THE TEACHERS EDITION -- August 27, 2015

The Teachers Edition

August 27, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 


In This Issue

One Day More song video

Teachers Break Into Song

One More Day !

Teachers at ED are giving the green light to this awesome video of the teachers and staff in the West Des Moines (IA) Community School District who parody the lyrics of the song "One More Day" from Les Miserables at their welcome back assembly. They've prepared the classrooms, run out of planning time, joined their PLCs, and they have one more day until a new beginning. Don't miss watching them sing -- "there’s a new world to be taught; there’s a new world for the teaching. Do you hear the school bells ring?”

Teacher Leadership

Teacher Leadership video

Teachers describe what it takes to be leaders in the classroom and why leadership matters. 

Leaders by Design 

Disrupting the Hierarchy of Education

Can-do teachers in this video from a four day National Network of State Teachers of the Year conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, explain why being a leader in the classroom is so important. The teacher voice matters, they say, because it's the voice of education; a way to become better at what we do; and how to get the right knowledge to our students. Today the teacher voice is in pockets, but tomorrow teachers want it to be everywhere--so the greatness of one classroom is part of the whole system.  

Teach to Lead -- Project Updates

Teach to Lead update

By Teachers, For Teachers: The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative

Teachers from the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) who attended the July Teach to Lead Summit in Washington, DC recently brought together a group of teacher leaders in their state to share their workshop and logic model plans. 

Teacher leader Kate Smith, who attended the Teach to Lead Summit with the Maine team, wrote the following: 

"Imagine, for a moment, a rock skipping across a pond and the impact it makes. That is the image that came to mind as the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative met yesterday for our annual 'Critical Friends Day.' The impact of our professional development at the DC Teach to Lead Summit continues to influence and shape our planning and execution of top-notch opportunities to give wings to our emerging and veteran teacher leaders." 

Learn more in a blog by MALI teacher leader Argy Nestor 

All Windows and No Walls in Southern Tioga, Pa.

The Southern Tioga School District of Pennsylvania, in partnership with BLaST IU 17, recently held a leadership lab to further develop a teacher leadership idea from the Boston Teach to Lead Summit. 

The teacher leadership team sought to garner local support for their initiative "to support teacher leadership without teachers leaving the classroom, while causing changes in school culture in that teachers have a role in transforming teaching and learning." 

The teacher leadership initiative is called, "Creating a Culture of All Windows, No Walls." Learn more (Williamsport, Pa. Sun-Gazette)

Principal Chat

Quote from Marc Tucker's article

School Leadership

Creating a Professional Workplace

In the EdWeek article "Organizations in Which Teachers Can Do their Best Work (Part II)," Marc Tucker argues that the most important job of a principal is to create a professional culture.

Here's an excerpt:  

The key is to create for our teachers an environment—the school—that is a true professional workplace.  By professional workplace, I mean the sort of work environment that accomplished engineers, accountants, architects, medical doctors and attorneys work in. This is critical for two reasons. First, because, to get the job done, we need to attract to teaching more of the high school graduates who would otherwise have been able to pursue high-status professional careers. Second, and more important, when professional workplaces are organized well, the people in them not only do their best work, but they work hard—all the time—to improve their skills and knowledge so they can get ever better at their work. 

The Teaching Profession

Fewer Teachers Are Leaving the Profession

Good News for Negative Attrition Rates

New teachers are far less likely to leave the profession than previously thought, according to new federal data. Ten percent of teachers who began their careers in 2007-2008 left teaching after their first year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But attrition then leveled off, and five years into their careers, 83 percent were still teaching (Brown, Washington Post). 

This is good news for the profession and leads to the conclusion that earlier information was either based on estimates or that attrition rates have fallen, which may be due to better teaching conditions. 

Other conclusions from the report: 

  • New teachers who are assigned mentors are more likely to continue teaching than those who are not assigned mentors. In 2008-2009, 92 percent of those who had first-year mentors were still teaching, compared to 84 percent of those without mentors. By 2011-12, 86 percent of those who had first-year mentors were teaching, compared to 71 percent who did not have mentors.
  • Teachers with higher starting salaries — above $40,000 — were more likely to continue teaching than those with lower salaries.  

(With Tongue in Cheek) Celebrities Acknowledge Teaching is Sexy

Hey, Teacher

The teachers at ED love these great images of celebrities complimenting teachers for their acumen in the classroom. Educators can check out our current favorite meme and find even more by searching "Hey, Girl Teacher.”

photos of three male celebrities complimenting teachers for their acumen in the classroom

Education Visionary

Finding a Way to Connect

Peeples quote

The 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, wants to bring attention to the impact of poverty on students’ lives and education. Read her interview with Joetta Sack-Min in Learning First Alliance. Find out what advice she has for teachers who are just entering the profession, or those who may be considering a career as a teacher. 

Peeples, who works with student refugees from around the world, is committed to helping all students reach their potential and build a better life in the United States. 

She finds that working with vulnerable students can be a heartwrenching journey that may not lead to a happy outcome.

Kaisha M. Baker

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

Kaisha Baker

Kaisha M. Baker is a reading teacher at Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, Texas.

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

I decided on a career in education because I wanted to stop African American males from being a product of the education to prison pipeline.

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

I am extremely proud of my scholars’ ability to articulate why both education and character are vital to their success. As a result, my scholars are now invested in both their academic and personal growth.

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

I worked with a colleague to create a program on my campus called The Boys Collaborative to provide positive support and/or reinforcement for students who have traditionally struggled with behavior. Most of the boys in my program are African American because they need support to reaffirm positive mindsets towards their education and behavior. I encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning development of the boys in the collaborative by soliciting volunteers to assist with the focus of The Boys Collaborative: character education, community service, leadership, and mentorship.

TAF and PAF news

• Kareen Borders (2012 Regional Fellow and 2011 Classroom Fellow) met with policymakers and participated on a three-person panel and facilitated a STEM round-table discussion about recommendations for STEM teacher leadership as part of ED’s STEM Policy Advisory Convening to address STEM initiatives and solicit recommendations.

 11 Lessons from Year 11Geneviève DeBose (2011 Washington Fellow) wrote this reflective blog about what she learned by returning to the classroom after a 3-year hiatus in the policy world. DeBose is currently teaching middle school English language arts in the Bronx, N.Y. and serving as a commissioner on the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future. Her insights are memorable and inspiring.

• Patrick Kelly (2015 Classroom Fellow) penned this impressive blog about the importance of high school students taking on rigorous coursework. His blog coincides with news that ED has awarded $28.4 million in federal grants to help students access AP classes.

Standards Vary Widely

Don't Know Much About Literacy

Literacy Insruction

The International Literacy Association concludes in a new research brief that there is a wide variation in how teachers are trained in literacy, and the fragmented system needs improvement. 

Since a teacher’s instruction affects students’ literacy achievement, it is important that the quality and content of preservice teacher preparation programs be excellent because it features prominently in student success. 

The data reflect the first phase of the study of what states’ requirements are for preservice teachers in terms of developing their skills as literacy instructors (Sawchuk, EdWeek).

Recommended Reading

video still

Riding the Roller Coaster Together

Fourteen-year North Carolina teacher Karen von Klahr offers insights into an emerging strategy designed to help new teachers learn their craft: multi-leader classrooms (MLCs). In Cabarrus County, North Carolina, von Klahr shares a classroom with a colleague who is new to the profession, Emily Angles, who watches her teach and gains insights that Angles uses in the next class that she teaches. The article, published on Real Clear Education, includes an embedded video of the two teachers discussing how MLCs work.

Quote to Note: Teacher Expectations about Race

"We find evidence of systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for the educational attainment of black students. Specifically, non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do when evaluating the same students. "

From "The alarming effect of racial mismatch on teacher expectations" (Gershenson, Brookings). The article goes on to clarify: "We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two. This is nonetheless concerning, as teachers’ expectations likely shape student outcomes and systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for student success might contribute to persistent socio-demographic gaps in educational achievement and attainment."

Read the study published by researchers at Johns Hopkins and American universities (Gershenson, Holt and Papageorge).

Education Policy

Policy Briefs

Change and Challenge for Students with Disabilities. The Department recently published final regulations that require all states to cease using modified academic achievement standards and aligned alternate assessments after the 2015-16 school year. Instead, states must administer their general assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards to the vast majority of students with disabilities. Research has shown that struggling students with disabilities make academic progress when provided with challenging instruction and appropriate supports.

We the People.  September 17 is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Educational institutions and grantees of the Department of Education are required, by law, to acknowledge this date, which is also intended to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens."  

Making Meaning from the Latest Testing Polls. In a new PDK/Gallup poll, Americans say there is more to success than student test scores, but they are split on whether or not students should be allowed to opt out. Meanwhile, NPR reported this week on what they see as disparate results coming from the PDK/Gallup poll and one conducted by Education Next. According to NPR, the EdNext poll indicates two thirds of respondents support “annual federal testing,” while the second shows that a similar ratio “thinks there is too much testing in schools.” The piece notes that standardized testing makes up a major tentpole of federal education policy, but have been controversial.

The New Math

mathematical symbols

In states with higher percentages of minority residents, the difference between the percentages of non-white students and non-white teachers is high

Advocates for more minority teachers say minority teachers can improve performance outcomes among minority students because of a shared background. This argument was supported by a recent study in the Economics of Education Review, where test data in Florida found that black, white or Asian students performed better when assigned to teachers that shared their ethnicity. The same results were not found among Hispanic students. 

Boser, Center for American Progress and Economics of Education ReviewVolume 45, April 2015, Pages 44–52. 

Resources for Educators

English Learners

Strategies that Work

Below are some helpful resources for teaching English language acquisition.

Directing Middle School ELs. In this lesson, students will read an excerpt from the novel Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck about a man who takes a road trip with his dog.

The featured activity is focused on the second paragraph of the excerpt and illustrates strategies for answering guiding questions with middle school English language learners.

Ongoing Assessments. In this video, third grade teacher Samantha Kirch (Claremont Immersion School, Arlington, Va.) demonstrates the ways she uses informal assessment to gauge student understanding, as well as the kinds of support offered to ELs who need some extra practice with the concept of drawing conclusions.

Early Childhood

Kids: Tell Tall Tales!

Storytellers Foretell Reading SuccessThere is a connection between African American preschoolers’ storytelling abilities and the development of their early reading skills, according to a study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG). Nicole Gardner-Neblett, FPG researcher, and Iheoma Iruka, director of research and evaluation at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, looked at unsolved early developmental questions by focusing on preschoolers’ skills with oral narratives and on the same children’s emergent literacy at kindergarten. The study did not find a link between oral narrative skills and emergent literacy for the overall sample. However, when they broke down the findings demographically, they “found that preschool oral narrative skills were a significant predictor of emergent literacy for poor and non-poor African American kindergartners. But only for the African American children.” Gardner-Neblett said.

Tools for Students

Students' Corner

Earn While You Learn. In Eight Things to Know About Federal Work Study, students can learn more about ways to earn money to pay for college through part-time on (and sometimes off) campus jobs. Work-study gives students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while pursuing a college degree. 

Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• International Opportunity. The launch of the 2016-2017 Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching (DA) Program is going on now. Check out the online application for K-12 teachers and apply to take part in an intensive professional development program for three to six months abroad.

• Greening Your School Webinars. The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools' environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education. Check out the calendar for upcoming opportunities to Go Green

• Eye on the Prize. The fourth edition of the UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers has opened the call for nominations. The prize is awarded every two years and recognizes initiatives that contribute to improving educational practices around the world, with priority given to developing countries and marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

• Getting Standards Right. Biology teacher Joanna Schimizzi (Matthews, N.C.) finds that higher standards encourage teacher collaboration across subjects. She speaks in support of the standards, in this News and Observer article saying “Previously, students didn’t see their own trajectory – how do I get better at things? These standards were built to layer on top of each other.”

• Education for Development. The background paper for the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education for Development, Investing in Teachers is Investing in Learning. A Pre-requisite for the Transformative Power of Educationhighlights the importance of adapting initial teacher preparation and professional development to respond to challenging classroom conditions. 

Back to School Resources

Freebies to Build Better Lessons

While there are a number of sources for free lessons that teachers can use in their own classrooms, the teachers at ED have found these to be particularly far reaching and effective. 

Minds Under Construction

EngageNY curates a number of Common Core lesson plans for pre-K through 12th grade that can be searched by grade, subject and keywords. There are also curriculum maps and a rich video library. 

BetterLesson houses 16,000+ Common Core, Next Gen science, and blended learning lessons created from Master Teacher projects. There are additional lessons created by the BetterLesson community, and there's a page with "new and popular" lessons of the week. It's easy to search the site. When we searched "ELA thesis statements," we found 15 lessons from Master Teachers and almost 97,000 from the community. 

Grab and Go Mini-tasks for teachers to use with students immediately in the classroom are on the Literacy Design Collaborative website. These resources for back to school help teachers create literacy-rich assignments and courses across content areas.

Emerging Research

Ramping Up ReadingMobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program examined whether participation in Reading Partners, a program that provides eligible elementary school students with tutoring from volunteers, had an impact on reading achievement. The authors (R.T. Jacob, C. Armstrong, and J.A. Willardreported that the Reading Partners program led to improvements in reading fluency, reading comprehension, and sight word efficiency. 

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

Top 5 Quotes

Liberty Elementary

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on the importance school played in his future: "I grew up in a tough neighborhood. Education was life or death for me.'” (Teacher, Oakland, Calif.)

4. "Teaching is not altogether complex, but it is very hard." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)

3. "If technology is your solution and you don’t know your problem, you have a problem." (Principal, California) 

2. "We only matter when we Serve. So Serve well and matter the most." (Principal, Philadelphia, Pa.)

1. "When our fire marshal suggested that we get rid of our wooden bookcases in favor of metal ones, we wanted to ask, 'You do know the books are made of paper, right?'" (Teacher, Texas)