THE TEACHERS EDITION--February 13, 2014

The Teachers Edition

February 13, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Kid President

In this pep talk, Soul Pancake's Kid President reminds us that life may seem like a game, but we are all on the same team.


Teachers: What Will Be Your SPACE JAM?

No matter how many times we watch this clip, the teachers at ED simply cannot take our eyes off Kid President channeling his inner coach and urging us to "Be Awesome." From the start he hooks us with blinding glimpses of the obvious, like "The world needs to stop being boring," and "taking the road less traveled...really hurts." He also reminds us that we have a choice to cry or dance. Watch the video, see what Kid President chooses, and think about your legacy--your answer to his question, "What will be your Space Jam?"


States Take Preschool Baby Steps

Richard Perez-Pena and Motoko Rich of the NYTimes report that many states across the country have embraced a growing "body of research" that shows the benefits of early learning on long-term academic and socio-emotional success and highlights that "enrollment in state-funded preschool has more than doubled since 2002." Read more.

Meanwhile, ED and the Department of Health and Human Services are seeking public comment for a new competition to build, develop and expand high-quality early learning programs. Learn more, including how you can share your comments. 

science students in Mass

A teacher helps two students in a science lab in Mass.


State Adopts Rigorous Graduation Requirements


Twenty years ago Massachusetts was one of the first states to raise expectations for what all students should know and be able to do by implementing higher standards and greater accountability for schools and districts. Today the state’s students consistently perform at the top on national assessments. Find out how the MassCore program is making a difference.


"Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole."

Quote to Note

(From the President's proclamation regarding African American History Month. This week President Obama named the White House's first class of HBCU All-Stars, recognizing 75 undergraduate, graduate and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and civic engagement. Find out who in your state was named as an All-Star. Learn about the White House's 2014 Summit Series on Improving Education for African American Children and Youth.)


Navigating Hurdles for Native Students

Dean Rhodes reviews a study funded by Spirit Mountain Community Fun that finds many hurdles hampering Native students from being successful in Oregon’s educational system. Tribal member students "live in homes with high rates of poverty; they start out significantly behind in reading scores compared to their non-Native peers; are absent from classes at elevated rates; and graduate from high school at lower rates than other Oregonians." Read Rhodes' analysis of the study.

Common Core Connections

TEACHER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST POLITICS OF THE COMMON CORE DEBATE. Boca Raton, Fla., middle school teacher Doris Milano penned this op-ed for the Miami Herald. She says that though the CCSS started out as a bipartisan effort, "The conversation has unfortunately shifted from what is best for children."

PANEL VETTING CORE MATERIALS. Catherine Gewertz (EdWeek) reports on efforts to determine whether instructional materials intended to be aligned with the Common Core State Standards actually adhere to them. Gewertz profiles a program called EQuIP, in which teachers “pore over” the materials “looking for fidelity to the common core.” Read the article

AND THE SURVEY SAYS... A majority of Tennessee teachers believe implementation of the Common Core State Standards has begun positively, according to a broad-based independent survey by the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. The 2013 First to the Top Survey asked almost 28,000 educators questions about the potential of the new standards to impact the quality of teaching and student learning, as well as their perception of Common Core training and communications. The results reveal much optimism about the initiative and a need for more training for teachers. Learn more (Vanderbilt News). 

CHRISTIAN LATINOS LAUD THE CORE. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), regarded as the leading voice for the 16-million-strong Hispanic American Evangelical Christian community, has voiced their support of the Common Core State Standards. The NHCLC says it regards the Common Core as a matter of biblical justice and equity. Learn more (Religion News Service).


Did You Know?

More than one million high school seniors don’t fill out the FAFSA, the Federal Application for Student Aid. Many of them would be eligible for a federal Pell Grant.

question mark

(During a visit with students at Virginia's TC Williams High School, First Lady Michelle Obama urged them to consider the benefits of seeking federal aid to help with the costs of higher education. “Completing this form is a critical start to completing your education,” Obama said. “It’s the single most important thing you can do for your future.” Learn more (ABC News, Mallin and Larotonda.)


Funding Fairness

Check out the Education Law Center's report, Is School Funding Fair?. The report examines each state’s level of financial commitment to equal educational opportunity, regardless of a student’s background, family income, or where she or he attends school. Among the findings:

• Reversing a positive trend, the number of states classified as “progressive” – that is, they provide more funds as district poverty increases – dropped between 2010 and 2011;

• States with fair school funding tend to provide more support for early childhood education and are better able to provide competitive compensation for teachers and maintain student-to-staff ratios that are adequate to meet the needs of diverse student populations; and

• The majority of states have flat or regressive funding distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high poverty settings.

Principal Chat

FINDING FUNDS TO USE TECHNOLOGY. As the administration works to connect students to high-speed Internet through the E-Rate program, ED wants states and districts to remember they can use federal professional development dollars to support technology use. While ESEA and IDEA might not spell it out, states and districts can use some of the money to support "innovative technology-based strategies to personalize learning," the Department says in a new Dear Colleague letter. For example, Title II funds can be used to help teachers improve their teaching through effective blended-learning practices. Learn more.

P Chat

STAFF DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES. ASCD has announced the upcoming schedule of Virtual Learning Network sessions in science, social studies, mathematics and English language arts. The free webinars provide ongoing virtual professional development training for educators to assist with curriculum, assessment and instruction in their content area that align with Common Core State Standards. Each session is also archived. Get more information and register.

PRINCIPAL SUPPORTERS. NASSP and NAESP released a joint policy brief that includes recommendations about what principals need to improve instruction and learning, Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems. Read the report.

the New Math

Time on Test

Across 12 urban districts, the average amount of time students spend on state and district tests equals only 1.7 percent of the school year in third and seventh grades and substantially less in kindergarten.

(From a TeachPlus report: The Students and the Stopwatch: How much time are students spending on testing? The report found that when done well, assessment helps students and teachers—and doesn’t eat up class time. The writers also report that urban districts spend, on average, more time than their suburban counterparts on testing. Suburban districts in this study average 1.3 percent or less of the school year on testing.)


Winter Olympics: 14 Ways to Learn and Move More

Enrich your students' understanding of the games with educational materials on the ancient and modern Olympics and the science behind the sports. Seek inspiration from the games and the athletes to get you and your kids moving this winter. Check out our 14 suggestions for the classroom, the home and the outdoors.

Hints of RESPECT in NC

Jane Stancill reports on NC State's Emerging Issues forum to consider ways to attract and retain good teachers. Attendees heard from educators and also researcher Raj Chetty and writer Daniel Pink. Stancill's coverage of the messages heard echoes what teachers at ED heard while speaking with thousands of teachers about the RESPECT initiative. Read the article (Raleigh News & Observer). 

JOIN THE RESPECT TEAM. Sign up to get updates on the RESPECT initiative and to be added to the mailing list for opportunities for educators to lead the transformation of their profession.

RESPECT teaching

Jen Bado-Aleman and her husband at the White House

Jen and her husband take advantage of a photo op in the Lincoln Room of the White House while attending a State Dinner for President Hollande.


• JEN BADO-ALEMAN (Washington Fellow 2012) and her husband were spotted at last week's State Department dinner for the President of France--sitting at the table with President Obama, no less. "A really awesome moment was talking with Stephen Colbert after I had just taught a lesson that day that used his clips to help explain elements of satire," Jen told us. (Earlier in the day, Lisa Coates (2010 Classroom Fellow) attended the arrival ceremony for France's President Hollande.) Later this month, Bado-Aleman is being honored  by the Human Symphony Foundation for being a "Living Legend." The Living Legends are chosen for their service to humanity. 

MAURO DIAZ (Classroom Fellow 2013). The AP's Leah Todd profiles Diaz, who teaches at Dean Morgan Junior High in Casper, Wyo. Diaz serves on the governing board of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Todd notes that “his colleagues there say he provides a rural voice in a discussion otherwise dominated by concern for urban schools.”

TAF News

• JOISELLE CUNNINGHAM (Washington Fellow 2013): Cunningham was a panelist on "Supporting the Holistic Development of African American Students, Schools & Communities: Saving Our Sons" at Morehouse College.

• EMILY DAVIS (Washington Fellow 2013): Davis delivered opening remarks at a briefing for employees at the Department of Education on the ConnectED Initiative, which seeks to build high-speed digital connections for America’s schools and libraries, ensuring that 99 percent of American students benefit from these advances in teaching and learning.



Hello Dojo?

edSurge (Quattrocchi) looks into the world of two elementary teachers and their experiences with ClassDojo, a free tool for classroom management used by over 8 million teachers. The tool provides teachers with a systemic method of tracking student behavior by assigning points to reinforce positive behaviors and negative points for undesirable behaviors. Teachers are provided with detailed data reports which can be shared with parents and administrators. Check out their stories and find out why ClassDojo may be more than meets the eye. 


Seriously Going Bananas

Amy Biolchini reports that ED and NASA have given “top honors” to a group of middle school students from Ypsilanti, Mich., for developing a game for astronauts “in a nationwide project to engage students in STEM learning.” Noting that the students were challenged to “come up with a game astronauts could play in zero gravity using only materials that they already had on board the space station,” Biolchini reports that the students devised a game using “stretchy athletic bands that astronauts have on board the space station” and bananas, titling it “Good Banana, Bad Banana.” Read the story and check out the photos (MLive).

Students' Corner

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• NOT JUST ONE MONTH A YEAR. The NEA offers resources to integrate Black History into your classroom year-round. Take a look at lessons for grades K-5.

• COMMON CORE LESSONS FOR SCIENCE TEACHERS. The Center for Teaching Quality offers CC activities and resources for science teachers. Writer and teacher Bill Ferriter explains how he uses these activities to teach students to do more than take tests--to think like scientists. Read more.

• SUPPORTING SCHOOL TURNAROUND. ED has launched a new-and-improved School Turnaround Learning Community website with a fresh design, better navigation and new features. The site includes an upgraded resource library and search functionality, topic specific collections, workspaces around key turnaround topics, and announcements about events. Visit the site.

• A WORD ABOUT VOCAB. Doing What Works is offering insight into research-based strategies for vocabulary instruction through interviews with Mary Curtis of Lesley University. In the videotaped interview, Curtis describes strategies such as explicit instruction, multiple opportunities to engage with vocabulary, and active and generative tasks that allow opportunities for practice. She provides several concrete examples of ways to incorporate vocabulary instruction across the curriculum. Learn more

TEACH AND TRAVEL ABROAD. Hilton is offering opportunities for K-12 teachers with three or more years of experience to teach and travel to other countries through their Teacher Treks Program. Applications are due Feb. 26.

INNOVATE NYC. (Note the change in the link from this piece in last week's TE.) Read about how Innovate NYC Schools is using a grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement to solve alignment challenges using an ecosystem approach.


Apply for the Literacy Awards 

The Library of Congress Center for the Book is pleased to announce that the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program is now accepting applications. The Literacy Awards recognize organizations that have made outstanding contributions to increasing literacy in the United States and abroad. The program is accepting applications through March 31, 2014. Learn more and download the application. 


For Eduwonks and Insomniacs

OVAE DOES THE ACRONYM SHUFFLE. ED's Office of Vocational and Adult Education has become the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Learn more about the new OCTAE.

GRANTS AVAILABLE TO TRAIN SPECIAL EDUCATORS. ED is accepting applications for grants to train personnel who work with children with disabilities. Read about it in the Federal Register.

LATEST SIG GRANTS AWARDED. Arne Duncan announced that six states and the District of Columbia will receive more than $38 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through new awards from ED's School Improvement Grants program. Find out which states got the latest grants. 


open book

Recommended Reading

ARE REFORM EFFORTS DRIVING TEACHERS OUT OF THE PROFESSION? Important questions like this are raised by a recent Schools and Staffing Survey conducted by the Center for American Progress. In Teacher Retention In An Era Of Rapid Reform, Matt Di Carlo examines the data and offers his views. He is a senior fellow at Albert Shanker Institutea non-profit organization established in 1998 to honor the life and legacy of the late president of the American Federation of Teachers.

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. "Just as teachers personalize learning for our students, principals and coaches need to identify what teachers need... [and where] they want to grow." (Teacher, Ohio)

Meeting with Arne Duncan and Teaching Ambassador Fellows

4. "I like uncertainty in school, in learning--especially when talking to kids. Not knowing the answer can inspire someone to learn more." (Teacher, Wyo.)

3. "Our work is public work. We are the models of citizenship for our communities. If we [teachers] don't participate in civic engagement and improvement, what are we telling our students?" (Teacher, Wash.)

2. "It's 2014, the year NCLB really comes to a head. When are they (policymakers) going to realize what educators have known for years? NCLB should be based on a growth model not a 'one-size fits all' model.'" (Teacher, Neb.)

1. "Compensation is still an issue. Over half of our teachers work another job just to take care of their families. So imagine the pressure to perform, impact student achievement, plan effective and engaging lessons, implement them with enthusiasm, then go work at another job for 4-6 hours. It's rough." (Teacher, Atlanta, Ga.)