Answers to Your Questions About ESSA - THE TEACHERS EDITION - December 17, 2015

The Teachers Edition

December 17, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 

The Teachers Edition will be going on leave until after the winter holidays. 

We'll be back January 7, 2016.


In This Issue

King in classroom Tampa

Incoming Acting Secretary John King works with Tampa (Fla.) elementary school children. King has made it clear that the Department will increase its attention to equity going forward.

Increasing Graduation Rate

ESSA Set to Help Schools Build On Progress Already Made

Last week, the big news was the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Take a look at the differences between ESSA and its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, and what the plan is for implementation. There are also resources on the White House website, including a report on the progress made in education since President Obama took office.

This week, we saw another sign of progress. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 82 percent in 2013-14, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago. Click here to view the graduation rate data from the National Center for Education Statistics —including a state-by-state breakdown.

Video Worth Watching

FLOTUS Uses Rap Skills to Share Collegegoing Message

go to college video

"Go To College!" That's the message First Lady Michelle Obama wants to get across to teens ages 14 - 19, as part of her Better Make Room campaign targeting Generation Z, as part of the Reach Higher Initiative

She teams up with "Saturday Night Live" comedian Jay Pharoah to bring inspiration to kids in this hilarious video touting the Go-To-College mantra

Teacher Leadership

Professionalizing Teaching

Teachers Say They Have Less Autonomy Than Before

A survey of some 37,000 American teachers reveals that they feel they have less professional autonomy on decisions related to everything from instructional and discipline strategies to how much homework students receive each night. The results show that music teachers feel they have the most autonomy (Sparks, Education Week).

The 6 Words That Teacher-Leaders Hate to Hear

"Don't worry. You're already doing this." According to Sarah Brown Wessling, former National Teacher of the Year, those words are the "nemesis of teacher leadership ... We say it because we look out at their faces and know how tired, how overloaded they already are and the idea of adding one more thing becomes just too much. We say it because sometimes teacher leaders are exhausted from diffusing toxic resistance from the adults in their schools."

teach to lead logo

108 Supporters. Ten new supporting organizations have signed up with Teach to Lead. They include the National Teachers Hall of Fame; Education Development Center, Inc.; Phi Delta Kappa; Future Farmers of America; National Science Teacher Association; Early Care and Education Consortium; Partners for Each and Every Child; Public Education Business CoalitionDivision for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children; and Association for Career and Technical Education.

 Raising Up Teachers. A team from Starkville, Miss., came to a Teach to Lead Summit months ago. Then, earlier this month, Teach to Lead came to them. A Leadership Lab was hosted in Starkville to look at ways to leverage teacher leadership there (Martin, 

Chicago Students Boycott School Lunches, Seek Changes

school lunch

A group of civics students at Roosevelt High School in Chicago recently debuted a website showcasing photos of unappetizing school lunches, including still-frozen fruit cups and questionable meat. Last week, they met with school district officials and representatives from Aramark, which provides meals for 380 school districts nationwide. They argue, on their website, that students should get "the best healthy lunches like salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits, etc. Instead they give some gross, unhealthy food" (ErbentrautHuffington Post).

A recent school lunch at Roosevelt High School in Chicago. (Jasmine Castillo

P Chat

Principal Corner

First-Ever Professional Standards for Principal Supervisors. The newly released 2015 Model Principal Supervisor Professional Standards are the first-ever standards developed for supervisors of school principals. They are intended to help supervisors so they can focus on helping principals improve instruction, learning and ultimately student achievement.

Principal Prep Policies. A new policy guide provides policymakers with a resource for exploring high leverage policies for principal preparation and licensure and ensure they are present in each state’s policy. Only Illinois and Tennessee met the criteria for all five high-leverage policies in principal preparation.

Meet the Dancing Principal. An assistant principal at an elementary school in Arkansas is lightening the mood and creating a positive tone with students at the start of each day.

The Teaching Profession

Just As Much Testing as in Finland

Compared to Other Countries, U.S. Kids Aren't Overtested

Andreas Schleicher, a director with the OECD, says there is a myth that kids in the U.S. take more tests than those in other countries. He writes: "34% of 15-year-olds in the Netherlands said they take a standardized test at least once a month, 21% of students in Israel said so, and on average across OECD countries 8% of students so reported. In the United States, only 2% of students said they took standardized tests at least once a month. By the way, that turns out to be exactly the same share as in Finland."

Birds and Bees

Some States Don't Make the Grade on Sex Ed

A new study shows that fewer than one-fifth of middle schools — and only half of high schools — are teaching the full range of the sex education topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Least likely to be taught: how to obtain and use condoms. In Kentucky, only four percent of middle schoolers teach the recommended material, whereas North Carolina and New Jersey, while not perfect, get some of the highest marks (Anderson, NPR).

Charisse Robinson 

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.

Robinson teacher

Charisse Robinson is a 3rd grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School within D.C. Public Schools.

Why and how did you decide upon a career in education? I like to think of teaching as my “superpower”.  I teach because this is my calling. I love working with children especially in the urban school setting, and I am fueled by my passion to help all children regardless of race and/or socioeconomic status. 

In what ways do you encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning and development of African American students? Communicating with my parents on a daily basis is very important in building relationships and parental involvement.  I have parents sign up monthly to volunteer in our classroom and provide resources to foster a collaborative relationship in both the teaching and learning cycle.

What do you want to see change within education to better support the learning and development of African American students? Ensuring that every child regardless of socio-economic status has access to a highly-effective teacher and a rigorous and quality education. Ensure that there are equitable resources and services in low income schools.

Reports of Bullying of Immigrant Students on the Rise

Allegedly seeing an uptick of bullying, Muslim students have been asked "Are you part of the 9/11 or are you ISIS?" New immigrants from Central America are being called "chanchi," which a 16-year-old from El Salvador, says means "something like a dirty animal, a pig." These examples are part of heightened concern around bullying of immigrant teenagers. In Maryland, new immigrants report being harassed and excluded by less-recent Americanized immigrants. Meanwhile, research is showing increased anti-Muslim incidents in schools around the country (Trull, WAMU; Rizga, Mother Jones).

Education Policy

Report: Achievement Gap Starts in Crib, not in Classroom

Providing universal prekindergarten to children in poverty is a no-brainer, but it isn't enough to close the achievement gap, according to a new report. In Washington D.C. alone, there is a "tale of two cities," the report concludes, suggesting that there must be a far more comprehensive set of support services for children and families in need, including home-visit programs (Chandler, Washington Post).

Get Off the Couch

Teenagers Aren't Getting Enough Exercise

Researchers attached GPS devices to teenagers to track when and where they were getting physical activity. The result: on average, teens are physically active for only 23 minutes per day while at school, making up the majority of the 39.4 minutes they are physically active during their entire day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adolescents get 60 minutes of physical activity per day, yet only 1 in 10 actually do (Rabin, New York Times).

Taking Care of Teachers

Want to Attract Teachers? Build Them Affordable Homes

When one rural North Carolina county realized that its teachers could not afford to live in the limited housing supply nearby, it decided to create the housing for them. New teachers have moved into the two-story apartment buildings built near the local high school and seem to be happy. It's a problem that some large urban districts are grappling with too. San Francisco announced it will create 500 stabilized housing units for its teachers in the next several years, whereas Newark, N.J., and Asheville, N.C., are creating teacher housing, too (Clark, NPR). 

Resources for Educators

Future Ready Learning

Check out the newly released 2016 National Education Technology Plan and new commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders across the country working to improve teaching and student achievement through the effective use of technology. Updated every five years, the plan outlines a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. 

Integrated Approaches to Career and Technical Education

In this piece on a new, integrated approach to teaching career and technical education, Gary Hoachlander of ConnectEd and Long Beach Unified superintendent Chris Steinhauser take a look at a method that joins career and technical education (CTE) with core academics. The more integrated approaches (Linked Learning is an example) being used in California encourage teachers of CTE and core academics to align their coursework and jointly teach cross-disciplinary projects that tackle real-world problems.

Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• Are we willing to adequately fund our public schools? The answer in most states is no, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities new report (Education Post). 

  Grading the AssessmentsTo The Test: Teachers Grade The NY State Assessments looks at an analysis by America Achieves Fellows who gathered information about assessments and recommend how to make them better. 

 Which Test Is Best? NNSTOY teachers favor Common Core Tests over state assessments. Find out more in Laurie Calvert's blog

• Star Wars Mania for Your Classroom. Teachers are using the movie to talk about bullying and also just to teach in creative ways (Neely, KPCCRadio).

• Designing Bio SuitsWatch this video about the engineering design challenge in which students work together to design bio suits that maintain homeostasis in humans (The Teaching Channel). 

Top 5 Quotes

King listening to teachers

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We need to stop calling it professional development. We don't need to develop, we need to learn; call it professional learning" (Teacher, Michigan).

4. "I worry about new teachers. We teach them at the college of education how to develop lessons ... and then they walk into a classroom and they are told, 'Here is your box. This is what you're going to use'" (Teacher, Missouri).

3. "People believe they are experts in education because they were once students. We have doctors our whole lives but that doesn't make us medical experts." (Teacher, Florida)

2. "Our job as teachers is to empower and motivate and promote individual growth in students, not to talk about them as data points" (Teacher, Montana). 

1. "My principal asked me, 'You have been teaching for 31 years, why would you want to go to a teacher leadership conference?' I said, that I am like my students, I never stop learning" (Teacher, Michigan).