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AAE Federal Update August 6, 2012
posted by: Cindy Omlin | August 06, 2012, 08:54 PM   

Department of Education Announces August is "Connected Educators Month"

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has
announced August 2012 is "Connected Educator Month," a month-long exploration and celebration of online communities and networks dedicated to broadening and deepening educator participation in learning and sharing. The push toward connecting through technology is designed to bring online community and education leaders together to move towards a more fully connected and collaborative profession.

The National Education Technology Plan recently articulated the need for teachers and leaders to be highly connected to the content, tools, resources, peers, experts, supportive problem solvers and perhaps most importantly, to their students and their communities. By encouraging educators to connect online, educators can have unprecedented access to the tools they need.

The month will be celebrated with four weeks-plus of online events and activities, including webinars and discussions on how to integrate technology into the everyday lives of teachers.

Click here to learn more about "Connected Educators Month" and to access achieved resources and webinars.

Department of Education Focuses on Navigating Student Loans via New Website

This summer, the Department of Education and the Obama administration have renewed their focus on higher education issues by helping stakeholders navigate the student loan process. At the end of July, the Department announced a new, streamlined website and several social media tools that will make it easier for students and families to navigate the financial aid process and make informed decisions about paying for college.
is the initial step in a multi-phase project to offer a "one-stop shop" where consumers can access federal student aid information, apply for federal aid, repay student loans, and navigate the college decision-making process. Available in English and Spanish and fully accessible on smartphones and tablets, the website combines content and interactive tools from several websites and features instructional videos and information graphics to help answer frequent questions about financial aid.

Also, the Department has revamped its federal student aid-related social media sites, including
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to provide more options for students to learn about student aid. These resources, along with the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, introduced earlier this month, are the agency's response to President Obama's summer directive to enhance online and mobile resources for loan repayment options and debt management.

Congressional Subcommittee Hearing: "Discussing the Value of Alternative Teacher Certification Programs"

The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), last week held a hearing entitled, "Education Reforms: Discussing the Value of Alternative Teacher Certification Programs."

During the hearing, witnesses and members discussed ways certain federal policies such as "Highly Qualified Teacher" requirements can hamper schools' ability to hire the best teachers. Instead of focusing on a teacher's ability to achieve progress in the classroom, these prescriptive requirements place undue emphasis on credentials and tenure, thereby limiting the pool of educators who are able to teach in our nation's neediest schools.

As witness testimony confirmed, some of the most exceptional educators did not enter the classroom through traditional certification routes. In videos
released by the committee, students from New York's Democracy Prep Charter High School describe some of the most effective teachers they've had. "I feel that alternative certified teachers and non-certified teachers are capable of teaching well. Our chemistry teacher has a degree in Chemistry but is not certified. Her passion and knowledge is contagious," remarked one student.

AAE members are also in agreement that degreed professionals should have an easier path to the classroom.
According to the 2011-2012 member survey, AAE teachers overwhelmingly support new policies and programs designed to develop, attract, and sustain effective teachers ranging from STEM efforts to intense training programs.

Click here to read full testimony from the hearing.

New Report: U.S. Lags Behind International Competitors

Despite year after year of increased spending in the United States, students from nearly twenty countries are outperforming their American counterparts at record levels. According to a new
report by the Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance, U.S. students are falling further behind and are not catching up to their peers in other industrialized countries.

found that students in Latvia, Chile, and Brazil are making academic gains three times faster than American students, while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania are improving at twice the rate. Based on estimates, the gains made by students in those 11 countries equate to about two years of learning.

The report concluded that while the United States has not lost academic ground, our gains pale in comparison to international strides. Deemed "hardly remarkable by world standards" of progress more countries are improving at a rate significantly faster than that of the United States.

Researchers examined data for 49 industrialized countries in the comprehensive report. Further, the study found little correlation between increased per-pupil spending and gains in test scores despite record spending. Models suggest that countries experiencing strong gains are often spending less than half of what America spends per-pupil.

Click here
to view the report including information on state-specific academic gains.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE.

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