Issue 244 - OCTAE Connection - February 9, 2016

OCTAE Newsletter

February 9, 2016

President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address Tackles Affordable Higher Education for All

In President Obama’s State of the Union message, delivered before a joint session of Congress on Jan. 12, he urged Congress to take action on his education agenda while noting actions and improvements that have been made on his watch. Two items stood out – universal prekindergarten and two years of free community college for responsible students.  In addition, the president indicated his continuing interest in increasing the number of high-quality mathematics, science, and technology courses available to all students and in teacher recruitment and training. 

These emphases follow on the heels of the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — the Every Student Succeeds Act — that gives legs to the Obama administration’s desire to promote early-childhood programs and the STEM fields. As the president pointed out, “The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early-childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering.” Looking to the future, the president said, “In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.” 

At the postsecondary level, the president’s emphasis was on free community college for responsible students and on more college affordability.  “[W]e have to make college affordable for every American.  Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red.”  Noting that his administration has already taken steps to reduce student loan payments to 10 percent of the borrower’s income, the president urged action to “cut the cost of college.  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.”  In addition, President Obama proposed to continue to simplify the financial aid process and provide more information to students and parents about students’ higher-education options and the financial aid available to them. 

More detailed information about the president’s education initiatives and plans will become available with the release of the FY 2017 budget later this year. 

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President Obama Signs 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill: Includes Increased Funding for Education and Training Programs

In a recent article, CLASP, the nonpartisan advocacy and resource organization for people with low incomes, summarized highlights from the House Appropriation Committee’s omnibus funding bill for FY 2016. It highlighted key programs aimed at low-income adults and youths in the areas of workforce development and postsecondary education, as well as changes to the tax code supporting working families and students. 

They include the following 

      Support for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs:

  • An increase of $39 million in WIOA Title I-adult funding for states and local areas to offer career services, job training, and work-based learning opportunities, giving priority to low-income adult populations with barriers to employment
  • An increase of $42 million in WIOA Title I-youth funding for states and local areas to implement effective employment, education, and youth development strategies for vulnerable youths in highly distressed communities, particularly those who are out of school
  • An increase of $13 million for WIOA Title II adult education/literacy grants to states to help the 36 million Americans with low basic skills strengthen their English language and education levels. This will allow them to “take advantage of emerging economic opportunities, support the educational and skill achievement of parents and family members, improve health and financial literacy, and participate fully in society.”  

      Investments for disadvantaged and out-of-school youths:

  • $84.5 million provided for the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program and a $1 million increase in Job Corps funding to help out-of-school youths earn secondary and postsecondary credentials
  • The bill maintains the authority for Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) in discretionary programs in Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies and expands P3, including discretionary programs in the U.S. departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development.  Braiding and blending federal funding streams provides states and localities with an opportunity to develop innovative approaches to better serve disconnected youths.
  • The AmeriCorps State and National program is funded at $386 million.
  • $14.9 billion provided for Title I Education for the Disadvantaged—Grants to Local Educational Agencies to improve education for low-income students 

Funding improvements to assist low-income students in postsecondary education and earn while they learn initiatives:

  • Full funding for Pell Grants for the 2016–17 academic year expanded to a $5,915 maximum amount
  • $90 million to expand and launch apprenticeship models and fund innovative apprenticeship approaches under the National Apprenticeship Act    
  • Allows students to receive the full Pell award amount under the “ability to benefit” provision and defines “eligible career pathway program” to align with the definition in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
  • Level funding for Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants
  • Level funding for Perkins basic state grant program to support the nation’s high schools, technical centers, and community colleges in meeting employer demands for a high-skilled workforce 

      Tax-related provisions supporting low-income workers and families:

Additional information on the spending bill can be found at the following links:

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FSA Accepting Experimental Sites Applications

Federal Student Aid announced at its 2015 annual conference that it continues to accept applications for several experiments under the Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). 

What Is the ESI?

According to FSA’s website, “Congress authorized the Experimental Sites Initiative under section 487A(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. This initiative—or "experiments," as they are frequently called—tests the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for participating institutions disbursing Title IV student aid. Under these experiments, the Department of Education waives specific statutory or regulatory requirements for the postsecondary institutions, or consortia of institutions, approved to participate in the experiments. By contrasting the results achieved with the flexibilities with results under current regulations, the Department has data to support changes to regulations and statute. The outcomes of experiments have the potential to benefit all postsecondary institutions and the students they serve.”

Authorized experiments include the following:

  • Pell Grants Experiments (for students with bachelor’s degrees to enroll in career programs and for short-term training programs)      
  • Prior-Learning Assessment                   
  • Limited Direct Assessment
  • Competency-Based Education                         
  • Federal Work Study for Near-Peer Counseling
  • Second Chance Pell                                           
  • Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnership
  • Dual Enrollment

 Where Can I Find More Information?

To find out more about the ESI, including how to apply and a listing of approved participants, visit In addition, a presentation explaining many of these experiments can be found at

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OCTAE Welcomes New Staff

Kim Ford

Kim R. Ford, Deputy Assistant Secretary

OCTAE’s Office of the Assistant Secretary is happy to welcome Kim R. Ford as the deputy assistant secretary for management and planning. Ford participates fully with OCTAE’s assistant secretary in the overall leadership, management, and direction of career and technical education, adult education, and community college initiatives. She also oversees and coordinates the responsibilities for operations and management related to planning, budget and resource allocation, organizational performance, technology strategy, and continuous improvement and innovation. 

Previously, Ford served as the dean of workforce development and lifelong learning at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC). There, she provided leadership and direction for all programs related to and associated with workforce development, career and technical education, and continuing education. At UDC-CC, Ford promoted an environment of student success focused on building community, instituting feedback loops, and helping students transition to four-year colleges and universities. She also secured federal, local and private funding to support the work of her division. 

Prior to joining UDC-CC, Ford served in the White House Recovery Implementation Office, which was responsible for implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). There, she directed working relationships between the Office of the Vice President and eight federal agencies on the distribution of $350 billion dollars for ARRA programs. While at the White House, Ford also coordinated the neighborhood revitalization initiative for the Department of Homeland Security headquarters’ consolidation at Saint Elizabeth’s Campus in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood. To so, she led a working group that focused on the following three key areas: ensuring that residents have access to employment and contracting opportunities; developing homeland security academies in the neighboring middle and high schools; and developing the traditionally underserved area into a vibrant part of the city. 

Ford holds a bachelor’s degree in international business from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania..

Sean Addie a

Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education

OCTAE’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL) welcomes Sean Addie as the new director of correctional education. Addie was previously employed at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, where he worked with the states of North Carolina and Michigan on the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project, a five-year initiative to expand access to higher education to inmates and those recently released. Addie also provided technical assistance through the Bureau of Justice Assistance-funded Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education project, designed to increase the participation of incarcerated individuals in high-quality postsecondary educational programs during and after prison. Additional responsibilities at Vera included leading the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and assisting the city of Durham, North Carolina with the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program promoting community engagement and crime reduction. 

Prior to joining Vera, Addie worked at a national juvenile justice policy and research organization on several Department of Justice-funded projects examining juvenile court data, policy, and practice. He also worked on the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative in Illinois, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. 

Addie earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Washington and Jefferson College and holds a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in the states of New York and Pennsylvania..

Calonie Gray

Dr. Calonie Gray, Education Research Analyst

Calonie Gray joins OCTAE as an education research analyst in PRES.  Before coming to ED, Gray was co-owner of South Florida research and evaluation firm Q-Q Research Consultants. In that capacity, she led and managed the firm’s applied research and program evaluation efforts, which included work for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Food for the Poor, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Before launching Q-Q Research Consultants, Gray was a research analyst with the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Florida, which, coincidentally, is one of the FY 2014 Performance Partnership Pilots. Prior to that, she worked on several clinical trials, including serving as coordinator for the Guided Intervention for Real Life Skills Project, a federally funded study that examined an intervention targeting substance abuse and intimate partner violence among adolescent girls. Last year, Legacy Magazine, a supplement to the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel, recognized Gray as one of South Florida’s “Top 40 Under 40 Black Leaders.” She has a doctorate in developmental psychology and a master’s in counseling psychology, both from Florida International University, and she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

When she’s not working, Gray enjoys traveling and exploring cuisines from around the world. She loves outdoor activities and spending time with her family. While in D.C., Gray looks forward to continuing to engage in mentoring activities for young women.

Tasia Harris

Tasia Harris, Confidential Assistant

OCTAE welcomes Tasia Harris as confidential assistant. Harris is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied public policy and sociology with a concentration on educational equity. Her undergraduate thesis focused on the intersection of gentrification and K-12 student achievement. Before coming to ED, Tasia was a teaching fellow with Breakthrough Collaborative in San Francisco, supported the operations work of public charter schools in New York City, and worked as an intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans..