TEACHING MATTERS -- 13 June 2013

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June 13, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Early Learning Video

A number of experts on early learning--including very young students and preschool teacher Amy Leslie from DC Prep -- make profound observations about the benefits of starting kindergarten fully ready for school.



Experts Weigh in!

Fewer than 3 in 10 children in America attend a high-quality preschool program. In this 4-minute video, educators, parents, and students describe the benefits of quality early learning. One teacher characterizes preschool as a place that gives children "those experiences that maybe they wouldn't see if they hadn't come to preschool. That's kind of what it's about - to open up a new world to them." Read about last week's Early Learning Day of Action. Visit the early learning website

Principal Shadowing

Tyra Mariani (right), from the Office of the Secretary, discusses education with Principal Wanda Perez at DC Bilingual Public Charter School.



Principal Fellows Application is Out!

ED recently posted the application for the Principal Ambassador Fellowship (PAF). Fellows spend a year gaining greater knowledge of key federal programs and policies and learning about the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. PAFs share their expertise with federal staff members, provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators, and facilitate the involvement of educators in developing educational policies and programs at the federal, state and local levels.

As the PAF is getting underway, ED is only considering Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows for 2013-14. The Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship enables principals to participate on a part-time basis from their home locations, working in collaboration with the Department’s regional and headquarters offices. As pioneers, PAFs will play an active part in creating and shaping the program's future by balancing the needs of the Department with those of principals. To access the application and view eligibility requirements, visit www.usajobs.gov and apply for the Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship. You can also sign up to receive further updates, and call 1-800-USA-LEARN or email PrincipalFellowship@ed.gov with questions. Applications are due July 16.  


Taking a Group to Washington? Save this Date!

The USA Science & Engineering Festival is the largest STEM education event of its kind in the United States. Students can participate in this Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) event on April 24-27, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Learn more. Check out some of the Festival highlights:

2012 X-STEM Festival

• X-STEM Extreme STEM Symposium – April 24, 2014

The X-STEM Symposium is the Festival’s TED-style conference for kids featuring talks from over 50 speakers, small group Q&A sessions, live demonstrations and hands-on workshops – all given by leading STEM professionals and government leaders.

• Sneak Peek Friday  --   April 25, 2014

Offering a "Sneak Peek" into the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival’s Grand Finale Expo, Sneak Peek Friday is a special event for schools to preview and experience over 2000 hands-on, interactive activities offered by more than 750 leading science organizations from around the nation. Hundreds of bus grants will be available to underserved schools. Admission is free!

• Grand Finale Expo -- April 26-27, 2014

The Festival will culminate in a two-day Grand Finale Expo at the Walter E Washington Convention Center, featuring over 750 exhibitors representing professional engineering and scientific societies, universities, government agencies, high tech corporations and STEM outreach and community organizations. Admission is free. Learn more and check out the video of highlights from the 2012 festival: www.usasciencefestival.org. 

• X-STEM School Program  --  2013/2014 School Year

The recently launched X-STEM School Program offers students an active leadership role in your school’s STEM activities while providing benefits such as free Festival special event tickets, exclusive volunteer opportunities and community service credits. X-STEM Schools are partners of the Festival’s X-STEM Educational Program and play a valuable role in promoting STEM within the community. 


Closing the AP Gap

The Broad Foundation analyzed four years of AP exam participation and passing rates for students in the 75 districts whose demographics qualify them for consideration for the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education. Their report, The Road to Equity: Expanding AP Access and Success for African-American Students, details how six urban school systems are increasing college readiness of African-American students by improving their AP passing rates quickly enough to gain on their white peers while increasing or keeping participation rates steady.


The Foundation found that the districts were able to simultaneously raise performance on AP tests without losing ground on participation by focusing on these strategies:

1. Offer a rigorous curriculum beginning in elementary grades.

2. Expand access to gifted programs.

3. Analyze student results on precursors to college entrance exams--like those in item four.

4. Encourage students to take the PSAT and EXPLORE--to identify potential AP students and actively recruit them to enroll in AP courses.

5. Provide extra academic and social support to students.

6. Dramatically increase the number of AP course offerings.

7. Offer additional teacher training and professional development.

8. Instill confidence in students about their college-going potential.

9. Educate parents about the benefits of AP.


Strategies to Assess Bullying, Violence, and Substance Abuse

ED and the Department of Health and Human Services are offering a webinar entitled, Effective Strategies for Assessing Bullying, Violence, and Substance Abuse on June 12, 2013, 4:00 pm − 5:30 pm, EDT. The webinar will be repeated Thursday, June 13, 2013, 11:00 am − 12:30 pm, EDT. Speakers will review strategies to design and conduct surveys to measure bullying, violence, and substance abuse. They will also describe elements of an effectively managed survey process; discuss the key elements of effective survey administration; and identify essential ways to measure bullying, violence, and substance abuse. Presenters include Lina Guzman, Survey Specialist, Child Trends, and Greg Austin, External Survey Developer for three grantee states, WestEd. Get more information and register.  

President Obama in Mooresville, N.C.

President Obama views student projects created on laptops during a tour at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C., June 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Closing the Broadband Gap

Last week President Obama and Secretary Duncan launched the ConnectED initiative — a call to connect 99 percent of schools across the country to broadband Internet within five years. The President issued this challenge while visiting North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District, one of the most heralded examples of tech-infused education in the country. Mooresville, one of the lowest-funded districts in North Carolina, invested six years ago in a district-wide “digital conversion,” and has since leapfrogged to the top of the state rankings. Learn more. Read Arne's article, Empowering Learners in the 21st Century.


Two Birds, One Stone

The Christian Science Monitor (Grant) reports that part of the immigration reform legislation in both chambers of Congress are "little-noticed measures that could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into cultivating a new generation of American students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM)" that could help shore up deficiencies "in the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness." Read the story.

Aviation High School (Queens, NY)

Last week Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for the Office of Adult and Vocational Education Brenda Dann-Messier visited Aviation High School (Long Island City, NY) to discuss high school redesign and tour Aviation's program.


Visualizing High School Redesign

The Obama administration proposed a $300 million high school redesign effort in New York City last week, noting that the program will award competitive grants to school districts in partnership with post-secondary institutions and other organizations to give high schools a makeover with a career-related and STEM focus.

President Obama's High School Redesign initiative will encourage high schools and their partners to rethink teaching and learning and put in place learning models that are rigorous, relevant, and better focused on real-world experiences. Redesigned high schools will move away from the traditional notion of seat time and focus instead on the knowledge and skills needed to successfully transition from high school to college and careers. Read the fact sheet that provides an overview of the plan and describes several exemplary schools currently doing this work.

Quote to Note

A Parent's View of the Common Core

"I am…glad that although the standards may be state mandated, the curriculum and the way the curriculum is taught are still in local hands. The people of Williamson County determine how our children are taught. That’s important."

Parent P.J. Mezera, who is also a Williamson County (Tenn.) school board member, is quoted in this article in the Advertiser News (Mayes).

Common Core Connections
Engage NY Common Core ELA video


Great CCSS Teacher Videos

ENGAGE NY offers teachers a video library of exemplary practice teaching the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The videos feature examples of practice as well as teacher discussion the decisions during the planning process. The video here shows Christine Santandrea's fifth-grade class at Milton Terrace South Elementary School making a claim using two texts with similar themes.

GOVERNORS STEP UP. Governors representing states that developed the CCSS have been chiming in to support their cause. Read Delaware Governor Jack Markell's Washington Post op-ed. Read former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's appeal to lawmakers in Oklahoma to support the CCSS.

WHAT'S ALL THIS TALK ABOUT RIGOR? Excellent piece by NCTM President Linda Gojak examines misconceptions about the meaning of "rigor," particularly when the term is used to describe the Common Core. Rigor is not about assigning more pages but focusing on rich tasks that require effort and tenacity. Read her article in Summing Up


Did You Know?

The Flipped Learning Network provides educators with a number of helpful resources to gain the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully implement flipped learning. In addition to offering numerous videos, webinars, conferences and other professional learning opportunities, the network conducts research and acts as the clearinghouse for distributing promising practices for current and future “flipped” educators. Visit the site.

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Salvation in the Classroom

EdWeek's Catherine Gewertz profiles Washington, D.C. middle school teacher Dowan McNair-Lee in this inspiring article about a woman who beat the odds of growing up poor to find her "safety in education." She characterizes McNair-Lee as an educator who allows no slacking in class precisely because she learned through struggle the importance of education. Read more.

the New Math

During Commencement Season, Keep These Sobering Facts in Mind

Some 1.3 million students won't graduate from high school on time this year.

The national graduation rate of 69 percent drops below 60 percent for minority students.

(From the Alliance for Excellent Education).


Teachers Talk "Evaluation" and "Tech" at ED

On May 14, 10 teachers, who participated in the VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange, traveled to Washington, DC, for intensive, back-to-back sessions with U.S. Dept. of Education (ED) staff. The meetings, which were requested by ED, were a follow up to the Idea Exchange recommendations, released by VIVA and the Gates Foundation in February. Read what they said in their blog.

VIVA Teachers at ED

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community


While off-the-shelf credit recovery programs can make individualized, competency-based learning a reality, technology alone cannot adequately prepare off-track youth for graduation and post-secondary success. This webinar examines how to enhance technology-based courseware programs with face-to-face learning and support options that motivate and engage students while preparing them for careers and college. Specific strategies will include intake and orientation programs, enhanced curriculum and teacher-directed activities, and face-to-face support through learning coaches, structured labs, and communication with classroom teachers. After hearing from successful programs that effectively leverage these blended strategies, participants share their challenges in designing, operating and sustaining credit recovery programs and to begin identifying short- and long-term steps to increase student achievement with graduation and post-secondary success goals in mind. Schools featured include Hartford Public High School. Watch the webinar.

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Teachers' Notes

• REVIEWING YOUR USE OF TECHNOLOGY. Edutopia's Nicholas Provenzano recommends that teachers take advantage of the end of the school year, using the last days with students to think about how technology was used. Read his how-to blog that breaks it down. 

• LESSONS FROM SCHOOLS EXPANDING ARTS INSTRUCTION. A study by the National Center on Time and Learning (with support from the Wallace Foundation) profiles five schools using expanded learning time to integrate the arts into instruction. The report provides evidence that as children play music, paint or draw or design, dance or act or sing, "many develop new passions, come to express themselves in original ways, and discover innovative pathways to success."

• DATA & THE CLASSROOM. A report from the New America Foundation explores the use of student achievement data to improve classroom instruction. The paper, Promoting Data in the Classroom: Innovative State Models and Missed Opportunities, highlights examples from two states, Oregon and Delaware, of federally funded, state-driven efforts to equip teachers with the tools they need to utilize student data.

DIPLOMAS COUNT 2013.  A new analysis from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center finds that the graduation rate for America's public schools has risen nearly two percentage points from the previous year and eight points in the past decade, its highest point since 1973. But there is another side to these gains: far too many young people are still failing to complete a meaningful high school education. The EPE Research Center projects that 1 million students from this year's high school class will not graduate with a diploma. Read more in EdWeek.

• WHAT'S COOKIN'. ED hosted the national finals for eight teams of high school culinary students who are competing in the preparation of healthy, tasty and creative school lunches at the Department’s headquarters this week. Learn more.  

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Recommended Reading

TIME FOR DEEPER LEARNING: Lessons from Five High Schools explores how the schools invest one of their most fundamental resources - time with students - to meet their goals for student learning. The report finds that the schools organize time to foster, encourage, and further the dynamic engagement of students and teachers with one another, with the academic material, and with the wider community.

• WHY TEACHERS NEED TO BE "CORE ADVOCATES." High school English teacher and Teach Plus Fellow Ashley Hebda (Indianapolis, Ind.) argues that the Common Core State Standards will help schools close achievement gaps and bring our country closer to the ideal of 'liberty and justice for all'." Read her blog on The Intersection.

• NO BRAKES, PLEASE. In EdWeek, Alice Johnson Cain offers her perspective about the damage that could be done by postponing stakes for the Common Core State Standards. After talking with Teach Plus Fellows, she says, "Putting the brakes on common-core stakes could stop the clock on progress." Read more.

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

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. Reflecting on the importance of improving middle grades education: "The graduation rates will be fixed if we can help the kids earlier.'” (Assistant Principal, Villa Park, Calif.)

4. "[In our school], teachers don't teach multiple preps. They become experts instead." (Assistant Principal, Colo.)

3. "Professional development around the Common Core is kind of superficial right now because we are in the beginning stages." (State Teacher of the Year)

Arne Duncan meets with teachers.

2. "Teachers are job creators." (Teacher, Chesterfield County, Va.)

1. "Welcome to another day in paradise." (National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau, who teaches chemistry, physics and engineering in Zillah, Wash.)