THE TEACHERS EDITION -- September 10, 2015

The Teachers Edition

September 10, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 

In This Issue

5 Common Teaching Practices I'm Kicking to the Curb

Revisiting Pedagogy

Adios, Sacred Cows

The teachers at ED like Jennifer Gonzalez's Cult of Pedagogy blog because it dares us to consider abandoning some sacred cows of teaching, including popcorn reading, instruction based on learning styles, and whole-class punishments. 

On her Facebook page, Gonzalez admits, "I have used all 5 of these," but she explains the evolution of her thinking on each and backs up her arguments with research. Finally, she challenges us all to take a second look and be willing to place the outdated strategies with something more effective. 

PTA fundraising image

Creative Fundraising

Cash, not Cupcakes

This clever PTA fundraiser doesn't ask parents to bake cookies or support the local fun run, but cuts to the chase asking parents to give money to support their school. The form proposes that community members give cash (and avoid spending money on unwanted items, offending neighbors and colleagues, and begging friends and coworkers to buy tickets or support school wrapping paper sales).

A mother from Rockwall, Texas, posted this "alternative fundraiser" form on Facebook that she claims was sent by the PTA at her seventh-grade son's school, which has not been identified (Stump, Today). 

Teach to Lead update

Teach to Lead Support Grows

The Teaching Channel has joined the Teach to Lead effort as our 85th supporting organization. Check out the complete roster of organizations supporting teacher leadership through Teach to Lead. While you are online, check out the Teaching Channel's  52 new videos on deeper learning.

P Chat

Principal Chat

Balanced Leadership. Principals share stories about how they have implemented the behaviors and practices of effective school leadership learned from Balanced Leadership for Powerful Learning: Tool for Achieving Success in Your School (GoodwinCameron, and Hein, ASCD).

What Principals Need to Know about Early Ed. A report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals shows that principals want more training on meeting the needs of their youngest learners

Standards for Education Leaders. The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards used to set benchmarks for what principals should know and do to lead students and teachers are in the final stage of review. Read more about the leadership standards and their path to adoption (Superville, EdWeek).

The Teaching Profession

Teaching by Heart

Duncan Learns from Teachers of Incarcerated Students

Secretary Duncan with an inmate during the announcement of his initiative

Arne Duncan talks with a prisoner during the announcement of a program that would allow some inmates to qualify for Pell grants.

ED recently announced the launch of an experimental Second Chance Pell Pilot program to examine how prison education programs could be continued and expanded. Learn more about what happened when corrections educators met with Secretary Duncan who wanted to learn more about their work ( 

The discussion contained quite a few nuggets of wisdom from the teachers. Here are a few.

  • "Community colleges are all about second chances. That's why we [in the prison education program] are in this work." (North Carolina)
  • "In our state we know that 95-97% of the people in our prisons are coming back to our community. We want them educated." (Texas)
  • "The best part of this work is watching the inmates learn to see themselves as students, often for the first time." (North Carolina)
  • "We see this work as a political act, breaking down walls and reforming criminal justice." (Illinois)

Danielle Owens

Celebrating African American Educators

Teacher Owens

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.

Danielle Owens is a 4th Grade Teacher at Briarwood Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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

I decided when I was in high school that teaching was the path I should follow. I worked at summer camps and tutored children, and realized that education is my passion and that helping shape lives is my purpose in life. Deep inside I have always known that teaching is my gift, and I couldn’t imagine myself in any other career. 

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

One of the things that I most celebrate about my students is their resiliency. They have experienced many things that many adults could never imagine, yet they continue to smile and handle situations at such a young age the best way they know how. I admire how they can come to school and still strive to be successful, still find hope and work hard. 

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

My biggest goal when I first meet and talk with my families is for them to know that we are a team. I encourage them in this way so that they know they are not in this journey alone. When the adults in a child’s family know they are a part of the process they are more open to my suggestions because they know I have their child’s best interest at heart. 

Minority Recruitment

Do Students and Teachers Need to Look Alike?

In this opinion piece, Matthew Lynch, the dean of Virginia Union University’s school of education outlines why schools and colleges need more minority instructors (EdWeek).

First, the diversity of students should be reflected in the diversity of instructors. 

Second, minority students will perform better with more minority instructors. 

Third, minority instructors will help shape a more diverse campus culture. 

Fourth, white students will have a better understanding of people of other races if they are taught by more minority instructors.

Early Literacy

Did You Know?

Question mark

September 8 was International Literacy Day. Despite the focus on literacy in this country, 80 percent of low-income fourth graders and 66 percent of all fourth graders are not proficient in reading, according to NAEP scores.

Learn more about early intervention in literacy (Loewenberg, EdCentral).

Common Core Connections

Common Core logo

Surprising Roots of the Common Core. Brookings published a report by David Whitman on the “conservative roots of the Common Core” in which he argues that “the Common Core State Standards embody conservative principles in setting goals for student learning that date back to Ronald Reagan.” 

Teachers Talk Sources. This video features teachers highlighting good teaching materials aligned to the Common Core ( 

Education Policy

Policy Briefs

New Website and Think Tank. Check out The Learning Policy Institute, a new independent, national education think tank that conducts and communicates high-quality research to shape policies that enable equitable learning for every child. It will also help to connect policymakers, educators, researchers, community groups, government and business officials, and others who share a commitment to high-quality education for all children with evidence to guide their search for smart policy. On the site, check out Linda Darling-Hammond’s blog, A New Moment in Education. 

The New Math

mathematical symbols

Data show 1 in 10 kindergartners miss nearly a month of school per year.

A new report, Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Mapping a Course for School Success, from the Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign shows how disparities in school attendance rates starting as early as preschool and kindergarten are contributing to achievement gaps and high school dropout rates across the country (Brown, Washington Post).

Most Disappointing Scores in Ten Years

Decline of the SAT

The average SAT score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a maximum 2400, the College Board reported. That was down 7 points from the previous class's mark and was the lowest composite score of the past decade (since the college admission test was overhauled in 2005). There were declines of at least 2 points on all three sections of the test - critical reading, math and writing (Anderson, Washington Post). 

Good Stuff for Eduwonks


Simple Stats. This National Center for Education Statistics First Look report introduces new data for the universe of public elementary and secondary schools and agencies in the United States in the 2013-14 school year. It includes statistics that describe the numbers and types of public elementary and secondary schools and local education agencies; operational status of schools and districts; student membership counts; teacher counts; and pupil/teacher ratios.

By the Numbers. The U.S. Census Bureau has issued its 2015-2016 report of back-to-school data. Eduwonks can mine through a plethora of types of data, including the number of students enrolled in schools, the languages they speak, per-pupil spending, degrees earned, and the financial payoffs of staying in school. 

Resources for Educators

Early Learners

Helping Young Learners Succeed

Help with IEPs and IFSPs. State early learning leaders, technical assistance providers and federal staff may find this new webpage helpful to address the systems-level challenges of Individual Family Service Plans (IFSPs) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The page will be updated regularly with new resources and state examples related to inclusion in early childhood.

Does Early Retention Help? Retention of students has been common practice in education for many decades. But what does the research say? CEELO (Center of Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes) author Jim Squires, answers the question, is early retention an effective, research-based strategy for improving student outcomes?

students study photos

Library of Congress 

Powerful Connections

Check out the engaging lessons about electricity created by second-grade teacher Stephanie DiFrancesco. DiFrancesco uses a combination of primary resources and teaching ideas gleaned from a Library of Congress (LC) Summer Teacher Institute to introduce the concept of electricity. 

Recently LC staff watched this teacher in action at her school in Washington, D.C., where they were struck by her students' interest working with primary sources and how the lesson sparked their curiosity. While on the site, check out the LC's primary source analysis tool

STEM Education

Awakening Young Scientists

Ramirez does science

Ainissa Ramirez, an award-winning scientist and self-described “science evangelist,” has turned the focus of her lectures to STEM education and hopes to encourage an interest in science among youth.  

In this NPR piece on her STEM activities by Acacia Squires, Ramirez says that as a young girl, she “knew she wanted to be a scientist, but she says there weren’t many, if any, African-American scientists for her to imagine herself as.” 


Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• A Look at Career Prep Models. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez recommend learning models that prepare all students for the 21st-century workforce, like the one in Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (Philadelphia Inquirer).  

• Code of Ethics Webinar. Need a crash course on the Model Code of Ethics for Educators? Register for the free presentation on September 15 with members of the National Council on the Advancement of Ethics for Educators, who worked to develop the Code. The presenters will engage participants in discussion of the Code and its potential uses. The Model Code of Ethics for Educators is a creation of NADTEC in partnership with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Educational Testing Service, and University of Phoenix. 

• Implementing the 4 Cs. Join the webinar on Thursday September 24 at 4pm ET, "Understanding and Integrating the 4Cs - Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity - in your Classroom- What does the Research Say?" that will summarize in plain language the research findings of the Partners in 21st Century Learning 4Cs research briefs.

September is National Preparedness Month

Be Prepared Month

National Preparedness Month -- observed each September -- is a reminder that everyone must take action to prepare for emergencies.  This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”  

National Preparedness Month culminates on September 30 with National PrepareAthon! Day, a bi-annual opportunity to prepare for specific hazards with drills, exercises, and group discussions, during which individuals, families, organizations such as K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and communities will take simple, specific actions to increase emergency preparedness.

How to Contact Newsletter Editor

Top 5 Quotes

Liberty Elementary

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "When I was studying to be a teacher, the Common Core wasn't really explained or defined. There were vague references to it, but the talk was more philosophical than practical.'” (English Teacher, Maryland)

4. "I'd like to see teacher preparation programs teach us how to deconstruct standards, whether they are Common Core or not." (5th Grade Teacher, Virginia)

3. On the challenge of being a teacher leader: "Teacher leaders are putting their necks out. They are asking their colleagues to do things differently. That's not easy." (Teacher, Maine)

2. Advice to teachers who want to lead: "Don't wait for the invitation. Your input as a teacher is needed and deserved." (Superintendent, Maine)

1. "Culture eats policy for breakfast." (Teacher, Pennsylvania)