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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, provides results for the nation, states, and 27 urban school districts for assessments in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics. The data is presented as scale scores and percentages of students at or above three NAEP achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The data is also reported by various student subgroups and five selected percentiles to demonstrate progress made by lower- (10th and 25th percentiles), middle- (50th percentile), and higher- (75th and 90th percentiles) performing students (see 2019 reading and math highlights, state profiles, and district profiles).

Average reading scores for the nation in 2019 were lower for students in both fourth- and eighth-grade compared to 2017. Scores in 2019 were lower than 2017 in 17 states at grade 4 and in 31 states at grade 8. At each grade, one state/jurisdiction had a score increase.

Average mathematics scores for the nation in 2019 were one point higher for students in fourth-grade and one point lower for students in eighth-grade compared to 2017. In grade 4, scores in 2019 were higher in nine states/jurisdictions and lower in three states compared to 2017. In grade 8, scores in 2019 were higher in three states/jurisdictions and lower in six states compared to in 2017.

In both grades and subjects, a little more than a third of students scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level in 2019. However, compared to 2017, the average math score was higher at grade 4, where 41% of students scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level.

Also, the results show lower scores in reading for students in the 10th and 25th percentiles in grades 4 and 8, compared to 2009, while the scores increased for higher performers. And the results show lower scores in math for the lowest performers in grades 4 and 8, compared to 2009, while the scores increased for those in the 75th and 90th percentiles in grade 4 and 90th percentile in grade 8 (blog post).

Reading scores were lower for white and black students at grade 4 and for all racial/ethnic groups, except Asian/Pacific Islanders, at grade 8 in 2019 compared to 2017. On the other hand, Hispanic students had a higher average math score at grade 4 in 2019 compared to 2017.

On average, participating urban districts held steady in reading and improved in math compared to 2017.

“Every American family needs to open the Nation’s Report Card this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future,” Secretary DeVos said in a statement. “The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students…. We cannot abide these poor results any longer. We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem. This Administration has a transformational plan to help America’s forgotten students escape failing schools. By expanding education freedom, students can break out of the one-size-fits all system and learn in the ways that will unlock their full potential.”

DCOSP ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Last week, hundreds of students, parents, and education freedom advocates gathered at the Department’s headquarters to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP). Since enactment, DCOSP has helped more than 10,000 students in the District of Columbia find a school that best fits their needs. During the ceremony, students and parents who have directly benefited from DCOSP recounted their success stories (press release, photos, and video).

“This Administration trusts parents and believes in students,” the Secretary stressed in her remarks. “We’ve fought for this program, and now more students are receiving scholarships…. But there is still so much unmet demand. We can’t stop fighting until every student in this city and across the country is free. Their freedom and their futures are not political footballs. There is strong, bipartisan support for this bill [the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act to reauthorize the program]…. This is about each student’s future, and it’s ultimately about our country’s future. Our future is won with freedom. And freedom belongs to all of us. Let’s fight for it!”

Several members of Congress participated in the ceremony: Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is leading the charge on SOAR Act reauthorization; Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor; Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD); and Congressman Ralph Norman (R-SC).

FEDERAL STUDENT AID

The 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) launched on October 1. New and returning students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. To encourage students and parents to act, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) is sending email messages to 2019-20 FASFA filers (and the parents of dependent 2019-20 FAFSA filers) who have not yet submitted a 2020-21 form. FSA is also sending push notifications to individuals who have downloaded the myStudentAid mobile application and have notifications enabled.

Additionally, FSA posted PowerPoint presentations containing information and screenshots pertaining to the 2020-21 FAFSA web site and myFAFSA feature of the myStudentAid mobile app, which can be used by financial aid administrators, counselors, and mentors for internal staff training and high school college events.

Meanwhile, the Department’s Homeroom blog presents new student aid-related posts, including: “8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA Form;” “5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA Form;” “The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form;” “How to Fill Out the FAFSA Form When You Have More Than One Child in College,” “Scholarship Basics and Tips;” and “5 Things to Do Before Making Your First Student Loan Payment.”

FINAL HIGHER EDUCATION REGULATIONS

This week, the Department announced publication of final accreditation and state authorization distance education regulations designed to expand educational options for students, holistically lower the cost of education post-high school, and ensure that any occupationally focused education meets current workforce needs. These regulations also align accountability requirements with an institution’s mission, rather than paperwork and process, and seek to clarify that all institutional accreditors are held to the same standards by the agency. As a result, students should not face barriers to career entry and mobility, or to continuing education, based solely on which accreditor oversees the school they attended.

Moreover, the regulations have been updated and streamlined. The revisions make clear an institution’s responsibilities and the role of state reciprocity agreements while ensuring students have the information they need to make informed decisions. States that join a reciprocity agreement can no longer layer additional state higher education authorization requirements on institutions that participate but can continue to apply other state laws and regulations that apply to all entities doing business in a state.

The Department will soon publish proposed rules based on the consensus agreements reached on topics related to distance education and innovation, as well as TEACH grants and equitable treatment of faith-based institutions.

THE BIG READ

The National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) The Big Read, established in 2016, supports Americans reading and discussing a single book within their communities. Local governments, libraries, school districts, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of an estimated 75 grants to be awarded for programming occurring between September 2020 and June 2021. The application deadline is January 29, 2020. Besides the grant, communities will receive resources, such as reader’s and teacher’s guides and audio guides with commentary from artists, educators, and public figures. Communities will also receive publicity materials.

In this cycle, communities will choose from 32 selections (novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, and books in translation), including several works by female authors in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Need some help? Contact Arts Midwest to schedule a consultation with staff; visit the Application Advice page for tips and best practices for applications; and review the NEA Big Read Survival Guide to gain wisdom from past grantees.

ODDS AND ENDS

• FSA Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown declared the Department was “disappointed in the court’s ruling” and “acknowledged that servicers made unacceptable mistakes” in a tweet and video after a federal judge ruled the agency in violation of an order to stop collecting on the loans of students of a defunct institution. FSA has “taken the actions needed to make every impacted borrower whole.”

• Secretary DeVos announced 10 principals from 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools as this year’s recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. Named for the second U.S. Secretary of Education, these awards honor principals for their outstanding work and the role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellence, often under challenging circumstances.

• The Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET), in partnership with Digital Promise, systematically reviewed the research literature and identified nine ways that technology may help students engage with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. The research synthesis and the video spotlights (showing methods in action) are available for teachers, curriculum specialists, and other leaders to learn about effective uses of technology for deepening students’ STEM experiences.

• In a Federal Register notice, the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) invites new applications under the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA). To date, OESE has awarded four states the authority, and up to three additional states may be approved under the pilot program.

• In videos during Safe Schools Week (October 21-27), OESE Assistant Secretary Frank Brogan spoke about the Federal Commission on School Safety, his personal experience addressing a school safety threat, and how the Department is providing assistance to communities to keep students, teachers, and faculty safe at school.

• Also, the Department of Justice awarded some $85.3 million in grants to 215 schools, districts, and other jurisdictions to bolster school security and support first responders.

• The reception honoring the 2019-20 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards was a success! See photos from the event featuring students with works on display.

• Two more videos on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU): meet Chinedu and hear from St. Phillip’s College President Adena Williams Loston.

• A National Center for Education Evaluation (NCEE) report describes how federal Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers -- funded from 2012 to 2017 -- designed and implemented their services, what challenges they encountered, and what outcomes they achieved. These 15 Regional Centers and seven Content Centers had a broad mandate to build state capacity to support local education agencies (LEAs) in improving student outcomes. (Note: Here is the list of 2019-24 Comprehensive Centers.)

• The Secretary of Transportation’s RAISE Award recognizes students who demonstrate unique and innovative thinking in aerospace science and engineering. The submission period began November 1; submissions must be received by November 15 at 12 noon Eastern Time.

QUOTE TO NOTE

“Education freedom is what motivated my friend -- our friend -- Virginia Walden Ford. Her son’s future hung in the balance. We are so grateful for Virginia’s faith, for her courage, her perseverance, and her example. How exciting it was to see Virginia’s story dramatized for the silver screen. And how sad it was to see folks in Tinseltown turn a blind eye to a story ready-made for Hollywood. ‘Miss Virginia’ should be in bright lights on every marquee across America. But Hollywood elites let their politics get in the way of advancing the greatest civil rights struggle today. Sure, they say they’re ‘pro-public school,’ and then they choose to send their own children elsewhere. They have a choice. Well, Virginia’s story is a poignant one. It powerfully reminds us all that parents want better for their children, and they’ll do anything for their children.”

-- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (10/23/19), in remarks at the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program 15th anniversary celebration

UPCOMING EVENTS

Among other education-related observations, November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, National Native American Heritage Month, and National Veterans and Military Families Month.

On November 6, in Washington, D.C., the Department will host its second annual Faith Leaders Summit to hear directly from local leaders about innovative approaches to student-driven education.

Schools are encouraged to invite U.S. military veterans into their classrooms around Veterans Day (November 11). Veterans can share their experiences and teach students lessons about the history and significance of the federal holiday, helping students reflect upon the importance of the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy.

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement

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