THE TEACHERS EDITION -- December 19, 2013

The Teachers Edition

Over the holiday season, THE TEACHERS EDITION will not be published. We will return to your inbox January 9. Have a great break, and get some well-deserved rest, teachers and leaders!

December 19, 2013  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Students discuss education with Secretary Duncan

Members of the Benito Juarez school community participate in a discussion about their educational successes and challenges. Shown here (left to right) are junior Richard Skinner, teacher Paulina Camacho, junior Ciera Nickerson, Arne Duncan and senior Stephanie Gil.


Westside School Community Improves its Game

Arne Duncan recently visited Benito Juarez Community Academy (Chicago, Ill.) to learn about the school's phenomenal success decreasing dropouts and improving attendance, college preparation and graduation. 

More than 94 percent of the school's students come from low-income and Hispanic families. In 2009, only 57 percent of students were graduating. Five years later the graduation rate has climbed to 80 percent, and school officials report that Juarez is on track to hit 90 percent this year.

School leaders, parents and students at Juarez credit their success to the school's aggressive approach to implementing the Common Core, their use of a standard-based curriculum and grading system. They have also worked hard to create robust partnerships with community members and parents to provide wraparound services. In addition, the school has improved their use of technology and provided technology training to teachers. Juarez has received a $5.6 million School Improvement Grant from the Department over three years to support its work. 

WBBM-TV Chicago covered the visit and quoted Duncan saying that in a school with "the same student[s], same family, same neighborhood, same building, [there is now a] very difference set of expectations, very different leadership, very different culture. What you are seeing are markedly better results in short amount of time.” Learn more


CREATING SUSTAINABLE TEACHER CAREER PATHWAYS, a report by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and the Center for Educator Effectiveness at Pearson, wrestles with a common conundrum: how can teachers advance in their careers without leaving the classroom? 

Beginning with analysis of the history of teaching as a profession and teacher satisfaction and retention, the report outlines career structures that promote high levels of teacher collaboration and strong professional communities. The writers conclude, "[W]ithout structural changes to the teaching profession—including better working conditions, competitive compensation, flexibility, and career staging—it will be increasingly difficult to attract and retain enough highly motivated and qualified teachers into the profession."


NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR PROPOSES 10% TEACHER PAY RAISE. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is calling for an increase of 10 percent in pay for “starting teachers and bonuses for educators who receive the highest ratings through the state’s new evaluation system.” Read the report in the Santa Fe New Mexican (Nott).

NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION ANNOUNCED. Yesterday the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that more than 4,000 teachers earned their National Board credentials this year. To date, more than 106,000 teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved the profession’s highest mark of accomplishment through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process. 

Washington State gained the most NBCTs with 516 teachers achieving in 2013. States that experienced the largest growth in their ranks of NBCTs in 2013 were Wyoming (17 percent), Hawaii (14 percent), and Montana (14 percent). North Carolina continues to lead the nation with more than 20,000 teachers in the state achieving Board certification to date.

State-level data on National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) are available online here. Identify NBCTs in your area here.

Principal Chat

Core Resources for School Leaders

PDK Emerging Leader and Principal Steven Weber (Hillsborough, N.C.) has written a number of interesting pieces offering nuggets of truth and some tools for educators interested in achieving the best aspirations of the Common Core. 

In an ASCD EDge blog, Weber offers a list of resources for school leaders who are shepherding their school through the on-going transformation to college-and career-ready standards. We also like seven reasons why states should embrace the Common Core, his guide for school leaders for Developing Systemic (CCSS) Curriculum Growth (written with Michael Fisher), and his use of a fast-food analogy in How is Your School Implementing the Common Core?


Apply for National Teaching Award

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project is accepting applications for its 2014 Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching – an award that recognizes five teachers from across the country who excel at promoting respect, acceptance and appreciation for the nation’s growing diversity.

All K-12 teachers within the United States are invited to apply for the award at The deadline for applications is Jan. 12. To qualify, educators must demonstrate excellence in research-based classroom practices aimed at reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and creating an equitable school environment. 

The awards will be presented in July during a three-day event in Montgomery, Ala. Each winner will be awarded $2,500. Teaching Tolerance will film these teachers in their classrooms, allowing them to share their teaching methods with educators across the nation. The winners will also participate in an intensive workshop in Montgomery and work together on a collaborative project to be shared with the nation’s teachers.  


"The debate over education which I hear inside the Beltway and the blogosphere doesn't begin to reflect the reality I see in classrooms and schools all across America."

Quote to Note

(Arne Duncan in speech called "The New Narrative in Rural Education" given to the Ohio Department of Education and Battelle for Kids Rural Education National Forum in October and a related story. Read his speech to students attending the National FFA convention in Louisville, Ky.)


Schools Revise Get-Tough Policies

The New York Times reports that in response to mounting evidence that zero-tolerance policies do more harm than good, many cities and school districts are reworking how they handle minor offenses. These policies have been under fire recently and research suggests that they are associated with higher "arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates," especially for minority students. Read more.

Common Core Connections

SUCCESS IN INDIANA. Educators in Paducah and McCracken County report that after three years of implementing the Common Core standards, the results are paying off for students. Melanie Jarvis of McCracken County said that at first, educators were nervous because they didn't know what to expect and what challenges would emerge, but now elementary school-age kids "have a stronger foundation going forward.” There has also been a dramatic increase in college and career readiness at Paducah Tilghman High School, from 34 percent for the 2009-2010 school year to more than 60 percent in 2012-2013. Read the story taken from the Paducah Sun (Fox).

HOW THE COMMON CORE HELPS TEACHERS. Evan Stone, a former sixth-grade teacher and co-founder of Educators for Excellence, contends that although new standards have become a "platform for opponents of school reform to sound off on everything else they dislike about the current education landscape," the Common Core "doesn't stifle teacher creativity— it does the opposite." Read his opinion piece in the New York Post.

Hint Cards

Teacher Audra McPhillips uses innovative "Hint Cards" to help students work independently.


“Hints” for Independent Work

Check out this video highlighting one teacher’s strategy to encourage students to work independently. On the Teaching Channel, Audra McPhillips, a math coach at West Warwick Public Schools in West Warwick, R.I., uses hint cards to scaffold understanding. Giving students the tools to work independently is a challenge for many teachers, hint cards serve as a tool for teachers to build in support. Students use the cards, which ask probing questions to help them solve problems on their own, before they call on their teacher for the answer. This allows students to take responsibility for their learning and frees up teachers to engage with groups more deeply than answering more superficial questions.  


Large Urban Districts Make Progress 

Earlier this week, the National Assessment Governing Board released the results of the 2013 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). It found that student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in large cities continues to improve overall, and that large-city schools nationwide are improving at a faster pace than the nation as a whole. 

Three large urban districts that pressed ahead with ambitious reforms — the DC Public School System (DCPS), Los Angeles, and Fresno — made notable progress since 2011. In fact, DCPS students made consistent gains in all grades and subjects. That progress is e specially welcome since large-city districts typically have higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners than the nation as a whole.

Learn more. Find achievement level results for the districts, large cities, and the nation here.

the New Math

Average School Counselor Caseload:

471 students

(According to the American School Counselor Association. Check out more research from Alexandria Walton Radford and Nicole Ifill, Preparing Students for College. Read a related story by Timothy Pratt in the Hechinger Report).

Emerging Research from the Institute for Education Sciences (ies)

TEACHER PREP & THE ART OF CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT. Teacher preparation programs need to do more to prepare educators to effectively manage classrooms, according to a report issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

NCTQ found that out of more than 120 graduate and undergraduate preparation programs, future teachers spent little time learning about and practicing classroom management. The report also cites prep programs for not helping pre-service teachers learn to engage students in lessons, promote participation or manage misbehavior and other time-off tasks.

A related story in the Atlantic includes discussion of "The Big Five" of classroom management that are identified by the report: "make rules; establish structure and routines; praise students for positive behavior; address bad behavior; and maintain student behavior" (Barkhorn). Edward Fuller offers a critique of the NCTQ report in which he objects to what he perceives as a narrow focus on inputs rather outcomes.

ARE TENURE TRACK PROFESSORS BETTER TEACHERS? Check out the study examining whether taking a course with a tenured/tenure track professor is associated with better outcomes in future classes in the same subject. The study used data from 15,662 students who entered Northwestern University (Ill.) as freshmen between fall 2001 and fall 2008. View the surprising results

TAF News

EDIT KHACHATRYAN (2010 Washington Fellow). Edit, who is working on her doctorate at Stanford University, sent us this link to a Stanford policy guide offering recommendations to provide Excellent Teachers for Each and Every Child. The guide includes recommendations on teacher recruitment, preparation, professional development, evaluation, teaching and learning conditions, funding, and ways to develop coherent and systemic policy.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• A "WOW!" PROJECT-BASED ASSESSMENT. When Colleen Carroll visited ED along with her cohort of PDK Emerging Leaders, she told us about an intriguing elementary school project, "Animals in the Brazilian Ecosystem." Her effort, highlighted in Educator's Voice, is worth reviewing. 

• STUDY ABROAD. The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program provides K-16 educators with unique the opportunity to work overseas. The program is open to K-12 teachers and administrators with responsibilities for curriculum development in fields related to humanities, languages and area studies. The topics and host countries vary annually, although all seminars are in non-western European countries. There is one seminar being offered next summer in China, with 14-16 positions, subject to the availability of funds. The deadline for applications is February 5, 2014. Get information

 #IteachSTEM. Teach for America is launching a social media campaign on January 15, 2014, to highlight the inspiring and incredible impact of STEM teachers. The campaign will include stories, photos, and voices from STEM K-12 classroom teachers – bringing to life why STEM teaching is a meaningful STEM profession. Educators can follow the campaign @TFA_STEM and #IteachSTEM on Twitter and Instagram. Get more information.

WOMEN AND MINORITIES (NOT) IN TECHNOLOGY. The editorial board of the NY Times argues that too few women and minorities enter into tech subjects and as a result, America has fallen behind other countries in science and math. They note that "For both women and minorities, academic and social support is critical." Read more.

open book

Recommended Reading

• READING WARS. In this Common Core Watch article, Kathleen Porter-Magee examines debates over reading instruction that began long before the new standards were adopted by 45 states. The discussion focuses on the best way to teach children how to read in the early grades. She argues that three approaches (close reading, knowledge first, and skills and strategies) are helpful and ultimately complementary. "All three of these," she says, "are miles better than a fourth (but increasingly popular) approach: 'just right texts.'"

• SET IN STONE.  Recently special education teacher Anthony Mullen (Greenwich, Conn.) wrote to ED asking for our support for a national teacher monument. His EdWeek article from October reminds us, "There is something in the human psyche that draws us to monuments and memorials, a yearning to visit physical tributes to the people, places, and ideas that have profoundly affected our lives and helped shape our national identity and cultural legacy."

Send questions or comments about THE TEACHERS EDITION to

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. “In my district we LOVE the Common Core.” (Principal, N.C.)

4. On rigor and the Common Core: “I’ve been teaching kindergarten for 33 years and what I teach now would have been first grade material when I started.” (Kindergarten Teacher, Fort Knox, Ky.)

SIG Convening

3. On her state's progress implementing Common Core standards. "We need to strike a balance between compliance and commitment. Right now we are in compliance mode, moving toward commitment." (Assistant Superintendent, Mich.)

2.  "As a teacher of high school seniors who are DREAMers, it is difficult for them to not give up, as they see the cost of college they face. We need immigration reform and a DREAM Act." (Theresa on the blog)

1. "People exist in schools--outside of the data and the numbers." (Principal, Va.)