October 29, 2015


Flurry of USED Resources

In the last few weeks, USED has flexed its paper-pushing muscles, releasing a variety of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters/resources/documents. We’ve captured a handful of them here in an effort to get them on your radar:

  • Chronic Absenteeism: The administration announced Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. It is designed as a joint effort amongthe White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) to combat chronic absenteeism. It will call on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16). The available resources include a Dear Colleague letter, a resource toolkit, and a fact sheet. Read related press release.
  • Testing: In a rather unanticipated move, the Administration release its Testing Action Plan, a push for ‘fewer and smarter assessments’. Keeping in mind that this is the same administration that had a line in the sand over maintaining annual assessment in ESEA reauthorization discussions, they are now messaging about ways to reduce over-testing. USED will review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. They encourage state and local education agencies to work in a similar manner, and message on ESEA, suggesting a cap on testing time, better information for parents, use of multiple measures and supporting state/local assessment audits.   Read AASA’s response to the proposal. You can read full detail and the fact sheet here.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resource Guide: USED released this set of resources to help educators, schools leaders and communities/community organizations better support undocumented youth. The effort is aimed at debunking misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The reality is that the action of K12 schools here is pretty clear: you cannot ask a child their legal status. The impact of this resource guide is more notable for higher education actors. Read the Superintendent Dear Colleague Letter. Read the DACA Press Release.
  • Graduation Rates: USED released updated graduation rate information, showing that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners. States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. Through the press release, you can access the provisional data files for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
  • USED Statement on Learning Disabilities: In a blog post, released guidance to state and local education agencies clarifying that students with specific learning disabilities — such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia — have unique educational needs. It further clarifies that there is nothing in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in a student’s evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education and related services, or in developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP).  We read this as ‘You are neither mandated to do this, nor forbidden from doing this. As you were, unless you want to change.’ If anything, it gives cover to those IEP teams who wanted to go further in clarifying/identifying these specific disabilities in an IEP, and clarifies when that is appropriate.
  • Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: The department also released information about an experimental dual enrollment project today. In this pilot, the Department would allow students to use Pell grants for dual enrollment courses while in high school. The courses must apply toward a potential post-secondary (Bachelors or Associates) degree to be eligible. This is part of the administration's efforts to keep college costs down and increase access to post-secondary opportunities.

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