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Dear Education Advocates:

Even though Congress has ground to a halt on education issues, NCLR is still working hard to take advantage of opportunities to improve education for Latino students!  Last month, the education team had the pleasure of hosting nearly 70 Affiliates in Chicago for a summit on best practices for after-school providers.  In addition, our policy staff has been busy traveling the country to educate others on the policy landscape here in Washington and on the importance of advocacy in local communities.  

While it may not be anyone’s favorite day, Tax Day came and went without much incident—but some were able to see beyond their personal tax obligation and celebrated their ability to provide for America’s future.  NCLR’s Liany Elba Arroyo recently became a mami, and her experience has sharpened her understanding of how public programs such as Head Start, public education, Pell Grants, and Community Health Centers are an investment in the children who need it most.  Read Liany’s blog post on the issue here.

This issue of LEARN takes a special look at the affordability of higher education and potential funding changes for hundreds of Head Start providers, as well as some exciting new research and a Common Core State Standards implementation guide.  

Sincerely,

The NCLR Education Policy and Programs Team


Early Childhood Education

Recompetition Begins for Head Start Providers

On April 19, the Department of Health and Human Services released the first round of Head Start grants for recompetition.  This new process is designed to weed out poorly performing Head Start programs by opening competition between existing and potential Head Start and Early Head Start providers to provide the best programming to children.  To aid Affiliates that provide Head Start services and could be concerned about the new evaluation system, NCLR held a webinar earlier last month with representatives from the Office of Head Start to inform Affiliates about the potential for redesignation and to get an idea about the grant process.  To learn more about the recompetition process, click here.

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K–12 Education

NCLR Begins In-Depth Work on Expanded Learning Opportunities

Did you know that more than 15 million children are unsupervised and alone between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.?  At the afterschool summit NCLR hosted last month, the education policy team engaged with practitioners and administrators on the implications of providing afterschool learning opportunities—and the consequences of allowing children to go unsupervised.  After sharing some preliminary findings with the participants, the policy team is excited to dive into more extensive research on expanded learning opportunities and how develop strategies for NCLR to be effective advocates for better expanded learning policies. 

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Higher Education

U.S. Department of Education Outlines New Measures of Postsecondary Success

On April 11, the U.S. Department of Education announced that they plan to change how data on college completion rates and other measures are collected, as recommended by the Committee on Measures of Student Success.  The Action Plan for Improving Measures of Postsecondary Success outlines how graduation rate reporting for postsecondary education will be expanded to take part-time students, transfer students, and students who have previously attended postsecondary education into account.  NCLR will continue to monitor this topic as processes and timelines for the implementation of the new measures are released. 

Keeping College Affordable

As millions of college students wrap up spring semester and the class of 2012 walks the stage, the thought of financing that valuable education looms overhead like a dark cloud.  As if college wasn’t costly enough, lawmakers and politicians are considering measures that could make college even more expensive for Latino students—everything from decreasing Pell Grant awards to raising interest rates on student loans.  NCLR believes that college should be affordable for all students, and as our own Raul Gonzalez writes in a recent blog post, young people shouldn't have to choose between a better education and manageable debt.

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Common Standards

NCLR Releases Common Core State Standards Implementation Guide

To ensure that the needs of Latino and English language learner (ELL) students are met with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), NCLR has released a publication titled Raising the Bar:  Implementing Common Core State Standards for Latino Student Success.  The guide outlines the importance of CCSS and the potential benefits of the new standards and provides questions for state education leaders to consider as they make their CCSS implementation plans.  NCLR encourages advocates to share this publication with their local education leaders as the transition to the CCSS is taking place. 

Understanding Language Launches Website

As a founding partner of the initiative, NCLR is pleased to announce the launch of the website for Understanding Language, which aims to heighten educator awareness of the critical role that language plays in the new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.  The website provides a variety of resources ranging from papers by national experts specially prepared for this initiative to an in-depth analysis of the language demands and opportunities contained in the new standards in English language arts and literacy, math, and the Next Generation Science Standards.

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Legislative Update 

Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation That Bans the Use of Federal Funds for Marketing

On April 18, Senators Kay Hagan and Tom Harkin introduced the “Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act.”  This bill would ban the use of all federal aid dollars for marketing, lobbying, advertisement, and recruitment.  The Senate has recently taken a closer look at for-profit colleges and their use of federal funding, and this bill takes aim at perceived ethical violations of federal aid dollars. 

Senate Focuses on College- and Career-Readiness

On April 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “Strategies for Accelerated Learning.”  The focus of the hearing was to highlight best practices in ensuring that students have the best opportunities to become college- and career- ready.  Panelists shared their experiences with various methods of accelerated learning, including Advanced Placement courses, dual high school and college enrollment, and early college programs.  NCLR is pleased that the Senate has taken on this important subject and urges lawmakers to make it easier for students to graduate high school ready for life in a globalized economy.

House Approves Student Loan Rate Bill

Congress has taken steps to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling to 6.8% beginning this July.  Although both political parties agree that a one-year extension of the subsidized Stafford Loan interest rates should be maintained at 3.4%, there is disagreement on how to offset the $5.9 billion cost.  On April 27, the House approved the “Interest Rate Reduction Act” that would take funds from a preventive care program created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law of 2010.  A proposal to fund the extension from House Democrats would have eliminated tax subsidies to big oil companies.  The Senate is expected to vote on their proposal when they return from recess next week and send it to a conference committee.  NCLR will keep monitoring this legislation as it moves forward.

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