Education Week - April 24, 2013 - (Page 19)

EDUCATION WEEK n APRIL 24, 2013 n 19 POLICY BRIEF Duncan to Business: Defend Standards DRAWING INTEREST The Obama administration’s fiscal 2014 budget proposes big changes for federally-backed student loans. These new variable rates would be based on the 10-year Treasury note, plus an additional 0.93 percent for subsidized Stafford Loans, 2.93 percent for unsubsidized Stafford Loans, and 3.93 percent for loans taken out by parents. The rate would be fixed for the life of the loan. SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education; Institute for College Access and Success rowers are typically able to figure out exactly what their monthly payment will be before they make the purchase, he explained. And, Mr. Carey added, the administration’s plan to pair the market-tethered interest rate with a “very generous” income-based repayment program has “a lot of merit” because the repayment plan “accomplishes the policy goal that subsidized interest rates had accomplished in the past,” namely, keeping loans affordable. This isn’t the first time that Congress and the administration have had to cope with an interest-rate jump. Student-loan rates were scheduled to double last summer from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, and the issue became a part of the presidential campaign when both President Obama and Mitt Romney, the then- a number of “delegates,” or agencies that provided direct services, offered early-childhood programs for 22,000 children, said Kostas Kalaitzidis, the public-information officer for the agency. The federal Head Start office is in negotiations to have 14 providers in Los Angeles County now, instead of one “supergrantee.” The changes would reduce the county board of education’s scope of responsibility to about 9,000 slots for children and an annual budget of about $95 million, Mr. Kalaitzidis said. But the program is still waiting to hear the results of the negotiations with the potential new grantees, most of which were formerly delegate agencies striking out on their own. “Right now, there is so little we know,” Mr. Kalaitzidis said. “This is a new experience, and the system is working to find out how things should be.” Joel Ryan, the director of the Washington State Head Start Association, said he gives high marks to the federal Head Start office for how it has handled the competition, with some caveats. Mr. Ryan said the fact that about two-thirds of the grantees will have their grants renewed raises questions. Among them, he said, is whether the net is too iStockphoto/Todd Bates Rates on federally-backed student loans would shift from a 3.4 percent fixed rate to a market-based rate. If Congress does not act on the administration’s proposal—or pass an alternative—rates on student loans will jump to 6.8 percent this summer. That could cost the average borrower an additional $12,000 over the life of the loan. presumptive Republican nominee, came out in favor of keeping the lower rate. Congress passed legislation to leave the 3.4 percent rate in place for one year, mostly as part of an election-year stopgap measure. K-12 Connection Meanwhile, the president’s budget would also include a slight boost for Pell Grants, which help low-income students attend college. The proposal would increase the maximum Pell award by $140, from $5,645 in award year 2013-14 to $5,785 in award year 2014-15. The administration would also seek to prod colleges to hold down the cost of tuition, while improving outcomes for students, by creating a $1 billion edition of its Race to the Top fran- large—therefore scooping up centers with few problems—“or that the competition wasn’t as strong as it could be.” Another concern expressed by Mr. Ryan is that federal Head Start officials seem to be consumed with the process of handling the competition, even as new providers require assistance from federal officials. But Mr. Ryan also said the competition seems to be successful, so far, in removing poorly performing programs. Yasmina Vinci, the executive director of the National Head Start Association, said she was not surprised by the number of grant recipients that were able to retain their funding. “To me, the programs have just been really committed to improving,” she said. Provider Concerns But Ms. Vinci repeated a concern expressed by other providers, which is that grantees are being told they need to compete because of what they see as relatively minor issues. “Some fabulous programs were in [the competition] were having a child leave the classroom unattended and go down the hall,” she said. “That happens all the time; chise, specifically aimed at higher education. The program would reward up to 10 states that keep tuition increases in check while improving student outcomes, such as graduation rates, and experimenting with new ways of delivering content to students. The competition also would include something for K-12: States would be rewarded for smoothing the transition between high school and college. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan underlined that piece of the proposal in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week, saying that the proposed program would help break down traditional barriers between K-12 and colleges and universities. “Part of what we want to do is incentivize those connections,” he said. kids do run out of the classroom and wander off.” Head Start providers are told to self-report such incidents, which could trigger a competition, she said. The changes in Head Start come at a time of increased focus on federal government support of earlychildhood-education programs. Head Start, in particular, has been under the microscope: In 2005, the seeds for competition were planted when a report from the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency of Congress, criticized financial mismanagement in the program and said defunding some grantees might be a solution. Late last year, the final phase of a randomized, controlled study of nearly 5,000 children found that the academic benefits for Head Start for children who entered at age 4 had largely disappeared by the time those children were in 3rd grade, when compared with peers who were not enrolled in Head Start. Critics have seen the study as further proof that the program has failed in its mission; supporters say that the study did not measure the nonacademic benefits of the program. Many saw it as a call to improve the quality of providers. As the first competition among programs wraps up, Ms. Sanchez Fuentes says that the Health and Human Services Department is listening to all those concerns and plans changes as the second cohort of grantees goes through the process. At the top of the list is making sure that community organizations know that Head Start money is out there. “A lot of communities were surprised to see this money is available,” Ms. Sanchez Fuentes said. The Head Start office will add site visits to its outreach efforts, she said. Increased Scrutiny The federal office is also revamping its monitoring systems to provide more of a “case management” model that can provide comprehensive support to Head Start grantees, which the office believes will be particularly important to new grantees. “We’re going to visit our incumbents and our brand-new ones during the first year [of their grants],” Ms. Sanchez Fuentes said. “We’re absolutely going to be giving them the technical assistance and the support that they need, and we’re going out and making sure they are implementing what they agreed to implement.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a stern message for the business community: Step up the political advocacy to defend the Common Core State Standards and other changes to K-12 policy. During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s last week “Upgrade America” event in Washington, which focused on improving the quality of the labor force through education, Mr. Duncan said he did not want to see a repeat of what he says was the business community’s silence after passage of the No Child Left Behind Act when states responded by “dummying down” their standards. “I don’t understand why the business community is so passive when these kinds of things happen,” he told the crowd. The common core was a big topic at the meeting. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, a Republican, said he was “very concerned” by the decision of the Republican National Committee, in an April 12 vote in Los Angeles, to officially oppose the common core. He said governors up for reelection in 2014 might start to get nervous about supporting the common standards. “I think that could have an impact at the executive level of states,” Mr. Luna said. n In their resolution, rnc members said the common core represents an “inappropriate overreach” by the federal government that would require federally funded testing, as well as the collection and sharing of student and teacher data. But at the Chamber meeting, New Mexico’s secretarydesignate of education, Hanna Skandera, stressed that the common core was only a first step in improving education, and that the business community had a valuable lesson to teach as the “end user” of public schools: “You either make it, or you don’t.” On another topic, Mr. Duncan said he was pleased with the way federal waivers of certain nclb rules had proceeded with states. But he also mentioned that he was meeting later that day with U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate’s top two legislators on K-12 policy, to discuss the feasibility of reauthorizing the law in the foreseeable future. —ANDREW UJIFUSA

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 24, 2013

Education Week - April 24, 2013
Union Sues Over Basis of Appraisal
In San Antonio, Pre-K Initiative Sets Steep Goals
New Teachers Search for Place in New Orleans
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: States Seek High School Pathways Weaving Academic, Career Options
News in Brief
Report Roundup
PARCC Proposes Common-Core Test Accommodations
Some States Seek GED Alternative as Test Price Spikes
Blogs of the Week
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Online Socialization Is Hot Topic Among Researchers
Overhaul of the E-Rate Seen as a High Priority by FCC Commissioner
Comments Weighed on Vending Machine, ‘A La Carte’ Proposals
Corralling Local Support Still a Challenge
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: Swiss Academic, Career Paths Designed to Cross
Obama’s Proposed Fix on Student Loans Ruffles Allies
Head Start Officials Tight-Lipped on Which Centers to Lose Aid
Policy Brief
Legislative Briefs
School Safety Legislation: A Tally by State
LAUREN BLAIR ARONSON: Advice to TFA From a Former Insider
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - April 24, 2013