachers, and stimulating learning experiences.
- Launch a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership to significantly expand the availability of high-quality early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers.
- Expand highly effective, voluntary home visiting programs where nurses, family educators and social workers connect low-income families to health, social, and educational supports.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
These actions build on steps the Administration has already taken to boost early learning for our most vulnerable children, from improving accountability and quality of Head Start services to encouraging more systemic policies and investments that will improve the quality and effectiveness of early education through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, which rewards states that raise the bar on quality and provide links with health, nutrition, mental health, and family supports.
As we move forward with this economically vital effort, we can look to states that have shown the way. In Michigan and Massachusetts, for example, Governors Rick Snyder and Deval Patrick have made expanding access to preschool programs a priority. In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley has proposed new resources to rapidly expand early education. These leaders represent a bipartisan consensus that America can’t win the race for the future by holding back children at the starting line.
Unfortunately, the blunt, arbitrary cuts that Congress allowed to go into effect through sequestration will do exactly that. President Obama has put forward a balanced plan to replace those cuts and reduce the deficit, which includes spending cuts along entitlement and tax reform. If Congress fails to compromise, up to 70,000 students could be dropped from Head Start and up to 30,000 low-income children would be left without child care subsidies. These cuts jeopardize our children’s futures. America, which now ranks 28th globally in early childhood enrollment, risks falling even further behind the rest of the world in preparing our children for school.
Early childhood education is one of the best investments can make in America’s future. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not cut back. Doing right by our youngest children is essential to America’s middle-class promise. We look forward to working together to make it happen.
— Arne Duncan is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education
— Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
UVa's president, Teresa Sullivan, accused board leaders of "micromanagement" in a recent e-mail. Now she says too much is being made of such clashes.