THE TEACHERS EDITION -- December 12, 2013

The Teachers Edition

December 12, 2013  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Arne Duncan with the Principal Ambassador Fellows

This week Arne Duncan met with the inaugural cohort of Principal Ambassador Fellows in his office. Shown left to right are Sharif El-Mekki, Jill Levine, Arne and Rachel Skerritt.


Principal Ambassadors Land at ED

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan officially launched ED's Principal Ambassador Fellowship today by naming three principals to serve as the inaugural class of Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows. They are Sharif El-Mekki of Mastery Charter School – Shoemaker campus in Philadelphia, Penn., Jill Levine of Normal Park Museum Magnet School in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Rachel Skerritt of Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC

In its inaugural year, the Principal Ambassador Fellowship program recognizes the important impact that a principal has on instruction, the school environment, and talent management and seeks to connect principals' expertise and knowledge with education policy. The 2013 Principal Ambassador Fellows will work with our current Teaching Ambassador Fellows as well as the Resident Principal to shape the new program. Learn more. Read about the Fellows.


Flexibility for States Implementing Evaluations 

The Department of Education is granting flexibility to states implementing teacher evaluations during the Common Core pilot year. Many states have found adopting teacher evaluations to be the most challenging piece of the NCLB waivers. Nevada and Mississippi have been given an extension, allowing the states to postpone using student test progress to make personnel decisions for one year. This article from the Tupelo Daily Journal reports on how flexibility is providing teachers in Mississippi with time to acclimate to the new tests.

Jason Choung featured on Morning Joe


Last week MSNBC's Morning Joe featured a segment about American teacher heroes that included Jason Chuong, a Philly music teacher who solved his budget problem by purchasing paint buckets to use as drums.

Jason Choung is an American Teacher

Teachers at ED (and Arne Duncan) have been following Jason Chuong's career as a resourceful and creative music teacher in Philadelphia, Pa. and through tougher times when he and all of the instrumental music teachers in Philly were temporarily laid off. Chuong is profiled in a book by Katrina Fried and Parker PalmerAmerican Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom.

code still


"Don't Just Play on Your Phone, Program it"

The Hour of Code is upon us and over 10.8 million people have already participated. U.S. and World Report News reports that only a fraction of U.S. high schools offer advanced training on the subject. In support of Computer Education Science Week, President Obama released a video promoting the Hour of Code and challenging students to not just "play on your phone, but program it." Tens of thousands of schools are hosting events, as well as Google, Microsoft and Apple.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 -- Nelson Mandela

(View President Obama's remarks at a ceremony honoring Mandela.)

Quote to note


Financial Aid Toolkit 

ED has launched a “one-stop shop” for guidance counselors, college advisers, mentors and volunteers to use as they assist students through the process of choosing and financing their higher education. The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database. That makes it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support students on their path to college, including details on how to apply for financial aid along with presentations, brochures and videos. Learn more

Common Core Connections

RESOURCES FROM EDUCATORS IN PARCC STATES. If you haven't seen them yet, the Model Content Frameworks for English Language Arts - Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics were created by content experts and educators whose states are part of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The ELA frameworks include narrative summaries, model content, key terms and progression charts for each strand of the CCSS in grades 3-11. The mathematics frameworks include detailed information about selected practice standards, fluencies, connections, and content emphases.

STATE FACTS. The Center for American Progress has compiled a series of 14 fact sheets about states implementing the Common CoreThe series documents the current state of student achievement, demonstrates the imperative on why higher standards are important, and offers a side-by-side comparison on how the Common Core State Standards will raise student achievement.

A PRIMER ON THE COMMON CORE ASSESSMENTS distills and synthesizes the key issues involved, and provides the most up-to-date resource on the content, use, purpose and quality of current state tests, PARCC, SBAC and ACT Aspire. Download the PDF.

READY, SET, GO! Mahwah Township Public School leaders say that their students are ready for the new PARCC test based on Common Core. The New Jersey school district has been making adjustments since 2011, changing curriculum and implementing more interdisciplinary teaching methods. Read how adopting a collaborative mindset helped them prep for the exam here.

PARCC AFFIRMS DATA PRIVACY AND SECURITY POLICY. The Governing Board of PARCC has approved a policy to protect the privacy and security of student data, and discussed school and district progress towards the spring 2014 PARCC field test. Learn more.

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Did You Know?

The average debt that borrowers of student loans had at graduation has continued to rise, climbing to $29,400 for the class of 2012, according to a new report from the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). 

This year's figure, based on TICAS calculations of federal data collected every four years, is up by more than 25% compared with the group's $24,450 estimate for the class of 2008. 

Turnaround Tales: Success Stories from the School Turnaround Learning Community


Arne Duncan recently visited a school in Utah that, despite the large at-risk population, accomplished three years of inspiring academic growth and improved attendance with the help of a School Improvement Grant. Kristen Moulton (Salt Lake Tribune) reports, "The school gives teachers performance pay based on student achievement and growth and has created a culture where it's cool to be smart." Duncan said he was impressed by the school's high expectations. The school “has risen from the bottom to the top tier of Utah junior high and middle schools.” Read more

PARCC logo


Student Tested and Approved!

A teacher in Shelby County, Tenn., who was less than enthused about new, impending Common Core assessments, used the school's participation in a pilot as a learning opportunity. The teacher posed this question to students: Assuming you knew everything on the test, do you think that this is a better test of student abilities than other math EOC's (End-of-Course tests) you’ve taken? 

The result: 63 percent of the students self-reported that they felt that the PARCC pilot test was a better measure of student abilities than other tests they’d taken. Here are of their comments.

• Yes, it’s harder to get lucky and still get the correct answer because you have to show your work plus get the correct answer.
• Yes, it’s preparing us for when we have to do things on our own and things won’t be given to us.
• Yes, it would ensure that the teacher is doing his job and if the student learns. If you know everything there shouldn’t be a problem with taking it.
• Yes, because it forces you to know the information. You can’t guess and pass.

Check out why some students who don't like the PARCC say they prefer the old test, and learn more. (Hint: It's easier to guess.)

the New Math

What the Numbers Show about Boosting Grad Rates

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if the high school students who dropped out of the Class of 2012 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefited from as much as $154 billion in additional income over the course of these graduates’ lifetimes. 

Additionally, if the United States could achieve a 90% high school graduation rate, the projected economic benefits would include as much as 

  • $16.8 billion a year in additional new home purchases;
  • $1.3 billion annually in additional federal tax revenues; and
  • $661 million a year to state and local tax coffers.

Read their economic analysis and do the math to understand why they say, "Everyone benefits when students earn a high school diploma."

Principal Chat

Developing Leaders From Within

Bain & Company recently released a brief focused on school leadership that draws on their more than 40 years of experience supporting leading organizations in other sectors. The findings in Building Pathways: How to Develop the Generation of Transformational School Leaders illustrate the importance of moving from a mindset of looking for the best available principal candidates and committing to a model that develops and retains the most promising leaders over time.

We know that dramatically better outcomes are possible even in the most challenging educational environments, and we also know that an essential ingredient behind each of these success stories is extraordinary leadership. The report indicates that far too few school leaders today replicate the results that are possible at a greater scale precisely because many school systems fail to methodically develop talented educators. Writers Chris Bierly and Eileen Shy argue that it’s a better move to draw from and train a deep bench of prospective leaders with the experience and ability to build an extraordinary school. 

TAF News

JONATHAN MCINTOSH (current Classroom Fellow) and JOISELLE CUNNINGHAM (current Washington Fellow): Jonathan and Joiselle hosted discussions with educators in New York and New Jersey. They asked for educators' feedback on a range of issues, including professional learning and implementation of new standards.

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EMILY DAVIS (current Washington Fellow): Emily recently met with state Title II A coordinators at an event in Bethesda, Md., to talk about how technology can be used to enhance instruction and professional development for teachers and leaders. 

Tools for Students


Are you interested in pursuing a career in the media or technology industry? If so, you should consider applying for the Emma L. Bowen Foundation. Minority high school seniors and college freshmen with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and an interest in media careers (business, creative, journalism, technology, or sales) are eligible to apply. During this multi-year internship, students in the program receive an hourly wage and matching scholarship. The application deadline is January 31, 2014. Apply here.

Students' Corner

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Teachers' Notes

• NEW SAT TEST DELAYED. The new version of the SAT will not debut until 2016. According to Inside Higher Ed, the College Board is taking more time to remodel the exam. Learn more about widely anticipated changes here

EDUCATION IN INDIAN COUNTRYEducation Week is highlighting education issues from a Native American perspective. A featured section this week includes articles ranging from sequestration in Indian Country to teaching common core from a tribal perspective. Check it out here

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD. This video from American Enterprise Institute tells the story of Mooresville (N.C.) Schools, a district that was able to close a wide racial achievement gap by providing a laptop to each and every student. Integrating technology provided new opportunities for instruction and helped Mooresville achieve the top graduation rate for African American students in North Carolina. 

 TIME OUT FOR WRITING. Read about how teachers at ED recently participated in a writing seminar with one of our grantees, the National Writing Project. The seminar focused on student authorship. 

 RESOURCES TEACHERS FLIP FOR. Jeffrey Brown of the PBS Newshour reported yesterday about how a low-performing school just outside Detroit, Clintondale High School, adopted a flipped model of teaching and learning in every class. One teacher advised that the flipped model is worth learning about and considering for some--but not all--situations. The report includes resources for teacher, including a video about how to make flipped lessons and a student blog that uses social media to teach the Bill of Rights. View the report.

open book

Recommended Reading

• BUILDING RESILIENCE: THREE STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS. This insightful piece by teacher Janine Davis reviews the research on the resilience-academic success connection and dives deeply into the "ordinary magic" she has used to reach out to at-risk students and  build their capacity to connect with adults and with learning (Pi Lambda Theta. 

• ANSWERING THE UBIQUITOUS QUESTION. Seth Bloom responds to a NY Times editorial that asks, "Who says math has to be boring?" with an answer that leaves many of us feeling uneasy (and culpable). Bloom contends, [I]t is certainly not the math that is boring, but the way we present it to students." Read his response

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Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5.  Reflecting on Common Core State Standards: "We keep raising the bar and we're finding developmentally appropriate ways to get them there. The students are not surprising us.” (Teacher, Blue Ribbon School)

Brightwood Elementary

4.  "[When preparing students for STEM fields], We need to teach kids to be creative, to be innovators. We need a mindset where kids grow and create things." (Teacher, Ill.)

3.  “We keep raising the bar and we’re finding developmentally appropriate ways to get them [students] to where they need to be. The students are surprising us with what they can do!” (Kindergarten Teacher, Blue Ribbon School)

2. “We must rethink and reengineer things and push to get better. That’s why we’re here.” (Principal, Las Vegas, Nev.)

1.  "When we are talking about technology, it's really important that we wrap it around pedagogy and instruction. Teachers want to know how the tool will solve their problems with literacy and the Common Core." (Teacher, Iowa)