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 StudentLoans.gov.

“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

Feds: All kids, legal or not, entitled to K-12 ed

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to districts around the country Friday, reminding them that all students–legal or not–are entitled to a public education, the Associated Press reports. The letter comes amid reports that schools may be checking the immigration status of students trying to enroll, and reminds districts they are federally prohibited from barring elementary or secondary students on the basis of citizenship status.

“Moreover, districts may not request information with the purpose or result of denying access to public schools on the basis of race, color or national origin,” said the letter, which was signed by officials from the department’s Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice…

Click here for the full story…Read More

U.S. says 25 percent of for-profit students default

For-profit schools’ former students default at more than double the rate of those from nonprofit schools, according to data released by the U.S. Education Department as part of its effort to push for tougher regulation of the controversial institutions, Reuters reports. The Education Department has criticized some for-profit schools, which range from universities offering PhD’s to trade schools offering training to repair cars or take X-rays for medical offices. Fully 25 percent of students who either graduated or dropped out of these for-profit schools in 2008 defaulted on their student loans within three years, compared with 10.8 percent of public schools and 7.6 percent of private schools, the Education Department said in its data…

Click here for the full story

…Read More

Help stop bullying, U.S. tells educators

In a 10-page letter to be sent today to thousands of school districts and colleges, the Department of Education urges the nation’s educators to ensure that they are complying with their responsibilities to prevent harassment, as laid out in federal laws, reports the New York Times. The letter is the product of a yearlong review of the federal statutes and case law covering sexual, racial and other forms of harassment, officials said. Issuing the letter took on new urgency in recent weeks because of a string of high-profile cases in which students have committed suicide after enduring bullying by classmates, the officials said. The department issued the letter to clarify the legal responsibilities of the authorities in public schools and in colleges and universities under federal laws, the officials said. Certain forms of student bullying might violate federal anti-discrimination law…

Click here for the full story

…Read More

U.S. Department of Education awards HITN $30 million for Ready to Learn initiative

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) today announced that the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc. (HITN), in partnership with Callaway Digital Arts and the Michael Cohen Group LLC (MCG), was awarded a $30 million Ready to Learn grant for Project LAMP (Learning Apps Media Partnership), reports PR Newswire. The project is an early childhood media-based education initiative. Project LAMP will create highly engaging, digital learning applications to build reading and math skills for children ages two through eight. The focus of the student-centered learning applications will have broad market appeal and educational impact, and will specifically target low-income children, English Language Learners (ELL), and their families…

Click here for the full story

…Read More

New grant program seeks solutions to toughest classroom challenges

Educators are invited to share ideas for solving classroom challenges, with the chance to win grants to implement their ideas.
Educators are invited to share ideas for solving classroom challenges, with the chance to win grants to implement their ideas.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has partnered with the nation’s largest teachers union and its charitable foundation to launch a grant program encouraging public school educators to identify and solve K-12 education’s most pressing classroom challenges.

The new “Challenge to Innovate” (C2i) program leverages ED’s Open Innovation Portal to solicit ideas in a process known as “crowdsourcing,” in which officials tap the collective wisdom of a large group of people through the power of the internet.

“Smart innovation will help dramatically accelerate achievement and attainment,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Without it, we will surely fall short of our goals to prepare all of America’s students for success in the global economy.”…Read More

Ed tech is one focus of Maryland’s Race to the Top funds

Maryland recently became one of 10 winners of the second round of federal Race to the Top grants, and Charles County officials are ready to get the ball rolling with several projects, some of which involve education technology, SoMdNews.com reports. The Maryland State Department of Education announced that Maryland will receive up to $250 million in federal funding. Charles County school officials said they are pleased with the $1.5 million the local school system is set to receive. Race to the Top reforms include revised curricula based on core standards for college and career readiness, improved technology to aid instruction and track student achievement, prioritizing teacher evaluation linked to student test scores, and a plan for improving performance in struggling schools. Judy Estep, the county’s assistant superintendent of instruction, said one component of the county’s plans is a digital classroom at the new St. Charles High School. The digital classroom will include stadium seating and a dome that will surround students with images four times the resolution of a home high-definition television—and it would be open to all schools in the area and the community…

Click here for the full story

…Read More

Feds: Virginia Tech violated notification law in 2007 massacre

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) found that Virginia Tech broke federal campus security laws by waiting too long to notify students during the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, reports the Associated Press. Virginia Tech disputed the department’s findings, saying university officials met standards in effect at the time of the shootings three years ago and that the report is colored by “hindsight bias.” It argues that the government is trying to retroactively apply regulations that were added two years after the shooting. ED’s May 18 report is the latest to criticize the school’s response to the killings of 33 people, including the student gunman, on April 16, 2007. The school could be fined up to $55,000 for two violations alleged in the preliminary report, but no one will face criminal charges, according to the university official who drafted the response. Federal officials will consider the response from the school before they finalize their conclusion. ED’s report said Va. Tech violated the Clery Act’s requirement that universities offer a timely warning when possible danger arises. About two hours elapsed between the shootings of two students at a dormitory and an eMail alert to the campus, sent at 9:26 a.m. The delay was previously criticized in a state report and has drawn the ire of victims’ families. ED said the warnings “were not prepared or disseminated in a manner to give clear and timely notice of the threat to the health and safety of campus community members.” The university countered that before the shootings at its Blacksburg campus, federal officials had never defined what “timely” meant in the Clery Act…

Click here for the full story

…Read More

Videos highlight successful school reform

The films aim to show how difficult changes in schools can lead to dramatic improvements in student achievement.
The videos aim to show how difficult changes in schools can lead to dramatic improvements in student achievement.

To help local leaders with their own school-reform efforts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has produced a new series of online videos highlighting successful school improvements from districts across the nation.

The videos illustrate how several school districts have successfully turned around their low-performing schools using the four models endorsed by ED’s $3.5 billion Title I School Improvement Grant program.

This program makes funds available to states by formula, to help them target the bottom 5 percent of U.S. schools—or approximately 5,000 chronic underperforming schools nationwide, ED says.…Read More