The Teachers Edition

June 4, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Tweet from Edcamp

Stacy Hawthorne Tweeted the image above to Arne Duncan at the second annual Edcamp at ED.


The Ultimate Unconference

Last Friday more than 140 educators wrestled with some of our profession’s biggest challenges at ED’s second annual Edcamp. Edcamps are a popular form of “unconference,” an organic process that lets educators direct their own professional learning.

The conference sessions included teacher leaders and policy makers engaging in discussions about the most important issues in education, with the goal of finding actionable solutions. Themes of the day included policy, the ConnectED initiative, and best practices.

Arne Duncan stopped by to swap stories, hear from teachers and principals and take a few pictures. Educators also Tweeted advice to the Secretary.

Check out our Storify from the event and a Google doc of the sessions offered at ED.

Learn more about Edcamps.



Georgia Leader is the Mane Event

Facing some of the lowest student achievement scores and graduation rates in the state of Georgia, Jessica Ainsworth implemented a federal School Improvement Grant to turn around a struggling culture and climate at Lithia Springs High School (Lithia Springs, Ga.). Her successful efforts helped to earn her recognition as the 2015 NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year.

She instituted a six-pronged initiative called The Mane Thing “which reflected a clear purpose and vision for academic success.” The program helped the reading proficiency rate climb from 27 to 83 percent while the school saw increases in its graduation rate, job placement and college acceptance. Read more about this great leader (Baldowski, Neighborhood

Teach to Lead update

IDEA SPRINGBOARDS. For a quick look at what has been going on at the Teach to Lead Leadership Labs, check out this page and read about building stakeholder support and momentum for a specific teacher leadership idea. 

LEAD AND GROW. In Gretchen Weber's blog she argues that it is time to let teachers lead in authentic roles that elevate the profession and impact student learning. Learn more in Real Teacher Appreciation: Let Them Lead.

WE ARE 76 in the LEADER LIST. The Special School District of St. Louis County joined the list of Teach to Lead official supporters bringing the latest count to 76. 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

Francesca Joseph is a Grade 1-6 Common Branch educator at PS 52 Queens Elementary in New York City, New York. She is affiliated with the education nonprofit New Leaders which works to develop strong school leaders to make a positive impact on students.  

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

I wanted to ignite the flame of curiosity and interest to start every student on their educational journey. I believe a teacher has the ability to enable each of his or her students to fully maximize their talents, imagination, skills and character. Knowledge is one of the most important tools for success that is why I decided to become an educator.  

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

I am always excited when former students contacts me for college recommendation letters. Watching students succeed at simple or complex tasks is an experience that I am part of every day. Every student has the opportunity to succeed and be celebrated, no matter the size of the goal.  

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

I encourage adults to be active participants in their child's education.  An opportunity for learning is everywhere, take advantage of that. Ask your child, "what did you learn today?", and then ask them to teach it to you. This gives a clear message to your child, it says, “my parents, family member, care giver, cares about what I do in school!”

Fishman PRize


Extraordinary Teaching in Low-income Schools

The Fishman Prize spotlights excellence in teaching and the practices of the nation's most effective educators. With over 5,000 nominations this year and nearly 800 applications from across the country, the Fishman Prize continues to grow as one of the most prestigious awards for practicing teachers and the only one exclusively for those working in high-poverty public schools.

The winners will each receive $25,000 and participate in a one-of-a-kind summer residency with TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) during which they will reflect on their work in the classroom, author a paper on their teaching strategies, and meet with national education leaders.

"From early in the application process until now, we've simply been blown away by these educators," said TNTP Vice President Ana Menezes, one of this year's Fishman Prize judges. "They are the epitome of reflective practitioners, models of inspiration and the types of teachers we want for each child in this nation. We are humbled to honor them with the Fishman Prize and privileged to work alongside them during the residency this summer."

This year's winners include:

Erica Mariola -- Kindergarten teacher at KIPP East Community Primary (New Orleans, La.)

Erin Dukeshire -- 6th Grade Science teacher at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School (Roxbury, Mass.

Stephanie Sun -- 5th Grade English teacher at Achievement First Brownsville Middle School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Zeke Phillips -- 5th Grade English teacher at Excel Academy-Chelsea (Chelsea, Mass.). 

Did you know?

Startling Comparisons

A poor teenager with top scores on achievement tests in high school and an affluent teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree.

According to a NY Times review of a longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, “educational achievement does not explain the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment.” After 11 years of the study, one out of four of the disadvantaged students who had hoped to get a bachelor’s had done so.

P Chat

Principal Chat

DEVELOPING WORKPLACES WHERE TEACHERS, STAY, IMPROVE AND SUCCEED. In this article, Matthew Kraft and John Papay offer insights into their research about conditions at schools that allow teachers to thrive (Shanker Institute).

"We tend to ascribe teachers’ career decisions to the students they teach rather than the conditions in which they work," they write. "We treat teachers as if their effectiveness is mostly fixed, always portable, and independent of school context. As a result, we rarely complement personnel reforms with organizational reforms that could benefit both teachers and students." 

PRINCIPALS AT ED. Fourteen principals from around the country spent two days at ED last week, participating in a variety of events from discussions about education policy to fishbowl sessions about their perspectives on improving education. The series builds on ED's Principal Ambassador Fellowship program, with school leaders serving as advisors to the Secretary and Department staff. View photos.

Common Core Connections


Lifting the Veil

Take a look at Catherine Gerwertz’s behind-the-scenes report from one of the scoring centers for the PARCC test, where “a bevy of accountants, technology geeks, lawyers, unemployed corporate executives—and oh, yes, teachers—are scoring” the exam (EdWeek). 

Gerwertz reports that new tests are different from those typically used by states because their constructed-response questions and multi-step, complex performance tasks—require real people to evaluate students' answers. Her article offers a rare look at how it's done. 


"We are sending a message to our children that if they do not like something or if it seems too difficult, then they do not have to do it. "

Connecticut teacher Marika Heughins in her article, "What the Opt-Out Movement Teaches Students" (EdWeek). Heughins adds, "Allowing students to opt out of tests they don't feel like taking undermines education and harms our students."

Quote to Note

the New Math

Worldwide Youth Unemployment Getting Worse

Youth unemployment rates exceeded 25% in nine OECD countries at the end of the first quarter of 2013, including Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

According to the latest report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the number of young people out of work  is nearly a third higher than in 2007 and set to rise still further in most of the countries with already very high unemployment in the months ahead. 

The OECD recommends fostering youth employability through a comprehensive and forward-looking skill strategy. "This is more urgent today as the global economic crisis has hit youth hard and many of them are still facing significant barriers to employment," report writers say.

professional development report


Improving Teacher Preparation

In the next 10 years, 1.5 million new teachers will be hired. What can policymakers do to ensure the next generation of teachers is ready to teach on day one? The American Institutes for Research's Jenny DeMonte offers four evidence-based options for a start-to-finish look at improving teacher preparation, such as increasing selectivity, building consensus on common knowledge and competencies, expanding mentoring and clinical experience, and raising the level of rigor in assessments used for certification and licensure.

Learn more in the AIR policy brief, A Million New Teachers Are Coming: Will They Be Ready to Teach? 

Summer Reading Super Powers


Ready for Summer Reading 

Teachers and students will enjoy watching the Five-minute Film Festival videos that feature summer reading books. 

They feature book ideas that are fun, entertaining, factual, fascinating and something for everyone. And if these aren't the ones, the Edutopia website lists many more suggestions and resources for books to dive into without the pressure of the school year, with the added benefit of preventing the summer slump.  

Another wonderful resource is Start with a Book, which connects young readers and their families to great fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities that support reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, and links to great online resources and apps that are tied to 24 learning themes. Educators who are looking for resources to share with parents to keep kids reading and learning during the summer will find a wealth of information to share.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

HAVE A PLAN TO SELF-ADVOCATE. Autistic and other students with disabilities need to know their rights when they transition from high school to college. This blog about self-advocacy and resources can help them prepare to attend college with their peers and be successful. 

6 THINGS HIGH SCHOOL GRADS NEED TO DO BEFORE LEAVING. No doubt, high school graduates are feeling the freedom that comes from having earned a diploma. However, before packing the minivan with your parents, check out this short list of things every student should do. At the top of the list: Downsize, Get Organized & Learn How to Do Your Own Laundry.

I3 banner


Ideas in Innovation

Want to learn about the effective practices in schools that the federal government is supporting? Interested in seeing how your district can be a part of innovation designed and validated by educators just like you? Tune in to the Investing in Innovation Grantee Showcase on Friday, June 12 from 9AM-1PM ET on Youtube.


Avoiding Digital Distractions or 

Using Devices for Discussion

Do digital devices belong in classrooms? The research we have may not provide all the answers, contends Bryan Goodwin in his article, Mobile Devices: Driving Us to Distraction?. He points to a number of classroom concerns such as the disadvantages of multitasking. What’s really going on is rapid switching among different tasks – and doing each with less quality and efficiency. Returning to the central task, there’s always a lag: “Now, where was I?” He also offers advice to students such as: Take notes by hand, which supports learning and comprehension significantly better than entering data via keyboard. Read more about ways to maximize digital access and technology and avoid overload (ASCD, Educational Leadership). 

Another article in Educational Leadership by Jeffrey Carpenter advocates for allowing students to use mobile devices to create a legitimate “backchannel” to engage all students in the classroom discussion. He says that "Technology can open up classroom discussions, sparking new levels of student participation and engagement." Students who might otherwise be silent or whisper and pass notes can use the "backchannel" to offer opinions, answer questions, analyze frontchannel content, or share supplementary information. Read more about how they can do this through chat rooms, Tweets, and digital platforms (ASCD and the Marshall Memo).  


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

ARE TFA TEACHERS EFFECTIVE? The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) released a study examining the effectiveness of teachers in the Teach for America (TFA) program on improving elementary students’ mathematics and reading achievement in the 2012–13 school year. To measure the effectiveness of TFA teachers, the authors compared end-of-year mathematics and reading achievement scores of current corps members’ students to the scores of comparison teachers’ students. 

The study authors reported that TFA corps members in the study were as effective as the elementary school teachers in the comparison group in terms of students’ mathematics and reading achievement in the 2012–13 school year. IES found the study meets WWC group design standards without reservations. Learn more in Impacts of the Teach for America Investing in Innovation Scale-Up (Institute of Education Sciences).

COLLEGE READINESS. For quite some time, there has been a big gap between student scores on state tests and what is known as the nation's report card, the National Assessment for Educational Progress. This year PARCC predicts 35 to 45 percent of 11th graders will score at a college ready level on this year’s exams. Learn more (Butrymowicz, Hechinger Report).

LOOKING FOR STATS? The 2015 Condition of Education was just released by the National Center for Education Statistics. The report presents 42 key indicators on the status and condition of education. The indicators are grouped under four main areas: (1) population characteristics, (2) participation in education, (3) elementary and secondary education, and (4) postsecondary education. The report indicates that there are more children living in poverty today (around 21%) than there were two decades ago, and achievement gaps are narrowing. Learn more about these important developments and trends in education.    


Knowledge of Language Development 

A new study discusses how early childhood teachers should have extensive knowledge about language and language development because these facets of professional knowledge are considered important requirements for fostering language development in early childhood education (Strohmer and MischoJournal of Education and Training Studies).

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• MAKING TIME FOR PROJECT-BASED LEARNIING. The University of Michigan's Nell Duke offers strategies to fit project-based learning into regular classroom instruction (Scholastic). 

• THE GREATS ARE HONORED. Five teachers --Patricia Jordan (New York, N.Y.) Richard Ognibene (Rochester, N.Y.), Susan Rippe (Olathe, Kan.), Ben Talley (Bristol, Va.), and Brigitte Tennis (Redmond, Wash.) will be formally sworn into the 2015 National Teachers Hall of Fame. Emporia State University will be livestreaming the induction ceremonies beginning at 7:15 PM on June 12th.

• ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST? The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016 is now open for applications and nominations. One outstanding teacher will win the award, dubbed the ‘Nobel Prize of teaching,’ and 49 other top teachers will receive special commendations. The prize is a $1 million award to celebrate exceptional teaching and shine a spotlight on just how much #teachersmatter. Teachers currently teaching children in a compulsory setting between the ages of 5-18 are eligible.

• THE REDESIGN CHALLENGE. The Redesign Challenge is sponsoring an online innovation workshop where teachers, coaches and administrators tackle K-12's toughest challenges. Educators can submit ideas or comment on ideas that have been submitted. Read the first challenge, about using videos to support professional development.

• SUMMER SEMINARS FOR SCHOOL TEACHERS. Check out the Education Division at the National Endowment for the Humanities which supports seminars for teachers. There are a number of tuition-free opportunities for school, college, and university educators to study a variety of humanities topics. Stipends of $1,200-$3,900 help cover expenses for these one- to five-week programs. Learn more and apply at the websites for the individual programs.  

• BRING "THE WAR" TO YOUR CLASSROOM. Ken Burns’ latest documentary film “The War” includes 14 lesson plans on World War II developed to help teachers with activities intended for students in grades 9-12. Learn more about the series which covers many of the major themes addressed in the film. There are also easy-to-use "snapshot activities" for classroom use and a PDF handbook that provides a model for engaging students in seeking out and understanding history in their own communities while using technology.  


Recommended Reading

STRENGTHENING STUDENT-TEACHER BONDS TO REDUCE BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS. California teacher Brandon Sportel penned this insightful piece about common-sense strategies to strengthen the bond between educators and pupils in order to get to the root of behavior problems and bullying (Time). Sportel advocates approaches like using manageable check-in systems and providing think time rather than asking students, "Why would you do something like that?" 

A THOUGHTFUL APPROACH TO IMMIGRANT EDUCATION. 2015 National Teacher Hall of Fame inductee Richard Ognibene flagged this NY Times article by David L. Kirp about a school network that is helping immigrant kids learn. Ognibene wrote, “The collaborative approach mentioned actually helps all struggling students,” regardless of whether or not they are identified as English learners. 

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

Teacher speaking at May convening of male educators of color

Left, a teacher speaks at the symposium for male educators of color. 

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Teacher leadership can address many of the problems in schools." (Teacher, Kentucky)

4. "The students and adults are more respectful since we implemented positive behavioral Interventions and supports. Our referrals went from 7,000 to fewer than 3,000 a year." (High School Assistant Principal, Irmo, S.C.) 

3. "My greatest fear training to become a principal is the work. You can't do it all. You have to select and build up teacher leaders." (Assistant Principal, Lithia Springs, Ga.)

2. "If you get a quality educator in every class, a lot of other issues can be addressed." (Teacher, Kansas)

1. Reflecting the enormity of the teaching profession: "Getting my law degree has been easier than my first four weeks of teaching." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)