The Teachers Edition

May 21, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

President sits on Panel

In a panel discussion about poverty in America, President Obama said, “I think that we are at a moment…in part because of a growing awareness of inequality in our society, where it may be possible not only to refocus attention on poverty, but maybe to bridge some of the gaps that have existed and the ideological divides that have prevented us from making progress.” 


Bridging Ideology & Making Progress

At Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the National Association of Evangelicals, President Obama spoke on a panel with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum about solving problems of poverty. His co-panelists included E.J. Dionne, Robert Putnam and Arthur Brooks.

Obama argued that the country has been stuck in a false debate, with straw men on both sides that have convinced us there is nothing we can do to alleviate poverty. He pointed to programs that do work to create ladders of possibility for the poor and urged us all to “guard against cynicism” and harness the communal will to do something constructive. Learn more. Watch a video of the panel discussion.

While the President addressed the topic of poverty and opportunity, he referred to Putnam's new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, which looks at the growing gap between rich kids and poor kids. America is at a point at which it can and should focus on the widening economic gap and come together to help the poor, he said. 

disparities in preschool


Not a Self-Correcting Problem

Even though many American classrooms are more diverse since our highest Court declared segregated schooling unconstitutional, sixty years later, many American schools with large minority populations continue to short change students. 

Many high-minority school districts receive significantly less state and local funding per pupil than low-minority districts. 

Black students are still significantly more likely to attend high-poverty schools than white students. They also receive instruction from the least-qualified teachers. Studies find the disparities start as early as preschool. Read more about the gap that continues to persist (Klein, Huffington Post). 

Teach to Lead update

KEEPING APPRECIATION REAL. Teacher Appreciation Week has ended, so now is a good time to go beyond the week-long outpouring of cards, flowers, lunches, tweets and hugs. The American Institutes for Research's (AIR) Gretchen Weber says it’s time to “Let teachers lead in authentic roles—as mentors,  curriculum writers, peer evaluators, data coaches, team leads, action researchers, and many other duties that come with recognition, titles, authority, release from some instructional time – and, often, extra compensation." Learn more in AIR's new blog, Real Teacher Appreciation: Let Them Lead.

SUBMIT A TEACHER LEADERSHIP IDEA FOR THE TEACH TO LEAD D.C. SUMMIT (JULY 23-24). Have an idea to advance teacher leadership in your school, state or district? Educators can submit ideas for the Regional Teacher Leadership Summit (in Washington D.C.) through 11:59 PM ET June 5. 

At the Teach to Lead Regional Leadership Summit, teachers from around the country will learn how to create opportunities for teacher leadership where they teach. They will get opportunities to write a plan, network with supporter organizations, and gain important skills and feedback on their leadership idea. Submit an idea for the D.C. Summit.

TEACH-TO-LEAD WORK THRIVES WITH 75! The Center for American Progress and Chalkboard Project have joined the list of Teach to Lead official supporters bringing the latest count to 75. Check out the complete roster


Editor's note: The following is part of a series reporting on excellent African American educators. Educators were selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.


Celebrating African American Educators

Justin K. Robinson is a 7th Grade teacher at Samuel P. Massie Academy (Forestville, Md.). He is also a Policy Fellow and Lead Teacher for TeachPlus.

Why and how did you decide upon a career in education?

In college I served as a director for the David Walker Scholars Program (an afterschool mentoring program) where I learned about the needs that exist within our public schools. Given the gift of a high-quality, free and public education, I felt compelled to leverage my own life experiences to directly impact our youth.

What is the one thing you most celebrate about your students?

As a middle school teacher, I would have to say I most celebrate my students’ complexity. My students are simultaneously inquisitive and content, learned and naive, courageous and meek. I love that every day is a surprise and I am blessed to be a part of their journey of self-discovery.

In what ways do you encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning and development of African American students?

Parents, family members, and other caring adults should support the learning and development of African-American students in two ways.  We can communicate with our students—listen to their concerns AND share our wisdom. Also, we have to stay fully engaged in their whereabouts and activities—minimizing negative influences.

planting roses


Getting a Head Start

Fifty years ago on May 18, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood in the White House Rose Garden to announce the creation of Project Head Start, a federal effort designed to ensure at-risk children across the nation received a quality early childhood experience. On Monday, in honor of Head Start’s 50th anniversary, teachers, children and parents at Head Starts from coast to coast planted rose bushes.   

In honor of the occasion, the White House released a Presidential Proclamation reminding us that investing in the future of all our children, strengthens the economy, bolsters our communities, and gives every young person the chance to build a better life. Be sure to check out the Head Start Timeline and Historic Video, as well as the new Head Start blog from Office of Head Start Director Blanca Enriquez and an Op Ed by Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell.

math video


Math Videos

Understanding numbers and operations, ratios, and proportions is part of the process for building a solid foundation in mathematics. A new series of videos from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Hunt Institute helps enhance understanding of the mathematics skills students need to succeed in college, life and careers.  

The series starts with the early grades and continues through higher level math. It includes interviews with elementary classroom teachers, secondary mathematics teachers, instructional leaders and coaches, principals, parent leaders, national mathematics experts, and college mathematics professors and researchers.   

Did you know?

Nurturing Teaching Talent

98% of U.S. teachers reported receiving feedback following observations of their teaching–placing our system within the top three countries, compared with 79% of teachers internationally. 

The Who and How of Instructional Feedback, 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), American Institutes for Research, Education Policy Center


Making Miracles 

Arriving from one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world, with no English skills at all, student Jeimy Alfaro found English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher Tara Hefner a compassionate "angel" who helped her make it through high school when all the odds were against her. Giving back, she nominated her teacher for the Fredericksburg (Va.) Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher Contest." Her letter would rise to the top of more than 7,000 entries submitted to stores across the country. Read and tear up over this inspiring story (Davis, Freelance Star). 

Common Core Connections


Do people really equate the Common Core State Standards with Voldemort

According to Maine Teacher of the Year Jennifer Dorman, there are some irrational fears driving some of the pushback on the new standards. For Dorman, however, getting students to delve deeper and to apply higher-level thinking skills has left her with "a feeling of rejuvenation." She highlights some new techniques and skills (Dorman, Bangor Daily News). 


"Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty's curse, and not its creators. Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark."

(President Lyndon B. Johnson announcing Project Head Start, 1965)

Quote to Note

the New Math


State Tests Don't Jibe 

with Nation's Report Card 

According to a new study analyzing differences between state and national reports of math and reading proficiency, state scores are misleading students and families about how well students are prepared--often by huge margins.

• Over half of states’ discrepancies in state vs. 2013 NAEP results are more than 30 percentage


• Too many states are saying students are “proficient” when they are not actually well prepared.

The report also points out that a number of states have been working to address proficiency gaps; this year, even more will do so by administering the college- and career-ready-aligned Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments. Learn more (Achieve).



Watch TV Girls 

Excel in STEM

Research shows there is a link between the small number of females in science featured in the media and the low rate of girls pursuing STEM careers. That's one of the reasons that the makers of a new Disney Junior TV series were careful to consult experts at Google and NASA last year for a new series about Miles, a space adventure-seeking boy, his smart sister who codes and mother who drives the family spaceship. 

The teams met with experts to help construct the character of mom, Phoebe, and based her on astronaut Yvonne D. Cagle. Miles’s smart older sister Loretta uses computer code to solve problems, but she isn't portrayed as a stereotypical loner, instead she works on teams, as most coders do. 

Educating the media about STEM is important to influencing students for future career choices. Learn more (Kang, Washington Post). 

TAF and PAF news

MARYANN WOODS-MURPHY (2011 Washington Fellow) was named a member of the National Education Association Foundation Board of Directors. 

america achieves


Seeking Outstanding 

Teachers and Principals

America Achieves is accepting applications for the America Achieves State Educator Voice Fellowships (2015-2016 school year) in Colorado, Michigan and New York through July 3

The goal of the Fellowship is to elevate the public’s perception of the teaching profession by empowering outstanding teachers and principals to elevate their voices in public conversations about teaching and learning, assuming prominent leadership roles, and influencing education policies. 

Learn more about the Colorado Fellowship and apply to the program. Learn about and apply for Michigan or New York. Nominate an outstanding educator who you know in one of these three states. 

Educators who are selected to join the Fellowship will receive a stipend as well as numerous other opportunities, recognition and support. For questions, contact Charlie Cummings at America Achieves


What Shanker Knew

Verbal ability and reading comprehension play a key role in student learning, says Al Shanker in a re-released 1974 New York Times article that is featured on Shanker blog. It speaks to the importance of early childhood education and maintains that "there is considerable evidence that the critical point for verbal education in schools as they are presently organized is before age 10" (Albert Shanker Institute). 


Good Stuff for Eduwonks 


Since 1962, the Digest of Education Statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Institute of Education Sciences, has provided statistical information covering the broad field of education from prekindergarten through graduate school.


The newest edition is now available. It contains data on a variety of topics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons. 


Resources for Culturally Diverse Classrooms

The strategies, examples and activities in these resources engage not only English language learners (ELLs) but also other students and families:  

  1. Purposeful Partner Talk to Close the Academic Language Gap features strategies teachers can use that help ELLs attain academic language. The examples include putting in place specific structures that will allow multiple opportunities for students to talk with each other, hear good models of English, and learn the English that's been targeted to support the content (Hill and Miller, ASCD Express)
  2. Five Principles with Twenty Examples for Engaging ELL Families highlights family-friendly principles to help make typical school routines more inviting to families and draw schools into learning more about the families they serve (Erekson, Kim, and Lycke, ASCD Express).
  3. Technology and ELLs Section in Colorin Colorado provides guidance for using technology with ELLs, activity ideas from veteran educators, and videos of technology in action in the classroom. 


Hello Twitter! It's Barack

President Obama finally got his own Twitter handle, six years into his presidency. The @POTUS Twitter account will serve as a new way for the president to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him. President Obama wants his Administration to be the most open and participatory in history, and @POTUS will give Americans a new venue to engage on the issues that matter most to them.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• AMONG THE CITY'S FINEST. In the city of Brotherly Love, 58 teachers were recently given the Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished High School Educators. Read more about some of them -- one an international traveler, another a former welder, and another with deep roots in the community - who are among the outstanding winners (Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer).

 CAN WE TALK? Educators needing a new idea or just a shot in the arm may want to check out English teacher Brian Sztabnik’s weekly podcast, Talks with Teachers. Now in season two, each TWT podcast features a dynamic teacher leader offering a unique and personal view of one aspect the profession in audio format and with show notes. They are all so good, that the teachers at ED are hard pressed to cite only one as a favorite. Start with episode 66: Ohio teacher Jim Sturtevant offering tips on how to connect with students or #56: Vicki Davis, the “cool cat” teacher talking about digital tools

• FEED THE CHILDREN. The Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (USDA) help feed low-income children nutritious meals when school is not in session. Learn more about how to help children 18 years and under. 

• BAD NEWS FOR BULLIES. The news for everyone else is getting better. ED's National Center for Education Statistics latest School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2013, reported the prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent, after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent since 2005. Read more

• STEM IN ED. The 3rd Annual STEM in Education Conference at California State University Dominguez Hills will highlight innovative collaboration strategies and best practices for STEM educators across all levels. Learn more.

• FREE MIX MASTER. Learn about the new interactive online tool that will wow students and colleagues. Office Mix is a free extension to PowerPoint and an associated web-service/portal that make it easy to author and share interactive online lessons. Teachers can easily add audio-video narration, real-time inking, screen recordings, quizzes and polls, and simulations from within PowerPoint. Learn more about the teacher resources. 

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

Teacher receiving a phone call from Arne Duncan

Beth Downing, a pre-K teacher at Calais Elementary School (Calais, Vt.), receives a surprise thank-you call from Arne Duncan.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5.  "One thing I’ve learned about the Department of Education is that there is much more concern for equity and innovation than I thought, rather than ‘regulation." (Principal, New York, N.Y.)

4. "For me, teacher leadership is not done for power but for our students. Our collaboration with colleagues, quest to improve our practice, and influence on educational policy and instructional decisions are done, first and foremost, with our students’ best interests at heart." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)

3. "The best teacher training is constant observation and feedback. You can't really get better without both." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

2. "Just like our lesson plans change every year, so should what is being taught in a teacher preparation program. We have to stay relevant to what learners need." (Teacher, Spotsylvania, Va.)

1. "I believe in fate. Fate made me a teacher." (Teacher, Washington)