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June 6, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Menominee Commencement Speech

Duncan called the loss of the Menominee language a tragedy and urged graduates to use the knowledge and wisdom of their culture to work together and make things better for future generations. Only 660 people speak Menominee today. 


Unlock the Silence - Let Us Speak to the World

Last Saturday Secretary Duncan delivered a passionate keynote address during the College of the Menominee Nation's commencement ceremony in Keshena, Wis. He applauded graduates for their perseverance and congratulated those who overcame challenges to become first-generation college students in their families. He also encouraged students to continue learning and to give back through helping others, especially within their own tribes. Echoing the words of Ingrid Flying Eagle Woman, a Menominee leader, Sec. Duncan called for a revitalization of the teaching and learning of American Indian languages. He commended the work of the Menominee Nation in preserving and promoting their language and encouraged students to continue, as challenged by Ingrid, to “unlock the silence” in American Indian communities. Watch the video (his speech begins at 5:56). Read the speech.


Making All Schools ConnectED

Today President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to take the steps necessary to build high-speed digital connections to America’s schools and libraries, ensuring that 99 percent of American students are ConnectED and can benefit from advances in teaching and learning. The president and Arne Duncan traveled to Mooresville, N.C., to make the announcement and to see firsthand how one middle school is developing a cutting edge curriculum that embraces technology and digital learning. In addition to building high-speed connections, President Obama urged the country to better train and support teachers to use emerging technology. He also directed the Department to make better use of existing funds to get this technology into classrooms and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages. Finally, he asked stakeholders to do what they can to support private sector innovation. Learn more.

Following the event in Mooresville, the White House also hosted a national virtual "show and tell" with high tech schools from the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA to Loris Elementary in Horry County, SC. Joined by James Kvaal, Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Poilcy Council, students and teachers participated in a Google+ Hangout moderated by Betsy Corcoran of EdSurge to demonstrate how they're using connected classrooms to improve the quality of the education system.

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Did You Know?

80% of the country's schools do not have sufficient Internet infrastructure for digital learning.

(Learn more at the Education Superhighway.)


Business Leaders Call on Obama to Push Forward

A group of over 300 business leaders representing 44 states recently signed a letter urging President Obama and Congress to invest in early learning programs. “We rarely have the luxury,” their letter says, “of making business investment decisions with as much evidence as we have to support the economic value of investing in early care and education.”

Arne Duncan working with school children

Earlier this year President Obama put forth a deficit-neutral “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget; the Department is currently seeking input from stakeholders on the President’s plan for the federal government to partner with states, making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. The President’s proposal calls for an investment of $75 billion over 10 years to create new partnerships with states to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds. An additional $750 million will provide competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems. The plan calls for supports for children from birth to five years of age, including home visits and parental education. Read the proposal to expand early learning and support services for infants, toddlers and families.

Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school. Additionally, behavioral skills highly valued by employers, such as self-discipline, persistence and cooperation, start in the youngest years and last a lifetime. Read the letter. Join the Early Learning listserv. Read Arne Duncan's remarks to the panel "The Obama Preschool Initiative," during a Brookings event last week. Read the White House's state-by-state fact sheets, outlining what states could expect to receive in federal funding to expand early learning initiatives in their states.


Manassas Earns Bragging Rights

For the first time in the school's 116-year history, all of the students at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tenn., have been accepted into a postsecondary program. (They have the letters to prove it!) Read the story in the Commercial Appeal (Roberts).

hitting the target

Turnaround Tales: Inspiration from the School Improvement Learning Community
Melody Richards with her students

Melody Richards works with a small group of first graders using word games to improve literacy at one of several "centers" in her classroom. (Photo courtesy of Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen.)



Change is tough for most of us. Not so for long-time first-grade teacher Melody Richards, who credits a new centers-based curriculum for energizing her school year at Watson Academy for Boys. Watson is a public school in Gary, Indiana, that’s using federal School Improvement Grant funds to improve achievement.

“I was tired of the old ’just sit down and open your books’ way of doing things. What’s more – the children were tired of it,” said Richards, during an ED Goes Back to School visit.

There is clearly little opportunity for boredom among Richards’ students – all boys – as they rotate in small groups through various activities related to an “astronaut” theme around her classroom. During a recent visit by ED's regional staff, the day’s work included preparing students for a true high note – a live discussion with NASA Commander Gary Washburn from the International Space Station the following day. When asked what he liked best about school, Richards' student Timothy Ivory exclaimed, “I’m ready for 2nd grade!” Learn more from the School Turnaround Learning Community.

Keeping Student Loans Affordable

On July 1st, absent bipartisan Congressional action, the interest rate on new subsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loans for undergraduate students will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. As the economy continues to recover, and at a time when market interest rates are near historic lows, more than seven million students who rely on these loans to finance postsecondary education should not be burdened with additional college debt as they seek to graduate, launch a career or a business, start a family, or buy a house.

Congress must act immediately to stop the imminent doubling of interest rates on student loans. The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 953, the Student Loan Affordability Act, because it meets the test of preventing student interest rates from doubling, saving seven million students nearly $1,000 per student. Like the proposal in the President's FY 2014 Budget, this bill gives students the certainty of fixed interest rates, does not raise student loan interest rates for deficit reduction, and supports low- and middle-income students who struggle most to afford a college education. Watch a video of President Obama's remarks about the interest rate on college loans.

Scientific funnyman Marc Abraham

Scientist and humorist Marc Abrahams is one of 150 STEM practitioners who stand ready to visit schools and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers -- at no cost -- during the 2013-14 school year.


Invite Nifty Scientists to Your School

The "Fifty Nifty x 3" is a group of 150 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the states on the East and West Coast during the 2013-2014 school year to speak with students about their work and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The speakers include some of the most inspiring role models in the STEM fields. Fifty-Nifty is a signature program of the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Learn more about how to invite a practitioner to your school. Download a list of the speakers and their bios.

Listening to Teachers

"It's just so important that you tell us the truth. If it's all just happy talk, we don't get any better."

(Arne Duncan urging guests to be candid during a June 3 meeting with 17 educators practicing in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The teachers came to ED to talk about their experiences with testing, professional development, and the Common Core State Standards.)

Quote to Note

Common Core Connections

PARCC TOWN HALL. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) announced a series of Twitter town halls to answer questions on the new, computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Questions can be asked by using the hashtag #askPARCC with speakers responding to tweets between 6-7 p.m. EDT. The first chat was held on June 5, with subsequent events taking place on Thursdays, June 13 (Mathematics) and June 20 (English). Get more information about PARCC's June, July and August Twitter town halls at www.parcconline.org.

MYTHS AND TALL TALES ABOUT THE COMMON CORE. This Edfly Blog posted by the Foundation for Excellence in Education debunks whoppers told about the states' Common Core standards, including that they promote Communism, they use iris scans to track children, and that they hurt teachers by dictating curriculum and teaching methods.

International Summit on the Teaching Profession logo


Variations on a Theme

The Asia Society just published their report from the 2013 International Summit on the Teaching Profession held in Amsterdam this March. The report covers how various countries are defining and evaluating teacher quality and their methods for using teacher quality to improve teaching and learning. From the report: “Giving and receiving feedback, keeping each other on our toes with regard to quality, is the key to good teaching. This applies to countries and governments as well as to teachers.” Download the PDF.

Green Strides Webinars

The Green Strides Webinar Series acquaints school communities with the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement. Find more sessions for educators, facilities managers, and advocates weekly.  All of the Green Strides webinars are free and take place in Eastern Daylight Time.

June 12, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Summer Reading for Environmental Education

June 18, 2013, 2-3 p.m.  A School Administrator’s Role in Green Cleaning

June 18, 2013, 3-4 p.m.  Indoor Air Quality & Healthy Learning Environments

June 26, 2013, 4-5 p.m. BioDiversity Discovery: Next Generation Standards

July 10, 2013, 4-5 p.m. School Health Guidelines for Eating and Activity

July 23, 2013, 3-4 p.m.  Protecting Kids from Pests and Pesticides

Poverty & Education

· One in five schools in the U.S. is designated as "high poverty."

· The number of high-poverty schools has increased by about 60 percent in the last decade.

(From a Hechinger Report blog based on The Condition of Education 2013, published by the National Center for Education Statistics.)

the New Math

Tools for Students

A PERSONAL APPEAL FOR EXCELLENCE. President Obama's remarks at the 2013 commencement for Morehouse College are worth reviewing as a source of inspiration for students and for their rhetorical effect. He cracks a number of jokes with the graduates, such as this one: "Some of you are graduating summa cum laude. Some of you are graduating magna cum laude. I know some of you are just graduating, 'Thank you, Lordy.' That's appropriate because it’s a Sunday."

INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE. ED is accepting applications, from June 1st through July 15th, for Fall 2013 internships. Students must be U.S. citizens and at least 16 years of age to apply. The internships provide students opportunities to explore their interests in education policy research, analysis, intergovernmental relations, public affairs, or even social media while learning about the role federal government plays in education. Find out more.

Students' Corner

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Teachers' Notes

• STAY CONNECTED & ENGAGED. This interview with Andrew Miller on Connected Educators provides practical tips for teachers to build online communities with colleagues and stay connected.

• WHY TEACHERS LEAVE. New York City is hoping that more information about which teachers leave their schools will help principals support and hold on to the best ones. The Department of Education is releasing annual reports about teacher retention that detail — by their performance ratings — which teachers resign, retire, stay on, are fired, or are promoted. Learn more.

• MENTAL HEALTH FOR SCHOOLS. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed to Congress to fund more counselors, social workers, and psychologists in schools during a national conference on mental health at the White House this week. Read the EdWeek article (Shah).

• INTERACTIVE VERSION OF SCIENCE STANDARDS RELEASED. An interactive version of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is available online. This tool allows users to search the standards and organize content to meet their needs. Within the Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) and Topics arrangements, standards can be organized by grade band/level and DCI. The NGSS can also be viewed as the individual performance expectations that make up the standards. In this arrangement, content can be organized by the three dimensions from the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and DCIs. 

Educator Blogs

Blogs We Like

A compilation of blogs recommended by Teaching Ambassador Fellows

• CHANGE AGENTS and CLASSROOM TIPS. PDK has several new blogs for teachers. Change Agents features educators who are making a difference. Their first entry profiles Principal Robert Dillon (Mo.), who uses Expeditionary Learning to engage his middle grades students and build relationships. Classroom Tips allows educators to learn from one another and get practical solutions to real challenges.

• THE STANDARD. Launched by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in April 2013, this blog is great for resources on teacher leadership and the National Board process. We also continue to like the NBPTS's Stories from School, a blog that links education policy with classroom reality.

• BLENDED LEARNING IN THE TECHNOLOGY CLASSROOM. Published by California teacher Catlin Tucker, this blog is one of our favorites on blended learning and technology.

• EDUCATION SCIENCE. Cognitive psychologist Dan Willingham publishes a blogspace for teachers to learn about cutting edge psychology and scientific research that can help them in the classroom. It’s more challenging than the average blog -- and more rewarding.

• FOR MATH TEACHERS. Dan Meyer has a thoughtful blog on teaching mathematics, where he shares deep and insightful lessons, his thoughts about setting up and running math classrooms, and strategies to incorporate technology. For mathematics teachers, we are also crazy about Christopher Danielson's Overthinking My Teaching, where Danielson investigates interesting and hard questions, and 2008 Teaching Fellow Nicora Placa's Bridging the Gap, which connects mathematics research and classroom practice.

• A CASE STUDY IN EXPERIENTIAL PD, POLAR STYLE! New Jersey Teacher and 2011 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Bruce Taterka will be blogging this summer from the Alaskan tundra during June and July. He is traveling on a National Science Foundation-funded research expedition with a team from the University of Michigan, studying climate change in the Arctic and sharing with students and teachers the latest in climate-change science and what it's like to do scientific research in remote areas.  

• SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL). Austin ISD's SEL blog is a terrific online resource for teachers and schools interested in improving students non-cognitive skills. The blog features examples, photos, videos, recent research, and detailed descriptions of best practices in elementary and secondary schools.  

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

Savoy Middle School

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. “We need help on how to make parents accountable for their children’s education.” (Teacher, Columbus, N.M.) 

4. "The best professional development is seeing students and teachers in action.” (Teacher, Phoenix, Ariz.)

3. "Beginning teachers need much more practical experience (in their teacher preparation) than they are getting." (Assistant Principal, Wash.)

2. "Allowing teachers to present portfolios of their work -- that includes student growth data -- allows them to show off the great things that they do." (Assistant Principal, S.C.)

1. "(With) No Child Left Behind, gifted learners are being left behind.” (Education Professor, Orlando, Fla.)