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Federal Flash: Congress Puts Higher Education on the Fast Track

Legislation was introduced in the Senate to
give students a Fast Track to and Through College. The House Education Committee passed a rewrite
of the Higher Education Act. And both the Nation’s Report Card and ACT’s
annual report on college and career readiness show declines. [music] Hi, I’m Monica Almond and I’m joined by
Anne Hyslop. Let’s begin with Fast Track. Anne? Senators Maggie Hassan and Todd Young introduced
the bipartisan Fast Track to and Through College Act. The bill would fund competitive grants to
states to rethink the 12th grade by giving college-ready students the chance to either
graduate from high school early with a scholarship, or enroll in a full-time load of dual enrollment
or AP and IB courses that constitute the freshman year of college. To get a grant, states must also have policies
to ensure the credits would be fully transferable to a state’s public 2 and 4 year colleges
and universities. And, it would allow federal Pell Grants to
pay the cost of dual enrollment for students in these Fast Track pathways so more historically
underserved students can benefit. The bill is supported by us here at All4Ed,
Education Reform Now and several other organizations. More information on the legislation is available
at the link below. After three days of debate on nearly 50 amendments,
the House education committee passed the College Affordability Act on a party line vote. As we discussed on the last edition of federal
flash, the bill would increase funding for federal Pell Grants, offer free community
college through a new federal-state partnership, strengthen accountability in higher education,
and much more. Democrats and Republicans see the bill very
differently. Upon passing the legislation, Committee Chairman
Bobby Scott said, Quote: “A quality, college degree remains the surest path to financial
security and a rewarding career. Accordingly, we must fulfill the promise of
making higher education affordable for all students.” On the other hand, Virginia Foxx, the committee’s
leading Republican, said that the bill advances QUOTE: “the same tired idea of throwing
more money into the existing system and hoping that this time things will be different is
the very definition of insanity. Government overreach and unnecessary intervention
has contributed to a bloated postsecondary education sector at the expense of students.” The legislation now heads to the House floor,
where it is expected to pass by the end of the year. Last week, results were released for the National
Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card. Results are in for reading and math for 4th
and 8th grade students. The good news is that most racial/ethnic groups
scored higher in both subjects and at both grades in 2019 compared to the early 1990s. The bad news is that, compared to 2017 – the
most recent year for which we have test results – scores are either down or haven’t changed
for nearly all groups of students. 31 states showed a decline in 8th grade reading
between 2017 and 2019. The most concerning finding may be that gaps
are getting larger between high- and low-performing students. Broadly speaking, performance increased or
stayed the same between 2003 and 2009 for students of color and low-income students,
whether they were high performers or low performers. But between 2009 and 2019, performance has
consistently declined amongst the lowest-performing students and gone up for higher-performing
students. This chart from the Nation’s Report Card
summarizes this trend for 8th grade reading. More information is available at the link
below. Also last week, ACT released its annual report
on the Condition of College and Career Readiness. Among ACT test-takers, who made up over half
of the graduating class of 2019, 37 percent met at least three of the four ACT College
Readiness Benchmarks. One-third of tested graduates who took what
ACT calls a minimum core academic curriculum met all four of ACT’s college-ready benchmarks,
compared to only 16 percent of tested graduates who took a less rigorous course load. The ACT report highlights serious gaps in
college readiness. 47 percent of White students met three or
more college-ready benchmarks in 2019 compared to 23 percent of Hispanic students and 11
percent of Black students. Each of those percentages represents a decline
from 2015. You can read the full report at the link below. That’s all for today. For an alert when the next Federal Flash is
available, email us at [email protected] Thanks for watching.

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