Education chief wants textbooks to go digital

“The world is changing,” Duncan said. “This has to be where we go as a country.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Oct. 2 called for the nation to move as fast as possible away from printed textbooks and toward digital ones. “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” he declared.

It’s not just a matter of keeping up with the times, Duncan said in remarks to the National Press Club. It’s about keeping up with other countries whose students are leaving their American counterparts in the dust.

South Korea, which consistently outperforms the U.S. when it comes to educational outcomes, is moving far faster than the U.S. in adopting digital learning environments. One of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea has set a goal to go fully digital with its textbooks by 2015.…Read More

Nearly 900 districts to apply for Race to the Top funding

The Race to the Top District competition requires applicants to design personalized learning environments using digital tools—but critics say education funding shouldn’t be turned into a competition.

Nearly 900 school districts across the nation intend to apply for a slice of close to $400 million in grants that the U.S. Education Department will distribute in support of local initiatives that help close achievement gaps and prepare students for college and a career.

The department announced Aug. 31 that 893 applicants are slated to participate in the Race to the Top-District competition.

“I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.…Read More

Feds’ new anti-bullying campaign targets parents

Online and print ads will warn parents that their kids regularly encounter negative messages such as “you’re worthless” and “everybody hates you.”

Parents are urged to teach their kids to speak up if they witness school bullying in new ads that target an issue that top Obama administration officials vow to make a national priority.

A long-term campaign featuring television, print, and online ads was unveiled Aug. 6 and will start running in October. The campaign is a joint effort by the Ad Council, a nonprofit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, a group that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda, and Mel Brooks.

In one television ad, two girls are seen bullying a schoolmate, mocking her appearance and telling her that nobody likes her. A fourth girl looks on but doesn’t intervene.…Read More

Duncan discusses education reform, back-to-school changes

Duncan said making sure children in disadvantaged communities have access to technology will be critical. (Albert H. Teich /

A more well-rounded curriculum with less focus on a single test. Higher academic standards and more difficult classwork. Continued cuts to extracurricular and other activities because of the tough economy: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says these are some of the changes and challenges that children could notice as they start the new school year.

Several significant reforms have taken place over the past three years. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and D.C. have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Billions in federal dollars have gone out to improve low-performing schools, tie teacher evaluations to student growth, and encourage states to expand the number of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said he believes students will see the concrete effects of those changes when they head back to class this school year.…Read More

Duncan: Cuts to education would ‘jeopardize’ nation’s ability to compete

Sequestration would “jeopardize our nation’s ability to develop and support an educated, skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy,” Duncan told a Senate panel. (Albert H. Teich/

Services would have to be slashed for more than 1.8 million disadvantaged students and thousands of teachers and aides would lose their jobs if automatic, across-the-board cuts to the federal budget kick in as a result of lawmakers’ failure to agree on deficit-reduction measures, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned July 25.

He urged Congress to find an alternative deficit-reduction plan that won’t undermine the Education Department’s ability to serve students in high-poverty schools and improve schools with high dropout rates.

Duncan said the automatic cuts, referred to by many in Washington as sequestration, also would adversely affect financial aid programs for college students.…Read More

Feds launch new online tool to help students manage loan debt

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new interactive loan counseling tool to provide students with financial management basics, like information about their current loan debt and estimates for student loan debt levels after graduation. Students can access the new resource, known as the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, on

“Managing student loan debt can be a difficult and confusing process for many borrowers. That’s why the Obama administration has been working to unravel the mystery of college financing and arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them, instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives. This new tool will help bring new transparency to the process of debt management on the front end and empower students to keep their school loan payments on track and on time after graduation.”

The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool provides students with five interactive tutorials covering topics ranging from managing a budget to avoiding default. Students can access their individual loan history and receive personalized feedback that can help them better understand their financial obligations. In addition, college financial aid professionals can monitor a student’s progress in using the tool and provide assistance if necessary.…Read More

Could NCLB waivers offer a roadmap to reauthorization?

Congress could come up with a great plan for reauthorizing NCLB by adopting the best ideas from the states’ waiver applications, Duncan said at a July 6 news conference.

Although more than half the states are now exempt from the toughest requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” education law, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his goal remains to help Congress fix the law, not to sidestep the stalled overhaul effort.

Still, allowing waivers has brought a level of creativity to education reform that was unexpected when Duncan and President Barack Obama opened the waiver process nearly a year ago.

The Obama administration’s July 6 announcement that Washington and Wisconsin have been granted waivers from the education law brought to 26 the number of states now free from many of its requirements.…Read More

Feds float guidelines for school-based Race to the Top grants

The Education Department is accepting public comment on the criteria and will release the application in July.

Following a wave of state education reforms spurred by its Race to the Top competition, the federal Education Department (ED) said May 22 that individual school districts will be able to compete for $400 million in grants to bring the initiative to the classroom level.

School districts with at least 2,500 students—40 percent or more of whom must qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a key indicator of poverty—will be eligible to receive up to $25 million to create plans targeting specific groups of students with the aim of closing the achievement gap.

“We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.…Read More

Opinion: Two important ways Arne Duncan showed teachers true appreciation

My morning started with a free bagel. It wasn’t much — no five-figure bonus or anything like that — but I’m a teacher. It’s the thought that counts. I’ll take whatever free food you’re willing to give, but I’m most interested in what you’re thinking, says S. Alexander Cooke for Yahoo! News. That’s why this year Teacher Appreciation Week has the makings to be truly special. Yes, I enjoyed a free bagel. But more importantly, our nation’s educator-in-charge, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said two things that show me his thoughts are in the right place. First, in a piece for the Huffington Post, Secretary Duncan cautioned that in pursuing education reform, “We should bear in mind that reforms that fail to heed the voice of teachers are doomed.” Ask just about any public school teacher whether top-down reforms such as the much-ballyhooed No Child Left Behind Act are worth the paper they’re printed on, and you’ll get a sarcastic chuckle in response. Teachers know that legislating educational progress is a bad — and depressingly expensive — joke…

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White House makes ‘Digital Promise’ to schools

Duncan said Digital Promise would increase research and development in ed-tech programs.

A nonprofit start-up funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will quickly evaluate which educational technologies are worth the investment – and which ones aren’t – while driving private-sector innovation that could modernize technology in public schools nationwide.

ED Secretary Arne Duncan on Sept. 16 unveiled the independent nonprofit initiative approved by Congress in 2008, called Digital Promise, which will be funded by government funding, along with philanthropies like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The initiative will be guided by Duncan-appointed board members, including a Tulane University official, and research from the Chicago’s Urban Education Institute that will determine which technology programs work best in the classroom.…Read More