THE TEACHERS EDITION -- December 5, 2013

The Teachers Edition

December 5, 2013  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

principal shadowing debriefing at ED

The principal shadowing experience culminated in a meeting at ED, where the principals and their shadows discussed their visit with senior leadership, including Arne Duncan.


In the Shadows of Giants  

Just before Thanksgiving, dozens of officials at the U.S. Department of Education got a first-hand opportunity to learn about the work of principals by job shadowing them at school. The principals visited classes, patrolled halls, talked with students in the cafeteria, met with students and faculty, led meetings, and much, much more—all within a normal day’s work. Officials at ED said the experience gave them an opportunity to see the successes and challenges of implementing reform efforts at the school-level, while many of the principals said it just felt good to be listened to and appreciated. Learn more. Read a reflection of the experience by ED’s Resident Principal, Josh Klaris.

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Is the U.S. Ready for a Global Future?

PISA REVEALS THAT U.S. STUDENTS ARE RUNNING IN PLACE (INSTEAD OF PULLING AHEAD). When the international PISA scores were released this week, they revealed sobering news for students in the United States. Our students' ability in math, science, and reading has changed little in the last three years, while other industrialized nations continue to pull ahead. The U.S. scored below the international average in math,  when compared to countries such as Norway, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Russia. Arne Duncan discussed implications of the report with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and participated in a panel discussion with international students studying in some of the best schools in our country, led by Amanda Ripley, author of "The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way." 

During the event, Duncan said, "No one in U.S. should be satisfied with being 29th in math," and he asked students on the panel for their ideas about how to move American students forward. The students pointed out that the coursework in their classes here is not as rigorous as it is in their home countries. A junior from Australia studying in Md., Eleanor Schwager, explained, "It's easier to get A's here than in Australia." A senior from South Korea studying in N.J., Jenny Jung, told Arne Duncan that if she were Secretary of Education she would work on raising expectations. Ripley concluded that the students seem to be "making a strong case for the Common Core" state standards. Check out the array of helpful PISA Day resources and read Arne's speech. Download a PDF of the PISA report.

MAPPING THE NATION. To kick off International Education Week, ED cohosted the release of Mapping the Nation, an innovative online resource developed by Asia Society, Longview Foundation and SAS. Using an interactive map and info-graphics shown above, Mapping the Nation illustrates how connected each state and county is to the rest of the world. With nearly one million data points related to economics, demographics and education, we can see how prepared our states and local communities are to operate effectively in an increasingly interconnected world. Learn more. Go to the map

Doing What Works


New materials have been released from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) including an IES Practice Guide, Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers. The guide offers a collection of expert interviews, school examples, and tools. A companion webinar is being offered Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 3:30 PM EST/12:30 PM PST, Bringing Research-Based Writing Instructional Practices to Life. The webinar features Steve Graham, chair of the expert panel that developed the IES Practice Guide, who will introduce and discuss research-based writing instruction practices. Participants will learn about multimedia resources and tools, available from Doing What Works, which bring the recommended writing practices to life by showing how real teachers implement the practices in their classrooms. Register for the webinar.



The Hour of Code is Coming!

Software is an increasingly important part of our economy, yet fewer schools teach computer science than 10 years ago. More than 50% of all math/science jobs are for computer scientists, but fewer than 5% of our students learn programming. December 9 - 15 is Computer Science Education WeekJoin the 4,106,000 plus students throughout 164 countries who have joined the pledge to grow their computer science education.

Not sure how to code?  No worries. Watch this quick tutorial to get started.  Win prizes by organizing an event at your school, in your community or by participating yourself. See the FAQs for more information.

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Princesses Need Not Apply

We love this spunky viral video from GoldieBlox, a company that makes games and tools to encourage girls to become engineers. It features priceless images of girls who are bored by the idea of being princesses and become part of the Maker movement, using their time and their brains to create and delight. The video obliterates cultural stereotypes about girls not being good at science and math and reminds us that dressing up like mommy may mean donning a surgeon's mask or a headlamp instead of putting on makeup and heels.


"PISA shows us what is possible. You can get 85% of the poorest kids to be top performers."

Quote to Note

(Deputy Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher, at a forum on PISA Day, "Global Successes in Education: What the United States Can Learn." The forum was sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Watch Schleicher's interview with Jeffrey Brown on the PBS Newshour.) 

Mr. Ontiveros and his class

Mr. Ontiveros and his sixth graders at Palomino Intermediate School. (He is the tall one in purple, but not the only one wearing a tie!)


Men of Color Lead from the Classroom

Growing up in San Luis, Ariz., a town located near the Mexican border, Jorge Ontiveros never imagined he’d want to become a middle school teacher. His goal was to “follow the money.” Learn about what changed Ontiveros and why he is on a mission to encourage other young Latinos to pursue careers in teaching.

At a time when the high school graduation rate for Latino males is 60 percent and the college enrollment rate is 34 percent, Ontiveros knows that having a teacher that reflects the student body can lead to better attendance, fewer suspensions and higher student achievement. “I want [my students] to see a successful, young, male Hispanic teacher," Ontiveros said, "So I wear a dress shirt and tie every day to show that I am proud of what I do.” Learn more


Did You Know?

Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia

More than half the districts in these 14 states rely on the federal government for 15 percent or more of their revenue. As a result, they will be hardest hit by federal cuts mandated by the budget sequester. 

(From an article written by Alyson Klein in Education Week, based on a report issued by the School Superintendents Association.)

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Common Core Connections

Tests Worth Taking 

In an article for the SCORE Sheet, item reviewer for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments Lior Klirs describes how the test writers are striving to make the PARCC tests worth taking. Klirs describes assessments that will be used as tools to build literacy rather than simply as evaluation instruments. Klirs writes,"[One] of the key principles driving PARCC development is work worthy of instruction: essentially, what students do on a test should be good enough to do in a classroom." Read more

PARCC sample test question


Redesigning High School

As part of achieving the President’s goal of redesigning high schools to ensure students are equipped with deep knowledge and skills that will prepare them for college and the jobs of the future, the U.S. Department of Labor is collaborating with ED to make $100 million available for Youth CareerConnect grants to provide high school students with the industry-relevant education and skills they need for a successful future. The Youth CareerConnect grant program is designed to encourage America’s school districts, institutions of higher education, the workforce investment system, and their partners to scale up evidence-based high school models that will transform the high school experience for America’s youth. Youth CareerConnect schools will strengthen America’s talent pipeline through the following:

  • Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning
  • Work-Based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work
  • Robust Employer Engagement
  • Individualized Career and Academic Counseling
  • Integration of Post-secondary Education and Training

Learn more. Learn about some promising high school/employer partnerships.  

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Principal Chat

CORE ADVICE FROM DELAWARE TEACHER LEADERS. Through work done by Hope Street Group in June 2013, recent district and state Teachers of the Year from Delaware were surveyed for their perspectives on the Common Core State Standards. The teachers identified emerging issues and produced thoughtful recommendations for district and school leaders, community partners, and state policymakers

WEBINAR TODAY: INTRODUCING THE PRINCIPAL SUPPORT FRAMEWORK. The School Turnaround Learning Community is offering a webinar grounded in the findings of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report, Leading for Effective Teaching, and other key research. The Principal Support Framework addresses three action areas: A Shared Vision of Principals as Instructional Leaders; A System of Support for Developing Principals as Instructional Leaders; and Strategies to Make it Possible for Principals to be Instructional Leaders. During the webinar, Max Silverman, Associate Director, Center for Effective Leadership, will provide an introduction to the framework and to the steps districts can take to support the development of principals as instructional leaders. Register for the webinar today, Thursday, Dec. 5, 1:00pm EST/10:00am PST. An archived version can be viewed after the webinar.

Turnaround Tales: Success Stories from the School Turnaround Learning Community

WEST CALDWELL TECH HIGH SCHOOL (West Caldwell, N.J.). Peggy McGlone (Newark Star Ledger) tells the remarkable tale of a school in New Jersey that has shown dramatic increases in student learning after making a concerted, three-year investment in improving the school. Read the story that describes Arne Duncan's recent visit to West Caldwell Tech, where he praised the school and was interviewed on-air by student Natalia Rivera for the school's internet radio station. 

FREDERICK DOUGLASS HIGH SCHOOL (Baltimore, Md.). Read about how the nation’s second oldest historically integrated public high school cut the dropout rate in half and saw test scores rise dramatically since 2011. Dr. Antonio Hurt made a number of innovative changes, including splitting the school into an Academy of Innovation and an Academy for Global Leadership and Public Policy. Learn more

Read the newly released report issued by the National High School Center on Key Practices and Policies of Consistently Higher Performing High Schools.

Teaching Channel video

T.J. Hanify draws from a repertoire of strategies, including this essential question, to engage his 9th and 10th graders in a lesson about using evidence and arguments as part of a literary analysis.



Developing Genuine Dialog

Over a two-day lesson using "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (by Martin Luther King, Jr.), students at the International School in Bellevue, Wash., participate in a Common Core Lesson by working in groups to analyze a text, present findings to the class, engage in a Socratic seminar, and produce argumentative writing. The Teaching Channel video is part of an "Evidence and Arguments" sequence of high school English Language Arts (ELA) lessons. In it, teacher T.J. Hanify employs a number of scaffolding and differentiation strategies, including meta-cognitive markers, or thinking notes, to involve students in not just the task--but also the ideas King proposes. As part of the lesson, each of the group receives specific feedback about their presentations and engages in genuine dialog.

Read a related AP story (Elliott) about how the new ELA standards are being used to build critical thinking in Amy Lawson's fifth-grade class at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del.

TAF News

EMILY DAVIS (Washington Fellow): Wrote a Technology Blog for the Family Online Safety Institute for "Rethinking Professional Learning and Technology." Davis proposes eight ideas for teachers and leaders to consider when using technology as a tool for professional learning.  

MAURO DIAZ (Classroom Fellow): A National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), Diaz has been elected to the board of directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating the voice of accomplished teachers in shaping a true profession and raising student achievement. Diaz is a NBCT in Early Adolescence/Science and teaches science at Dean Morgan Middle School in Casper, Wyo.


Sure, having your schoolwork posted on the fridge at home is cool. But having a video you made posted on the White House website and screened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? We think that’s pretty cool, too. That’s why we’re excited that the White House has announced the first-ever White House Student Film Festival: a video contest created for K-12 students. Finalists will have their short films shown at the White House, and finalist videos may also be featured on the White House website, YouTube channel, and social media pages. Learn more. Download the entry guide

Students' Corner

Emerging Research from IES

WHO CONSIDERS TEACHING AND WHO TEACHES?  This study looks at data from first-time 2007-8 Bachelor's Degree recipients by teaching status, one year after graduation, with respect to their teaching experiences and interest in teaching. Among the findings:

College graduates who considered teaching were more often male than students who taught before or after earning their Bachelor’s Degree or who prepared to teach.

• Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors accounted for a higher proportion of those who considered teaching than those who prepared to teach or taught before or after earning their Bachelor’s Degree.

• Regardless of when they taught, college graduates who taught be-fore or after earning their Bachelor’s Degree earned higher median annual incomes in 2009 and reported more job satisfaction than those who were not teaching but considered or prepared for teaching.

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State Grad Rates Improve

According to data released last week that details preliminary four-year high school graduation rates in 2011-12, many states are showing that their measures that improve graduation rates are paying off. 

The data show that 16 states reported graduation rates at or above 85 percent, compared to only nine states who reported the same graduation rates in 2010-2011 – indicating a small but encouraging sign of improvement. The data release also shows that Iowa’s high school graduation rate was the highest in the country in 2011-12 at 89 percent. A closer look at the data also reveals that problems closing gaps persist in many places. Learn more

Teachers' Notes

• TEACHERS TAKE CONTROL OF PD. In The Guardian, James Kempton contends, "Teachers should be able to expect high levels of professional autonomy in return for delivering high quality teaching and learning." Read the article where he makes a case that we can raise educational standards "by giving teachers the tools, support and budget to take ownership of their professional development."

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• WHY IS GATES INVOLVED IN TEACHER VOICE GROUPS? Stephen Sawchuck offers a smart piece of reporting that examines the role of corporations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the work of teacher voice groups. His story in Education Week profiles the work of a variety of teacher organizations: Teach Plus, Educators for Excellence, the Center for Teaching Quality and the VIVA Project, to name a few. It also raises smart questions about the degree to which they are influenced by the companies that grant them money. Read the story

• EXPANDING A.P. ACCESS. Districts in Florida, Washington and Boston are working to pull into the A.P. achievement pool a more diverse group of students. Read an article by Mokoto Rich (NY Times) about how they are inviting "the students who might be flying under the radar" to benefit from the challenges of advanced work and supporting their efforts. 

 TEACHER BONUSES IMPROVE LEARNING. From the Albuquerque Journal News (Bush): "An extensive new federal study on merit pay for high-performing teachers has found that giving bonuses to top teachers who agree to work in under-achieving, low-income schools had an immediate and positive impact on students’ math and reading test scores." Read more

PUTTING STANDARDS INTO PRACTICE. In Leadville, Colorado, teachers are brainstorming ways to approach their new state standards. Forming the District Sample Curriculum Project, these teachers have started finding concrete ways to address every subject matter and individual district needs. This is a project “generated by teachers, relevant to teachers, and teacher driven” notes Brian Sevier, the project head for Colorado’s Department of Education. Read more (Kevin Simpson, The Denver Post).

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Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. Regarding current debates about uses of instructional technology: "Technology is in kids' lives now. How do we integrate it [into school] rather than blocking it?'” (Teacher, Ill.)

4. Reflecting on education policy: "Tight-loose leadership; tight enough with policies and procedures, but loose enough for choices and ownership." (Teacher, Va.)

3. "The core of the work [of being a school principal] is n changing the mindset and the practices of the people in the schools. It is a  process." (Elementary Principal, Washington, D.C.)

2. "We rethink and re-engineer things in order to push and get better. We change our communities. That's why we're here." (Teacher, Nev.)

1. "[We have] Cadillac ideas on a Hooptie budget." (Teacher, Ala.)