October 2019 Issue

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October 2019 Issue

“My mission is to unleash a new era of innovation in education to drive unprecedented achievement. It will happen in public and private schools alike, and we should embrace that. Our obligation isn’t to any type of school – it’s to students. America’s students can lead the world, because America must continue to lead the world. It’s time we put them first, and that’s exactly what Education Freedom Scholarships will do.” 

— U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute on Education Freedom Scholarships.

2020–21 FAFSA Application Released

Do the FAFSA

The 2020–21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) launched on Oct. 1. New and returning students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. To assist students and parents in the process, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been sharing tips @FAFSA, while new Homeroom blogs note “7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2020‑21 FAFSA® Form” and “11 Common FAFSA® Mistakes.” 

New Features to Online FAFSA® Form and MyStudentAid App

The Department announced that it has added new features to the online FAFSA form and myStudentAid mobile application. These include the following updates:

  • The FAFSA.gov website has been synchronized with the myStudentAid mobile app’s myFAFSA component, allowing users to easily switch between platforms. This change promotes an integrated customer experience,
  • Customers who submit a FAFSA form can view their Student Aid Report — with the Expected Family Contribution, the number that schools use to determine a student’s financial aid eligibility — via the mobile app’s myFAFSA component.
  • FSA made changes to the myFAFSA signature process, based on user feedback, making it easier and clearer. The myStudentAid mobile app also offers checklists to guide students and parents through next steps in the student aid process. Furthermore, students and parents can enable push notifications in the mobile app to get important reminders and updates from FSA.
  • Users will benefit from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which securely transfers students’ and parents’ financial information into the FAFSA form, which is mobile-friendly and will fit the screen size and shape of any device.
  • As part of ongoing efforts to enhance privacy protection, when students, parents, or preparers log in to FAFSA.gov using the student’s Social Security number, the number will be masked, as it currently is on the myStudentAid mobile app.

Education Freedom Scholarships

DeVos at AEI

On Oct.1, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Secretary DeVos offered remarks and participated in a discussion with AEI’s Rick Hess and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on the administration’s Education Freedom Scholarship proposal. This proposal would provide a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs that empower families to choose the learning environment and style that best meets their students’ unique needs. Companion bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, and Counselor Conway, urging Congress to act, declared that President Trump was ready to sign the legislation. Following the secretary’s remarks and small group discussion, a panel with state leaders from Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee discussed the ways in which they are rethinking education to better serve students and how Education Freedom Scholarships could support those efforts. 

"Making It: Latino Students' Pathways to College" Documentary Screening

Movie Documentary

On Oct. 9, the Department and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics hosted a documentary screening of "Making It: Latino Students' Pathways to College." It was followed by a panel discussion on college access and supporting Hispanic students in their postsecondary journey from high school through college. It featured panelists from Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, Cesar Chavez Academy High School in Detroit, and Michigan State University's Migrant Student Services.

2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools

National Blue Ribbon Schools

On Sept. 26, via video, Secretary DeVos announced 362 schools as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at the highest levels or where progress is being made on closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Chief state school officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Nov.14 and 15. In its 37-year history, the program has bestowed this coveted award on more than 9,000 schools.

Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award

In a press release, blog post, and video, Secretary DeVos called for nominations for the inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award. This award, established by President Trump’s May 2019 Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce, will be presented each year to two educators — one at the elementary level, and one at the secondary level — who instill in their students the knowledge, skills, and passion for cybersecurity and related subjects. Recipients will embody the expertise and dedication of educators who are critical to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. Educators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Outlying Areas, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Department of Defense Education Activity are eligible to apply or be nominated by Jan. 31, 2020.

Department Grants Awarded

The Department announced several competitive grant awards, including

Money Circle Toolkit

The Money Circle Toolkit is a new financial education tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that helps people understand how family and friends influence their financial decisions. It features three interactive exercises for educators to use to begin conversations that help people stay on track for their financial goals. The toolkit can help identify money influences in the family; spot different money attitudes within a family; and highlight financial relationships the educator and client might not otherwise notice. Based on empirical research on families and money, human-centered design, and extensive user testing with educators, the Money Circle Toolkit contributes an important new tool to the evidence-based practice of financial education.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

On Sept. 27, President Trump commemorated National Hispanic Heritage Month at a White House reception.

The Department released videos recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month (Spanish). In addition, videos were shared featuring Department staff celebrating the contributions of Hispanic Americans and emphasizing how Education Freedom Scholarships could empower Hispanic families (1 and 2).

CTE Data Story

The Department recently released an interactive data story that illustrates career and technical education (CTE) in U.S. high schools and outcomes for students who participate in these programs. The data shows that CTE participation — especially focusing one’s studies by taking two or more CTE classes within the same career cluster — is positively correlated with both future employment and future earnings. Yet, while 77 percent of students take at least one CTE class while in high school, only 37 percent of participants focus their studies on a single career cluster.

Honoring Principals

Honoring Principals

On Oct.11, Secretary DeVos hosted this year’s outstanding class of National Association of Elementary School Principals’  National Distinguished Principals at the White House complex. White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Doug Hoelscher welcomed the guests, followed by a panel discussion with Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan and Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump, on education priorities, moderated by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Aimee Viana. 

Honoring STEM Teachers

On Oct.15, President Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The recipients were honored this month in Washington, D.C., and met with Secretary DeVos.

Student Voices

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics is sharing students' experiences in their first year of college. Each week, a new story will be posted.

Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship Program

The Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) Program provides students with educational opportunities to gain real-world, hands-on research experience with the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy. The MLEF program was created in 1995 with the goal of improving opportunities for under-represented and minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. All eligible candidates are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is Jan.12, 2020.

Progress Report on STEM Education Strategic Plan

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a progress report on the federal implementation of the STEM Education Strategic Plan.

K–12 Practitioners Circle

The K–12 Practitioners Circle is designed to make your search for National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and select Department K–12 resources fast, easy, and productive. Select your area from the menu to see those resources of interest. NCES, located within the Department and IES, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. 

Fall 2019 Interns

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics welcomes their two interns for the fall 2019 semester.

  • Natalia Lopez, Georgetown University
  • Rodolfo Salazar, Stanford University