TEACHING MATTERS -- 12 September 2013

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September 12, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Secretary Duncan leads the "Pledge of Allegiance" in Tempe, Ariz.

Secretary Duncan leads the Pledge of Allegiance in Tempe, Ariz.


Healing from 9/11 in Arizona

On day three of the "Strong Start, Bright Future" 2013 bus tour, Arne Duncan visited the Healing Field Memorial in Tempe, Ariz., to honor victims and first-responders of the Sept. 11 attacks. Duncan started the day with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx where they discussed the bus drivers who are on the front lines of school safety efforts as students begin and end their day. They also rode along on a school bus to Dodge Traditional Magnet School and participated in a service project to highlight the importance of citizenship and strengthening communities. To learn more, follow the tour on Twitter at #edtour13 or check out the Department’s bus tour page.

"Technology will never replace great teachers."

(Arne Duncan in a Google Plus Hangout with Sal Kahn, creator of The Khan Academy. Learn more.)

Quote to Note

NBPTS logo


NBCT Process Gets a Facelift

For the first time since 2001, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is revising its process for teachers applying to be a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). The revision incorporates what the organization has learned from research, and it aims to reduce barriers to recertification. The changes to the process will begin in the 2014-15 academic year, but the standards themselves, created for teachers by teachers, will not change.

The revised certification process is designed to provide greater flexibility, efficiency, and access. Candidates may complete the requirements in any sequence and at a pace that fits their schedule. NBPTS has also dropped the cost of certification from $2,500 to about $1,900, largely by moving from a paper-based system to a digital one. And rather than paying for certification up front, candidates will have the option to “pay as they go.” Because teachers are so busy, "The fact that you can go through the process now at a more leisurely process and break it down into different modules is key," said 2011-12 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Geneviève DeBose. Learn more and watch DeBose and 2012-13 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown discuss the changes on video.


Arts Education Week September 8-14

To celebrate Arts Education Week, take a look at these resources provided by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP).

• Preparing Students for the Next America (2013) is AEP’s latest research bulletin offering a snapshot of how the arts support achievement in school, bolster skills demanded of a 21st century workforce, and enrich the lives of young people and communities. Download the PDF

• What School Leaders Can do to Increase Arts Education (2011) offers school leaders three concrete actions — supported by low-cost or no-cost strategies — school principals can take to increase arts education in their schools. (Download the PDF) 


Duncan to Appear on The Colbert Report

Arne Duncan will make a guest appearance on The Colbert Report this Tuesday, Sept. 17. Check him out on Comedy Central at 11 PM EDT and at various times when the show airs again Sept. 18.


Early Learning Focus on #EDTOUR13

Beginning in Santa Fe, N.M. and ending in Chula Vista, Calif., Secretary Duncan is traveling to four Southwestern states to talk about a host of pressing issues. At the top of his list is President Obama's proposal to spend $75 billion over 10 years to provide preschool for 4-year-olds. "School should be able to stop playing catch up" and improve the educational opportunities for the poorest children, Duncan said.

bus tour '13 art

The "Strong Start, Bright Future" tour began Monday with an early learning town hall at the SFCP Early Learning Center (Santa Fe, N.M.). For more information about efforts to improve education outcomes in communities along the bus tour route, please visit our bus tour site. For more background information on each stop, please refer to our bus-tour fact sheet (PDF).Teachers can also follow hashtag #edtour13 for the latest and keep up to date by following @usedgov and @arneduncan. Watch Arne's video recap of the first day or the second day, see a collection of social media posts from the first day or the second day, and download photos from Columbus, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Socorro, N.M. and from El Paso, Texas

Common Core Connections

SEEING THE FUTURE: HOW THE STANDARDS WILL AFFECT MATH AND ELA IN GRADES 3-12.  The K-12 Center has produced this gem of a booklet that gives details on how the Common Core standards are expected to play out in schools. It also examines prototype test items and tasks drawn from those developed by  the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the Smarter Balanced Learning Coalition and the Illustrative Mathematics Project.

WE'LL TAKE THAT AS A "YES." In "Why I'm for the Common Core," former education professor E.D. Hirsch gives an "emphatic yes," when asked if he backs the Common Core. One insight: "Little can come from the current incorrect assumption that critical thinking skills or reading comprehension can be gained without a specific systematic build up of knowledge."

REALLY? AREN'T THEY DOING THAT ALREADY? PIE Net's Suzanne Tacheny Kubach analyzes why parents and business leaders are gravitating toward the Common Core in this Flypaper article.

EVANGELIST WEIGHS IN. In the Christian Post, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez contends that "Evangelicals must address America's educational crisis with compassion," and he makes a case for the Common Core as a form of "Biblical justice" that will do just that. Rodriguez is President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Hispanic Evangelical Association. Read his editorial.

WHAT TO MAKE OF THE DEBATE OVER STANDARDS. "For all of their superficial similarities, the cinderblock walls and bulletin boards with scalloped borders," writes Stephen Sawchuk in Smithsonian, "schools in the United States have taken a historically disparate approach to what students are expected to learn. But that is now starting to change, thanks to the Common Core State Standards, a new initiative that lays out common literacy and mathematics expectations for K-12 schools across the country." Read his article.

video from Pueblo Del Sol


Teachers Who Make a Difference

Having a really bad day? If so, you absolutely must check out this video created by middle school teachers at Pueblo Del Sol (Phoenix, Ariz.) to welcome their students to the new year and establish a positive school culture. It's amazing!


Did You Know?

Children who miss a significant number of days in kindergarten often continue to miss a significant number in first grade.

By third grade, fewer than 1 in 5 of those who were significantly absent in kindergarten and first grade are at grade level in reading.

By fourth grade--when reading is required to learn just about everything--many never catch up. They may disengage from learning, have behavior problems, and later drop out.

Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Chute and Niederberger). September is designated as Attendance Awareness Month.

question mark


Law Enforcement Leaders Report Early Learning Could Lead to 200,000 Fewer Prisoners Annually

Thousands of police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a report, I’m the Guy You Pay Later. The report shows how implementation of a proposed state-federal early childhood education partnership could reduce the number of people who are incarcerated nationwide by 200,000 every year and lead to $75 billion in cost savings over 10 years. Read the report. Learn more.

ies Institute of Education Sciences

Emerging Research

• FOR POLICY WONKS AND FINANCIAL GURUS. The National Center for Education Statistics recently published Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11 (Fiscal Year 2011). The research includes late-night page-turners, such as revenues and expenditures for school districts, per pupil revenues and expenditures for the top-and-bottom districts, and federal revenues received by local education agencies (by program and state) for 2011.

• TEACHER INDUCTION AND RETENTION. The What Works Clearinghouse reviewed the report “Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction: Final Results from a Randomized Controlled Study.” The study found that mentoring, monthly professional development sessions, study groups with other beginning teachers, and observing veteran teachers, implemented by 17 districts across 13 states, had no statistically significant effects on teacher retention. Learn more.

Study Finds TFA Math Teachers Outperformed Others

• Teach for America (TFA) and TNTP's Teaching Fellows programs are highly selective non-traditional pathways into teaching that admit less than 15 percent of all applicants.

• Together they provide more than 99% of all secondary math teachers from highly selective routes.

• Math teachers in secondary schools from these pathways performed better than teachers from less selective alternative routes.

• TFA math teachers in secondary schools provided 2.6 months of additional learning for their students than other math teachers teaching the same subject in the same school.

the New Math

study published this week found that Teach for America (TFA) math teachers working in middle schools and high schools outperformed other math teachers. The study published by Mathematica and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) examined student math test scores in high-poverty schools across eight states. During the study researchers compared teachers who taught the same course, in the same school, at the same time of day, and they randomly sorted students between classes taught by Teach for America corps members and those taught by teachers prepared in other ways.

No matter how you cut it, the numbers are impressive. TFA teachers made statistically significant gains in learning, amounting to about 2.6 months of additional instruction. They were more effective than mathematics teachers from less selective alternative routes and those prepared by traditional routes. In fact, novice TFA teachers (those with 3 or fewer years of experience) outperformed even experienced teachers.

The same study examined the effectiveness of TNTP Teaching Fellows and found that they were at least as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, other math teachers in the same schools.

The researchers have concluded that TFA teachers and TNTP Teaching Fellows can address teacher shortages in math in high-poverty schools without decreasing student achievement. The report does not offer an explanation as to why TFA math teachers outperformed others, hypothesizing that teacher selection and/or preparation may be factors.

Dowload a Mathematica fact sheet on the report. Watch a video of Mathematica Senior Researcher Melissa Clark highlighting key findings from the research.

Letters to ED


Teachers Ask ED to Require Improved Teacher Prep

A coalition of 20 teacher leadership and education reform organizations recently wrote to Secretary Duncan, urging ED to release draft regulations that enable states to better learn about, support, and hold accountable teacher preparation programs. They write, "Administrative action is sorely needed. Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA) requires states to conduct an assessment of teacher preparation programs and identify and improve the lowest performers. At present, such policies are the exception rather than the rule." Read the letter on the Educators4Excellence site.

Ninth grader Lucille Miao won the contest in 2012 with this poster (right).


Student Poster Contest to Award Winners in Every State

The U.S. Department of Education would like to remind teachers in schools that receive federal funds to commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, September 17, 2013. 

A provision in Section 111 of Division J of Pub. L. 108-447, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,” Dec. 8, 2004; 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45, requires “educational institutions” that receive Federal funds to hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on or around September 17, “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” of each year for the students served by the educational institution. For more information and ideas for how to observe Constitution Day, the Department has developed a resource page on its website, which can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/fund/guid/constitutionday.html

Constitution Day Poster Contest 2012 Winner

One way educators can celebrate Constitution Day is to enter the annual Constitution Day Poster Design Contest. The annual GovDocKids Group U.S. Constitution Day Poster Design Contest is an international contest promoted exclusively through the internet.

The contest invites K-12 entrants (including homeschoolers) to celebrate Constitution Day by designing a poster showing how they benefited from the freedoms embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Winners (one per grade) receive a $50 U.S. savings bond, with the Grand Prize winner receiving a $200 U.S. savings bond. To enter the 2013 contest, complete the entry form. Check out other Constitution Day resources for educators.


Free Archived Webinars

The Alliance for Excellent Education has made several archived webinars with content that teachers may find valuable.

The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (from August 7, 2013) focuses on the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessments in reading and mathematics by comparing students’ performance in 2012 in those subjects over the past forty years.

Next-Generation Standards and Accreditation Policies for Teacher Preparation and Development (from August 15, 2013) covers the InTASC (Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium) Model Core Teaching Standards and Learning Progressions for Teachers 1.0. These standards and progressions -- which define what teachers should know and be able to do -- have been integrated into accreditation standards for teacher preparation programs. Together, these revised standards set forth a new vision of teaching that empowers learners in attaining twenty-first-century knowledge and skills, values diversity, and leverages technology and changing learning environments.

The Comprehensive Assessment Consortia (from August 29, 2013) includes leaders of the Common Core assessment consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), Laura Slover and Joe Willhoft. They will discuss progress on the next generation of Common Core assessments and the issues they are addressing. Pascal Forgione with the K–12 Center at Educational Testing Center discusses the implications of their work for the field. The Alliance for Excellent Education has also recently published a guide worth checking out called Common Core State Standards 101.



Breathing New Life into STEM  

Many math and science teachers know about The Khan Academy, but how many are aware of MIT BLOSSOMS, a collection of math and science video lessons free for high school teachers and students? Teachers tell us the BLOSSOMS videos are extremely useful, helping them to inspire learning and breathe new life into existing objectives. Great lessons -- like How to Outsmart a Game Show and Win a Car, the Parallax Activity, and Chickenosaurus -- allow a "guest speaker" to visit the class and raise the level of engagement. Designed for viewing in brief video segments, the setup allows the in-class teacher to engage the class in an active, goal-oriented exercise between the segments. Browse the BLOSSOMS collection. Check out more than 48,000 free teaching resources at OER Commons.

Patrice Dawkins-Jackson
TAF News - Teaching Ambassador Fellowship


"Relentless Advocates"

In this video some of the 2012-13 class of Teaching Ambassador Fellows talk about what it's like to work for ED, speaking to and for teachers as advisors at the Department. They describe what they learned from the experience and update their plans for the new school year. Some memorable lines:

"Full disclosure: I was kind of cynical going into this process at first. I was kind of worried that we as teachers would be window dressing, if you will. That it would be 'See, we have a teacher here. Trust us.' It was very early on that that cynicism was evaporated." (Ryan Vernosh, St. Paul, Minn.)

"I focused a lot on career and technical education as well as reaching out to fellow alternative educators and trying to amplify their voices within the Department." (Aaron Bredenkamp, Omaha, Neb.)

"I was able to work my own passion: tackling childhood inactivity." (Mike Humphreys, Arlington, Va.)

"Strong Teacher Leadership always leads to a better education for our teachers' children." (Arne Duncan)


A Back-to-School Conversation about Education

Susan Page of USA Today recently hashed over a number of pressing educational issues with Arne Duncan on The Diane Rehm Show. Page and Duncan discussed the pace of change, possible flexibility for Common Core testing, the advisability of later school start times, and the President's plan to rate colleges and reduce the cost of attending. The interview was followed by an interesting conversation with Page, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, and Fawn Johnson of National Journal. Their conversation focused on Duncan's impact on education and on the status of states' implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Read the transcript.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• BETTER PAY, FAIRER PENSIONS. The Manhattan Institute has released a paper on teacher pay that describes how states could compensate educators more without dramatically increasing spending. The report focuses on reforming retirement systems that they say most teachers don't benefit from.

GETTING PHYSICAL. Erica Lue from the National PTA has written a compelling piece about why schools are cutting PE and recess time and the effects of these policies on students. In "Cutting Physical Education and Recess: Troubling Trends and How You Can Help," Lue provides tips for parents and educators to reverse the decrease in physical activity. Read her blog (Learning First Alliance).

• PLANNING FOR SUMMER. In a Philanthropy News Digest blog, Tiffany Cooper Gueye of BELL discusses how effective summer programs are preventing summer learning loss and closing achievement gaps. She provides research links and profiles summer learning initiatives in Boston, Charlotte, and New York City that have replaced inadequate summer school programs with more robust summer learning experiences for thousands of students.

• WHAT TO MAKE OF THOSE PESKY, CONFLICTING OPINION POLLS. The Albert Shanker Institute's Morgan Polikoff offers an interesting take on similarities and differences in the public's perceptions of education. The bottom line: "Taken together, these results suggest that parents will not be receptive to a slash-and-burn approach to teacher evaluation or school accountability. However, the results quite clearly indicate that there is a very real bottom line when it comes to teacher performance – everyone knows there are some bad teachers out there who probably need to go – and folks who ignore that bottom line do so at their own peril. In particular, sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and crying 'corporate reform!' may leave groups out of the policy discussions where their voices might be most useful." Read the blog.

• DISASTER PREPAREDNESS. According to Save the Children's 2013 National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disaster, 28 states and the District of Columbia fail to meet minimum standards set by the National Commission on Children and Disaster in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Another 17 states lack a child-care evacuation plan requirement, and 16 don't require providers to have a family-reunification plan.

• WHEN SKIPPING IS MORE THAN SKIPPING. Sometimes not going to school means more than a student avoiding work, being bullied, or disengaging from classes. When school hurts so much that students just stop attending, they might be signaling a disorder called "Student Refusal Behavior." Read more about the relationship between depression and attendance and what adults can do to help a student reintegrate into school in this CNN blog, written by Kat Kinsman. As a teen, Kinsman had avoided high school for 62 days until a school counselor worked to get her back into the fold.

• A BAD-PD PRIMER. "10 Good Ways to Ensure Bad Professional Learning" (Thomas) reads like a clever reverse guide to effective professional learning. For some teachers, Thomas's tips serve as an ironic reminder of professional development they have been subjected to over their careers. These three come to mind immediately: bring in a bevy of consultants, worry more about time than outcomes, and never listen to what teachers tell you they need. We like this Learning Forward PD Watch in EdWeek because school leaders can gain insights into how to create meaningful professional learning for educators, while teachers experience a cathartic purging of the-not-so-distant past with snarky advice like this: "Herd the whole faculty into the gym for a three-hour presentation by a speaker with no costly follow-up, coaching, or small-group discussion over time. Teachers will be inspired by the expert's high-quality slide presentation. [Then] assume that teachers will be able to implement new strategies and methods based on a single, expert-driven learning experience."

open book

Though we bristled at the title, ultimately we love this animated piece by Mike Petrilli in the Education Next blog. It's a great read because Petrilli effectively dangles a provocative idea: parents get the schools that they demand. We might add: Teachers do too.

Recommended Reading

If You Send Your Kid to a Failing School, You Are a Bad Person

You are a bad person if you send your children to a failing school (unless you have no choice). Not bad like murderer bad — but bad like sacrificing-your-child’s-future-while-not-actually-doing-anyone-else-any-good bad. So, pretty bad.

I am an education-policy wonk; I’m also judgmental. It seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to the best possible school available, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Some children might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.

So, how would this work exactly? It’s simple! Everyone needs to put pressure on our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service pressure, or I-might-pull-my-kid-out pressure, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring pressure. Your local school stinks but you send your child there anyway? Then its badness is just something you object to in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you send your child elsewhere? If enough parents act like you then you are doing everything within your power to make it better. Keep reading.

If you have questions or comments about Teaching Matters, please contact ED's Teacher Liaison at Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov.

(Left) Arne listens to education stakeholders in Santa Fe, N.M. during the first day of the "Early Start, Great Future" bus tour.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Teacher preparation matters. There are 18,000 teachers prepared by [online universities]. We prepare a much smaller number, but our teachers are more likely to stay in the profession.” (Education Professor, Ariz.)

4. “Great principals are not afraid to share the opportunity to solve problems.” (Principal at a Native American reservation, Blackwater, Ariz.)

Santa Fe leg of 2013 bus tour

3. “Parent engagement is more than just communicating to parents. It is working hard to find out what are the needs and desires of the parents and their children, and then working equally hard to meet them.” (Teacher, Millville, N.J.)

2. "We need to be viewed as highly effective teachers. Not because you [ED] or the state requires it, but for the integrity of our profession."  (Middle School Teacher, N.C.)

1. On how the events of 9/11 motivated her to be a teacher: “That tragedy caused me to take a look at my life. And when I did, I was not happy and wanted to do something more meaningful.” (Middle School Teacher, Bolingbrook, Ill.)