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In a Notice of Final Priorities (NFP), the United States Department of Education (USDE) presented a final set of 16 Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs in May 2011. The set embraces a total of 50 priority areas, one or more of which the USDE may use in its discretionary grant programs.

 

This post explores several features of the 13 priority areas of the second four priorities for Advancing Key Cradle-to-Career Reforms. Earlier posts provided an overview of 21 statutory definitions and the 16 supplemental priorities and explored 14 priority areas for the first four priorities. Later posts will explore features of the remaining eight priorities and 23 priority areas. [Note: The cited priorities retain the sequence in the NFP.]

 

Bricks

 

I. Advancing Key Cradle-to-Career Educational Reforms:

The 13 priority areas within the second four supplemental priorities of this focus area will shape an applicant’s planning of program designs and its framing of project objectives. In any competition for a discretionary grant, the USDE may invite projects that focus on one or more of these areas.

 

Priority 5—Improving School Engagement, School Environment, and School Safety and Improving Family and Community Engagement:

The 5 priority areas for Priority 5—Improving School Engagement, School Environment, and School Safety and Improving Family and Community Engagement are:

  • Improving school engagement, which may include increasing the quality of relationships between and among administrators, teachers, families, and students and increasing participation in school-related activities
  • Improving the school environment, which may include improving the school setting related to student learning, safety, and health
  • Improving school safety, which may include decreasing the incidence of harassment, bullying, violence, and substance use
  • Improving parent and family engagement
  • Improving community engagement by supporting partnerships between local educational agencies, school staff, and one or more of: faith- or community-based organizations; institutions of higher education; minority-serving institutions or historically black colleges or universities; business or industry; or other Federal, State, or local government entities

 

Depending on which priority area(s) the USDE adopts, in planning a proposal under Priority 5, applicants may target improvements to its engagement of internal and/or external stakeholders. In doing so, they may need to consider how they will satisfy either or both of two new statutory definitions. Under Priority 5, applicants may also need to target school safety and/or school environment. Program designs are likely to need to identify specific activities, strategies, and objectives — as well as build partnerships — that focus on such priority areas. The priority also accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants.

 

Priority 6—Technology:

The one priority area for Priority 6—Technology is: Projects that are designed to improve student achievement or teacher effectiveness through the use of high-quality digital tools or materials, which may include preparing teachers to use the technology to improve instruction, as well as developing, implementing, or evaluating digital tools or materials

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 6, applicants may focus on improving classroom instruction and/or professional development for teachers, creating and using instructional technologies, and/or on evaluating those technologies. In their plans, applicants must bear in mind that the technologies are to be of high quality and are to be digital — rather than of lesser quality or non-digital. The priority accommodates a wide range of types of eligible applicants.

 

Priority 7—Core Reforms:

The one priority area for Priority 7—Core Reforms is: Projects conducted in States, local educational agencies, or schools where core reforms are being implemented.

 

Priority 7 also further characterizes such a project as one that is conducted:

  • In a State that has adopted K-12 State academic standards in English language arts and mathematics that build towards college- and career-readiness
  • In a State that has implemented a statewide longitudinal data system that meets all the requirements of the America Competes Act
  • In a local educational agency or school in which teachers receive student growth data on their current students and the students they taught in the previous year and these data are provided, at a minimum, to teachers of reading/language arts and mathematics in grades in which the State administers assessments in those subjects

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 7, applicants may propose a state-wide, district-wide, or school-wide project so long as they target at least two specific core subjects (reading/language arts and mathematics) and so long as their data systems satisfy certain statutory requirements. Data are to drive such reform projects. In addition, Priority 7 limits eligible applicants to serving only those places where core reforms are already underway.

 

Priority 8—Increasing Postsecondary Success:

The 6 priority areas for Priority 8—Increasing Postsecondary Success are:

  • Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students who are academically prepared for and enroll in college or other postsecondary education and training
  • Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students who persist in and complete college or other postsecondary education and training
  • Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students who enroll in and complete high-quality programs of study designed to lead to a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate
  • Increasing the number of individuals who return to the educational system to obtain a regular high school diploma; to enroll in college or other postsecondary education or training; to obtain needed basic skills leading to success in college or other postsecondary education or the workforce; or to enter, persist in, and complete college or rigorous postsecondary career and technical training leading to a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate
  • Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students who enroll in and complete graduate programs
  • Increasing the number and proportion of postsecondary students who complete college or other postsecondary education and training and who are demonstrably prepared for successful employment, active participation in civic life, and lifelong learning

 

In planning a proposal under Priority 8, with one exception, an applicant must focus its efforts on high-need students. In addition, among other outcomes, an applicant must measure and track outcomes related to: college enrollment; college completion; postsecondary degrees; postsecondary credentials; postsecondary certificates; graduate program enrollment; graduate program completion; employment; civic participation; and lifelong learning. For such outcomes, with one expansive exception, applicants must monitor and report both numbers and ratios. Again with a single exception, the priority areas for Priority 8 appear to favor institutions of higher education and/or workforce development agencies as eligible applicants.

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