THE TEACHERS EDITION-- January 30, 2014

The Teachers Edition

January 30, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

art from PTA art opening

(Above from left) Original art includes "The Cat Who Smells Flowers," a collage by artist Haley Young (Alton Hall Elementary; Galloway, Ohio) and "Mermaid Adventures," a mixed media entry by artist Emma Dunwoody (Wilchester Elementary; Houston, Texas). On the right, guitarist and vocalist Bailey Callahan (Tuskawilla Middle School; Winter Park, Fla.) performs her original composition "The Magic of Moments." 


Celebrating Magical Moments

Earlier this month, ED employees celebrated the magic of arts education by hosting an art exhibit by winners of the National PTA’s 2014 Reflections Program competition. Students inspired ED officials and staff through their original songs, dance, and art of all kinds through this year's exhibit that includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and U.S. schools abroad. The works, which included writing and film, centered on this year's theme: The Magic of a Moment. Read the story. See more photos of the event.

President Obama delivers the State of the Union address


President Affirms Commitments to Education

In Tuesday's State of the Union address to the nation, President Obama affirmed his commitment to education, giving enthusiastic shout-outs to hardworking teachers and students and praising the country's work around early learning, Race to the Top, and efforts to make college more affordable. Learn more

Learn more about President Obama's 2014 priorities in education, including efforts to support teachers and leaders, improve college affordability and completion, boost early learning, make strategic K-12 improvements, strengthen STEM education, and improve school safety and educational equity and opportunity


DC Teacher of the Year

WHO IS THAT TEACHER WITH MRS. OBAMA? Teachers in the nation's capital may have recognized a local celebrity in the First Lady's box during Tuesday's State of the Union address, along with Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President. The now-famous teacher is Kathy Hollowell-Makle, a state Teacher of the Year at Abram Simon Elementary in Southeast Washington, DC. Learn more

WHO IS THE STUDENT THE PRESIDENT PRAISED? President Obama also lauded a stellar senior, Estiven Rodriguez, from the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in New York City. “Estiven Rodriguez couldn't speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age 9. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates — through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors — from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications,” Obama said. Rodriguez will attend Dickinson College in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship.

Growing Our Own

MEANINGFUL MENTORING. Teachers spend so much of their time mentoring young people to be high-achieving adults that they often forget to take care of themselves. 

That is the argument of David Cutler, a Miami, Fla., teacher who contends that a critical component to a teacher’s longevity is finding a trusted mentor to help navigate the first few years of teaching. Cutler encourages veteran teachers to form relationships with newcomers in an article in Edutopia. (The comments below the article, also written by teachers, are also worth a read.) 

RESPECT Teaching Update

TEACHER LEADERSHIP IN ACTION: TESTING TASK FORCE. District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is forming a new task force including 27 educators to help reduce student time and stress related to testing and to ensure that assessment is used to maximize and accelerate student learning.

Henderson explained the need for the task force by saying, “I’ve put together a task force to determine how we can do testing better, to help ensure that we have schools where testing and accountability do not take away from our students' love of learning.” We love that she is looking to educator expertise to address a district-wide concern. Learn more.

teacher talking with Arne Duncan


Your Turn to Ask Arne

Over the next several months, Arne Duncan will be talking with the Teaching Ambassador Fellows in their Ask Arne video series about some challenges that teachers are raising with them. Educators who have questions about any of the possible future topics may send them to Please include ASK ARNE and the potential future topic (below) in the subject line.

Potential topics include school climate; school leadership; testing/assessment; equity; and parent and student responsibility.


"We have to hold ourselves mutually accountable. When we say 'all' that means 'all'."

(Arne Duncan during a speech at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Leadership Institute Conference, January 27, 2014.)

Quote to Note

Common Core Connections

BEYOND ROTE MEMORIZATION. Teacher Scott Goldstein provides strategies for teachers to help students learn more than simple facts. Read his blog published on YEP (Young Education Professionals) and logon to YEP to find a chapter near you.

COMPUTERIZED SAMPLE QUESTIONS ONLINE. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers has posted sample test items for every grade level using the same platform students will use during the field tests later this spring. Users are encouraged to leave feedback. View sample questions here.

COMMON CORE DREAM TEAM., a Math and English online resource center for teachers and students, is recruiting teachers to join the 2014 Dream Team to write materials about successfully implementing the Common Core. Applicants should be knowledgeable about their respective subject and eager to join a community committed to expanding quality education. Sign up for the webinar. Start the application, due February 9, here.


Free On-line Course: Teaching Character

Relay Graduate School of Education (Relay GSE) is offering a new, free online course, Teaching Character. The course will be taught by Dave Levin (co-Founder of KIPP and Relay GSE), who will lead educators through strategies to bring psychology's cutting-edge research on character into the classroom or home. Provided through Coursera, the course is based on current research and designed to be of practical use for teachers and leaders. The class starts February 9. Check out the nearly 600 free, online courses available from a number of institutions on the Coursera course list.


Did You Know?

Recently the U.S. Senate backed the creation of National Science Week [Sen. Res. 329] and acknowledged the efforts and ideals of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. 

Read more about it here. 

question mark


"Take This Test (Please)"

Do we ask enough of our students? Of equal importance, do we ask the right kinds of questions and pose worthwhile challenges? In this blog published on Taking Note, education writer John Merrow offers examples of actual test questions used in U.S. tests, such as the sample below offered to high school math teachers for preparing students. 

cited in John Merrow's "Take this Test"

Whether they make educators laugh or cry, examples like this provoke a reaction and offer insights into why U.S. students lag behind their peers in other countries.

Connected Educator

CONNECTED MATH. Ian Quinlan reports in EdWeek about a blended learning model for teaching Algebra I that has been adopted by “hundreds of districts,” and “now has the backing of independent research,” a $6 million RAND study funded by ED. The study of 25,000 students over two years found “statistically significant additional learning gains” in the second year “compared with students using a traditional curriculum.” Teachers say they like the program because it helps them to be more effective in the classroom. "It’s made me change the way I question students, and it’s improved the way that we teach the course,” said high school algebra teacher Mary Brierley. Read the study.

TEACHER TECH PREP. As technology becomes increasingly important in the classroom, Robin Flanigan reports about teacher preparation institutions that are revamping their programs "to improve the technology literacy of future educators—and address what many see as a major shortcoming in the profession." Read the story that reports on changes underway at Clemson University (EdWeek).

APPS BEFORE NAPS. Read this story in the Tennessean about how two Nashville preschools use tablets to help bilingual kids learn.  

Principal Chat

MORE OF THIS, LESS OF THAT. Find out how your school's PD measures up to professional learning standards by taking a quick self-assessment provided by Learning Forward. Hint: the article provides a good reminder about what is known about quality professional development.

WHERE WE HAVE BEEN. WHERE WE ARE GOING. In Seize the Day: Change in the Classroom and the Core of Schooling, Arne Duncan discusses lessons learned from past efforts at reform and offers a vision for how education will change in some fundamental ways over the next decade. 

"For every principal who watched low academic standards encourage drill-and-kill memorization and straitjacket pacing guides for teachers," Duncan says, "this is your chance to provide the instructional leadership that made you want to become a principal in the first place." 

P Chat

FREE WEBINAR: TWO-WAY IMMERSION (DEVELOPING CULTURAL CAPITAL AND VALIDATING ALL STUDENTS). This webinar will explore ways that educators can ensure that they are promoting the cultural capital of their Latino English language learners and validating all students.

The webinar, offered through Schools Moving Up and WestEd, will provide an overview of the research supporting two-way immersion programs and the successful outcomes Latino English Language learners have achieved in these programs. It will also explore teacher practices and routines that promote equitable and culturally competent two-way immersion classrooms. Offered Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 5:30- 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time/2:30-4:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Get more info.

the New Math

Why We Mind the Gap 

GRADUATION RATES: In California 18 percent of high school students fail to graduate in four years. For African American students, the dropout rate is 30 percent, and for Latino students the dropout rate is 23 percent 

UNEMPLOYMENT: The nationwide unemployment rate is now just under 7 percent. For those with master's degrees, the jobless rate is half that (3.5 percent), while for high school dropouts the unemployment rate is nearly double the overall rate (12.5 percent). 

(Cited in a Huffington Post article by Mark Ridley-Thomas, a supervisor for the Second District in Los Angeles County, Calif.)


Florida Pushes for a Longer School Day

This EdWeek piece describes Florida's effort to extend learning time across the state. Catherine Gerwertz reports that two years ago Florida "required its 100 lowest-performing elementary schools to add an extra hour to their school day and to use that time for reading instruction." She also suggests that early results may be paying off. After one year, three-quarters of the schools saw improved reading scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and 70 were removed from the lowest-performing list. Read more.

TAF News

RYAN VERNOSH (Classroom Fellow 2011): Ryan transitioned out of the classroom this year to serve as the Policy and Planning Administrator for the Saint Paul Public Schools. Some of his recent activities include being part of a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) roundtable on education reform and meeting with the Governor to talk about early learning and partnerships between PK-12 and institutions providing higher education. He also provided testimony to a joint session of the senate education finance and education policy committees. He is doing all of this while in the middle of a principal preparation program! Listen to Ryan discuss teachers' involvement in education reform on American Roundtable.

KAREEN BORDERS  (Classroom Fellow 2011, Regional Fellow 2012): Kareen has also been busy since her tenure at ED. She serves on the steering committee for the Washington STEM Framework for Action and Accountability, which recently released a draft framework at the Washington State STEM Summit in December. Working with the Washington State College and Career Readiness team of teacher leaders, she participated in a Common Core State Standards convening in Phoenix earlier this month. She is also working with Washington State National Board Regional Coordinators to support National Board Certified Teachers across the states. Kareen partnered with Toni Hull (2012 Classroom Fellow) to write this article in Education Horizons.

Tools for Students

MAKE A DIFFERENCEJOIN FEMA’S YOUTH PREPAREDNESS COUNCIL. Passionate about helping the country prepare for disasters? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now accepting applicants to participate in the Youth Preparedness Council Summit. At the summit, students will share their opinions, ideas, and solutions around youth disaster preparedness and hear from FEMA leadership about ways to help their local communities get ready for potential disasters. Learn more. Download the application.

STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT. Sometimes life throws us curveballs. Maybe that curveball means losing a job or having a hard time finding one after college. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you may be eligible for a repayment plan that bases your monthly payment on your income. Check out some repayment options.

Students' Corner

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• MORE TESTING, NOT LESS? Despite pushback from some teachers and parents that American students are being over-tested, former teacher and parent Jessica Lahey argues that testing actually benefits students in a number of ways. She cites evidence that "when done right, frequent testing helps people remember information longer." Read her article in the Atlantic

• FLORIDA'S STEM SCHOLARS. FloridaLearns STEM Scholars program gives students opportunities to problems solve with professional scientists and engineers. Read about how rural students in Florida have become STEM scholars.  

• MLK-LINCOLN CONNECTION. This PBS video explores the connection between a rediscovered speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and words of President Abraham Lincoln. King’s speech reacts to violence on Black churches in 1962 and reflects on the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation. Check out the recording and the inspiration behind the words.

ON READING, WRITING & RIGOR. In his article in Education Week, Marc Tucker discusses the importance of strong writing skills as a cornerstone of what employers need. He also offers suggestions for strengthening those skills -- from how we train and provide incentives to teachers to how we organize the school day. Tucker argues, “There is no single skill more important to our students than the ability to write well,” and advocates for more accountability for both students and teachers in assessing writing ability. He pays particular attention to the reading-writing connection and contends that teachers of all subjects are, in fact, teachers of literacy. 

• INSPIRED TEACHING. The Inspired Teacher Certification Program is now accepting applications for the 2014 cohort of Inspired Teaching Fellows. Through a 24-month residency program, Inspired Teaching Fellows are prepared for successful and sustainable careers as teachers and change-makers in Washington, D.C. while earning a D.C. teaching license and a Master of Arts in Teaching.

• STILL MAKING PROGRESS. Check out a new ED blog, PROGRESS, that highlights innovative ideas, promising practices, lessons learned, and resources informed by K-12 reforms to improve education for all students. Read about how teaching and learning are changing through the voices of students, teachers, and administrators. The newest stories are about Delaware and Hawaii educators using data to identify student needs and inform instructional improvement strategies and Maryland elementary school students learning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through new foreign language courses.

open book

Recommended Reading

"BEYOND THE PROGRESS: COMMON SENSE AND COURAGE." In this op-ed published in the Washington Post, Arne Duncan discusses the progress that schools are making, particularly in Tennessee and Washington, D.C. Duncan cites a number of factors that contributed to their success, including strong school leadership, commitment to high standards, and "developing and supporting the people who do the most important work." 

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. "I was told at a meeting that 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.' I told them that it’s not about leading [students] to the water, but creating a thirst for the water and lighting the pathway for them to get there." (Jonathan, on the blog)

Blue Ribbon discussion

4. "Nursing takes from the same demographic as teachers, but [nurses] graduate prepared." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

3. On the timeline for implementing reforms: "Whether schools are given three years, five years or ten years doesn't matter; when expectations are greater, there has to be a higher level of support given to teachers." (Principal, Philadelphia, Pa.)

2. Explaining what it means to be a principal in today's schools: "Chief Executive Officer. Middle Manager. Instructional Leader. Chief Fundraiser. Chief Student Advocate. Problem Solver. Face of the School. Decision Maker. Community Outreach Specialist. Safety & Security Officer. Chief Culture Developer. Operations Manager. Chief Dream Maker. Chief Visionary. Branding & Marketing Coordinator. School Climate Regulator. Political Arena Specialist. Chief Motivator. Collaborative Leader. Teacher Leader Developer. Community Partnerships Developer. Policy Maker. Policy Interpreter. Policy Communicator. Time Balancer. Hiring Manager. Idea Generator... and I still love my job." (Principal, Montgomery County Public Schools, Md.)

1. "...and I still have to know where the rock salt is kept!" (Principal, Philadelphia, Pa.)