Obama Administration Announces $500 Million for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have announced a new $500 million state-level grant competition, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.
The Challenge will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development. Secretary Duncan and Secretary Sebelius also challenged the broader innovation community-leading researchers, high-tech entrepreneurs, foundations, non-profits and others-to engage with the early learning community and to close the school readiness gap.
"To win the future, our children need a strong start," said Secretary Duncan. "The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge encourages states to develop bold and comprehensive plans for raising the quality of early learning programs across America."
States applying for challenge grants will be encouraged to increase access to quality early learning programs for low-income and disadvantaged children, design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and successful programs and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.
Research shows that high-quality early learning programs lead to long-lasting positive outcomes for children, including increased rates of high school graduation, college attendance and college completion. Yet, just 40 percent of 4-year olds in America are currently enrolled in preschool programs. The most recent report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) indicates that, for the first time in a decade, states are reducing some of their key investments in early learning.
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants will encourage states to make the best possible use of current federal and state investments in child care and early learning. The public is invited to provide input, including data and relevant research, by clicking here.
The application will be released later this summer with grants awarded to states no later than December 31, 2011.
Number of Students Succeeding on AP Exams Has Nearly Doubled in 10 Years
Florida among Top 10 Leading States
More than half a million public school students from the class of 2010 scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP® Exam during high school, nearly double the number of successful students from the class of 2001, according to the College Board.
The top 10 states with the greatest proportion of their seniors from the class of 2010 having at least one successful AP experience were:
- Maryland (26.4 percent)
- New York (24.6 percent)
- Virginia (23.7 percent)
- Connecticut (23.2 percent)
- Massachusetts (23.1 percent)
- California (22.3 percent)
- Florida (22.3 percent)
- Vermont (21.8 percent)
- Colorado (21.4 percent)
- Utah (19.2 percent)
The states with the greatest five-year increases in the percentage of seniors scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam were: Vermont, Florida, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington. According to The College Board, students who score a 3 or higher on AP Exams typically experience stronger college outcomes than students who do not.
"This latest AP report offers tremendous news for our children as we continue to ramp up our efforts to prepare them for the rigors of a postsecondary education," said Florida Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. "We have hit new highs in the percent of our students taking and succeeding in this critical coursework and our teachers and school leaders should be proud of what they have been able to accomplish."
According to the Florida Department of Education, the percentage of Florida students receiving a score of three or higher on an AP exam has grown five percent over the past five years, placing Florida second in the nation for the largest five-year increase. Additionally, Florida is third in the nation for the total number of AP exams taken by students at 231,632.
Education officials say that Florida's AP progress continues to be largely driven by minority students. Mirroring trends seen last year, African-American and Hispanic 2010 graduating seniors experienced increases in both the percent taking and the percent passing AP exams. Florida also continues to be one of only a few states in the country that has eliminated the AP achievement gap for Hispanic 2010 graduating seniors.
Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, whose state led the nation for the third straight year with the highest percentage of students succeeding in AP, said, "Maryland puts a great deal of emphasis on having the best prepared high school graduates, and the Advanced Placement Program is a key part of this effort. AP provides students with a high standard, which gives them a foundation for success in college and in their careers."
Increases for Traditionally Underserved Populations
Over the past 10 years, the number of traditionally underserved minority students graduating with a successful AP experience has more than doubled - African-American graduates with scores of 3 or higher increased from 7,764 in 2001 to 19,675 in 2010; Hispanic/Latino graduates with scores of 3 or higher increased from 33,479 in 2001 to 74,479 in 2010; and American Indian/Alaska Native graduates with scores of 3 or higher increased from 988 in 2001 to 2,195 in 2010.
In addition, the number of low-income graduates with scores of 3 or higher has increased from 53,662 in 2006 to 84,135 in 2010. Despite increases, Hispanic/Latino, African American and American Indian/Alaska Native students remain underrepresented both in AP classrooms and within that group of students experiencing success in AP, according to the report.
"Students and educators routinely attest that exposure to AP's high standards helps prepare students for success in college. However, the likelihood of college success is significantly higher for AP students who score 3 or better," said Trevor Packer, vice president of the Advanced Placement Program® for the College Board. "Accordingly, simply expanding AP course enrollments is not enough - this year's report provides additional data points on exam performance that can help each state take a closer look at how well they are preparing all of their students, during the middle school and high school years, for the rigors of college-level course work.
The College Board recently completed an analysis of every U.S. school district's AP trends. Typically, as schools expand access to AP, the raw number of students who score 3 or higher increases, but so does the raw number of students who score 1 and 2. As a result, for some districts the percentage of 3s, 4s, and 5s may slightly decrease.
"States with high percentages of exams receiving scores of 3 or higher, but who are serving a lower percentage of their high school population, should implement policies for making AP teachers available to a greater proportion of the high school population. On the other hand, states with high percentages of exams receiving scores of 1 or 2 should focus on the sort of middle school and early high school strategies that prepare a greater diversity of students for eventual enrollment and success in AP classes," said Packer.
Improvements in Math and Science
The number of students from the class of 2010 who succeeded on AP science and math exams exceeds the number of students who merely took these exams nearly 10 years ago. While 134,957 students in the class of 2001 graduated after taking an AP science exam, 143,651 students in the class of 2010 scored 3 or higher on an AP science exam. Similarly, 166,905 students in the class of 2001 graduated after taking an AP math exam, compared with 179,193 students in the class of 2010 who scored 3 or higher on an AP math exam during high school.
In September 2010, President Barack Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan initiative to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, and to push the U.S. to "the top of the pack" in these fields in the next decade. This initiative follows on recent studies such as the National Academies' landmark 2005 volume Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which warned that, because of the country's relative weakness compared to the rest of the world in math and science education, "the age of relatively unchallenged U.S. leadership is ending."
According to that report, the U.S. now ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science and engineering, and, in 2009, more than half of this country's patents were awarded to foreign companies.
Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of more than 5,900 of the world's leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.
Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success - including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools.
Significant Skills Gap Exists between U.S. Jobs and Workers (Photo: Jobs)
From Civic Enterprises and the Business News Daily
While access to higher education has expanded significantly in the United States over the last century, a new crisis has emerged: disturbing numbers of students who enroll in postsecondary education are failing to complete their degrees with huge consequences to them, society, and the economy - this according to a new study released by Civic Enterprises and Corporate Voices for Working Families.
Today, more than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in some kind of advanced education within two years. Yet, just over one-half of bachelor's degree candidates complete their degree within six years, and less than one-third of associate's degree candidates earn their degree within three years.
"Across the Great Divide" examines the perspectives of CEOs and college presidents regarding America's higher education and skills gap. The report offers recommendations to move higher education from a system focused on access to one that embraces access and completion. The study also suggests that there is a big gap between the skills workers have and the skills that employers require, and that there are misperceptions about education and training hindering the ability to close that gap.
According to experts, two-thirds of job openings in the next decade will require at least some postsecondary education, including programs that are two years or less, but a majority of employers in the U.S. are facing a major challenge recruiting employees with the skills, training and education their companies require.
- More than half (53%) of business leaders say their companies face a very or fairly major challenge in recruiting nonmanagerial employees with the skills, training, and education their company needs, despite current unemployment rates and millions of Americans seeking jobs.
- Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for over 50 percent of new jobs created in 2007, feel this most acutely:
- 67% say it is difficult while only 33% find it easy
- However, the focus on "college" too often excludes the demand for those who hold two-year associate's degrees and trade-specific credentials.
- Most business leaders (98%) believe the term "college" means a four-year degree. Just 13% of business leaders also think of a two-year associate's degree, and only 10% say "college" includes a career or technical credential. By the end of this decade, however, about an equal percentage of jobs will require a bachelor's degree or better (33%) as some college or a two-year associate's degree (30%)
- The majority of business leaders (63%) believe a four-year bachelor's degree is the important degree to achieve success in the workplace, while only 18% believe a career or technical credential and 14% believe a two-year associate's degree are important to achieve such success
"It is a significant issue if people are not being trained for the jobs that exist and, perhaps more to the point, the jobs that are evolving, because then our economy and nation are in real trouble," Taylor Reveley, president of The College of William and Mary, said in the study.
But there are two key misperceptions that are hindering the U.S. from closing the divide between the readiness of the work force and the skills employers are looking for, and it has to do with recognizing the value of short-term degrees and credentials, the study said, and the need to broaden the national focus from college access to the necessity for college completion.
The problem is exacerbated, the study said, by a focus on "college" that too often overlooks two-year associate's degrees and trade-specific credentials. Most business leaders (98 percent) believe the term "college" means a four-year degree. Just 13 percent also think of a two-year associate's degree and only 10 percent of respondents said "college" includes career or technical credentials.
"The focus on college too often excludes the demand for those who hold two-year associate degrees and trade-specific credentials," said Stephen M. Wing, president of Corporate Voices for Working Families. "Despite the conventional wisdom that bachelor's degrees are critical to success, the job market of the future will demand a vast new supply of talented graduates of a diverse range of postsecondary programs, including those that are two years or less. Not recognizing the value of these degrees is hindering our efforts to meet the needs of employers."
Click here to read the full report.
Don't Fail Me: Why Would Be Engineers End Up as English Majors
From CNN's Education in America Series
In 2010, the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) published a report on Bachelor's Degree completion rates among students who declared majors in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) between 1971 and 2009. The study found an alarming number of low STEM degree completion rates across all racial groups. But, the study also revealed low overall completion rates for students who start in STEM as compared to their counterparts who enter college in non-STEM disciplines.
CNN's Education in America series took a closer look at this issue, finding that undergraduates across the country are either choosing to leave STEM before they graduate or struggle to complete their degrees in four years.
A New Agenda for Business in Improving STEM Education
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) is outlining the essential role business plays in the success of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, which it says is crucial to U.S. students' preparation for the future workforce and ensuring American economic health for future generations.
The Case for Being Bold: A New Agenda for Business in Improving STEM Education, an ICW report, calls on the American business community to use its credibility, political heft and its ultimate role as the employer of America's STEM talent to apply innovative and fresh thinking to the debate around academic standards, human capital and new school models. The Case for Being Bold outlines action steps businesses can take on advancing these issues.
"It is clear that if we are to re-ignite the fires of innovation that we, the business community, must be innovative," said Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education and current president of the U.S. Chamber's Forum for Policy Innovation. "Instead of continually reinventing the wheel, we must re-imagine our schools, revise how we recruit and train our teachers, and rethink the stale strategies that have stagnated academic achievement. If we do not dare to be bolder in STEM education, we risk losing even more ground globally."
The report comes at a time when results of American student assessments show continuing struggles to be proficient and competitive in STEM subjects when compared to international peers. Recently, the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam ranked U.S. students 25th in math and 17th in science literacy.
"While policymakers, educators, and business leaders have demonstrated an admirable concern for STEM education, current efforts on this front too often fail to acknowledge how severely most proposals are constrained by outdated, 19th century models of schooling and teaching. In The Case for Being Bold, we suggest some of the ways in which reformers might harness new tools, talent, and technologies to push transformative improvement," said Frederick M. Hess, co-author of the report and Director of the Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
For more information on action items, as well as a summary of report, click here.
Getting Young Americans on a Path to Employability
From the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard School of Education
In its most recent analysis, the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard School of Education says that despite decades of efforts to reform education, and billions of dollars of expenditures, the harsh reality is that America is still failing to prepare millions of its young people to lead successful lives as adults.
Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century contends that the country's national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. This strategy has appeared to produce only incremental gains in achievement and attainment, even as many other nations are leapfrogging the United States. In response, the report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.
This pathways system would be based on three essential elements. The first is the development of a broader vision of school reform that embraces multiple pathways to help young people successfully navigate the journey from adolescence to adulthood. The report contends that there is too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college. Yet only 30 percent of young adults successfully complete this preferred pathway.
Meanwhile, even in the second decade of the 21st century, most jobs do not require a bachelor's. The report notes that while the United States is expected to create 47 million jobs in the 10-year period ending in 2018, only a third of these jobs will require a bachelor's or higher degree. Almost as many jobs - some 30 percent - will only require an associate's degree or a post-secondary occupational credential.
Given these realities, the report argues that the country needs to broaden the range of high-quality pathways and include more emphasis on career counseling and high-quality career education, as well as apprenticeship programs and community colleges as viable routes to well-paying jobs.
The second essential element the report argues is that that employers should play a greatly expanded role in supporting the pathways system, and in providing more opportunities for young adults to participate in work-based learning and actual jobs related to their programs of study.
Thirdly, the analysis suggests that there needs to be a new social compact between society and young people with the goal that by the time young adults reach their mid-20s, they will be equipped with the education and experience they need to lead a successful life. Achieving this goal would require far bigger contributions from the nation's employers and governments.
"We are the only developed nation that depends so exclusively on its higher education system as the sole institutional vehicle to help young people transition from secondary school to careers, and from adolescence to adulthood," says Robert Schwartz, academic dean and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who heads the Pathways to Prosperity Project. "Unless we are willing to provide more flexibility and choice in the last two years of high school, and more opportunities for students to pursue program options that link work and learning, we will continue to lose far too many young people along the path to graduation," he says.
The report notes that even as many young adults are failing to earn a postsecondary degree, they have also been hit far harder than older adults by unemployment in the Great Recession. The percentage of teens and young adults who have jobs is now at its lowest level since the end of World War II. This has dire implications, according to the report, because employment in the teen and young adult years can have a positive impact on future prospects for employment and earnings.
The report was developed over two years and included both research and working closely with partners interested in the pathways challenge, including major corporations, leaders from K-12 and higher education, the non-profit community and government.
Funding for the Pathways Project has been provided by Accenture, the DeVry Foundation, The General Electric Foundation and the Pearson Foundation. Additional support was provided by the James Irvine Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
Since its founding in 1920, the Harvard Graduate School of Education has been training leaders to transform education in the United States and around the globe. Through its 13 master's programs, two doctoral programs, professional education institutes, and research projects, the Harvard Graduate School of Education prepares leaders in education and generates knowledge to improve student opportunity, achievement and success.