We Want Your Voice in THE TEACHERS EDITION -- January 21, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

January 21, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.


King Engages Educators, Aims to Lift Up Teaching Profession

Three weeks into his first month as Acting Secretary, John King has prioritized hearing from educators. He had tea with some of Twitter's most active teachers; he hosted a roundtable with principals; and this week, as part of his Opportunity Across America tour, he will lead a teacher town hall in Philadelphia and hear from educators in Delaware. One of his top priorities for 2016 is to support and lift up teachers like the ones he discussed at Monday's National Action Network's MLK Day Breakfast: "New York City public school teachers made school this place that was compelling and interesting and engaging and safe [for me] when home was not." 



Teaching Ambassador Fellow and Connecticut teacher Matt Presser (@mpresser5) writes about Teachers Edition's new look and how each article that goes into the newsletter will be subject to an initial test: "Will teachers want to read this?" He suggests that the same "for teachers, by teachers" philosophy that's being applied to this newsletter ought to be the operating principle for so much that affects our classrooms: our curriculum, our assessments, and more.


Teacher of the Year Finalists Named

The Council of Chief State School Officers announced the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. The winner will be honored by President Obama this spring. Two of the candidates -- Connecticut history teacher Jahana Hayes and Oklahoma special education math teacher Shawn Sheehan -- have led efforts to increase teacher recruitment starting with the students in their own classrooms. California social studies teacher Daniel Jocz writes about how teachers need to take over the dialogue about education, while Washington history teacher Nathan Gibbs-Bowling cites how education has saved more lives historically than anything else besides modern medicine.


This Teacher's Letter to Obama Was So Powerful, He Stopped By Her House

The first stop on President Barack Obama's tour of the country during his final year in the White House was at the home of a Nebraska high school teacher. Lisa Martin, who sent him a letter last year, says the visit should be a powerful lesson for her students: "The fact that I wrote a letter and he responded and he came and met with me, that kind of proves to them, 'Hey, you can make a difference, no matter how small.'" Read her letter here.

Teacher Prep Textbooks Leave Out Important Information

A study of 48 textbooks used by teacher preparation programs determined that not a single one includes the most up-to-date research on how children learn. Despite a teacher-prep textbook market that rakes in some $40 million each year, the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality contends that cognitive research is left out of textbooks in favor of "theories du jour and debunked notions." Traditional teacher prep programs have come under increased scrutiny lately, leading to more residency programs that emphasize real-world experience.


American Educators Got Talent

You probably saw the Atlanta principal whose music video-worthy dance moves went viral on Facebook and other video hosting sites. But did you see the hoverboarding principal and the singing teacher who'd win the show that the Teachers@ED are pitching major TV networks: Educators Got TalentMaryland middle school principal Dr. William Blake is riding through the halls of his school on a hoverboard. Tennessee teacher Mary Morris rewrote Adele's latest hit with a snow day theme. What secret talents do your teachers and principals have? With American Idol going off the air after this season, we think our show has a shot.

Study: Students Perform Better in Well-Maintained Schools


As more and more media outlets turn attention to Detroit's crumbling schools -- where teachers have complained of mold and rodents -- studies show that updated school buildings led to long-term increases in reading achievement. Similarly, poor facilities have been linked to lower graduation rates, among other indicators. 


More College Admissions Officers Are Checking Applicants' Social Media

Approximately 40 percent of college admissions officers check applicants' social media accounts, according to a survey of nearly 400 officials by test prep company Kaplan. Just as often as officials find negative things, such as unsavory or illegal activity, they also stumble upon positives  such as the discovery of student art or music.

Grad Rate Is Up, But Why Isn't College Enrollment Up Too?

There is much to celebrate in the news that the country recently recorded its highest graduation rate yet. But The Atlantic's Alia Wong wonders where the graduates are going. The number of students enrolling in colleges and universities is 1.7 percent lower than it was last year. Some signs point to whether fewer students are enrolling in predatory for-profit institutions. Another analysis shines a light on why the graduation rate for special education students is significantly lower than the national average (Grindal and Schifter, Huffington Post)


Wisdom from America's Oldest Teacher

She's 102 years old. But that doesn't stop Agnes Zhelesnik from teaching cooking and sewing at a New Jersey elementary school. "This is happiness for me," she explains. She reflects on how school is different today than it was when she was in school: "We didn't have the equipment that they have today  computers, television, cameras. We didn't have even an inside toilet" (The74Million.org).


This week, we heard from teachers from across the country on Twitter. Some highlights:

  • "Attracting and retaining high quality teachers begins with us and how positive we make our profession  and what we do everyday!" - Matt Johnson, Teacher, South Carolina
  • "Look strongly at the morale on the campus and turnover. Teachers stay when they are part of something." - Alice Keeler, Teacher, California
  • "Without an official role as leader, I still lead by action. I jump with both feet and I'm fearless. Then others follow me." - Kelly Kolpitcke, Teacher, Idaho

What change would increase the retention of high-quality teachers?

Tweet your answer to us @TeacherEdition and you might be featured in next week's edition.

School Crime Down, So Do We Still Need Metal Detectors?

In New York City, more than 100,000 middle and high school students start their days going through metal detectors -- about as many as are scanned at Miami International Airport each day. About two decades after they were installed, some are wondering whether the metal detectors send students the wrong message, especially in light of the fact that the amount of contraband found is low. Says one principal: "The answer is not the machines, the answer's the relationships" (Reyes and Ye, ProPublica).



Indoor Recess and Brain Break Ideas

Illinois fourth grade teacher Lindsey Petlak blogs about ways to get students moving when your class has to have indoor recess. Try her brain break strategies like functional, flexible seating; building with purchased materials or recycled junk; and fun team-building activities and games (Scholastic). 

Resources to Use

What We Heard from Educators This Week


5. "We talk about individualized learning a lot for students. We should think about the same for principals too" (Principal, Wisconsin). 

4. "Often when you challenge the status quo in education, you are blacklisted. We must support innovation" (Teacher, Maryland). 

3. "If we want our kids to cure cancer, we have to rethink how they learn" (Principal, New York).

2. "Collaboration is such a major lever, but we don't give teachers enough time to work together" (Principal, Washington).

1. "Teachers treat P.D. the way students treat our classes and we see no irony in that" (Teacher, Pennsylvania).