THE TEACHERS EDITION -- August 20, 2015

The Teachers Edition

August 20, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 

In This Issue

Still image from Kory's Story

San Francisco, Calif., teacher Kory O'Rourke discusses the difficulty of having to supplement her income with other sources of income to feed her family. "I'm hustling. I'm doing ... everything ... extra tutoring ... [driving for] Lyft ..." Nevertheless, she says, "I live with a decent amount of fear all of the time."

Video Worth Watching

Teachers Working Two Jobs:


We all know that teachers are not paid what they are worth, that we must often work two or more jobs just to afford a home or send a kid to college. 

The Teacher Salary Project released a powerful video testimonial of California English teacher Kory O'Rourke, who brings a real face to the problem of low teacher salaries. O'Rourke drives for Lyft in the evenings order to stay in the profession. Her story illustrates a contradiction in American education: while we say we value teachers, we don't pay them like we mean it.

"We're looking at students and we are trying to say to them that your education matters, your learning matters," says O'Rourke, "but the people that we entrust to give that to you, we are not going to value."

In a NY Times op-ed, Frank Bruni writes that in order to attract and retain good teachers, "Better pay is a must." Bruni reports, "Teachers in many areas can’t hope to buy a house and support a family on their incomes, and college students contemplating careers know that. If those students are taking on debt, teaching isn’t likely to provide a timely way to pay it off. The average salary nationally for public school teachers, including those with decades in the classroom, is under $57,000; starting salaries in some states barely crest $30,000."

Read an article about a proposed bipartisan bill (the Teacher Loan Repayment Act of 2015) that “would streamline loan repayment for teachers in high-need schools.” The bill provides between $250 and $400 per month in subsidized student loan payments for teachers, with a maximum total amount of $23,400 (SchaffhauserTHE Journal).

teacher leader roles

Career Choices

Same Scene, Emerging Roles 

Research shows that a majority of all teachers want new roles that allow them to lead without giving up the teaching they love. 
Learn more about state strategies to leverage teacher leadership and improve their educational systems

Policies that are working include comprehensive teacher career advancement initiatives, multi-tiered certification systems for advanced or master teachers, and certification endorsements related to teacher leadership.

Teach to Lead

Teach to Lead update

Undefeated. Special education teacher Natasha Bowden (Bronx, N.Y.) had a life-changing moment at the Teach to Lead summit. In case you missed it, watch and listen to her story and read her blog about how the summit changed her career.  

Summit Experience. Tennessee teacher Mary Cypress Metz who recently left the classroom, recently attended a Teach to Lead Summit that gave her hope. In this article for Score, she writes about how the momentum around teacher leadership is making it possible for teachers to lead without leaving the classroom. "I once thought that if a teacher wanted to move up the career ladder, the only next step was to become a principal. I will even admit that one of the reasons I left teaching was because I did not feel like there were opportunities for me to grow in that role."

84 Strong. The Teachers Guild has joined Teach to Lead as the 84th official supporter. All of the supporting organizations can be found here

The Teaching Profession

Research on Professional Learning 

How Do Educators Develop Their Craft?

The Mirage Report

TNTP Report. There is a widely held perception that education leaders know how to help teachers improve. Yet TNTP research suggests that despite enormous investments of time and money into professional development, the evidence base for what really helps teachers is very thin.

Findings include:

  • Districts are making a massive investment--$18,000 per teacher, per year--in teacher improvement—far larger than most people realize.         
  • Despite these efforts, most teachers do not appear to improve substantially from year to year—even though many have not yet mastered critical skills.
  • Even when teachers do improve, their growth could not be linked to any particular development strategy.
  • School systems are not helping teachers understand how to improve—or even that they have room to improve at all.

From Mirage to Reality. To help educators rethink professional learning and ask fundamentally different questions about what better teaching means and how to achieve it, Learning Forward has pulled together guidance from more than 25 professional organizations about how to more closely measure the impact of professional development. This will require coordinated action from education stakeholders at all levels, including teachers, administrators, and technical assistance providers. Read their complete recommendations to move professional learning forward.

Their recommended course of action includes:

  • Defining the critical elements of professional learning systems that are essential to supporting teachers to bring effective teaching practices to scale;
  • Establishing tools and resources that help all educators measure the return on investment and impact of teacher supports and other models of professional development so they can make well-informed decisions; and
  • Leveraging the collective intelligence and work of the partners to invent new strategies and systems that take effective teaching and learning to scale and eliminate all barriers along the way.

Other Research on Professional Development. Center for Teaching Quality CEO Barnett Berry, in his latest CTQ Collaboratory blog post, identifies research that finds that teachers improve their practice at greater rates when they work in schools with better quality collaboration and effective professional learning systems and examines the gap between research and reality. The question now, according to Berry, is: Are we ready to DO what we have learned is effective for teachers and students? 

Leading Educators

More PD That Works

Teacher logo

A RAND Corporation study looking at professional development from Leading Educators finds an impact on and its impact on teacher leadership, student achievement and teacher retention. 

Some specifics:

· Teacher leaders across both the New Orleans and Kansas City Fellowship regions showed statistically significant leadership skill growth.

· Fellowship participants who taught mathematics in New Orleans had a statistically significant positive effect on student achievement. 

· Teachers mentored by Leading Educators Fellows had a positive impact on student mathematics and social studies achievement in New Orleans. 

Leading Educators Fellows have remained in high-poverty schools at rates that were higher than or comparable to that of similar teachers in the district. The interim RAND report shows that the programming, including formal training sessions and meetings with a leadership coach, is indeed helping teacher leaders make a positive and significant impact on their students and colleagues.

Celebrating African American Educators

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.

Kenneth Mims

Kenneth Mims

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.

Kenneth Mims is an 8th grade Science Teacher in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He is a 2014 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow.

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

A child uses hope as fuel to their young dreams and aspirations. For many students a teacher provides a consistent level of hope needed by young minds and hearts to endure the daily negatives in our lives. My passion for youth and science education has allowed me to discover strategies to educate and motivate African American students into careers based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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

As a middle school science teacher my students are now born into a new millennium, a new world, the information age, and I notice the limitless potential each student has. With a clear definite purpose in life and a plan, students can guarantee success on their pathway to a career and college. One of my favorite teaching strategies includes showing my students how to enjoy the journey of setting goals and developing action plans to achieve their academic dreams. 

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

Showing that you care is a simple way to encourage African American families and learning communities.  As a basketball coach, mentor, and advocate for youth and education my intentions are to have a positive influence on my students.  I hope many of the students I teach will someday make the decision to play such a pivotal role in the lives of future generations by becoming a teacher or mentor.

Recommended Reading

Marigolds Help First Year Teachers Grow

Teachers will love this blog about marigolds by former National Board Certified middle-school language arts teacher Jennifer Gonzalez.  

The Marigold Effect

In the garden, marigolds serve to protect other plants from harmful influences like bugs and weeds; schools have marigolds, too, Gonzales says. They are the veteran teachers who support, nurture and encourage new teachers on their way to maturity.

First year teachers should surround themselves as many marigolds as possible. These “marigold” teachers can help sort out problems, interpret a principal’s comments, understand a new grading system, or just offer a kind word.

Read more about growing strong, finding marigolds and also avoiding the toxicity of walnut trees – other teachers who can really cause problems. 

Making Words Dance

Poet educators Kwame Alexander and Chris Colderly wax poetic over the need to teach poetry in schools. "Poems are the human soul condensed for our pleasure. When done right, they can inspire us—in our classrooms and in our homes—to write our own journeys, to find our own voices." 

They drill down and talk about approaches to teaching poetry that will have the greatest impact on student engagement and learning.  

Did You Know How Prepared Students Feel?

Question mark

Fewer than half of high school students across the country say they are ready for college and careers.

College and Career Readiness survey of 165,000 high school students,YouthTruth (Leal, EdSource).

Educators Rising

Growing Our Own

Did you know over 60% of teachers work within 20 miles of where they went to high school? Communities need to grow their own, and Educators Rising, which launched this month, is on a mission to help. It’s a free national network for students exploring the teaching profession. 

Educators Rising

Check it out, and watch a 3-minute video tour of the EdRising Virtual Campus, the online community for students and teacher leaders aiming to grow the next generation of great teachers.

Common Core Connections

Common Core logo

What's Happening with PARCC? The tests have been read and the answers tallied, but establishing the cut scores is difficult work (Turner, nprEd). 

Is the Common Core turning the tide for disadvantaged college students? Studies show that first generation students are less prepared for college than their peers whose parents went to college, but early adopters of Common Core are showing promise for changing their trajectory (Miller, US News and Center for American Progress).

Doing the Math. In Math MattersCatherine Brown and Max Marchitello outline the benefits of teaching for conceptual understanding of math, which is embedded in the Common Core. Based on a review of existing literature and research they also a put forward a series of recommendations for states and districts to ease the transition to conceptual math and support students and teachers as they continue to implement the Common Core (Center for American Progress).

Quote to Note

Why it Takes at Least Three Years to Turn Around Challenging Schools

“It takes at least three years to effectively turn around a school. 

In the first year, you really need to focus on changing the culture and leading indicators such as attendance, suspension and student attrition. 

In the second year, there should be increases in proficiency and exceptional growth. 

By year three you should see great gains in proficiency and continue to see high growth scores.”

--Aspire’s Allison Leslie in Richard Whitmire's article, "It's Not That America Doesn't Know How to Fix Failing Schools, We Just Choose Not To" (Real Clear Education).

Education Policy

Policy Briefs

Eliminating Early Learning Programs. House and Senate committees have proposed to eliminate Preschool Development Grants, a program that is in the middle of building and expanding high-quality preschool in over 200 high-need communities across 18 states. In 2014, these states received grants to expand the number of children in high-quality preschool programs both by funding new preschool classrooms and improving the quality of existing preschool programs. Pulling these funds away from states and communities in the last two years of the grant would jeopardize their plans to serve nearly 60,000 additional children and would leave another 43,000 children to attend preschool in programs in need of important quality improvements. 

More on Pell for Prisoners. ED announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program to test new models to allow individuals incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions to receive Pell Grants and pursue a postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around. There is solid evidence that access to education in jail helps prisoners succeed on the outside. According to a 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, prisoners who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years of release than prisoners who did not participate in these programs (McCarthy and Hart, EdCentral). Besides the federal Pell grant project, several California community colleges will launch programs at four state prisons this fall, following recent legislation that increases funding for inmate education (Rivera, Los Angeles TImes).

For rural and tribal communities. To enhance the quality of life and upward mobility for children in rural and tribal places, the Administration has announced a technical assistance demonstration initiative: Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT).  This initiative will provide support for up to 10 rural and tribal communities with vision, capacity, and assets to develop innovative, two-generation strategies. Letters of interest must be submitted by August 31 to:

An All-Hands-On-Deck Effort

Reaching Out to the Disconnected

Disconnected Youth

Secretary Duncan posted a piece on Medium on the need to connect more youth. “All young people -- no matter where they grow up -- need havens of hope and safety,” he emphasized. “They need skills to succeed in society and the workplace. They need positive adult role models, mentors, support, and structure, as well as clear pathways to a bright future.

The solution, he said, is that "If we care about our country’s future, we must work together -- at the local, state, and federal levels -- to reconnect all young people with the education and career pathways that lead away from poverty, desperation, and violence and toward a renewed sense of community, stability, and success.” Educators can weigh in and highlight success.

Good Stuff for Eduwonks


Secondary Students Transition through PowerStats. ED's National Center for Education Statistics has posted all the student academic and career transition data from its Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 through PowerStats, in an easy-to-use format for analyzing and creating tables. 

Evaluating School Leaders. This collection of resources includes features of effective principal evaluation systems employed by states and districts. It can be used to support states and districts in identifying resources for taking appropriate next steps to evaluate school leaders, design an evaluation method, and/or buy a program or service. 

Ten Years After Katrina

What Happened to New Orleans' Schools

New Orleans schools improving

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans "essentially erased its traditional school district and started over."

The reforms enacted showed that all student outcomes are positive by any measure. The reforms have produced student learning gains of .2 to .4 standard deviations, at the cost of approximately 9 percent* of spending. 

For context on those effect sizes, Tulane economics professor Douglas Harris and his co-authors concluded they were not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time (HarrisEducation Next).

*The spending amount is a very rough estimate. The report cites a cost figure of $1,000 per pupil. For comparison’s sake, the figure is converted it to a percentage of expenditures using Louisiana’s per pupil spending figures.

Resources for Educators

Early Childhood

Pathways to Early Education

• Talk, Read and Sing Together. ED and Health and Human Services, in partnership with Too Small to Fail, have created the "Talk, Read, and Sing Together Every Day" tip sheets. Made specifically for families, caregivers and early educators, these resources can help enrich a child's early language experiences by providing research-based tips for talking, reading, and singing with young children. 

• Reading to Children is Powerful. A new American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement recommends that pediatric providers advise parents of young children that reading aloud and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development and parent-child relationships.

 Linguistic Diversity, too. There is wide agreement that early care and education programs should support parent engagement linked to early learning for all families, including families from diverse language and cultural backgrounds. Research Connections' new brief highlights research that can inform policies to expand the capacity of early care and education programs to promote parent engagement in linguistically diverse families with young children. 

Share in KindergartenYoung children's social-emotional intelligence may correlate to success later in life, including fewer substance-abuse problems, according to a study of nearly 800 children over two decades (Brown, Washington Post). 

English Learners

It's Cool to be Dual

• Rushing to Hire Bilingual Teachers. There is a need for bilingual teachers in many states where the number of ELs is drastically rising because more and more parents want their children to learn not only English, but also have a bilingual education.

• Strong Dual Immersion. In this interview with Karen Beeman, an education consultant whose specialty is biliteracy and bilingual education, she talks about the benefits of dual immersion programs for dual language learners and what districts need to keep in mind when developing and implementing dual immersion programs.

 Using Art to Teach Reasoning. Get lesson ideas from videos by high school teacher Lindsay Young. She has a class of English-learners, including many with special needs. Rather than teach them literary analysis and English at the same time, she works to develop students' ability to analyze content first, using art, so that she can focus on teaching students reading afterward.  

Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• "I Feel You." If elementary students can identify the feelings and thoughts of two characters engaged in a conflict, and then analyze how their internal state drive their actions, it can help them to walk in the shoes (or paws) of characters. Read more about the strategy to teach social-emotional lessons (McTigue, Douglass, Wright, Hodges and Franks, The Reading Teacher).

• Guide on the Side The Marshall Memo 596 points to a 1993 article by Alison King that lampoons the traditional sage-on-the-stage approach to teaching and suggests three teaching strategies that are far more effective (The Reading Teacher).

• Odds Stacked Against Them. New York Times magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones reports on a school district in Normandy, Missouri that accidentally stumbled on an integration program in recent years. The district includes the high school that Michael Brown attended (This American Life). 

Tools for Students

Students' Corner

System-crashing Glitches Solved. After a major redesign, the 2015-16 Common Application is up and running. There are 69 new member colleges this year, and more students than ever are applying. There's a new application question: Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve.

Benefits of Study Abroad. Only 14% of U.S. students study abroad at some point during their degree program, but what they can learn about culture, religion, history, and development can make them globally competent -- able to recognize various perspectives, communicate with others, and translate ideas into actions blogs student intern Rachel Warner

Disney Dreamers Academy Applications. Students between ages 13- 19 can apply to Disney Dreamers Academy, where selected applicants can learn how to set goals, make plans and begin making their dreams a reality. They are looking for young leaders with a winning combination of attributes that reflect strong character, positive attitude, and persistence to take advantage of opportunities. 

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

Top 5 Quotes

from the Teach to Lead state summit

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on the importance of having systems to select and prepare teacher leaders: "In our district, we have what we call 'STP.' That is, the Same Ten People get selected over and over for leadership." (Teacher, Colorado)

4."It takes a different mindset to work with adult learners." (Teacher, New Mexico)

3. "It's a challenge to incorporate hybrid roles for teacher leaders into a school's existing culture." (Teacher, New Jersey)

2. Describing a challenge teachers have with inexperienced school leadership: "More and more principals have less and less teaching experience, and they are getting younger and younger." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)

1. "I came to the [Teach to Lead] Summit because I want to develop innovative solutions to problems, not just complain all the time." (Teacher, Oakland, Calif.)