TEACHING MATTERS -- July 25, 2013

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July 25, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Students peform at ED's "Artful Expressions" Opening

Liam and Dylan Zink perform for ED at the opening of an art exhibit featuring students from North Carolina.


Educators Face the Music

Districts thinking about cutting back on arts education may want to reconsider their strategy in light of recent research that suggests music classes improve much more than a student's musical ability. Read about researchers at Northwestern University who studied how music education affects learning and communication. Their most recent work explores the ways music can reduce academic achievement gaps between groups of students. Learn more. Read about Drexel University's summer music technology program that combines engineering with the arts in Philadelphia.


ED Calls for Peer Reviewers  

Teachers seeking unconventional ways of growing professionally and learning about federal education programs may be interested in serving as peer reviewers for the new Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition. The purpose of RTT-D is to support bold, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness. ED is looking for interested and qualified folks to serve as peer reviewers. Find out more. Direct email questions to the Race to the Top Peer Reviewer inbox at RTTDLogistics@mikogroup.com.  

Richard Hart

How to Use Video to Improve Practice

Although video can be used to prepare for National Board Certification, refine a lesson, or enhance classroom instruction, many teachers shy away from the technology. Teacher and journalist Richard Hart offers tips for teachers to videotape their classes inexpensively, using a telephone, iPad, or simple FLIP camera. Also on the Teaching Channel, check out Sarah Brown Wessling's video about how teachers can fine tune their practice by turning on the camera.



E4E Recommends Career Ladder Strategies

Educators in Los Angeles from an Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) Teacher Policy Team considering career trajectories have developed a toolkit for "carving out career pathways to elevate our expectations and aspirations for the future of the teaching profession."

Their comprehensive plan is worth a close read, as "STEP: Supporting Teachers as Empowered Professionals," could result in the creation of meaningful and supportive teacher-career pathways in districts and schools. Here are some highlights.


E4E LA's Design Principles of an Effective Career Pathway System

Focused on Students: Each role or opportunity of the career pathway must be directly linked to positive outcomes for our students.
Focused on Developing Professionals: Teachers should have opportunities to grow, develop and gain leadership throughout their careers. Movement through the career pathway should be based on performance using a robust, multi-measure evaluation system, rather than simply considering years of service.
Focused on Leveraging Leaders: Roles and opportunities should not just build teacher-leaders, but share their expertise with colleagues and, ultimately, reach more students.
Multifaceted and Flexible: No additional role should be required at any stage of a career pathway. Teachers who do choose to take on these roles should be able to return to their students at any point if they find the role is not a fit for them. Teaching is a multifaceted profession, and our career pathway should recognize the many areas in which teachers grow and build expertise.
Transparent: A great career pathway should reward performance, leadership and impact on students, not one’s ability to navigate a maze of paperwork. The process for qualifying for each stage and role must be clear, consistent, equitable and easy to understand.
Feasible, Affordable and Efficient: We recognize the limits of our budget as well as our school and district capacity. Each role should leverage the resources available in the most efficient way possible, and we should invest wisely in the roles that will impact the largest number of students.

Download the full report. You may also want to check out E4E's June piece, Attracting and Retaining Great Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools.


From Gangland to the Classroom

When Pearl Arredondo, the daughter of a gang leader, told her teachers that she wanted to be a teacher, they didn't believe her. They thought she was too rebellious. Yet this persistent Latina, who had seen her father go into convulsions during a drug overdose, proved them wrong and went on to attend Pepperdine University. Now she is a teacher in the first pilot middle school in Los Angeles, Calif. Check out Pearl's TED Talk about her journey and learn about the paradigm shift that took place when she and other teachers formed their own middle school, the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media.

Pearl Arrendondo

On the House Bill to Reauthorize ESEA

"America's families, students and teachers deserve an education law that advances progress for all students—especially our most vulnerable children. The bill that the House passed today is not that law."

(Arne Duncan in a released statement after the House voted to approve ESEA Reauthorization Bill H.R. 5.)

Quote to Note

Common Core Connections

THINKING CRITICALLY. In this Detroit Free Press article, Lori Higgins examines what the higher state standards will mean for students competing in a perpetually shifting global economy. Meanwhile, a Fordham review characterizes Michigan's pre-Common Core language arts standards as "a muddle" with only "a few moments of clarity, specificity, and rigor."  

PRACTICE TESTS AVAILABLE. An early look at Smarter Balanced Assessments is available nearly two years before the assessment system is implemented in the 2014-15 school year. The Smarter Balanced Practice Tests allow teachers, students, parents, and other interested parties to experience the features of online testing and gain insight into how Smarter Balanced will assess students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards.

THE CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR HIGHER COMMON STANDARDS. Tom Vander Ark argues that the Common Core State Standards not only help to protect local and state control, but they offer a "big platform for innovation." Read his piece in EdWeek.

English teacher Linda Golston uses real-world issues and assignments to make writing lessons relevant to sophomores. (Photo courtesy of Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen.)

Relevance Stirs Love of Writing

Veteran English teacher Linda Golston harnesses students’ individual passions and 21st century technology to make writing lessons engaging at New Tech Innovative Institute, a 2-year old program at Gary public schools in northwest Indiana in partnership with the New Tech Network, a national non-profit initiative.  

teacher in Gary, Indiana

During a recent visit as part of ED Goes Back to School, all of Golston’s sophomore students identified themselves as someone who "loves to write." Many indicated that their enthusiasm for writing was newly discovered, and inspired at least in part by Golston and the New Tech philosophy, which emphasizes project-based learning.

Golston inspires students by allowing them to write about issues that really matter to them. For example, some of her students chose to hone their communications skills by creating a Public Service Announcement video aimed at building awareness of bullying prevention resources. “I was not a good student last year, but now I’m an honors student,” said sophomore Charles Jones, who credits his improvement to classwork that “relates to the real world.” 

What Works Clearinghouse ies

News about Reading Recovery

Researchers at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) have confirmed that Reading Recovery, a short-term intervention providing one-on-one tutoring to first-grade students struggling in reading and writing, has been found to have positive effects on general reading achievement and potentially positive effects on other skills. The supplementary recovery program aims to promote literacy skills and foster the development of reading and writing strategies by tailoring individualized lessons to each student. Download the IES report.


President Obama Ties Education to the Country's Economic Security

In an address given at Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.) yesterday, President Obama linked the state of education in our country to our economic prosperity. Some highlights:

• KEEPING IT REAL. The days when the wages for a worker with a high school degree could keep pace with the earnings of somebody who got some sort of higher education -- those days are over. Everybody here knows that. There are a whole bunch of folks here whose dads or grandpas worked at a plant, didn’t need a high school education.You could just go there. If you were willing to work hard, you might be able to get two jobs. And you could support your family, have a vacation, own your home. But technology and global competition, they’re not going away. Those old days aren’t coming back. 

 • A STRONG MIDDLE CLASS. And that brings me to the second cornerstone of a strong middle class -- and everybody here knows it -- an education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition that they’re going to face.  And if you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century.  

• INVESTING FOR OUR FUTURE. If we don’t make this investment, we’re going to put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. So we have to begin in the earliest years. And that’s why I’m going to keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available for every 4-year-old in America. Not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents. 

• CONNECTING TO THE INTERNET (WITHOUT BLOWING THE BUDGET). And I’m going to take action in the education area to spur innovation that don’t require Congress. So, today, for example, as we speak, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet over the next five years. We’re making that happen right now. We’ve already begun meeting with business leaders and tech entrepreneurs and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.  

• REINING IN THE COST OF COLLEGE. I’m also going to use the power of my office over the next few months to highlight a topic that’s straining the budgets of just about every American family -- and that’s the soaring cost of higher education. Everybody is touched by this, including your President, who had a whole bunch of loans he had to pay off. 

Three years ago, I worked with Democrats to reform the student loan system so that taxpayer dollars stopped padding the pockets of big banks, and instead helped more kids afford college. Then, I capped loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly incomes for responsible borrowers, so that if somebody graduated and they decided to take a teaching job, for example, that didn’t pay a lot of money, they knew that they were never going to have to pay more than 10 percent of their income and they could afford to go into a profession that they loved. That’s in place right now. And this week, we’re working with both parties to reverse the doubling of student loan rates that happened a few weeks ago because of congressional inaction. 

Read the speech.

FCC Backs Plan to Connect Schools to the Internet

$2.3 billion

99% connected

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Friday to overhaul and possibly expand its E-Rate program, a $2.3 billion effort to provide schools and libraries with up-to-date telecommunications service and equipment, including high-speed Internet connections. Read the full story in the New York Times (Wyatt). Learn more. Read Arne's statement about the plan.

the New Math

Bipartisan Compromise Keeps Student Loan Rates Low

In a victory for college students, a bipartisan coalition of senators announced a plan to keep student loan interest rates low. As a result, rates on every single new college loan will come down this school year, offering relief to nearly 11 million borrowers. This year, an undergraduate with an average loan will save nearly $1,500 in interest over the life of that loan. Learn more about the bipartisan compromise.

Students' Corner


The Evidence on Teacher Experience

Jennifer Rice King of the Calder Center has contributed an interesting policy brief considering The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications. Among other insights, King finds that "the impact of experience is strongest during the first few years of teaching; after that, marginal returns diminish." Download the report.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• HELP WANTED. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is accepting applications for a Career and Technical Education Standards Committee. Serving on the committee provides teachers with an opportunity to expand their impact on the profession. Access the online application being accepted until Aug. Visit the National Board website for information about the  responsibilities of standards committee members. For assistance or additional information contact the National Board at nominations@nbpts.org 

• ART CONTEST DEADLINE EXTENDED. The 2013 AAP Children’s Art Contest deadline has been extended until August 30. Learn more.

• SUPPORTING TEACHERS' PROFESSIONAL GROWTH. Jenny DelMonte's paper, High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers: Supporting Teacher Training to Improve Student Learning, is the first of a series of reports and briefs by the Center for American Progress looking at professional learning: what states and districts are doing that is working and what policies are in place to support effective teacher-training activities. Find it at www.americanprogress.org.

• GREEN SCHOOLS TAKING ROOT IN RURAL ALABAMA. In this blog article, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White writes about how green schools efforts are working in Talladega County public schools in the Appalachian Mountains of Alabama. Learn more.

OUR MOON LANDING MOMENT. Students First has launched this short inspirational video to remind us all of what we can achieve if we work together as a country to achieve our nation's educational challenging goals.

Let's Read, Let's Move

 Let's Read, Let's Move kicked off with a performance from Kofi Dennis of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, who led the kids in exciting song and dance using drums, rhythm and rhyme.

Dancing to their Music

Last week's Let's Read, Let's Move event featured award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad and Washington Kastles' tennis coach, Murphy Jensen. Arne Duncan hosted the event and listened as guests read Giles Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance. The guests also tackled questions about what it takes to be a professional tennis player and demostrated their theory of how giraffes would dance. Learn more. Browse the photos. Watch video highlights.


First Round of AmeriCorps Grants Announced

ED and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced the first grants for the new School Turnaround AmeriCorps program to support the placement of a dedicated cadre of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. School Turnaround AmeriCorps members will be placed in schools implementing school turnaround interventions as required by ED's School Improvement Grant program or as required through Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility. Members will help keep students on track to graduate by working to increase student academic achievement, attendance, and high school graduation rates; improve college and career readiness; and provide college enrollment assistance and advice. $15 million will be awarded over three years to 13 organizations that will annually place more than 650 AmeriCorps members in dozens of the nation’s lowest-performing schools. Learn more.

open book

Recommended Reading

This week's reading recommendations come from referrals made by participants of the first national conference of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY).

• TAKING BACK CHILDHOOD: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids (by Nancy Carlsson-Paige). Recommended by Kathy Smith (2012 Minnesota Teacher of the Year)

• THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT: How Your Life Matters (by Andy Andrews). Recommended by Bob Feurer (2010 Nebraska Teacher of the Year)

• THE PHILOSOPHER'S PEDAGOGY. Answering  their colleagues' questions about why their students seem excited about their classes and also perform well on national exams, Hawaii teachers Amber Strong Makaiau and Chad Miller (2012 Hawaii Teacher of the Year) write about how they use philosophy to interest their students and get them to think deeply about texts. In this peer-reviewed article in Educational Perspectives, they examine the complex relationship they see between philosophy, education, theory and practice. They describe this relationship as the "Philosopher's Pedagogy," an approach to teaching that builds on the Philosophy for Children movement started by Matthew Lipman in the 1960s.  

• TURNING TO ONE ANOTHER: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (by Margaret J. Wheatley). Recommended by Margaret Holtschlag (2000 Michigan Teacher of the Year)

• THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD (by Loren Long and Watty Piper). Recommended by Edna Rogers (1989 Tennessee Teacher of the Year)

• GUIDE FOR THE POWERLESS AND THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW THEIR OWN POWER (by Samuel Halperin). Recommended by Alice Johnson Cain (Teach Plus).

Professional Development in Education (by Richard F. Elmore). Recommended by Joellen Killion (Learning Forward).

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED at the NNSTOY Conference

 5.  "If you want to be great, you have to build a network” (Dyane Smokorowski, 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year)

4.  "Teaching is a thinking person's job." (Charlotte Danielson, The Danielson Group)

NNSTOY National Conference

3.  "When you push others, they will push back. But when you dance, they will follow your lead." (Katie Ferguson, 2012 New York Teacher of the Year)

2.  "Listening is the hardest thing there is. We want to shape what others think and say." (Joellen Killion, Learning Forward)

1.  "For too long, teachers have been subjects of change. We need to flip that dynamic on its head so that teachers are agents of change." (Evan Stone, E4E, quoting a veteran teacher in Los Angeles, Calif.)