What ED Learned By Shadowing 85 Principals Last Week - THE TEACHERS EDITION

The Teachers Edition

November 5, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 


In This Issue

School Discipline

How Do We Improve School Discipline?

School discipline has been in the news for the last couple of weeks, after a school safety officer in South Carolina was recorded dragging a student across a classroom floor and a top-scoring New York City charter school organization admitted to having a list of students they hoped to counsel out of their school. Secretary Duncan weighed in last week, pointing out that "every single year, our K-12 schools suspend roughly three and a half million students, and refer a quarter of a million children to the police for arrest. If our collective goal is to end the school-to-prison pipeline, that is simply unacceptable," he said. 


Some of the principals whose schools were visited by ED staffers last week.

ED Listens

What ED Learned By Shadowing 85 Principals Last Week

Staff at the Department of Education shadowed more than 80 principals last week to get an inside view of what it means to be a principal. Principals were asked to open their doors, but not to lay out the red carpet, so that staff could see the challenges and inspiration of being a principal. Both principals and those who shadowed them, including Secretary Duncan and Acting Secretary King, gathered on Friday to highlight the importance of the principal and celebrate their accomplishments. Principals talked about loving the challenge but wanting supports as they shift further into the role of instructional leaders. One question that came up, which Secretary Duncan echoed in his closing comments was “How can we make this a job that people want to stay in for the long run?” Suggested supports included creating a building manager position, as well as to decrease the isolation of the job.

The Nation's Progress 

Declines in NAEP Scores, But Improvement Elsewhere

naep levels and map

The 2015 results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress test were released recently and declines were recorded in many grade levels. Despite that, Secretary Duncan drew attention to the country's increased high school graduation rates and narrowed gap for traditionally underserved students. The vast majority of states saw increases in overall graduation rates, while only a few states saw decreases or no change since the 2012-13 school year. To learn more about NAEP performance, check out these infographics.

Doing School Differently

First There Was Khan Academy; Now There's Khan School

khan school

Salman Khan, founder of the online learning site Khan Academy, opened the doors to an experimental school in Silicon Valley. There, different age-groups follow self-paced lesson plans and work on broad, real-world design projects like designing a classroom library and building a boat. Could this be the future of schools? See for yourself. (Tanz, Wired.com)

'Common Corpse'

Top Tweets from Halloween-Inspired #Eduween15

Education-minded Twitter users celebrated Halloween last weekend by suggesting some cheeky edu-costumes they might wear. Here are a few they came up with: 

  • "Just don't show up. Tell people you went as ed. policy in the presidential debates." - Rachel Morello, a reporter with State Impact Indiana.
  • "Block an escalator so everyone has to wait on you. Throw crumpled paper and ink at the people waiting. You are a school copier." - Ryan Lacson, a science teacher in Missouri.
  • "Wear the same mummy costume all your friends are wearing. You are: Common Corpse." - Holly Hacker, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News

fishman prize announcement

Amazing Public School Teachers

Apply for National Recognition 

The 2016 Fishman Prize application is now open. The prize is $25,000 and a life-changing summer residency for outstanding educators in low-income schools. 

Past winners have only one thing in common: they are everything but ordinary. Apply or nominate today. 

P Chat

Principal's Corner

Principal Power. Alicia Pérez-Katz (2015 Principal Ambassador Fellow) blogs about the power of principals and the huge difference they can make in a school. 

Outstanding School Leadership Awards. Secretary Duncan announced the 2015 recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. The seven principals from the 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Nov. 9th. Learn more about their work

The Teaching Profession

Some Schools Replace Seats with Standing Desks

Instead of sitting all day, some schools are using standing desks, which they say is making kids more attentive and burning more calories. The mission of StandUpKids.org is to get every child in America at a standing desk in the next 10 years. Watch the video of what it looks like in one school -- can you see it happening at yours?

Reach Higher 


Campaign Urges #BetterMakeRoom for Next Generation

The #BetterMakeRoom campaign is designed to help kids with "staking a claim, forging a path and lighting the way for others just like you." Sponsored by Michelle Obama and a number of celebrities, BetterMakeRoom.org is a place for students to post pictures and positive messages about their college aspirations in an effort to encourage others to attain an education to achieve one's dreams. Share with your students to motivate them to claim their spot in a bright future.

Treva Jenkins 

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.

african american educator Jenkins

Treva Jenkins is a Language Arts Teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School (Maricopa, Ariz.). Jenkins is a candidate for the National Board Certification. In addition, Jenkins was the 2012 National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year.

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

My choice of teaching as a career was the culmination of a process of reflection about what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to serve my country. The great teachers I have had throughout my education are my heroes and my role models. 

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

The one thing I most celebrate about my students is their culture. As an educator, it is important for me to address diversity and to integrate multicultural instruction into the classroom curriculum. It helps to instill them with a sense of pride for their heritage and respect for their peers while teaching exciting, unique content!

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

There is a very special reading project that I do with my students where parents assist their children with learning about the history and accomplishments of Africans and African-Americans, and the significant role they’ve played throughout history. It builds family bonds, encourages parental involvement, and teaches African American students self-respect, self-worth and self-confidence.

Video Worth Watching

honoring a custodian

"Our Janitor, Our Friend, the Best Man Ever"

The staff and students at a Nashville elementary school honored their school custodian, Mr. Patton, with a ceremony and a check. "It's very important for kids to come to a clean school," he says. Says one student: "Not only does he clean stuff, but he brightens our day with funny jokes." We're not in the product placement business, but we also can't resist this commercial from Barbie-maker Mattel that asks "what happens when girls imagine that they can be anything?"


Williamsfield School goes to open resources

Encouraging Schools to #GoOpen

Forget textbooks that are out-of-date just weeks after being printed. Find out how the Williamsfield School District, (Ill.) a small, rural district serving approximately 300 students in one building—Pre-K through 12th grade—decided to #GoOpen and replaced textbooks with online resources. Learn more about the #GoOpen campaign that encourages states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials and the Department's proposed regulation that would require all copyrightable intellectual property created with Department grant funds to have an open license.  

Try Mindfulness

Managing Stress – for Teachers and for Students

It's no secret that teaching can be stressful. In fact, one study counts it as one of the three most stressful professions. October and November can be particularly hard. After NPR posted a piece telling new teachers that "It's OK to cry in your car," the advice really struck a chord with listeners. They called and wrote in to say that veteran teachers might even do it too. To deal with the stress, some schools are turning to mindfulness and meditation, and while there isn't much concrete data to support its use, subscribers swear by it and the practice seems to be picking up steam (Harris, NYTimes).

Resources for Educators

Improving High-quality Early Learning Programs

Last week, ED and Health and Human Services released a report showing Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge states are rapidly improving the quality of early learning programs while enrolling more children, especially from low- and moderate-income families, in the highest-quality programs. More programs are being evaluated and more programs are performing well

Helping Instructional Coaches Track Their Impact

Teachers can collect qualitative and quantitative data from students at any time to assess their effectiveness. But the same challenge is harder for instructional coaches. Blogger Peter DeWitt weighs in on how instructional coaches should evaluate their impact, pointing out several reasons why instructional coaches matter and drawing a parallel with medical coaches that help out doctors.

Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• The Real World Design ChallengeThis year students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System with the mission of precision agriculture. Teams apply STEM from school to learn engineering, aeronautical design and business plan development. Register your team for the State Competition (October -- January) and the National Championship (February -- April).

• Not a Two Percent Cap. Educator and Fishman Prize winner Kelly Zunkiewicz gives feedback to Arne about fixing assessments. If we're serious about fixing testing, she says, focus less on particular quotas for how much time we should spend on tests and more on figuring out which tests are useful—and which ones aren’t.

• Getting Kids Outside Works. We told you about the Every Kid in a Park initiative, and now Andrew Rotherham talks about the difference it's making for kids (U.S. News & World Report). 

Top 5 Quotes

listening session Arne

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "When students are over-tested, it becomes less valuable to them." (Teacher, South Carolina)

4. "If you bought Chromebooks only to take the PARCC, you're using technology the wrong way." (Teacher, New Jersey)

3. "Technology must be used to reach learning goals - not just for tech usage." (Principal, North Carolina)

2. "Since future is unknowable, Future Ready schools teach students the intellectual framework to confront whatever comes next." (Administrator, Pennsylvania)

1. "Instead of No Child Left Behind, we said no child left offline." (Superintendent, California)