The Teachers Edition

July 9, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 

Note: During the summer, The Teachers Edition is published every other week.

In This Issue

Lehigh Strategy Walk

Teachers at Lehigh Senior High School participate in "strategy walks" as part of their teacher-directed professional learning. 

Video Worth Watching

From "Not That School" to Most-Chosen

In addition to being a school where parents preferred not to send their kids, teachers at Lehigh Senior High School will tell you that their public high school used to be a tough place to work. All public schools in the Ft. Myers (Florida) area are selected by students and parents, but science teacher Misty Neal-Gousby reported that parents didn't want their kids at Lehigh, and teachers weren't scrambling to teach there either. "It was like, 'Not that place'," she said. 

Last year Lehigh was the most chosen public high school in the area.

What happened? The school district hired a strong principal who made it her priority to develop and support teachers. They also received a grant from ED's Teacher Incentive Fund that made it possible for them to create hybrid positions for teachers who wanted to teach and lead. 

Watch the inspiring (4:30-minute) video to see what happened. Read about  strategies the school used to make Lehigh a school worth attending, written by Principal Jackie Corey

Teacher Leadership


States Reduce the Testing Burden

Last month the Council of Chief State School Officers released Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden

Among the report's findings, comes good news about over-testing: At least 39 states are working to reduce unnecessary assessments. Some are establishing a task force, surveying existing tests, gathering feedback from educators, and more.

Which states aren't among the 39? Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas

Of course, that doesn't mean these states are doing nothing. For example, North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler launched a task force to review the state's testing options after glitches with the state's Smarter Balanced vendor interrupted exams this spring.

Importantly, the report includes a number of recommendations for states to ensure assessments are high quality and necessary. These include being transparent throughout the process and developing ongoing communications for parents and teachers to stay informed.

Thorpe memorial

Uncommon Courage

In Memoriam

Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, passed away recently after a battle with lung cancer. He was 63 years old. 

Thorpe had led the National Board since 2011, ushering in significant changes designed to increase the profile of the organization's flagship advanced certification program and bolster teachers' professional status nationally. He was a well-known and energetic presence in the K-12 field and worked as an education advocate in various capacities over 40 years.

In March 2015, Secretary Arne Duncan presented a lifetime achievement award to Thorpe, calling him a courageous and thoughtful leader of educators and a good friend to many at ED. Duncan’s words are posted in respectful memory of Mr. Thorpe. There are many tributes being shared across the web, including a page remembering Ron, and his family invites all to view his personal memorial website. Educators may add their thoughts to the growing thread on Facebook.  

logos of 79 Teach to Lead supporting organizations

The Expanding Face of Teach to Lead

TEACHER LEADERSHIP ON STEROIDS. When Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) and the School Reform Initiative joined the list of Teach to Lead official supporters last week, they brought the count to 80 for the initiative. Check out the logos (above) and the complete roster.

NEW LEADERSHIP BLOG. The Education Policy Center at the American Institutes for Research has begun publishing a new blog on Teacher Leadership. In the first posting, Gretchen Weber writes, "Teacher leaders have many titles [and make] big impacts."

P Chat

Principal Chat

Webinars: Using Evidence for Continuous Improvement. How can evidence be collected and used to make real-time changes that lead to improved education outcomes? Join ED’s Race to the Top—District (RTT-D) program for a three-part webinar series focusing on the use of evidence-based practices to collect data, measure goals and improve education programs. National experts and practitioners leading RTT-D grantee projects will share their expertise using reliable evidence to inform their decision-making. Register for Webinar #1: What is Evidence & How Race to the Top—District Grantees are Using it to Track Success, which will be taking place July 15 from 1:00-2:00 pm ET.

Toolkit for School-Based Educators. On Tuesday, July 7, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance released a toolkit that provides activities, handouts, readings, and videos to engage school-based educators. The "Professional Learning Communities Facilitator’s Guide for the What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide: Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School" supports teams of educators in applying strategies presented in the "What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide on Instructing English Learners." The facilitator’s guide employs a five-step cycle that encourages professional learning communities to debrief, define, explore, experiment, and reflect and plan.

Making Leadership a Central StrategyNew Leaders has released four Profiles in Leadership that bring to life the work of outstanding principals and district leaders and illustrate how policymakers can benefit from leadership to accelerate school improvement, teacher effectiveness and student success. Hear great school leaders reflect on how they use federal funds and how policymakers can improve the School Leadership Program, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the School Improvement Grant program and ESEA Title II-A

Grade-Level Guide to Technology. Education Week’s Robin Flanigan provides tips on what to keep in mind when deciding what technology will be best utilized in a classroom based on children’s developmental and educational needs. 

African American Educator

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.

 Cassandra Williams

Celebrating African American Educators

Cassandra Williams is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Edmund A. Burns Elementary in North Charleston, South Carolina.

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

I began my educational journey as a teacher’s assistant working with young children with developmental disabilities. My experiences with these young students granted me the necessary skills, such as patience and developing creative solutions to meet individual needs, to be truly successful within the classroom. Through the years, I became passionate in providing a better quality of life for students and establishing engaging partnerships with parents.

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

I celebrate the “Light Bulb” moments with my students. When a concept we are learning finally illuminates in a student’s mind, our entire classroom community celebrates with praises. The feeling of success sparked from the belief in one’s abilities transcends beyond the classroom.

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

With the support of my principal, I find creative ways to engage the community and support  the learning development of African American students by integrating the arts (Engaging Creative Minds) into reading and writing and by focusing on socio-emotional skills with Charleston Animal Society (Pet Buddies). Parents and family members are invited to attend student showcases, such as our “Author’s Tea” where we celebrate student narrative and informational writing pieces. Because communication with parents is essential to a child’s success, I communicate with parents weekly and provide additional resources to enhance learning at home.


Honoring Educators 

Discovery Education's Dr. Cindy Moss Recognized for Impact on STEM

Discovery Education's Dr. Cindy Moss was recently honored by Insight Into Diversity magazine as a recipient of its "100 Inspiring Women in STEM Award." 

Dr. Moss has spent more than a quarter century in STEM education, initially teaching high school science courses such as chemistry and biology before serving as director of STEM for North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. These experiences inform her current work directing STEM initiatives at Discovery Education. She has helped begin several experiential programs such as Discovery Education STEM Camp, "a dynamic series of standards-aligned curricula (that) combines hands-on labs, engineering challenges, digital investigations, and more to immerse students in the grand challenges of science set forth by the National Academy of Engineering" and is "designed especially to engage girls in STEM and encourage them to pursue their education and careers in these increasingly important fields." 

More information about Dr. Moss' receipt of this award is available in a Discovery Education press release. Congratulations, Dr. Moss! 

The Teaching Profession

lockers into books

Pic of the Week

Biloxi Teachers Transform Old Lockers into Works of Art

Check out the inspirational video and story about how teachers at Biloxi Junior High School spent part of their summer turning old lockers into a library that is larger than life (Pham-Bui, Middle School English). 

Engaging with History 

Supporting Young Historians

Two outstanding teachers received honors as National History Day announced the recipients of the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award. Sherry Holder, an 8th grade teacher at Conway Junior High School of Conway, Arkansas (junior division) and Barrie Moorman, 10th and 12th grade teacher at E. L. Haynes Public Charter School of Washington, D.C. (senior division), received this year’s top honors. The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest is the final stage of a series of contests at local and affiliate levels. 

TAF and PAF news

Steve Owens (2010 Classroom Fellow), a National Board Certified elementary music teacher from Calais, Vermont, was recently appointed to the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators (VSBPE) by Governor Peter Shumlin. The VSBPE establishes standards for teacher and administrator licensure, teacher preparation programs, alternative pathways to licensure, and interstate reciprocity.

Did you know?

Impact of English-Only Laws

Impact evaluations conducted in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts since the passage of English-only policies have been largely unfavorable. For the most part, achievement gaps between ELLs and non-ELLs in California have stayed constant or even increased since the laws’ passage.

Learn more at Ed Central.

N.C. Teacher:  "We Still Have a Race Problem"

"Truthfully, we have not eradicated racism. We are nowhere close. In some ways what we’re doing is actually worse—we’re just not talking about race. As a teacher, I have seen disparities in discipline for students of different races committing the same infractions. Nationally, students of color are as much as three times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts. I’ve been party to conversations with intelligent people who struggle to find the reasons for this gap, but also refuse to acknowledge race. How can this be?

(James E. Ford, North Carolina Teacher of the Year, We Still Have a Race Problem, Charlotte Magazine)

Quote to Note


Recommended Reading

Welcome Signs

Check out this interesting story tracing how Ole Miss has worked to change its campus culture around racism after removing the Confederate flag from football games. Bottom line: removing the flag is just the first step. Read the account of what it took by Katherine Mangan (Chronicle of Higher Education). 

Why Teachers Need to Be Involved in Education Policy Decisions

U.S. News and World Report published this savvy article by Catherine Brown that gives insights into how policymakers and administrators can support great teaching. She cites examples of teachers who have influenced policy and provides links to solid teacher leadership organizations that help the profession to be heard.

Education Policy

Long-awaited Makeover 

New Standards for Head Start

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released new Head Start Performance Standards in a Federal Notice of Proposed Rule Making-- the first comprehensive overhaul of the standards since they were first published in 1975. Some important changes include: 

  • Moving to full-day and full-year programs;
  • Removing overly burdensome and/or redundant requirements;
  • Limiting suspension and prohibiting expulsion;
  • Monitoring attendance and addressing chronic absenteeism, and
  • Allowing for local innovation.

Abbie Lieberman explains more in her EdCentral article

Policy Briefs

Is it Possible to Balance National Interests with Local Control? Several important thought leaders from Bellwether think so. In Pacts Americana: Balancing National Interests, State Autonomy, and Education Accountability, Chad AldemanKelly Robson and Andy Smarick propose a new federal-state relationship with “performance compacts” that would "bridge the gap between NCLB’s heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all accountability and the current inclination to overcorrect." Read the blog.

Federal Flash and "A Just-Right Approach to Fixing NCLB." The Alliance for Excellence in Education has put out a couple of resources to help educators understand the current Senate bill designed to fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as NCLB. Teachers can sign up to receive their Federal Flash, a brief video report of the latest happening on the floor of Congress. Governor Bob Wise has also written an editorial about the new bill, called the Every Child Achieves Act, including what could be done to strengthen it.

Addressing Group Learning Skeptics. Tom Bennett’s “Group Work for the Good: Unpacking the Research Behind One Popular Classroom Strategy” in  AFT’s American Educator speaks to educators who have heard the praises of group teaching, but question if these groups truly maximize learning and are fair for all students. Bennett posits that group work is helpful in certain, but not all, circumstances. He suggests implementing this strategy after individual or whole-class instruction has taken place on a topic, or when the objectives of a lesson include collaborating with others.

the New Math

Gender Gap on the Playing Field

Of the 16,000-plus high schools examined—using data from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-12 school year—nearly 4,500 had what the center deemed "large" gender equity gaps between the proportion of girls in the school and the proportion of girls in athletics.

(Girls, Sports, and Equality: A State-by-State Ranking on Title IX, National Women's Law Center, Brown, Washington Post).

First-Generation College Students

Ready for College, but Unprepared?

A new report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: First-Generation Students, looks at the academic preparation and post secondary aspirations of first-generation 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT test. The good news was that more of the ACT-tested graduates aspired to post secondary education, but a significant number of those students might not actually enroll. 

The report found that nine in 10 first-generation students who took the ACT say they plan to attend college, but 52 percent met none of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared to 31 percent of all ACT-tested graduates. Both percentages are unchanged from the previous year. The report offers steps that states, districts, schools and classrooms can take to increase student readiness for college-level work. 


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

States Approach to Funds for Students with Disabilities. This 50-state review from ECS focuses on states’ primary funding mechanisms for students with disabilities. It clarifies strengths and weaknesses of these mechanisms and provides other funding considerations. Some important takeaways from this report: 

• Thirty three states fund students with disabilities through their state's primary funding formula. 
• Twelve states fund students with disabilities through categorical funds. 
• Five states fund students with disabilities through reimbursements.

The Filing Cabinet:

Resources for Educators

English Language Learners

Problem Solving and Proving their Skills

Maker Spaces: What Can They Do for ELL Students? John Spencer’s blog talks about how technology and creativity can be combined in an EL classroom. He puts forward an idea of “supporting language while also using an inquiry-based framework that emphasizes creative thinking.” He calls this Creative Spaces, which prepares students for the kinds of jobs that require problem-solving and critical thinking (EdWeek).

Bilingual Graduates Earn New Seal of Biliteracy. Washington state is joining eight other states in granting bilingual graduates a new seal proving their language skills, known as a Seal of Biliteracy. It demonstrates that graduates have a high level of proficiency in English and another language, be it a second language at school or a language they learn at home (Higgins, Seattle Times). 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• Thinking Pre-K to 3rd. Standards, curricula, assessment, instruction, data systems and professional development should all be aligned across each level, PreK-3rd grade. That is the premise of The Power of a Good Idea: How the San Francisco School District is Building a PreK – 3rd Grade Bridge, a report by Paul Nyhan, The paper shows that building a bridge from PreK to third grade improves learning (Bornfreund, New America EdCentral). 

• The Real Stories. is a searchable annotated bibliography of nearly 300 diverse nonfiction books.The project is led by Lauren Causey, and the site allows readers to locate the titles they want at a nearby library. The project is meant to rejuvenate interest in nonfiction literature among young readers, while at the same time serving as a resource for K-12 educators who seek nonfiction books that complement lesson plans.  

• Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Calling all teachers! Some of the undocumented students in your classroom may be eligible for the DACA program, which can help them attain documented status as they apply for jobs, secondary schooling, and more. Find out more from Arne Duncan’s letter to educators.

 • Free School Field Trips. A new education-related campaign called Students Stand With Malala is an effort to inform students about the challenges many of their peers around the world face in gaining access to education. The new documentary He Named Me Malala, tells the story of the student activist and youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager targeted for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education. Middle and high school teachers can learn about  free field trips for classes interested in seeing the film (rated PG-13) and standing up for girls’ education worldwide. 

WWI memorial

Design Competition

Inclusive Commemoration Sought

There are only a few weeks left to submit initial entries to the National World War I memorial design competition that will commemorate the 4.7 million Americans who served during the 1914-1918 Great War. The competition is a two-stage design competition open to any professionals, university-level students, or any other interested participants. Check out the competition manual posted at the Commission’s website

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

When Student Debt is a Good Thing. While it is easy to fear getting in over your head by taking out college loans, Ben Miller of the Center for American Progress argues that "debt itself is not inherently bad if it allows students to earn high-quality degrees and credentials that they could not otherwise afford." By way of explanation, Miller writes, "The major issue is whether students who borrowed completed their education. In other words, it is far better to be a bachelor's degree graduate with $28,400 in loans-the national average in 2013-than a dropout who owes $10,000." Learn more about the relationship between student debt and college completion

Coming Soon: New Tools for Students. Helping students and families choose a college that works for them and improving measurements of college outcomes are goals laid out by President Obama to make college an affordable reality for everyone. ED has been working on these goals since 2013, developing meaningful metrics that will help students make college decisions. Later this year ED plans to release a wealth of data so that students and families can make informed comparisons and choices based on the criteria most important to them. Read more about the progress ED has made and the tools we will have that will help students and families make informed decisions about their college search and selection. 

Career and Technical Joining the RanksThe Presidential Scholars Program recently established a new category of outstanding scholars in career and technical education (CTE). The inaugural class of CTE Presidential Scholars will be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars based on outstanding scholarship and demonstrated ability in driving innovation in the field of career and technical education.

National Geographic Engineering Exploration Challenge. Students ages 6-18 have the opportunity to design, build, and test solutions that National Geographic explorers face in the field. Students can work on their own or in groups to submit a solution by August 1, and in return will receive a certificate of accomplishment from National Geographic, a voucher to see ROBOTS 3D, and a chance to have their solution published in the National Geographic Kids book, Everything Robotics! Learn more about the National Geographic Engineering Exploration Challenge

RIP Federal Student Aid PIN. On May 10, 2015, the Department of Education laid to rest the use of the Federal Student Aid PIN, ringing in a new era in which students, parents, and borrowers would be required to use the safer, more contemporary FSA ID throughout a user’s experience with federal student aid. An FSA ID is a username and password that is linked to personal information on Federal Student Aid websites and can be used to sign documents. Create an FSA ID here:   

Good News for Borrowers. The New York Times reports that as of July 1, undergraduate subsidized and unsubsidized federal Stafford loans interest rates will decrease from 4.66% to 4.29%. Interest rates for graduated students borrowing unsubsidized Stafford loans, as well as graduate students and parents taking out PLUS loans, will also be lowered.

Emerging Research

Challenging Conventional Beliefs. New research funded by the Institute of Education Sciences and published in Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, defies conventional wisdom with the finding that minority students are not over-represented in special education. Read about the contradictory explanations and evidence of minority disproportionate representation.

Student Proficiency Levels Vary Significantly. A new report released by the National Center for Education Statistics found that few states adopted standards that were equivalent to NAEP's achievement level of Proficient, which is defined as mastery of challenging subject matter. The report uses NAEP as a common yardstick to compare the rigor of state proficiency standards, and showed that states vary widely in where they set their proficiency standards in fourth and eighth grade reading and mathematics. The full text of the report is now available

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

Top 5 Quotes

Arne and teacher

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Teacher leadership is the only way we can be successful in our district. We grow our own." (Principal, Pennsylvania)

4. "When looking at what a teacher achieves, the data don't tell the whole story." (Teacher, Maryland)

3. "Education failed Michael Brown." (Teacher, Colorado)

2. "You have got to be prepared for the call out when you put teachers in leadership positions. You can't be so in awe of your own leadership that you can't be called out." (Principal, New York)

1. "We ([principals) have to both evaluate and support teachers. It can be done, they both can be done--especially if you support more than you evaluate and if teachers know you are there to help them grow." (Principal, Michigan)