THE TEACHERS EDITION -- October 1, 2015

The Teachers Edition

October 1, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 


In This Issue


Teachers came to the Teach to Lead conference in Tacoma, Wash., with ideas about how to improve their schools. They left feeling empowered with action plans, a support network, and a collection of colleagues' ideas.

Teach to Lead 

Teachers Dared to Put Ideas into Action

Twenty-nine teacher teams met in Tacoma, Wash., last weekend for the fifth Teach to Lead summit, where teachers exchanged ideas to improve their schools and discussed plans to put those ideas into action. Over the past year-and-a-half, more than 560 ideas for expanding teacher leadership have been submitted from all over the country, and it's only just the beginning of the effort to empower teachers to lead the improvement of their schools, says Secretary Duncan. Stay tuned to to participate in the next summit.

Students with Disabilities

"The Confidence to Be Different"


Denver (Colo.) 10-year-old Jayden Vaden has been wearing a prosthetic eye for the last nine years. Now, inspired by rapper Fetty Wap, who lost an eye to glaucoma during his childhood, Jayden has "the confidence to be different." After Jayden's mom posted on Instagram about her son's newfound confidence, Fetty Wap (aka Willie Maxwell) responded: "All I wanna do is show [people] that it's not how you look or what you see, it's how you see it and what [you're] looking for from yourself." (

Principal Corner

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Professional Development Reimagined. In ASCD Edge, Tom Whitby writes about how to give The Age-Old Faculty Meeting [a] Facelift. He suggests using technology to “flip” learning for adults as a way to boost engagement, and ultimately model what we are advocating for our classrooms. Meanwhile, The National Writing Project Radio highlights three National Writing Project school leaders – in OklahomaOregon and South Carolina – who share what professional development and support looks like at their schools. 

The Power of Vision Setting. PBS Learning Media has developed a video of two principals - William C. Bassell, principal of the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City, N.Y., and Susan Bearse, principal of Berkeley Lake Elementary School in Duluth, Ga. - and follows how they have worked to develop a vision for academic success and high expectations for their students.

Investing in Your Teachers. Teacher Phyllis Hoffman celebrates her principal in her blog, “Great School Culture, It Starts with the Principal." She shares how her principal invests time, money and resources in teacher development and creates opportunities for teacher leadership. Hoffman says her colleagues don’t have this experience in their schools. However, schools are innovating across the country and teacher leadership continues to grow as a meaningful way to invest in schools.

Non-Public Education

Pope Visits Harlem School, Assigns Homework


Pope Francis visited an East Harlem Catholic school last week and assigned students' homework: to "please don't forget to pray for me." Our Lady Queen of Angels School serves a mostly black and Latino student population and almost closed a few years ago when the church it partnered with shut down. Throughout his U.S. tour – including this stop – Pope Francis encouraged acceptance for undocumented immigrants. Nearly 2 million students attend U.S. Catholic schools. (

The Survey Says

Grading Teachers and High School

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Eighty-one percent of recent high school graduates rated their teachers as "excellent" or "good" in a survey, and 75 percent gave their high schools grades of A or B. Read more about how young Americans perceive their high school experience. While most said they have a positive perception of their high school experience, they felt that their preparedness for college and career was lower than expected (

Say Something Week

Power to Prevent Tragedies

Sandy Hook Promise wants to prevent acts of violence, including suicide and threats to others, before the incident occurs. In 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker told people of his/her plans ahead of time and 70% of people who die by suicide told someone of their intention or gave some type of warning or indication. 

Schools and youth organizations can register to participate in Say Something Week October 19 - 23, and help their students be trained in how to prevent tragedies and “Say Something” to a trusted adult. By participating they may also be eligible to apply for a special $10,000 “Say Something” award

Did You Know?

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Text messaging can have a major positive impact on student achievement. Studies have shown that strategic texts have helped students persevere through their first year of college, helped parents of preschoolers get their kids ready to read, and led to decreases in the dropout rate at certain schools.

(Benjamin Castleman, University of Virginia professor and author of "The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education," as referenced in a recent column by The Hechinger Report columnist Chris Berdik).

Tia Thompson

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.

Tia Thompson Educator

Tia Thompson is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Claxton Elementary in Guilford County, North Carolina. She is distinguished as a Top 5 Teacher of the Year Level for Guilford County Schools.

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

Despite the odds of poverty and family structure, I knew, at an early age, that I wanted to grow the minds of young people. I believe education is the most effective tool to build a better society for all people.

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

I adore the compassion and open-mindedness of my students. They will build bridges to create friendships with others that may differ from them.The story of six year old Ruby Bridges echoes the compassion and unprejudiced attitudes of children.

 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 families to take the driver’s seat, because I’m just the road map. My role is to guide and provide learning tools to help them succeed to the next level. I pour out technology-based resources as well as strategies to build good readers and 21st Century thinkers.  

Prison Education

Outsmarting Harvard

Prisoner debate with Harvard

Students from the Bard Prison Initiative debate team challenged members of the Harvard College Debating Union last month. In spite of a range of disadvantages – a topic they disagreed with, a lack of Internet access for research – the inmates won. "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard," said Alex Hall, who is convicted of manslaughter. The prison initiative has had a major impact on recidivism and has many similar programs in other states, like this one in Philadelphia recently featured on NPR. (Brody,

Recommended Reading: Diversity in Our Teaching Force

Men of Color event image

• Sharif El-Mekki (2014 Principal Fellow) has launched an organization encouraging black men to enter the classroom in Philadelphia, where he is the principal of Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker campus (BrownWashington Post). El-Mekki was inspired by ED's Male Educators of Color Symposium (pictured left) last Spring.

 A new report released by the Albert Shanker Institute draws attention to the state of teacher diversity in America. While the percentage of students of color is rapidly increasing, more progress must be made in attracting teachers of color, the report argues. 

Quote to Note

"Always share and be nice to everyone and make sure no one feels left out."

(Willa Cates, a student at Dewey Elementary School in Evanston, Ill., when asked for advice for kindergarteners by WBEZ public radio station.)

Education Policy

Limited Resources

Increase in Homeless Youth in Schools

increase in number of homeless youth

The number of homeless children has doubled since before the recession, challenging public schools nationwide

Furthermore, federal funding has not kept pace with the increasing needs of homeless youth, and some federal funding is geared only for adults, making it difficult for children to receive resources. 

A bipartisan bill pending in Congress would create a consistent federal definition of homelessness (Layton and Brown, Washington Post). 

Good Stuff for Eduwonks


Understanding the Gap. A new report, School Composition and the Black-White Achievement Gap, finds that the grade 8 mathematics achievement of black and white students is lower, on average, in public schools with a higher percentage of black students than in schools with lower percentages of black students. The report explores the black-white achievement gap as it relates to a school's demographic composition (National Center for Education Statistics).

 Children in Poverty. According to the 2014 American Community Survey, 1 in 5 kids still live in poverty. The results suggest that the country’s economic recovery is still leaving the lowest-income families behind (Annie E. Casey Foundation).

Resources for Educators

Classroom doing Engineering

Video Worth Watching

It's a Plastic World

Incorporating engineering design principles into your science classroom is not as difficult as it may seem. Watch what happens when engineers and educators collaborate. In partnership with Boeing, classroom teacher Jessica Levine revisits the properties of matter and introduces students to polymeric materials and their properties (TeachingChannel). 

Teachers Notes

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• Majors and Race. All degrees aren't equal, according to Major Malfunction from the Young InvinciblesAfrican American and Latino students are over-represented in the lowest-paying majors and equally scarce in high-paying majors. 

 • Law of the Land. The National Constitution Center and the College Board are launching a new online tool called the Interactive Constitution. Users will be able to click on any provision of the U.S. Constitution and read what leading scholars from across the philosophical and political spectrum have to say about its meaning. 

• Better Informed = Better Schools. Check out the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders' latest Professional Learning Module, Supporting Principals Using Teacher Effectiveness Data for ways to use teacher effectiveness data to make hiring, staffing, teacher leadership and professional development decisions.

Banned Books. This week is the American Library Association's Banned Book Week. Celebrate by grabbing one of these titles and starting a debate with your class.  

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Top 5 Quotes

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Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "I would love to see our country take education as seriously as we do sports or military. It breaks my heart on a daily basis to see the millions of dollars being spent on these things when kids are not able to read." (Teacher, Illinois)

4. "A professional development conference can't replace me going into a classroom and watching another great teacher." (Teacher, Iowa)

3. On a recent Teach to Lead Summit: "I never dreamed our idea would get so far. I've never been to anything like it." (Teacher, Nebraska)

2. "I am the best teacher when I am not restricted by the clock, the walls, or the standardized test." (Teacher, Illinois)

1. "Hearing people say I'm just a teacher is like hearing a super hero say I'm just a super hero." (Teacher, Washington)