The U.S. Education Department announced today that they have awarded 16 states $9.8 million in grants to operate 25 Parent Training and Information (PTI) Centers for parents of students with disabilities. The centers works with parents to help them ensure that their children have access to entitled services.
In a statement to the press, Arne Duncan said: “Parent Centers are critical in helping to empower parents and families who have children with disabilities. These centers help parents understand the services to which their children are entitled and deserve under the law. They also are powerful resources in communities across the country.”
With the addition of these grants, the Education Department now funds 101 parent information centers. Centers in Washington include Open Doors for Multi Cultural Centers, Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP), and Washington PAVE.
Find the full list of award grantees here.
The Education Department has created a new website to help students and recent graduates understand and manage their debt. The goal of the site is to provide information about student loans in a way that is easy to process and simple to access. As college costs rise, students are taking out loans more and more to fill the gaps in cost uncovered by scholarships and their savings, Many students don’t have a plan to pay back the loans or know that there may be help for them in doing so.
The new site aims to provide this information in a straightforward way through a combination of interactive tools, infographics, videos and posts. The site is also optimized for mobile browsing, so the tech savvy can learn about their loans on their smartphones and tablets.
In an effort to keep the site fresh and user-friendly, the Education Department will be asking for comments via social media. They’ll also be hosting a conversation on Twitter tomorrow at 3pm PT interviewing @FAFSA to highlight some of the helpful new features that are available. You can follow along using hashtag #AskFAFSA.
Read more about the site’s features here. Visit the site at StudentAid.gov.
Federal and state governments spend roughly $13 billion a year on early education and care, and a new report from the Center for American Progress recommends ways to address the “conflicting expectations, misaligned system requirements, and programmatic firewalls” that come from the varied sources of early education funding.
The report states: “[A] lack of coordination means that our federal investments are neither operating as efficiently nor as effectively as possible. As a result we are missing the opportunity to increase the number of young children who enter kindergarten with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for school and lifelong success.”
It has ten main recommendations at the federal level to make early education funding more efficient and effective. These are:
- Partner with states to align early learning standards that define expectations for all early learning programs.
- Invest with states to build assessments and assessment systems that demonstrate standards are being met. Increase consistency, quality, and system-wide access to federally procured and federally required locally procured technical assistance.
- Implement a more consistent, state-of-the-art approach to high-quality professional development for existing staff and help determine the optimal set of skills and knowledge that should be imparted in preparation programs for early childhood program staff.
- Improve early childhood data and harmonize reporting requirements to help increase knowledge of inputs and outcomes.
- Promote the replication of successful strategies to build continuity from early childhood programs to kindergarten and continue to remove data and other bureaucratic barriers to successful continuity systems.
- Build more federal, state, and local capacity to meet the increasing demand for culturally and linguistically appropriate services for children who are dual-language learners.
- Close the gaps in universal developmental screening across all federally supported early learning or care programs.
- Require expanded early learning program participation as a means of boosting performance of failing elementary schools.
- Establish a permanent office that creates a common infrastructure to advance system reforms for both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.
Washington is already working to coordinate its early education efforts. Right now, three main organizations–the the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five Washington and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction–are trying to better understand barriers to capacity and coordination for early learning providers, community members, and government agencies. As part of that work, they are conducting a survey (comments are due by July 31).
Read more about the report here, read the full report here (PDF), and read about Washington’s efforts here.