TEACHING MATTERS -- August 22, 2013

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August 22, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

FEA officers standing next to education bell
Teacher Leaders with Dean Fran Welch, William Youngblood, and Arne Duncan

(Above) Jalen Brown, FEA National Co-­Vice President (Ohio); Mollie Miller, FEA National President (N.J.); and Abigail Marapao, FEA National Co-­Vice President (Va.).

(Left) Arne pauses for a pic with Teacher Leaders from the College of Charleston and their supporters.


Aspiring Teachers Tell All

ED staff and senior officials met with aspiring teachers over the course of the summer to gain perspective on federal and state education policy and reflect on how they can influence their future profession. Teacher Leaders from the College of Charleston participated in a brown bag session with teachers who work at ED and the Teaching Ambassador Fellows. Additionally, for the second year in a row, Virginia State University brought their G.R.O.W.S. (Gaining Real World Opportunities with Students) program students to visit ED during their Washington D.C. tour. The group is comprised of high school students aspiring to be teachers selected from throughout Virginia to attend this summer program on the VSU campus and gain real-world knowledge and experience. Most recently, the national officers from the Future Educators Association visited ED to share their insights about attracting, retaining, supporting and developing future teachers. The common denominator? Each future educator exuded a passion to change students' lives and transform the profession that they aspire to join. Not bad for summer break!


What's in a Word? 

The governing board for the tests known as “the nation’s report card” has established its own definition of what makes a student academically prepared for college. Members of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress, voted 17-2 to adopt language that will define the new “college prepared” scores in reading and mathematics on the assessment. Read the EdWeek article

In a related story, the Washington Post (Brown and Bui) reported that "[j]ust more than one-quarter of students who took the ACT college entrance exam this year scored high enough in math, reading, English and science to be considered ready for college or a career."

map for bus tour

This year's Back-to-School Bus Tour will explore the Southwest, including parts of California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico.


Strong Start, Bright Future

It’s back-to-school time, which means that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior ED officials are hitting the road once again for the Department’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run September 9-13 and includes visits to states throughout the Southwest with stops in the following cities:

  • Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Columbus, & Socorro, N.M.
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Tucson, Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale, & Yuma, Ariz.
  • Chula Vista, Calif.

Interested in connecting with the team in one of those cities? Email teachtalk@ed.gov with "Bus Tour" in the subject line. Sign up for bus tour email updates. Read the ED blog


"Please Tell Our Story"

Arne Duncan recently hosted a call with six teachers and one principal from North Carolina to hear about the challenges they currently face as their state has moved from 17th to 46th in the nation in teacher compensation.  

Joining Secretary Duncan on the call were teachers Darcy Grimes (NC Teacher of the Year, Boone), Andrew Neale (Charlotte), Lindsay Kosmala Furst (Buncombe County), Anonga Blackwell (Fayetteville), Karina Colon (Raleigh), Vernon Johnson (Greensboro), and principal Alison Harris (Charlotte). 

The educators talked about their frustration from working two jobs, selling their blood, getting on public assistance, and even taking a job in another state in order to be able to feed their families. Many stressed the importance of the state keeping good teachers but felt that it is difficult to remain in the profession when they are not compensated fairly. 

Johnson summed up the group’s sentiments by saying, “Teaching is not a job. It’s a career.” When Arne told the educators that he is "extraordinarily concerned" about salaries in North Carolina, Kosmala implored him, "Please tell our story."

Read related stories in the Greensboro News Record (Fain) and Charlotte Observer (Helms)


"For too long, in too many places, schools systems have hurt students by treating every teacher the same – failing to identify those who need support and those whose work deserves particular recognition."

(Excerpt from a recent statement by Secretary Arne Duncan on Tennessee's changes to their teaching licensure policy.)

Quote to Note


The Last Day in Mind

In this thoughtful letter, parent, teacher and 2008 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Jon Eckert shares a message he sent to his children's teachers--one that conveys his hopes for the impact that they will have on his children, their learning, and their love of school. He asks that they start the year with the last day of school in mind, that they require his children to work hard, and that they love his children despite their shortcomings and crazy parents. What teacher wouldn't love this?

child's artwork countdown to school

the New Math

How Practical is the Praxis?

"Thirty-six states accept the Praxis exam to establish basic skills proficiency (Praxis I), content knowledge (Praxis II), or both...The score required to pass varies considerably: on a 100-point scale, the most demanding states tend to set a cut score 20 to 30 points above those of the least-demanding states, whose cut scores are below what is recommended by ETS."

From Strengthen State Oversight of Teacher Preparation (Education Next). Writer James Cibulka examines research and makes a case that teacher licensure has little impact on teaching quality, because it sets too low a bar for entry into teaching, and offers recommendations to improve licensure. Read a related article about preparing teachers' knowledge content and pedagogy, by David Chard.


Beyond Fingers: Kindergarten Math

Check out Florida teacher Karen Lassiter's video, Beyond Fingers: Place Value and the Numbers 11-19, a close review a kindergarten math lesson about counting and cardinality. Using discussion, manipulatives, journals and more, this lesson helps kindergarteners to understand the numbers 11-19 and covers Common Core Math Standards. Explore other Teaching Channel video lessons taught by teachers. 


To Complete or Not to Complete

Two recently released reports - Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions, by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in partnership with the Indiana University Project on Academic Success, and The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence From North Carolina by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) - suggest that community college students should complete their sub-baccalaureate credentials before transferring to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Transfer is a key mission of community colleges, and, as the NSCRC notes, accurately understanding the pathways and outcomes of these students is critical to the national college completion agenda.

Key findings:

  • Seventy-two percent of transfer students who completed a two-year degree or certificate prior to transferring graduated with a bachelor’s degree, while only 56 percent of those who transferred without a credential did so. 
  • Students who transferred after stopping for more than one year had much lower graduation rates than those who transferred within one year of their most recent enrollment at a two-year institution.
  • Students who attended exclusively full-time after transferring graduated at higher rates than those who attended exclusively part-time or those with mixed enrollment.
  • Bachelor’s degree completion rates were significantly lower for students who transferred to private, for-profit institutions than for those who transferred to public or private, nonprofit institutions.

school garden


Beyond Beige

"The 'Theory of Beige' is quite simple. At one of the school districts where I was previously employed, all the classrooms were painted beige. They were intended to be neutral and unnoticed. As long as the walls remained in their beige state, they never received criticism."  (Bernard Piaia)

On a recent tour of Green Ribbon Schools, Bernard E. Piaia, director of the Office of School Facilities for the New Jersey Department of Education, has a "Eureka Moment." While observing courtyards used as natural wildlife habitats and corridors transformed into solar heat sinks, he discovers that the integration of facility and instruction is critical to building an "education to last"-- eliminating the theory of beige! Read more


ED Awards $12.3 Million in School Counseling Grants

ED awarded $12.3 million to 35 schools districts in 17 states across the country to establish or expand counseling programs. The awards will help schools hire qualified mental-health professionals with the goal of expanding the range, availability, quantity and quality of counseling services. Parents of participating students will have input in the design and implementation of counseling services supported by these grants. "School counselors serve a critical role in ensuring that students are safe," Arne Duncan said. "These grants will enhance school-based counseling programs, which have proven to be a great source of help for students with mental-health issues."

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• ATTENDANCE AWARENESS MONTH. September is Attendance Awareness Month, and your school can get involved! Attendance Works, a nonprofit promoting the importance of attendance in student learning, has a Count Us In! Toolkit that provides plenty of resources for your school to join in.

• ARTS AND IDEAS. Read this article about the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) Conference held at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. With "Intersections" as the theme, the educators and artists participated in interactive sessions where teaching artists shared tools they use to reach out to students, for example, a dance artist showed how dance can be used to improve impulse control in hyperactive kids and another educator introduced an innovative performing arts educational program used at a NYC school for students with autism.

• PREVENTING BULLYING OF SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS. ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance this week that addresses bullying of students with disabilities. The guidance provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities and explains the consequences of bullying a student with disabilities, which often results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit. Read the related blog

• CRITICS COME FORTH. In this Huffington Post blog, former Assistant Secretary of Communications and Outreach for the Department of Education Peter Cunningham takes a stand against lowering standards for any segment of our student population. He also encourages those who have opinions on the current state of education reform and to engage in mutually respectful dialogue. 

SXSW 2014

Supporting Teacher Voices with Your Vote

At the upcoming South by Southwest conference, which emphasizes innovation and collaboration to drive positive change in teaching and learning, presenters are selected in part by voting from the public. At last year's conference, only 17% of sessions were led by teachers. Educators can increase teacher representation among the panelists by exploring and voting for the teacher and principals in competition for the spots after registering for the PanelPicker here. Here are three America Achieves educators in the running.

  • Jonathan Gillentine, a preschool teacher in Hawaii, proposes to present on his use of technology to increase preschoolers' reading of nonfiction texts through a "reverse reading buddies" program.
  • Marcello Sgambelluri, a fifth grade teacher in San Jose, proposes to present with Jennifer Smith from the Flamboyan Foundation on new ways to reach and team up with families to improve students' academic performance.
  • Joe Manko, an elementary school principal in Baltimore, proposes to present on the success his school has had at developing a community schools model that provides wraparound services to students and families at very low costs compared to well-known wraparound models like the Harlem Children's Zone.


Crowdsourcing Change

At Poway Unified School District in San Diego, administrators built a site called InnovationU, which called for all district employees to submit ideas that could help improve the safety of students and staff at school. The idea that rose to the top? Create a comprehensive support services program for prekindergarten through 12th grade. This idea is on its way to reality. This is just one example of how schools and districts are tapping into the power of crowdsourcing to solve problems, isolate priorities for change, and ultimately, improve schools for students and the community. Read the NPR blog (Gee). 

teacher over desks of students

 Book Cover

Recommended Reading

TEACHERPRENEURS. Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers who Lead but Don’t Leave (by Barnett Berry, Ann Byrd and Alan Wieder), published by The Center for Teacher Quality, a national nonprofit, presents a fresh new take on teacher leaders. “Teacherpreneurs” or “teacher-entrepreneurs” take on a hybrid role of teaching and leading. Within this capacity, teachers continue to teach, but have time, space and incentives to execute policy ideas and mentor colleagues. Teacherpreneurs follows the transformative journeys of eight teachers into a culture of innovation and sustainability. Each chapter provides real-world stories of effective teacher leaders, online resources related to discussions in each chapter, QR codes that connect you to multimedia content, as well as interactive systematic planning and goal-setting activities to help you develop your unique teacherpreneur role. "Teacher leadership is the present," CTQ Teacherpreneur José Vilson said. "Teacherpreneurism is the future."

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

teacher talking

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. “Classroom teachers must be a part of every conversation about our work and our students.” (Teacher, Pompton Plains, N.J.)

4. “Teachers haven’t had a raise in five years, yet they are still buying things for their class and lunch for kids because they care.” (Teacher, Albuquerque, N.M.)

3. “If we fundamentally believe that all students can learn then we should believe that all who really want to teach can also be taught.” (Teacher, S.D.) 

2. On the desire for education reform: “I don’t think we need another report. What we need is to change behavior.” (Teacher, Calif.)

1. “Don’t invest in the status quo. Invest in what could be.” (Teacher, Alaska)