THE TEACHERS EDITION -- November 14, 2013

The Teachers Edition


November 14, 2013  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

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"Mushy" Owns It

If you need a healthy dose of inspiration, check out this video of Musharaf "Mushy" Asghar, a high school student in the U.K., literally overcoming his fear of speaking in public on camera. 

Bullied for having a speech impediment, Musharaf rarely attended school, showing up only 35 percent of the time during his seventh year. In this video his teacher, Mr. Burton, borrows an idea from The King's Speech, with "unbelievable" results. Indeed, the sounds and images of Musharaf reciting the poem "The Moment" (by Margaret Atwood) are powerful, almost as poignant as when he reads two of his teachers the line, "I own this." Most of all, educators will appreciate seeing Mushy's classmates and teachers support him as he thanks them publicly. This teachable moment reminds us why we got in this game, what we are working for in our practice, and the universal power of great teachers.


Bipartisan Proposal to Expand Access to Early Education

Yesterday Democrats and Republicans introduced bills in the House and Senate to fund president Obama’s Preschool for All initiative. The bills would support states in their efforts to expand high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds in low- and middle-income families. In a statement, Arne Duncan praised this effort by saying, “It’s long been clear that high-quality early learning opportunities produce lasting benefits, including higher high school graduation rates and lower incarceration rates. Now, a broad coalition is calling for action on President Obama’s plan to make quality preschool available to every 4-year-old in America.” 

On MSNBC’s Martin Bashir, Duncan explained the scope of the program, pointing out the value of investing in improving education readiness for poor students. Duncan stressed the social and economic benefits of early childhood education and lamented the “unmitigated disaster” of Federal budget sequestration.


AACTE Launches Performance Assessment for Preservice Teachers 

The American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) announced recently the launch of edTPA, a standards-based performance assessment for teacher candidates developed by the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity and other partners. At a November 8th launch at the National Press Club, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel described edTPA as a vehicle that "changes our mental model" of what it means to be "job ready on day one" in the classroom. 

To complement the official launch, the AACTE announced a recommended passing score of 42 (out of a possible 15-75), based on field test data and guidance from a three-panel standard-setting process. According to the AACTE, the edTPA portfolio assessment is aligned to state and national standards – including Common Core State Standards and the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC). Approximately 34 states are participating in edTPA. Find out if your state is one. Learn more

Joiselle Cunningham

Teaching Ambassador Fellow Joiselle Cunningham interviews Arne Duncan in the second part of her discussion of questions raised by teachers during the Department's bus tour in the Southwest in September.


No "Postcards," Just Tough Questions from the Road 

Recently Joiselle Cunningham sat down with Arne Duncan to talk about issues raised by teachers while she was on tour in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Southern California with the Department in September. During the first half of her conversation, they talked about teachers. Here they discuss teachers' questions about students, including the Department's plans to improve opportunities for the most vulnerable students.  

Cunningham, who teaches in Harlem, N.Y., asked, "What are we doing to close glaring achievement gaps across the country?" Duncan focused on several important efforts underway and drew a line under the benefit of rigorous college and career standards. "No one will benefit more [from rising standards] than children who historically haven't had the best opportunities," he said. "When standards are low, it's the most disadvantaged who get hurt the most."

Watch the video, including a discussion about the benefits of dual language learning. Watch Part I of the video.


Tennessee Students Weigh in

In Nashville, Tenn., students will have an opportunity to rate the effectiveness of their teachers--and make them stick. According to Nashville Public Radio, the district will use an evaluation method developed by Tripod to capture students' opinions about their teachers, and their evaluations will count as five percent of a teacher's evaluation. Metro Schools Director Jesse Register told the radio station that because this system of evaluation has been used for several years in Memphis, it has been vetted. Learn more. Read more articles about schools using student surveys as part of teacher evaluation.

American student

Arne Duncan encountered this student at Lexington Elementary School in St. Louis, Mo., during a back-to-school tour in 2009. 


Take Time to Celebrate Our Schools

Next week the National Education Association (NEA) reminds us all that American Education Week (Nov. 18-22) is a time set aside to celebrate our country's teachers, principals and school staff. The week’s tagline, “Raise Your Hand for Student Success,” is a call for all Americans to support quality public education for all of America’s children. Information from their webpage reminds us that, "All of our students have a right to an education that prepares them for college and 21st century careers [and Americans must] do their part in making public schools great for every child." During the week, education support professionals will be honored on Wednesday, and substitute educators will be honored on Friday. 

Arne Duncan recently applauded the NEA for their "critical work raising awareness of the need for our country to have a professional teaching force that is ready to meet students’ learning needs on day one in the classroom." He encouraged educators, students, and parents to be part of the annual celebration. Take the NEA's pledge to support public schools. 


Kids Count: The First Eight Years

According to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, by third grade, only 36% of children are on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, 56% in their physical well-being, 70% in their social and emotional growth and 74% in their level of school engagement. More specifically, just 19% of third-graders from families with incomes below 200% of the national poverty level have age-appropriate cognitive skills. That compares with 50% from higher-income families. The report sets forth an array of policy recommendations, including these:

• Support parents so they can effectively care for and provide for their children. States and the federal government should make it easier for parents to navigate the array of programs that help families by aligning and streamlining benefits packages.

• Increase access to high-quality birth-through-age-8 programs, beginning with investments that target low-income children. The report urges states to adopt Early Learning and Development Standards that set clear expectations for child development.

• Develop comprehensive, integrated programs and data systems to address all aspects of children’s development and support their transition to elementary school and related programs for school-age children. 



Google Launches Virtual Field Trips (Etherington) discovers the land of Connect Classrooms with Google, an initiative that lets classes take “virtual field trips” using Google+ Hangouts. These virtual excursions provide access to places such as the Seattle Aquarium, Minnesota Zoo and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Connected Classroom program allows teachers to work together to plan and create interactive learning experiences for students. Google offers a calendar of field trips, which take place at specific times, and provide students opportunities to interact with participants and presenters. Watch a video.

Simple (but Difficult) Answers

"... in the end, we simply have to do what we seem to find most difficult: teach demanding material well and not constantly underestimate our students' capacity to rise to the challenge. This means creating a teaching profession that draws in our best, and asking those teachers to teach a rigorous curriculum that progressively habituates our students to serious thinking, mastery of complex skills, and sustained study-habits. Ultimately, this is what it will take to build an effective progression from pre-K to college and/or careers."

David Steiner, in Education reform: Not complicated, but seriously difficult (Flypaper).

Quote to Note

ies Emerging Research

HOW WELL ARE EFFECTIVE TEACHERS DISTRIBUTED AMONG DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS? This report, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and American Institutes for Research examined access to effective teaching (as measured by value added) for disadvantaged students in 29 geographically dispersed school districts. Some key findings: 

  • On average, disadvantaged students had less access to effective teaching than relatively more advantaged students did. Providing equal access to effective teaching for disadvantaged and other students would reduce the student achievement gap from 28 percentile points to 26 percentile points in English/language arts (ELA) and from 26 percentile points to 24 percentile points in math in a given year. 
  • Access to effective teaching was more related how students and teachers are distributed to schools than the way that students were assigned to teachers within schools. 

ATTRACTING GREAT TEACHERS TO HIGH-NEED SCHOOLS. The National Center for Education Evaluation has released a report on the effectiveness of incentives to high-performing teachers for transferring to one of their district’s lowest-achieving schools. There were positive impacts on math and reading achievement at the elementary school level. These impacts were positive in each of the two years after transfer and equivalent to moving each student up relative to all students in their home state by between 4 and 10 percentile points. However, there were no impacts on student achievement at middle schools. The findings support other studies’ evidence “that the effectiveness of teachers is transferable, even when they are instructing students with more academic challenges.” Learn more. Download related CALDER papers on teacher performance trajectories in high and low performing schools and portability of teacher effectiveness across schools


Edible Cars Used to Teach Engineering Design

Who knew food could teach us so much about engineering a vehicle? Middle School science teacher Beth Manning used an unconventional activity to show her students how to be skillful designers. In the Teaching Channel video “STEM Design Challenge: Edible Cars,” her class created edible cars then raced them down a ramp to test whether they were as functional as they were delicious. Manning's goal was to “focus on the skills they used to make the car rather than the actual content [of the cars].” In addition to applying engineering design process, Manning emphasized that this project incorporated an ability to work in collaborative groups, research, ask questions, and effectively problem solve. If you sign up for the Teaching Channel, you can receive all the complementary materials that come along with the lesson, including the supplies list, contest rules, and a reflection sheet following the project. 

STEM Edible Cars Video

Common Core Connections

RURAL REALITY. In this video, 2013 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Elaine Hutchison teaches a Common Core math lesson in the Ignite Show's third episode focusing on the new state standards. Hutchison is a rural teacher who drives back and forth between the middle school and the high school and teaches students to solve problems using real-world examples. In addition to modeling a lesson for middle school students about calculating interest, Hutchison debriefs the lesson in the show's additional resources for teachers

PARCC RELEASES MORE SAMPLE TEST ITEMS. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has released new sample test items. With this release, PARCC has now made public exemplar test items across the grades in both mathematics and English language arts/literacy. These sample items are designed to help teachers, students and parents get a better sense of how PARCC will measure student learning in mathematics and ELA/literacy. The new assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. PARCC plans to make all of its sample items available later this year on the PARCC technology platform, providing an opportunity for students and teachers to try out the assessment system in the manner in which it will be administered. Learn more. 

student at DC's Digital Media Academy

A student at Washington, D.C.'s Digital Media Academy illustrates a live canvas.  


The Digital Days Of Summer

For 15 young people in the Kenilworth-Parkside community of Washington, D.C., a summer learning experience provided by the D.C.  Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) helped change their lives. 

Over 29 days and through more than 130 hours of digital instruction and immersion, participants in DCPNI’s first Digital Media Academy took to their community, to classrooms, and to nationally recognized media enterprises in the D.C. metropolitan area to discover new passions, learn marketable skills, meet adult mentors, and set a course for their future success. 

Among students' favorite experiences included learning more about Google and exploring the Newseum, as they realized the importance of the media and the fundamentals of working hard while having fun. More importantly, while they created public service announcements on teen pregnancy that encouraged young people to live for their future dreams, the DMA students made important strides toward achieving their own future dreams. Learn more


Did You Know?

Just over 4 in 10 (43%) Asian graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2013, a higher rate than that of graduates from all other racial/ethnic groups. African American graduates were least likely to meet the Benchmarks—5% met all four.

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Students from most racial/ethnic groups were most likely to meet the English Benchmark and least likely to meet the science benchmarks. In three of the four subject areas, benchmarks were met by 50% or more of Asian and White students, while one was met by 50% or more of Pacific Islander students. There were no benchmarks met by 50% or more of African American, American Indian, or Hispanic students.

ACT has long defined college-and-career readiness as the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a post-secondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.

Empirically derived, the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are the minimum scores needed on the ACT subject area tests to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. 

(From the ACT's Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013.)

P chat

Principal Chat

SAGE ADVICE FROM A TEACHER'S PERSPECTIVE. This Edutopia blog by high school principal Ben Johnson is packed with terrific insights about how to engage with teachers to help them be even more effective in the classroom. An example: "Make sure that your teachers not only have the necessary tools, but that they are trained on how to use them best to instruct students and to manage their classroom, before you require them to produce with them. It may seem to you that teachers are whining and complaining about little things, but sometimes a little thing makes the difference and gives the teachers an edge on being able to reach the students more effectively." Amen.

IS THE PRINCIPAL THE MOST UNDERSTOOD PERSON IN ALL OF EDUCATION? As the "single individual [who] acts on a daily basis as the link between a large bureaucratic system and the daily experiences of a large number of children and adults," Kate Rousmaniere argues unequivocally, "Yes." Read the story (The Atlantic).

the New Math

States Making Progress on Teacher Evaluation Process

• 19 states + District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) require professional learning to be "shaped by" teacher evaluations
• 14 and DCPS require districts to use improved evaluations to make better staffing decisions when and if layoffs become necessary. The majority rely on tenure.

• 13 states and DCPS require a certification process for their evaluators 

• 3 states (Indiana, New Mexico and New York) and DCPS require that evaluators are effective teachers.

(From the National Center for Teaching Quality's report: 2013 State of the States: Connecting the Dots)


ED Announces Highest Rated 13 Applications

The U.S. Department of Education announced results for the fourth round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, which will award the 25 highest-rated applications (HRAs) more than $135 million to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. These 25 potential grantees, selected from 618 applications and representing 13 states and the District of Columbia, must secure matching funds by Dec. 11, 2013, in order to receive federal funding.

Of the 25 HRAs, 18 are in the "Development" category and seven are in the "Validation" category. This year, the Department did not identify any potential grantees for the "Scale-up" category, instead choosing to invest in promising projects in the other two categories. The Development category attracted the greatest participation similar to the past three years of the competition. With the 18 Development HRAs from this competition, there will potentially be a total of 77 Development i3 grantees nationwide implementing new, promising practices to improve outcomes for students.

TAF News

 • MAURO DIAZ (Current Classroom Fellow) is a middle school science teacher at Dean Morgan Middle School who organized a statewide meeting of teachers to have an open discussion about Wyoming’s education system and teacher effectiveness. The group of teachers that met at the Ucross Ranch in September 2012 recently released a White Paper with 10 concrete proposals on five topics, from a teacher’s perspective, to improve education in Wyoming. Learn more in the Casper Journal (Bohren). 

JOISELLE CUNNINGHAM and EMILY DAVIS (Current Washington Fellows) participated in two debates last week at Georgetown University that were part of a week-long series entitled, “D.C. Reads Education Week.” Cunningham debated the relative strengths and weaknesses of traditional public schools and public charter schools, including how each structure can serve the community in a different way and how the two systems could potentially collaborate to address the educational needs of students. Davis tackled the role of technology in the classroom, wrestling with questions such as these: How does increased access to technology impact teaching methods and students' learning outcomes? How is technology being used to improve the learning experience for students with disabilities? How do we address the inequality of access to technology between high-income and low-income schools and students?  

Tools for Students

THINK PHYSICS IS NOT COOL? Check out the viral video of David Hovan, a physics teacher at St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., as he spins a basketball on the tip of a pen while he is grading papers with it! Read related articles in the Washington Post (Strauss) and USA Today (Allen). Watch this video as one of the Globetrotters surprises Hovan and his class with a video (WTOP).

STUDENT PRIVACY 101. This YouTube video offers guidance to students and parents about FERPA regulations and safeguards to students' privacy. 

Students' Corner

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• NEW ED CENTRAL WEBSITE. The New America Foundation's Education Policy Program has launched Ed Central, a new website designed to serve as a comprehensive source of education policy information and analysis. The website showcases news and analysis covering a full range of education issues, extending from early learning to primary and secondary education, college, and the workforce. Visit the site

• CULTURAL COMPETENCE. Sophie Quinton reports that as schools become even more diverse, some educators are stressing the benefits of being sensitive to their students’ cultural background in order to “build a bridge between what students know and what they need to learn.” Read her report in The Atlantic. 

• SOMETHING TO SAY: WHAT URBAN TWEENS WANT FROM AFTERSCHOOL ARTS PROGRAMS. Professional artists, hands-on learning, and public performances top the list of elements tweens want in afterschool arts programs, according to a national market-research-based study released by the Wallace Foundation. This rare look into the expectations of urban, low-income tweens offers insights directly from tweens, teens and their families; teachers and leaders in the arts and youth development; best practice examples; and 10 principles for attracting and retaining an audience often thought of as hard to engage: low-income, urban tweens.  

• REMINDER: MAKE "THUNDER" FOR TEACHING. Educators can celebrate teaching and help the TEACH coalition recruit the next generation of talent by signing up for the TEACH Thunderclap. The Thunderclap is an online flash mob designed to encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s teachers. Educators can sign up today to have a message posted to their social channels on Monday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. EST, during American Education Week. 

open book

Recommended Reading

 • CULT OF PEDAGOGY. National Board Certified Teacher Jennifer Gonzalez has stocked her Cult of Pedagogy website full of ideas "that will truly make you a better teacher each time you visit." It's a tall order, but she totally delivers for self-identified "teacher nerds" looking for practical information. Her article and video about how to create a GoAnimate video gives teachers ideas about how to create engaging lessons and projects for students. Check out One Essential Rule for New Teachers and Genius Nuggets.

• LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS: Teacher Leaders on Solving America's Education Challenges (written by Teach Plus teacher leaders Celine Coggins, Heather Peske and Kate McGovern) offers an intimate look at the ways education policies collide with everyday classroom practices and illustrates how thoughtful, solutions-oriented and results-driven teachers are reframing debates in education today. The book features the voices of 17 teacher leaders whose ideas are transforming urban classrooms nationwide. 

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition to

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on state efforts move to more rigorous standards: "Teachers are the heart of this transition. For the initiative to be successful, simply putting new standards and new assessments in place will not be enough. Teachers will need extensive professional development and support (focused on the implementation of new standards) in order for this work to be effective.” (Principal, Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Brightwood Elementary

4. "When the Common Core was introduced to me three years ago, my first thought was, 'Why didn’t we think of this sooner?'" (Middle School Teacher, Broward County, Fla.)

3. "If we are truly going to make education the civil rights issue of our time then we must take ownership. We all must believe that every child can and will learn at high levels." (Principal, Tenn.)

2. "All teachers are underpaid and under-recognized, but our field [early learning] is most of all. We are the structural basis for a lifetime of learning that leads to a well-educated, well-balanced and a creative, thinking population of people. Our ability to instill a joy in discovery and a quest to understand is what helps to create the engineers and designers of tomorrow." (Preschool Teacher, Fla.) 

1. Talking about arguments that falsely pick sides like charters/traditional public schools or teachers vs. policymakers. “I get frustrated with the ‘us and them’… There’s a pocket and a place for everything, as long as you’re working on behalf of what’s best for kids…” (Teacher, Ohio)