THE TEACHERS EDITION -- October 24, 2013

The Teachers Edition



October 24, 2013 | Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition

Backpack stuffing

Arne Duncan stocks backpacks with staff at ED. From left: former teacher and program officer Charles DoolittleRep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-09), Teaching Ambassador Fellow Joiselle Cunningham, CEO of Blessings in a Backpack Brooke Wiseman, Arne, and Blessings board member Richard Gordon.

Duncan Highlights Impact of Hunger on Education  

In late September ED hosted a hunger-awareness event with the nonprofit organization Blessings in a Backpack, ED staff and other partners. Altogether, they loaded 1,000 backpacks so students could have food over the weekend.

The event, covered on KTIC-FM, sought to raise awareness of the impact of food insecurity on learning. Blessings in a Backpack “is helping to ensure more than 60,000 kids who receive backpacks of food for the weekend don’t come to school hungry on Mondays,” said Arne.

The backpack stuffing activity took place shortly after a report appeared in The Atlantic highlighting a study indicating that almost half of public school students are low-income. The article, written by Jordan Weissmann, indicates that in 2011 there were 17 states where at least half of all public school students came from low-income families, up from just four states in 2000. Country-wide, 48 percent of kids qualified as low income, up from 38 percent a decade earlier. According to Weissmann, “Poverty is the giant backpack dragging down American students.”


The Teacher Salary Project 

THE GOVERNORS' CHALLENGE. The Teacher Salary Project has bold ambition to double teachers' salaries in this country. They are beginning their effort with a Governors’ Challenge, sending every governor a copy of the film American Teacher, information about teachers and teacher pay, and recommended steps to advance the conversation about compensation. The goal is twofold: making teaching a profession that top college students are attracted to and retaining excellent teachers once they have entered the profession. The Governors’ Challenge encourages tweeting (@teachersalary), blogging, and sparking conversations about RESPECT. Visit them on Facebook to give your input and sign the pledge to improve teacher pay.


AN ECONOMIC CASE FOR TEACHER IMPACT. What is the best way to measure a teacher’s impact on students? In an article in The Economist, Raj Chetty and John Friedman of Harvard University and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University "deploy some statistical wizardry to tease out the value of teaching." Among the predicable findings, we learn that access to better teachers is associated with higher student university attendance and student salary. Other findings are less expected. Read more here 

JOIN THE RESPECT TEAM. Sign up to get updates on the RESPECT Project and to be added to the mailing list for opportunities for educators to lead the transformation of their profession.

Teach Plus


Asking the Pro's

Recognizing the importance of keeping great teachers in schools, the National Education Association (NEA) and Teach Plus are pooling resources. The fellowship, called the Future of the Teaching Profession will recognize teachers in the first 10 years of classroom experience and ask them to make recommendations to improve teacher engagement and encourage retention. Learn more.


Quote to Note

“Wisconsin’s Common Core State Standards are world class and set a much higher bar for all kids in the state to reach. We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents, and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. ... We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.” 

(Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers in his annual State of Education address)

Warning! Don't back up.

still from video

A viral video released by Education Next makes a case that the country's standing in education threatens our economic security.


What's in a Number?

Acknowledging, "Change is hard for grownups," a video released by Education Next makes a compelling case that Americans need to pay attention to our slipping global standing and make improvements to keep up with changes that are happening in other fields and around the world. In the PISA international math test, a woeful 32 percent of American kids scored proficient, identifying us as 32nd in the world (in the middle of the middle, between Portugal and Italy). Though the video promotes the book Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School (Hanushek, Peterson and Woessmann), it provides an interesting perspective about the dangers of remaining "stuck in the middle."

Common Core Connections

TEACHERS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS. A Teach Plus report shows that teachers praise new standards for classroom learning. Additionally, 2013 Primary Sources survey cited in USA Today reports that almost 75 percent of teachers believe Common Core will improve students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. Delve into the data here. 

BUSTING THE MYTH THAT TEACHERS WERE NOT INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING THE COMMON CORE. Politifact of Florida reports that though some critics of the Common Core argue the standards were not drafted and reviewed by teachers, the evidence supports the opposite. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association both note that their teachers reviewed and commented on the standards. Read about additional teacher input on the Common Core Standards.


Did You Know?

November 19th marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's historic Gettysburg Address.

Here are some educational resources to help students discover one of the most important events in our nation's history. There are K-12 programs and other helpful links for teachers. Check out lesson plans from Edsitement and a website for special anniversary events. These links might also be valuable: the National Park Service site for Gettysburg, the National Park Site teachers' page for the battlefield, and an interesting traveling trunk activity.

question mark



Using Debate to Develop Critical Thinking and Speaking SkillsWhile debate can be a useful tool for all classrooms, this great video of a high school economic class helps students develop critical thinking and speaking skills while debating economic topics. 


Stanford Offers Fellowships for New Teachers

Nearly half of all teachers leave the classroom within five years. In high poverty schools, the turnover is even higher — leaving the most vulnerable students with the least experienced teachers.

A new fellowship at Stanford's Graduate School of Education aims to help stop this revolving door by encouraging, supporting and recognizing highly motivated early career-teachers and providing them with rich learning opportunities with colleagues nationwide.

The two-year Stanford Hollyhock Fellowship for Teachers will bring 100 high school teachers from low-income schools to Stanford for two weeks of residential summer workshops that include courses taught by university scholars and expert practitioners. Fellows will also receive continuing support during the school year through online coaching and mentoring.

the New Math


"Today, compared to just a few years ago, we have 700,000 fewer students attending dropout factories." 

Secretary Duncan, highlighting progress made to turn around the nation's lowest-performing schools during a deep-dive interview with New York Times Washington Bureau Chief David Leonhardt. Watch the video during which Duncan discusses a number of issues, including how to choose a good college, digital learning, the theory and reality of Race to the Top, and his take on some of the country's thorniest education challenges.


Top Teachers' Views on Education Policy

A new report from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) indicates wisely, "Good teaching is hard to define, even for the profession's most successful and reflective members." The report illuminates the ideas of highly effective teachers' on issues ranging from the teaching profession to controversial education policy.

TAF News

EDUCATION NATION. Current Teaching Ambassador Fellows Joiselle Cunningham and Tami Fitzgerald, along with alumni Robert Baroz, Kareen Borders, Geneviève DeBose, Jemal Graham, Madonna Ramp, Shakera Walker, and Maryann Woods-Murphy attended NBC's Education Nation Summit where they collaborated with teachers from around the country and explored topics ranging from the Common Core State Standards to teacher voice and community engagement. Secretary Duncan participated via webcast and answered questions from Univision's Jose Diaz-Balart and teachers. 

TRADING UPMaryann Woods-Murphy (2011-12 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow) recently left her position as a Spanish and Diversity teacher at Northern Highlands High School to take on a hybrid position in the Nutley School District. Woods-Murphy, who is also a 2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, told colleagues that she was not unhappy in her job at Highlands. Instead, she indicated that as teacher leaders mature, they need opportunities to take on leadership positions without leaving the classroom. Read her story (Kleimann). 


Study Reveals Insights from the Top Nations

In the article Global Study Identifies Promising Practices in Top-Scoring Nations, Ed Week's Catherine Gewertz finds that countries worldwide that score highest on Trends in International Mathematics, Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study have a number of commonalities. Researchers found that common themes associated with high achievement included educators ensuring that students knew what they were expected to do and that they liked what they were reading. 


Got Aspiring Teachers? 

What will you teach? That is the question folks at The New Teacher Project (TNTP) are asking potential new teachers on their new website for Teaching Fellows. If you know someone who would make a great teacher, share TNTP's new site with them. Applications for new Teaching Fellows opened on October 7th. For more information about TNTP's work in the field, check out their website

Cover from TNTP website

States Get Trendy

The Center for Public Education has released a study on the Trends in Teacher Evaluation that finds that, since 2009, more than two-thirds of states have made significant changes to the ways teachers are evaluated. Other findings include:


  • 23 states require or recommend that student achievement indicators comprise half of a teacher's evaluation.
  • 38 states require districts to evaluate teachers, in part, on their impact on students’ achievement.
  • 31 states align evaluation results to inform professional development opportunities for all teachers.
  • 28 states mandate the use of evaluation results in making personnel decisions.
  • 14 states require aggregate evaluation data to be shared publicly.

Tools for Students

SMITHSONIAN EDUCATION. Smithsonian Education's student site is full of engaging and interactive materials for students to explore, discover and learn.

COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION VS. CREDIT HOURS. The Deseret (UT) News (Baker) profiles Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, which gives degrees based on “skills acquisition, and not on credit hours.” The piece cites bipartisan backing and “a warming attitude toward innovation at the U.S. Department of Education,” as one reason for the shift. 

Students' Corner

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• A TEACHER NAMED SUE. WLS-TV (Chicago, Ill.) profiles the Sue Duncan Children's Center, a nonprofit that Arne Duncan's mother started in 1961. The Center provides free tutoring for inner-city children. Learn more.

RESHAPING THE PROFESSION. NNSTOY’s (Network of National State Teachers of the Year) newest white paper, “Re-Imagining Teaching: Five Structures to Transform the Profession” discusses the five critical structures the teaching profession is missing, and how and why they need to be implemented. Access the article here. Watch a video of the panel discussion and release event about the white paper. 

TECHNOLOGICALLY LAST.  In a study that had 19 countries partake in a computer literacy test, the United States ranked last with fewer than 38% of citizens being able to complete it. The study, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, also found that students from different socioeconomic backgrounds have a high achievement gap when it comes to technology. 

• WALKING IN! On November 4, instead of choosing to walk out of their schools as a form of protest, teachers in North Carolina are staging a "Walk In." This initiative shows positive teacher leadership and keeps important educational issues at the core of conversations with parents, school leaders, and voters. Check out their Facebook page. 

• REDEFINING CREATIVITY. There is a pernicious myth that creative genius is an innate characteristic possessed only by the lucky few, says author David Burkus. He argues in his new book, The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, that creativity can be learned and cultivated. "We can't just trust a few, seemingly 'gifted' people. We need everybody to bust the myths and develop their creativity," Burkus says in his question/answer article on SmartBlog on Leadership.   

THE DIGITAL AGE. Last week the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) released guidance to assist education leaders with ensuring alignment of digital K-12 education resources to academic content standards, such as the Common Core. Despite the critical importance of standards alignment of education resources, significant challenges to the rigor, transparency, and usefulness of most current approaches remain. "The shift to greater use of digital resources in education provides an important opportunity to address longstanding frustrations with the quality of standards alignment in education," said Douglas Levin, SETDA executive director. Access the information here  

open book

Recommended Reading

THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, by Amanda Ripleyhighlights the stories of three American students who each study for one year in Poland, South Korea and Finland. Their experiences shed light on burning questions such as how teachers are regarded in these countries. Ripley also provides anecdotes that illustrate disparities between other countries and the American educational system.

Teachers reading the book may find themselves encouraged to learn that within each country, there are clear structures that contribute to their success. Ripley writes on her website, “None of these countries had many ‘smart’ kids a few decades ago. They had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.   

Questions or comments about THE TEACHERS EDITION? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert at

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5.  Reflecting on when she received a copy of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 2009: "For the first time I saw a description of what I do in all its complexity and levels...." (Teacher, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

 4.  “I’ve been teaching for 10-12 years, and I am realizing that this experience has just been a warm-up to what I plan to accomplish in the rest of my teaching career.” (Teacher, Wyo.)


3. “We would like to see room for local innovation. What works in a particular situation?” (Teacher, Federal Way, Wash.)

2.  “What do we hope to see in a high functioning, culturally competent classroom?” (Teacher, Seattle, Wash.)   

1. “Working with young children comes from what’s in here (points to heart). You can’t teach it at a four-year university.” (Teacher, Seattle, Wash.)