THE TEACHERS EDITION -- October 31, 2013

The Teachers Edition


October 31, 2013 | Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Kena Allison

Milken Award Winner Kena Allison was recently surprised to win the Milken Educator Award during an assembly at Thurgood Marshall Academy (Washington, D.C.). Allison teaches physics and is known for her own First Law of Motion: “A student in motion stays in motion; a student at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by a passionate teacher dedicated to their success.” (Photo courtesy of video provided by the Milken Family Foundation).

(Relatively Speaking) Science Teacher Allison is a Winner

When the announcement was made last week that D.C. science teacher Kena Allison had won the Milken Educator Award and $25,000, the high school science teacher seemed a bit stunned. After telling the enthusiastic crowd that she didn’t know what to say because she was “caught off guard,” Allison spoke eloquently to her students about the value of education and the power of having choices. Learn more about Allison and why she won the honor. Watch the video.



School psychologist Barbara Mercaldo, outside P.S. 36 Margaret Douglas Elementary School in New York City, is one of more than 30,000 district educators recently awarded back pay for working outside of her contractually mandated workdays because of slow school Internet connections and other technical challenges.

NYC Schools Prompt Big Payout

EdWeek (Herold) looks into a $41 million settlement being paid to educators in NYC Public Schools who sued the district for failing to provide adequate technology and Internet bandwidth for their employees. "This is the first time I am aware of a public school system being held accountable, in a legal manner and with real dollars attached, for the quality of its broadband infrastructure, software implementation, and training," said Douglas A. Levin, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association based in Glen Burnie, Md. "Schools and districts are now on the hook for following through on their promises with respect to technology." 

Getting Real about Teacher Prep

A "CONTENTED CARTEL"? Despite some perceptions that schools of education belong to a "contented cartel," Bill Keller offers optimistic evidence that teacher preparation programs are emerging to move the profession to a higher level. Instead of viewing education programs as "cash cows," he provides anecdotal evidence that universities and colleges are becoming more selective and rigorous and offering many more clinical experiences for beginning teachers. Read his NY Times editorial. In a related story, Jim Larson, professor emeritus in the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, calls for several steps that could help teaching become a stronger profession.


SEVEN STATES SIGN ONTO A "BIG DEAL." The Council of Chief State School Officers announced that seven states (Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Washington) have been selected to participate in a two-year pilot program focused on transforming educator preparation and entry systems. Under the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation, the states will strengthen educator licensing standards and requirements, raise the bar on the approval process for all educator preparation providers to ensure they deliver high-quality, rigorous training to potential educators, and  formalize and refine the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting educator pre-service and in-service performance data. "This is a big deal," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, which helped develop the initiative. Learn more

ies Emerging Research

PREPARING FOR A GLOBAL MARKET. The National Center for Education Sciences recently released a report from a study initiated so that states can compare the performance of their students with that of students in other countries. The study links the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scale to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Results come from the data of eighth-grade students in all states/jurisdictions that participated in the NAEP mathematics and science assessments. It attempts to answer this question: How do U.S. students in each state compare internationally in mathematics and science? There is some good news. Download the executive summary. Read the full report, U.S. States in a Global Context: Results from the 2011 NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study.


"Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try."

(Atul Gawande in his book, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance)

Quote to Note

Letters to ED

What’s in an Apostrophe?

Shortly after sending an announcement to subscribers of Teaching Matters, the teachers at ED got email from other teachers asking  us, “Err . . . don’t you need an apostrophe in the new title [The Teachers Edition]?”

Some English teachers apologetically pressed, “Sorry to push back but I take correct usage very personally!” One advised that we probably should consult an English teacher for guidance.

Turns out we had. The original version of The Teachers Edition had included an apostrophe, but a teacher at ED changed our minds. About a week before publication, our grammar and usage guru in Publications indicated in an email that the apostrophe is superfluous. “I had a thought as I look at the title,” she wrote. “You can definitely eliminate the apostrophe, meant to show possession, as this is a newsletter FOR teachers and not of or owned by teachers.”

Learning that the apostrophe was optional, we decided to go with the cleaner look. Of course, not everyone is happy, and we get it. Reading the email brought to mind the many times when we teachers cringed when we saw something blatantly wrong in print.


Application Deadline Extended 

Do you know a great teacher who wants to contribute their ideas to shaping education policy? Hope Street Group is seeking applicants for their 2014 class of National Teacher Fellows. Click here for more information and instructions on how to apply. The application deadline has been extended so that complete applications will be accepted until Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. For questions, please contact Wendy Uptain at

Common Core ConnectionsPearlman teaches Bud, Not Buddy

Perea Blackmon, a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) from Washington, D.C., describes how she uses various resources to teach the text Bud, Not Buddy.

IGNITING A PASSION FOR LEARNING. Some of the nation's leading teachers have joined forces to help educators and parents understand the theory and practice behind the Common Core State Standards. NNSTOY has partnered with the Hunt Institute, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the Parent Teacher Association to produce four 30-minute episodes of Georgia Public Television's The Ignite Show, each focusing on the new standards. Each video features an exemplar lesson taught by a state Teacher of the Year, interviews with policy makers and business leaders, and parent or student perspectives. Each program is accompanied by a teachers’ guide and a teacher-to-teacher video about the lesson. In the first program, Annice Brave (2011 Illinois Teacher of the Year) talks with educators about the Common Core. View excerpts from a demo of Brave teaching The Scarlet Letter to high school students. The second program features Perea Blackmon marrying party planning and Detroit history to unpack a favorite novel. The third episode will launch Nov. 4.

EXPOSING CONSPIRACY THEORIES TO THE LIGHT. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush does not hold back refuting Common Core opponents. “Criticisms and conspiracy theories are easy attention grabbers,” he said at Excellence in Education’s 2013 National Summit on Education Reform, “but they don’t make our graduates ready for college and careers.” On ABC’s This Week (10/20), Gov. Bush said, "There is a big fear on the right about this massive government overreach. I totally appreciate that. But that’s not what this is. This is a national imperative. It’s not a Federal government program,” he said. Learn more from the Associated Press and the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times

CORE TEACHER INSTITUTE. At the NBC Nation 2013 Education Summit, partners offered a Common Core Teacher Institute to help teachers better understand what the Common Core State Standards will mean for classroom instruction. During the institute, teachers modeled teaching to specific standards. You can view the lessons and the debrief sessions for ELA (elementary) literacy, ELA (secondary) literacy, (secondary) science literacy, and (secondary) history literacy.

DUNCAN DEBATES CORE’S VALUE. Arne Duncan debated the value of the Common Core State Standards with Tim Knowles (University of California) and Rick Hess (American Enterprise Institute) at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics last week. When Hess said that he would like the Department of Education to promise that it won't require states to adopt Common Core assessments in order to get waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Duncan reminded him that Texas, Virginia and Minnesota all got NCLB waivers without adopting the Common Core. Watch the video.


Did You Know?

Without a doubt changes made during the last part of the 20th century have made it easier for people, goods, services and capital to move around the world, leading to the globalization of economies and a very different demand for skills in the workforce. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Skills Outook 2013: Results from the First Survey of Adult Skills, "With manufacturing and certain low-skill tasks increasingly becoming automated, the need for routine cognitive and craft skills is declining, while the demand for information-processing and other high-level cognitive and interpersonal skills is growing."

question mark

How are adults in the United States faring? According to the report, U.S. adults are below the international average” when assessed in “math, reading and problem-solving using technology.” 


National Center on Deaf-Blindness Awarded $10.5 Million Grant

ED awarded a $10.5 million grant over the next five years to the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, a consortium of the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University, the Helen Keller National Center, and Perkins School for the Blind for the continued operation of the National Technical Assistance Center for Children who are Deaf-Blind. The Department awarded the fund before the recent funding lapse and subsequent government shutdown.

"This grant will help the National Center on Deaf-Blindness continue its very important work to ensure that deaf-blind students get the support and resources they need to succeed in their education," said Secretary Duncan. "All students deserve to be equipped with the appropriate tools and services they need to help them improve academically."


Deadlines for Colleges Extended

Richard Perez-Pena of the NY Times recently reported that prestigious colleges across the nation, including Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Duke, and Columbia have delayed their early application deadlines. The extension was prompted by reports that students around the country have had technical problems with the Common Application, an online application used by 517 colleges and universities.

The root of the issue is a new version of the Common Application that students say is difficult to fill out and send recommendations. Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, recently said, "We're very close to having them all fixed. Most of them are." However, according to the comments on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, some students are still hitting obstacles.    

Nov. 1 deadlines have been pushed back to Nov. 8 at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Duke, Columbia, Barnard, Dartmouth and Tufts. Boston University announced a delay to Nov. 15, while Syracuse postponed its Nov. 15 deadline to Dec. 1. Earlier, Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill extended their Oct. 15 deadlines to Oct. 21. Other Common Application universities, including Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard, have not announced any deadline changes.      

Principal Chat

BLUE RIBBON SNAPSHOTS. Visit the Blue Ribbon Schools interactive map to learn more about the accomplishments of this year’s National Blue Ribbon Schools. A series of one-page profiles captures the headline information for each school, and, for specifics, educators can download their applications for Blue Ribbon status.

P Chat

CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE THAT SCHOOL LEADERS MATTER. ED’s Principal in Residence Josh Klaris recommends this article about an important Stanford study that emphasizes the significance of school leaders and student performance, but also discusses the difficulty in making a direct connection between the two. (Published in Education Next, Winter 2013, by Gregory BranchEric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin

the New Math


The Impact of IMPACT

 DC's IMPACT program...

• "increased the voluntary attrition of low-performing teachers by 11 percentage points (i.e., more than 50 percent)
 • improved the performance of teachers who remained by 0.27 of a teacher-level standard deviation. 
 • improved the performance of high-performing teachers."

From a study a working paper published by Thomas Dee of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and James Wyckoff of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. 

The study provides evidence that the strongly debated policy could be encouraging effective teachers to stay in the classroom. “High-powered incentives linked to multiple indicators of teacher performance can substantially improve the measured performance of the teaching work force,” concluded Dee and Wyckoff.

Since its rollout, the performance-based system has led to the dismissal of hundreds of teachersRichard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania estimates that, “nationally, on average, about 20 percent of new public school teachers leave their district to teach in another district or leave teaching altogether within one year, one-third do so within two years, and 55 percent do so within five years.” DCPS (District of Colombia Public Schools) education finance expert Mary Levy estimates that 55 percent of new teachers leave within their first two years in the DCPS system.


Why I'm Optimistic about Education in America

In an editorial published in the Christian Science Monitor, Arne Duncan describes what he learned from talking with teachers, parents and principals during his bus tour of the Southwest, and makes a case that education is a shared national responsibility.

TAF News

XIAN BARRETT (2009 -10 Classroom Fellow) has traded in his marker board to enrich the work of Viva Teachers. Taking a position as national program director for New Voice Strategies to strengthen teachers’ contribution to the national education dialog, Xian's goal is for policymakers and administrators to listen to teachers instead of always going to them to get “buy in.” Learn more.

• LEAH LECHLEITER-LUKE (2011 -12 Classroom Fellow). This 2010 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year recently testified before the Wisconsin legislature about how important the Common Core State Standards are for her teaching. "What I saw in the Common Core is what I continue to see now," Luke told the packed crowd. "This is an excellent educational design which began with, to use teacher-talk, 'the end in mind.'" Read her complete testimony.


• Each year NICK GREER (201 0-11 Washington Fellow, right) donates his personal dignity and invites folks to contribute to teachers' classrooms through Donors Choose. During his campaign to raise money for colleagues, Greer refuses to shave his mustache even though he looks much better without it. Greer's annual "Stache Bash," signaling the end of growing season, is planned for this weekend and he is well short of his lofty goal of raising $1,500 for science projects for Baltimore city schools by checking out his page.

Nick Greer

Tools for Students

ADVICE FROM “THE SCIENCE GUY.” Bill Nye offers students advice to take control of their education and manage paying for college in this Huffington Post blog. Students, who need advice for existing student loans, should also check out this post on about how to deal with your student loan officer. 

Students' Corner

30K FOR BUSINESS SAVVY STUDENTS. The Starbucks Foundation would like to support organizations that aid "business savvy, socially conscience, collaborative" young people.  If this interests you, consider applying for the Starbucks Youth Leadership GrantDeadline: December 15, 2013.

STUDENTS' MESSAGE TO CONGRESS. StudentCam is an annual video competition hosted by C-SPAN that encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation. This year's theme, "What's the most important issue the U.S. Congress should consider in 2014?" Students in grades 6-12 can submit videos individually or in teams. Awards include $5,000, plus $750 to spend on digital video equipment for one's school. 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• PIONEERS IN PRIVACY. Fordham University's Center for Law and Information Policy (CLIP) has launched a first-ever curriculum for privacy education geared to middle school students. The curriculum is available as a set of free open source documents on the CLIP website to educators who want to use the instructional materials to address the many privacy issues teens face as their use of technology skyrockets.

• A SNEAK PEEK AT STEM. Registration is now open for the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s Sneak Peek Friday, a special event for students to experience the Festival’s EXPO exhibits before they open to the general public. Attendees will have access to over 2,000 hands-on, interactive activities offered by more than 750 leading science organizations from around the nation. The no-cost event takes place Friday, April 25, 2014, 9:00am to 3:00pm, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. Learn more and register.

• POLITICS ASIDEThe mayors of Denver, Colo., Sacramento, Calif., Providence, R.I., and San Antonio, Texas launched the Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour in Denver earlier this month. Learn more about how they are laying politics aside and supporting educational innovations in their cities.  

• SEVEN POWERFUL VERBS. In The Seven Verbs of Teacher LeadershipWendi Pillars identifies seven characteristics of "teacher leaders" and describes them as teachers who operate with integrative power and act because they have a responsibility to do so. She also argues that it would be greatly appreciated when "those who have power also have our backs." 

• BUILDING VOCABULARY. In Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K, the NY Times reports on a new study about the effects of poverty on children’s learning (Rich). Rich describes the findings of a study about the language gap that was conducted by Stanford psychologist Anne Fernald. Her data show that at 18 months, children from wealthier homes can identify pictures of simple words they know much faster than children from low-income families. The bottom line: it’s not about drilling students about words but about interacting with them to broaden their experiences. 

• STEM NEW HIRES ON THE RISE. U.S. Fortune 1,000 companies are creating more STEM jobs. The Bayer Corporation Facts of Science Education survey (10/22) suggests that 89 percent of talent recruiters in this year’s survey found fierce competition to fill open STEM jobs. Four-year STEM degree holders and new hires with two-year and four-year STEM degrees are as or more in demand for non-STEM jobs than others. Learn more.

• THE DEVASTATION OF SEQUESTRATION. A report written by Jocelyn Bissonnette of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools shows that federal budget cuts as a result of sequestration have significantly impacted districts, military dependents and Native American children. The report illustrates how school leaders and districts that heavily rely on federal funding have had to make tough choices about how to provide resources for their communities. Read more.

Turnaround Tales: Stories of inspiration from the School Turnaround Learning Community


The News Tribune (Cafazzo) highlights three struggling Tacoma middle schools that received $11 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) that have shown reading and math advances in almost all grades. Giaudrone, Jason Lee and Stewart received the largest sum given to any Washington school district under the program in the first wave of grants, which ended earlier this year. 

“I’m pleased with the continued growth and progress of our SIG schools,” state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “It creates a sense of optimism about what can happen in each of our schools when we focus on student achievement and teacher professional development. But adequate funds must exist to make that happen.”

Leverage Leadership

Recommended Reading

TEACHERS AS SOCIAL ACTORS. In this EdWeek piece, social studies teacher Kevin Meuwissen asks teachers to find their political selves and “engage in intentional political activity.” Though political action is not risk-free, Meuwissen writes, “By refusing to talk about politics in the classroom or hiding their own positions and practices, teachers forgo opportunities to help students understand the nature and consequences of political activity, regardless of their teachers' personal political stances.

• LEVERAGE LEADERSHIP: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools (Paul Bambrick-Santoyo) is a solid resource for leaders who believe the principal's primary responsibility is to hire, develop and retain great teachers. This book not only spells out the theory of excellent instructional leadership, but the author offers practical advice, illuminating videos, strategic planning guides, and useful resources to help leaders give the support and information that teachers need to grow continually. For example, there is a calendar showing how a principal can observe 15 teachers per week and follow up with 15 post-observation feedback sessions. 

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Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. Referring to the work highlighted in a blog about collaboration in Jefferson County, Colo.: “This would seem to be good advice for members of Congress on how to build trust among themselves.” (Art, on the blog)

4. "Access to high-quality preschool is a matter of social justice. Young children who do not have sufficient exposure to language are falling behind even before they start school." (Teacher, Hawaii)

with the Wheeling Wildcats

 3. Response to Michael Yudin’s blog from the bus tourBuilding a High Quality Early Learning System: “There needs to be more opportunity for individuals in government to take the time as you did to see the importance early intervention has on the impact of many families and children. It is nice to see what other states are doing to make great citizens.” (Carrie, on the blog)

2. “Our teachers are feeling a bit beat-up. Great principals are ‘purveyors of hope.' There are many wonderful schools and school improvement initiatives happening. Sometimes we just need to remember to talk about what’s working as well as where the challenges are.” (High School Principal, Mich.)

1.  "Why is it that while we want students to think critically, communicate, and collaborate – to dig deeper and work on skill development, we don’t expect the same of our teachers or support them in their own development of similar skills?" (Social Studies Teacher, Wash.)