TEACHING MATTERS -- 11 July 2013

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July 11, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

student speaking - profile
Still from student video, Portland, Ore.

At top: Dawnya Johnson speaks to ED staff about how the Intersection has empowered her.

(Left) A Future Ambassador speaks out in Portland (Ore.)


Engaged and Empowered

Teachers tell us they thrive when they have support and when school leaders listen to them and value their experience and expertise. And, they remind us, so do their students. The community at George Middle School in Portland, Ore., has taken this notion to heart by involving students in a Future Ambassadors program. Watch the inspiring video of middle school students discussing how they break down stereotypes and racial barriers to create a socially empathetic school.  

There are a number of school and youth leadership organizations throughout the country that empower students to be agents of change and advocates for their own education. We learned about a few when student representatives from Boston Student Advisory Council and Baltimore Intersection came to ED last month to share their stories of how they are making significant improvements in their schools and communities through their activism and unique perspective. In the process, they've developed important skills and a whole new level of confidence. One student said, “This may not mean anything to somebody who is accustomed to civic action or to somebody who has always recognized the power they have. But for me, being a poor black girl from Baltimore, knowing I helped pass two pieces of important legislation makes me feel invincible.” Read the ED blog or watch the ED briefing that was so inspiring it had many ED employees in tears.

Do you know of an organization in your community that is leveraging student voice to affect change? Here's just a few that we found:  Philadelphia Youth Network, Reconcile New Orleans and School's Out Washington. Resources for creating and supporting youth advisory councils can be found at Spark ActionIf you are interested in learning how to engage youth in your school or districts, or if your school or community is already doing so, please reach out to the ED Youth Engagement Team at youth@ed.gov.

teacher talking in It Gets  Better video

Lisa Clarke is a social studies teacher from Kent, Wash. and a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow.



It Gets Better

ED staff recount their stories of being bullied in school for being lesbian or gay and offer encouragement and hope to LGBT students. Watch the video.   

On Drastic Layoffs in Philadelphia

“I’m really, really worried about the education that children in Philly are going to receive this upcoming school year. I’m concerned about a lack of commitment, a lack of investment in public education. We’re looking at the kinds of massive cuts and a loss to basic curricular offerings… It’s bad for kids, it’s bad for education, it’s bad for the city, it’s bad for the state, it’s ultimately bad for our country. When you see all counselors, social workers, assistant principals, drama, art, music – everything being eliminated, what’s left? What’s left is not something that folks can feel proud of or good about.”

Arne Duncan in Huffington Post (Resmovitz).

Quote to Note


Did You Know?

Fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs.

10 states don't fund pre-school for four-year-olds at all.

Fewer than 5% of infants and toddlers have access to Early Head Start.

Early education programs save about $7 for each $1 invested.

(Check out the President's Proposal for Early Learning video.)

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Nation's 9- and 13-Year-Olds Improve Math and Reading Skills

The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 was released recently, presenting the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessments in reading and mathematics administered during the 2011–12 school year to 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students. Highlights:

Both 9- and 13-year-olds scored higher in reading and mathematics in 2012 than students their age in the early 1970s. Scores were 8 to 25 points higher in 2012 than in the first assessment year.

Seventeen-year-olds, however, did not show similar gains. Average reading and mathematics scores in 2012 for 17-year-olds were not significantly different from scores in the first assessment year. Browse the Executive Summary of the report or download, view and print the complete report as a pdf file.  (5.6MB)

Classroom Spending


Public school teachers spent $3.5 billion of their own money on educational products purchased in the 2009-10 school year.

On average, teachers spent a total of $398 on school supplies in the 2009-10 school year and an additional $538 on instructional materials for a total of $936 on materials for their classrooms in one year.

(From the National School Supply and Equipment Association's 2010 NSSEA Retail Market Awareness Study.)

the New Math


Baby Talk

On Monday Arne Duncan joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for an online gathering of over 20 non-profits and thousands of leading children's advocates to promote high-quality early learning opportunities for our nation's youngest children. The Secretaries highlighted the need to give all children a strong start so that they have a better chance to thrive in school and stay on track for college and career success. The event, Rally4Babies: Learning Happens from the Start, was led by Zero to Three, a national non-profit organization that informs, trains, and supports professionals, policymakers and parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers. Soledad O'Brien hosted the event and interviewed actress and Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner, America's Promise Alliance Board Chair Alma Powell, and award-winning children's musician Laurie Berkner.


Talking Teacher Prep

No doubt about it, teacher preparation is an emerging issue in education circles these days. At a recent edTPA conference, heads of education programs at colleges and universities exhibited a single-minded focus on improving their programs and using portfolio assessments of pre-service teachers to be sure they are ready for the classroom. 


Recently, Secretary Duncan received a letter from a teacher who feels insulted that he said two-thirds of our teachers come from the bottom 1/3 of their graduating classes, because the teachers she knows are "intelligent, caring, and creative." In this blog,Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown juxtaposes his dual experiences with teacher prep--one woefully inadequate and one truly great. Watch a video where he discusses the issue with Arne. They talk about where the need is, what's working, and how to increase the use of best practices.

Common Core Connections


The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) released information about four non-summative components of the PARCC assessment system.  A few of particular interest to teachers are described here: 

The Mid-Year Assessment will provide students and educators with constructed response and machine scorable items for formative purposes (students' scores will not be part of their summative PARCC score). This optional assessment, accompanied by tools to support teachers in local scoring efforts, will be available for states and districts to use in the 2014-2015 school year. More.

Speaking and Listening Assessments. Recognizing that the ability for students to proficiently engage in speaking and listening activities is crucial for students' long-term opportunities, PARCC is developing this assessment to measure the extent to which students demonstrate an understanding of complex information, ideas, and evidence presented orally and the ability to present complex information, ideas, and evidence effectively in speech. More.

Assessment Professional Development Modules will be designed to support teachers, school leaders, and school site testing coordinators as they transition to the PARCC assessments. The five modules will initially be ready for teachers and school administrators in June of 2014, with additional updates to follow. More.

For updates on all of this work, visit http://www.parcconline.org/classroom.

TAF NEWS--Teaching Ambassador Fellowship

DAN BROWN (Washington, DC TAF, 2012-2013): Watch Dan's June 2013 talk at TEDx Rosslyn's "Imagining the Future" series. Many teachers will relate to Dan's description of his painful first-year experience, which he compares to trying to learn the Lindy Hop.

DEXTER CHANEY (Classroom TAF, 2011-2012): Read a profile of Texas principal and Milken Educator Dexter Chaney (2010), a school leader who commits himself to using education to break cycles of poverty. The blog includes audio excerpts of Dexter describing his work: "If we want to change the landscape of education, as educators, we don’t have to wait on policy makers. We don’t have to wait on big corporations to do it. We can do it ourselves" (on the Milken Connections blog).

PATRICE DAWKINS-JACKSON (Classroom TAF, 2012-2013): In this interview on Connected Educators, Patrice shares her views on some interesting topics: the first thing she would show an unconnected educator, what she wishes she were building with other teachers, and keys to success for elementary online communities.

Ms. Banks' class

Student engineers in high school science teacher Shelia Banks' class test their bridge designs.


MacGyver Lives!

We love this lesson from the Teaching Channel in which high school students work together to build, test, and present stable bridges, armed with only paper, paper clips, straws, tapes, scissors, and their emerging scientific knowledge! Before they begin, teacher Shelia Banks presents a lesson about the importance of civility and teamwork. "At this point, person and every idea has equal worth," she says. In this excerpt, Banks provides an example of "teacher as coach," helping students think through implications of their decisions and modeling academic language and behavior. After student teams build their structures, they present them to the group, test their work, and then return to their teams to improve their designs. Watch the video.

Tools for Students

COLLEGE COSTS. As part of ED's ongoing effort to increase transparency about the cost of higher education, the Department updated lists at the College Affordability and Transparency Center. The lists spotlight institutions with the highest and lowest tuition and fees, highest and lowest average net prices, and highest percentage increases in tuition and fees and average net prices. Also, responding to requests for more comparison data, the Center provides tuition and fees and net price information for all institutions, broken out by type of institution.


RISING SENIORS: WHAT TO DO OVER THE SUMMER. This ED blog offers tips about what this year's seniors can do over the summer to prepare for college during the 2013-2014 school year.

Students' Corner

Institute of Educational Sciences

New ED Studies

The Institute of Educational Sciences and the What Works Clearinghouse recently published research findings of interest to educators.

STAFF SURVEYS FORM PICTURES OF DISTRICTS. Characteristics of Public School Districts in the United States: Results From the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey. This first look report provides selected findings from the Schools and Staffing Survey: Public School District Data File regarding public school districts that were in operation during the 2011-12 school year. The data include information on district size, teacher salary and benefits, and graduation requirements. Findings include:

  • Districts used pay incentives to reward teachers who attained certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (25 percent), to recruit or retain teachers to teach in fields of shortage (13 percent), to reward excellence in teaching (11 percent), and to recruit or retain teachers to teach in a less desirable location (6 percent).
  • A large proportion of districts (89 percent) had salary schedules for teachers in 2011–12. The salary schedules for these districts showed the average yearly base salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no teaching experience was $35,500, while teachers with the same degree but 10 years of teaching experience had an average yearly base salary of $44,900.
  • Among all districts, 21 percent had a tenure system for principals, and 21 percent had a training program for aspiring school administrators.

INFORMATION INFLUENCES COLLEGE EXPECTATIONS. In the 2012 study Information and College Access: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment, researchers examined the impact of financial aid information on the postsecondary expectations of high school students. The study found a larger percentage of students who received cost and financial aid materials expected to acquire postsecondary educa­tion than high school students who did not receive this information.

INTELLIGENT TUTORING IN READING. In a 2012 study--Large-scale Randomized Controlled Trial with 4th Graders Using Intelligent Tutoring of the Structure Strategy to Improve Nonfiction Reading Comprehension--researchers examined the effects of the web-based tutoring program, Intelligent Tutoring of the Structure Strategy (ITSS), on the reading comprehension of fourth-grade students in language arts classrooms. ITSS is a one-on-one, web-based intelligent tutoring system which models a “structure strategy” technique, provides practice opportunities, and gives immediate feedback to students. The study found a positive effect on the reading comprehension of students in ITSS classrooms.

Teachers' Notes

COMING SOON: CONNECTED EDUCATOR MONTH. October 2013 will be Connected Educator Month and ED staff are actively seeking educators to attend and lead virtual professional learning opportunities. Sign up here to stay in the loop. 

sticky notepad

 • MUSIC TO OUR EARS. In this NPR intervew on Michel Martin's Tell Me More, Martin's three guests discuss how they are rethinking the way children are learning through technology, music and work-study programs. They include Father Joe Parkes, president of Cristo Rey New York High School in East Harlem; Larry Scripp, founding director and principal researcher for the Center for Music in Education; and Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of DreamBox Learning.

 • IN PRINCIPAL. Watch this short clip of Arne Duncan calling for school leaders to apply for the Principal Ambassador Fellowship and contribute to educational policy at the U.S. Department of Education.

 • HOW SAFE ARE OUR SCHOOLS. Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2012, a new report issued jointly by NCES and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, examines crimes occurring in school, as well as on the way to and from school, and presents data on safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals. It covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, and the availability and student use of drugs and alcohol.

• NEW BLOG FOCUSES ON EQUAL ACCESS TO GREAT TEACHING. The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, a national technical assistance center funded by the Department of Education, has started a new blog to discuss equitable access to effective educators and raise awareness of the critical issues. The blog will be a place "to share ideas, research, and examples and to inspire conversation, innovation, and action," according to the home page. The kick-off article, written by Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle, focuses on our nation's most vulnerable youth and cites research by the Institute of Education Sciences that show "students from the highest poverty schools are two times less likely to have a high performing language arts teacher than students in the lowest poverty schools. In one district, students from the highest poverty schools were 10 times less likely to have a high performing math teacher than students in the lowest poverty schools."


CREDO Study Shows Charter School Gains

The Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University recently released a 2013 study of charter school performance in 27 states. Read the Executive Summary. Download the full report. Highlights:

 More than 6,000 charter schools served about 2.3 million students in the 2012-2013 school year.

Charter schools now advance the learning gains of their students more than traditional public schools in reading.

Improvement has been seen in the academic growth of charter students in math since 2009, similar to students in traditional public schools.

Charter schools and their feeder schools are educating more disadvantaged students than in 2009. Across the 27 states in this study, more than half of charter school students live in poverty (54 percent), a greater share than the U.S. as a whole and an increase for charter schools from 2009.

The amount an average charter school student learns each year varies widely across states. State differences in overall education quality and geographic targeting of charter schools help to explain these differences.

Students with multiple challenges -- blacks and Hispanics in poverty or Hispanics who were English language learners -- gained a substantial learning advantage in charter schools compared to similar students in traditional public schools.

Read Arne's July 2 remarks to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, The Charter Mindset Shift: From Conflict to Co-Conspirators.


International Report Compares Global Education

According to the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2013 report, the United States spent 7.3% of its GDP on all levels of education combined, well above the OECD average (6.3%). Across all levels of education, annual per-student spending by educational institutions in the United States is higher than in any other country (USD $15,171). Other notable findings:

•  The typical age for entering early childhood education in the United States is 4 years old, but in 2011, only 78% of children this age were enrolled, compared with 85% of 4-year-olds in other OECD countries.

•  On average, a primary school teacher in the United States can expect to earn only 66% of the salary of the average tertiary-educated worker in another field (the OECD average is 82%), making it difficult to attract the best candidates to the teaching profession.

•  The share of international students choosing the United States to pursue their tertiary studies dropped from 23% in 2000 to 16% in 2011.

open book

Recommended Reading

• THE GRIPE JAM. This refreshing blog article by technology specialist Jennie Magiera offers a creative strategy to engage her technophobic colleagues in using digital learning more effectively in their classrooms. Everyone involved in teacher professional learning would benefit from adherence to her mantra: Respect the learners -- whether children or adults -- and respect their need.

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

CEC teachers meeting at ED.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. "It's hard to take one complex child and put him in a discrete data set." (Principal, Fla.) 

4. Explaining the need for project-based learning: "[In my class, it's] first the experience, then the learning." (Teacher, Mo.)

3. "As a past teacher of teachers I have long thought that beginning teachers should spend a year of internship under the direction of a master teacher, similar to what doctors do. I found that many students wanted such an experience." (Education Professor, from the mailbag)

2. About changes to teacher evaluations. "This has started us having courageous conversations. Not every conversation about an observation is easy, but they are all important." (Special Education Teacher, Va.) 

1. On the value of videotaping teachers for professional development: "We all like using videotapes. Instead of our principal telling us what we need, we can see it for ourselves. We look at them together." (Teacher, Colo.)