ED Review (03/20/20)

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March 20, 2020


Coronavirus Task Force

Today, in his daily press conference with members of the Coronavirus Task Force, President Trump announced that Secretary DeVos was taking some additional actions to support students, educators, and schools impacted by COVID-19. 

First, the Secretary announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year.  Upon a proper request, the Department will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students because of the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.  Many states have closed some or all schools.  Therefore, any state unable to assess its students may seek a waiver from federal testing requirements by completing a form.  At the Secretary’s direction, the Department has dramatically streamlined the application process to make it as simple as possible for state leaders who are grappling with many complex issues. 

Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in the statewide accountability system because of the ongoing national emergency. 

Second, the Secretary announced that Federal Student Aid (FSA) is executing on the President’s promise to provide student loan relief to tens of millions of borrowers during the national emergency.  All borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days.  In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months to allow them greater flexibility during the national emergency.  This will allow borrowers to temporarily stop their payments without worrying about accruing interest. 

The Secretary has also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one.  The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020.  To request this forbearance, borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone. 

And, the Secretary has authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020, or who becomes more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency. 

Some borrowers may want to continue making payments, like those seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or those enrolled in a repayment plan with a manageable monthly payment.  For borrowers continuing to make payments, the full amount of their payment will be applied to the principal amount of their loan once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid.  The Department is working closely with Congress to ensure all student borrowers, including those in income-driven repayment plans, receive needed support at this time. 

A borrower who has experienced a change in income can always contact their loan servicer to discuss lowering their monthly payment. 



Over the last two weeks, the White House, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies have released a significant amount of guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  Many of the key documents are listed below.  The Department continues to update its COVID-19 (Coronavirus) information and resources web page with the most current information, and any questions for the Department may be directed to COVID-19@ed.gov. 

General Information –

Resources for Elementary and Secondary Schools –

Resources for Higher Education Institutions –

Moreover, the Department briefed Chief State School Officers on March 12 (see readout) and will brief K-12 educators later today. 


Ad Council

President Trump recently announced a new partnership with the Ad Council, major media networks, and digital platforms to communicate accurate and timely information directly to the American people.  This partnership will benefit high-risk populations and the general public with public service announcements (PSAs) around social distancing, personal hygiene, and mental health.  The following will be created as a result of this partnership. 

  • First Lady Melania Trump, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and other Administration officials will appear in national broadcast PSAs that communicate the most important ways Americans can protect themselves and those most at risk.
  • NBCUniversal will create a series of videos and graphics, available in English and Spanish, to inform high-risk populations about the steps they can take to protect themselves and to inform the public how to help stop of the spread of Coronavirus.
  • ViacomCBS is leveraging its portfolio to deliver multi-channel, multi-platform PSA campaigns that educate audiences around public health imperatives related to COVID-19.  In close collaboration with the Ad Council, Entertainment and Youth Brands led by MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, CMT, and VH1 launched #AloneTogether, a national social and talent-led campaign that educates audiences on the importance of social distancing and drives unity through entertainment.  Available in English and Spanish, the campaign will also be tailored and supported by CBS, Nickelodeon, BET, Awesomeness, Pluto TV, and Showtime.  CBS is rolling out a “We’re In This Together” campaign that will include essential public health messages.  Nickelodeon is developing PSA content on appropriate topics for children, such as hand washing, and sharing educational library content for children who are home from school.
  • iHeartMedia will support messaging around social distancing and high-risk populations, among other important COVID-19-related topics, across their network of stations.
  • ABC/Walt Disney Television will promote priority messaging for parents and families for distribution across their channels and platforms. 

The PSAs will direct audiences to Coronavirus.gov.  PSAs and content will air and run during time and space donated by the media and coordinated by HHS and CDC.  Visit Coronavirus.AdCouncilKit.org for media assets. 


Since 1983, the President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP) has bestowed recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence.  School principals determine the number of qualifying students based on selection criteria and verify orders for awards.  There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria. Students receive a certificate and letter signed by the President and the Secretary of Education.  Last year, nearly 2.25 million elementary, middle, and high school students from over 25,000 schools were recognized under PEAP.  (Note: A list of 2019 PEAP participating schools by state is posted online.) 


The Department’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is pleased to announce its Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Fast Facts infographic initiative.  IDEA Fast Facts enables OSEP to share  IDEA data in a new and interactive way.  It captures data from the 12 data collections authorized under IDEA Section 618 into visual representations with the intent to present the data both quickly and clearly.  The first IDEA Fast Facts presents data on students identified with autism.  The data presented was collected through the child count, environmental environments, discipline, and exiting data collections. 


  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the national Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) for the 2017-18 school year was 85.3%, an increase of 0.7 percentage points from 2016-17.  The ACGR calculation identifies a cohort of first-time ninth-graders in a particular school year and adjusts this number by adding any students who transfer into the cohort after ninth-grade and subtracting any students who transfer out, move to another country, or pass away.  (Note: A previous NCES blog post explains the difference between the ACGR and the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate [AFGR]).
  • In a recent Federal Register notice, the Secretary announced six priorities for discretionary grant programs that she may use in Fiscal Year 2020 and later years to expand the Department’s flexibility to give priority to: (1) applicants with varying experience in administering federal education funds, (2) applicants proposing to serve rural communities, (3) applicants that demonstrate a rationale for their proposed projects, and (4) applicants proposing to collect data after the grant’s project period.
  • The Department is inviting applications under the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which provides funding to school districts to support magnet schools under an approved, required, or voluntary desegregation plan.  Under the ESEA, the program prioritizes the creation and replication of evidence-based programs and schools that seek to reduce, eliminate, or prevent minority group isolation by taking into account socioeconomic diversity.  The deadline for applications is May 26.
  • Last week, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan visited schools in New Hampshire (video), and OSEP Director Laurie VanderPloeg visited a Kalamazoo, Michigan, charter school serving older students (ages 16-22) who have previously dropped out or are at risk of not graduating on time (video).
  • On March 11, the Department of Labor published a final rule to help expand apprenticeships across the country by establishing a system for advancing the development of high-quality, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs. 


“The White House Task Force meets every day and continually updates guidelines based on the fast-evolving situation that this has become all over the world….  It’s incredible what’s happened in such a short period of time.  On the guidelines of the task force, the new modeling conducted by Dr. Birx, and our consultation with governors, we’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now.  We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it, and that’s what we are.  Therefore, my Administration is recommending that all Americans -- including the young and healthy -- work to engage in schooling from home when possible.  Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people.  Avoid discretionary travel.  And avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts.  If everyone makes…these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation, and we will defeat the virus.”  

-- President Donald Trump (3/16/20), in remarks during a press briefing on COVID-19, announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days 


Save the date!  On April 23, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and NCES will livestream the release of the 2018 Nation’s Report Cards in Civics, Geography, and U.S. History.  Pre-register today for the event, which will present highlights in the three subjects and feature distinguished speakers who will share strategies, initiatives, and resources that can strengthen and improve education in these areas. 

The Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) is hosting regional Digital Equity Summits this spring and summer in six states.  The summits will bring together state and local education leaders and community collaborators to identify strategies, connect resources, and explore partnership opportunities to address local challenges concerning broadband access, affordability, and use for students at school and home. 

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