Whiteboard Notes | Trump Signs Federal Education Bill; Federal Grants for OER; Fall Student Success Events 

Career and Technical Education Bill Becomes Law: President Trump has signed the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the first major education bill turned law of his administration. The bipartisan rewrite appropriates $1.2 billion each year to states to build and support CTE in high schools. The new legislation requires less federal oversight and implores states to assign funding to meet the needs of individual communities.

Applications for Federal Open Education Resource Grants Available: The Department of Education is calling for proposals from higher education consortiums for the Open Textbooks Pilot program. One to three grants will be awarded in late September totaling $5 million in an effort to drive down the costs of textbooks. The released call for proposal cites the 88% increase in the cost of textbooks between 2006 and 2016, and asserts that bolstering the presence of open-source textbooks, especially in high-enrollment courses will help to mitigate this market overload.

Department of Education New Rulemaking Announcement: The Department of Education officially announced the establishment of two new rulemaking committees this week. Their stated purpose is to suggest reforms to federal student aid programs with a implicit focus on accreditation. One committee is set to look at the aid programs broadly while the other will focus on religious institutions.

 

New Law for Gifted Students Goes Into Effect in Illinois: A new law focused on accommodating academically gifted students has gone into effect in Illinois. Referred to as the Accelerated Placement Act, the law requires all districts to establish policies that allow for early entrance to kindergarten or first grade, acceleration in a single subject, and grade acceleration. Under the law, these opportunities for advancement should be open not only to students who have been identified as gifted or talented, but also to all children who may benefit from accelerated placement. The legislation, which was signed into law last year, went into effect on July 1, 2018.

Kentucky Considers New High School Graduation Requirements: New high school graduation requirements are under consideration with the Kentucky State Board of Education this week. The proposed changes include new benchmarks that are aligned to the state’s Profile of a Graduate and designed to gauge college and career readiness. The new model does not overhaul the state’s current 22-credit policy, but it does require that students split those credits between “foundational” and “personalized” courses. The Board could approve the new requirements as early as October of this year. Pending approval, they will go into effect for high school freshman students starting in Fall 2019.

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New Computer Science Standards for K-8 Students in Tennessee: In part of the state’s effort to revise standards for all core areas, the Tennessee State Board of Education has approved computer science standards for grades K-8. The standards are set to be implemented in the 2019-2020 school year and mark the education community’s movement from computer technology standards to more comprehensive, workforce-oriented curricula starting in elementary schools.

Louisiana’s Alternative Standardized Testing Program is Approved: Secretary Betsy DeVos has signed off on Louisiana’s proposal for their “Innovative Assessment” pilot. A provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act allows seven states to create new testing strategies in select districts as pilots for eventual statewide programs, but Louisiana is the first state to gain approval. The new program willintegrate English and social studies assessments into a new system of evaluation. Applications for New hampshire and Puerto Rico are awaiting approval from the Department of Education.

North Dakota School District Eliminating Grade Levels: North Cass School District, just outside Fargo, North Dakota has decided to experiment with moving students through schools based on skills and competencies, abolishing grade levels in the process This three-year transition will be complete by the fall of 2020 when all students will have moved through school at their own pace. Aside from gym class and field trips, students will not be grouped with other students their age.

NAACP Addresses Charter Schools: Derrick Johnson, the President of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People told reporters this week that the organization does not oppose charter schools. Stopping short of an endorsement, Johnson noted that civil rights groups remain wary of select charters’ practices and believe failures in the sector have been underrepresented in political rhetoric. This comes in the wake of the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on charter schools in 2016 and subsequent report in 2017.

 

UVa Faculty Push Back Against Ex-Trump Administration Hire: William Hitchcock and Melvyn Leffler, two prominent historians at the University of Virginia’s public policy center have turned in their resignations over UVa’s plan to hire Marc Short, a former aide to President Donald Trump. Short was appointed to a one-year fellowship by the public policy center in hopes to “bring a missing critical voice -- that represents members of Congress and the Republican Party who continue to support the president in large numbers.” In addition to Hitchcock and Leffler’s resignation, an online petition with thousands of signatures is blasting UVa’s decision to hire Short.  

High Delinquency Rate for HBCU Loan Program: Government Accountability Office (GAO) and legislators are calling for an evaluation of a federal loan program for historically black colleges and university. A recent GAO report stated that almost 30% of payment towards HBCU Capital Financing Program were delinquent last year, and three of 46 institutions participating have defaulted. The loan program began in 1992 and has approved about $1.75 billion since the beginning.