The Teachers Edition

March 6, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.


Who Needs an Oscar?

White House student film festival

More than 3000 students from across the country responded to President Obama's call to create a video demonstrating how technology is changing learning.  

Last week the White House hosted more than a dozen young filmmakers at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival. Students attending had been asked to make a video explaining why technology is important and how they expect technology will change educational experiences for kids. Viewers, including special guests Kal Penn, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, got a special preview of the 16 official selections. Learn more

still from Really Awesome Education

This shot is from "Really Awesome Education," directed by Blake Bennett. Watch this and other videos of the winning entries.



Strength in Numbers

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his proposed 2015 budget at a school, Powell Bilingual Elementary School (Washington, D.C.), with good reason. His 2015 budget increases education funding, while still staying within spending caps that were agreed to by Congress. After all, the President said, “Our budget is about choices. It’s about our values.”

2015 budget proposal

Most of the budget for education--nearly 90 percent--continues supporting states and districts through noncompetitive, formula-based funds such as Title I grants for low-income students. 

THE BIG PICTURE. The administration's request for $69 billion in discretionary appropriations represents an increase of two percent over the previous year and slightly more than the 2012 discretionary level for education before the sequester. Three-quarters of that funding goes to financial aid for students in collegespecial education, and high-poverty schools. The remaining 23 percent of the budget targets specific areas and reforms designed to leverage major changes in educational opportunity and excellence for all students.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. The President's budget for education is organized around five priority educational goals, including:

• Increasing equity and opportunity for all students, including a proposal for a new Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity Fund to close achievement and opportunity gaps.

• Strengthening support for teachers and school leaders, including a new ConnectEDucators proposal to provide funding to help educators leverage technology and data for high-quality college-and career-ready instruction. 

• Early learning: Making quality preschool available for all 4-year-olds, by making an historic new investment in preschool education that supports universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families and creates an incentive for states to serve additional middle-class children.

teachers met on the bus tour

• Improving affordability, quality, and success in postsecondary education.

• Making schools safer and creating positive learning environments.

TEACHERS AND LEADERS. Learn more about how the budget will support teaching and leading, including mandatory spending for the RESPECT initiative and programs to support schools building excellent instructional teams. 

Download the education budget


Innovating Educator Prep

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recently launched an initiative to strengthen educator preparation and support innovation in the professional community. The Innovation Exchange will serve as a forum to share findings for addressing the most urgent issues of student achievement, curriculum reform and educator preparation program advancement. 

Key programs of the initiative include an Innovations Inventory for institutions to share promising practices, an Educator Workforce Advisory Task Force to improve retention of novice teachers in high-need schools, and a Networked Improved Community to increase Black and Hispanic males in teacher prep programs. Are you part of a research team interested in educator preparation? Apply for the AACTE Research Fellowship for Educator Preparation, due March 28.  

Common Core Connections

HISTORY OF THE COMMON CORE. For some, the Common Core State Standards seemed to come from nowhere and appeared to be a sneaky attack on states' rights to control local education. But for those involved in writing the standards, it was nothing short of an exhaustive and collaborative years-long effort aimed at raising the achievement levels of students across the country. Learn more (Bidwell, US News & World Report).

RUMOR V. REALITY. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) has a page that deals frankly with the nine most heard rumors about the Common Core. While you are at it, check out E4E's Common Core site.

READY WA. Washington state teachers lend their voices to the Common Core discourse. At their site, educators can view a video of Washington state teachers discussing how they talk to those who have concerns about the new standards, and they can read blogs from the teachers about how the standards are affecting their classrooms. 

CORE SUPPORTS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERSLesli A. Maxwell explores how Common Core assessments will support English learners. Read her article (EdWeek). The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has made training tests available on its website so that students, teachers, school leaders and parents can look at the types of language supports that will be offered to their students before field-testing begins.


Check Before You Choose: College Students Compare Majors and Schools

Fawn Johnson of National Journal highlights a tool that makes it easier for Texas college students to see how much their degree will be worth over time. lets students compare costs and average earnings of degrees earned from a variety of state schools. "The picture can be unsettling," Johnson writes. "For example, anthropology majors who graduated in 2002 make an average of only $46,000 after 10 years on the job." Read more.

student faces

Winners of the inaugural Peace First Prize: Sarah Cronk (Iowa), Mary-Patricia Hector (Ga.), Nicholas Lowinger (R.I.), Justin Bachman (Ohio), Wei Chen (Pa.), Isabella Griffin (Colo.), Babatunde Salaam (Md.), Emily-Anne Rigal (Va.), Danielle Liebl (Minn.), Jessica Carscadden (Calif.)


Student Peacemakers

When 15-year old Mary-Patricia Hector realized funerals were more normal to her than graduations, she started Think Twice, an anti-gun violence campaign. Her message has reached 100,000 students and is included as just one of the 10 inspiring tales of peacemaking and youth leadership recognized in the inaugural Peace First Prize

Peace First is a national nonprofit organization that nurtures compassion, courage, and an ability to create collaborative change by treating students as natural problem solvers and creative thinkers. The organization invests in students' ability to lead by offering ten two-year $50,000 fellowships. 

Do you know a student that is affecting change in your community? Nominate that student or have him or her apply directly for the 2014 Peace First Fellowship. Applications are due on March 17.


A Teacher's Guide to 

Field-Testing New Assessments (Part 1)

The two consortia of states developing new assessments aligned with the Common Core, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are conducting field tests from mid-March through early June. The field tests help states try out the items and their assessment systems in preparation for rolling out the assessments in 2014-2015. In the first of a series, here are some facts and links about the field tests to help teachers understand and prepare for what's coming.  

question mark

• The field tests are designed to test the items on the assessments, the accommodations and the testing platforms (especially the technology). They are not designed to evaluate students or teachers.

• These field tests are the result of work across the consortia's member states over the past three years. Both consortia relied on hundreds of teachers and educators to write and review test items to get to this point. 

• Whenever a state rolls out a new assessment, they field test it first to make sure it works as they expect and measures what they want to measure. PARCC and Smarter Balanced are doing the field testing on a larger than normal scale because so many states are involved. Within each group, states will handle the field test in different ways. In some schools, students will take both the field test and their state’s current assessment. In others, they’ll take one or the other. 

• Students taking the field tests will include students with disabilities, English learners, and students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

• In most states, the field tests will be given to a class or a specific grade, but not the whole school. PARCC plans to administer the test to about 1.3 million students and Smarter Balanced will test a little over 3 million.

• As with anything new, there are bound to be aspects of the field testing that are not perfect. This is what field tests are for: to learn about what didn’t work and fix the problems before the assessment systems roll out in the next school year.

• The field tests will be administered primarily on computers, though there will be paper versions tested in some schools. PARCC and Smarter Balanced identified what technology will support the assessment system in 2012 and have provided resources that member states, districts, and schools can use to help prepare.

• Teachers can learn more about the field tests for PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

NEXT WEEK: Learn about plans for testing accessibility.

P Chat

Principal Chat

TEACHER EVALUATION: HOW ONE HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL GETS IT ALL DONE. Coshocton High School principal Grant Fauver spends two days a week sitting in the back of a classroom, with his laptop open, typing notes quickly as he listens to his teachers. Learn what he does to get teacher evaluation right in his Ohio school (Dickson, Coshocton Tribune). 

INSTRUCTIONAL COACHING. Teachscape will be hosting a discussion with author Jim Knight, director of the Kansas Coaching Project at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, on using video for professional development. The free webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 11 at 12 pm ET/9 am PT. Register here.

IMPROVING AP ACCESS AND OUTCOMES. WestEd will host a webinar with district staff from Glendale Union High School District (Ariz.) about ways schools can improve the participation and passage rates in AP courses and exams, particularly for underserved minority students. This webinar will take place Tuesday, March 11, 2014 from 1:30–3:00 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon PT. Get more information and register.

FIND OUT WHO IS READY. The FAFSA Completion Tool was created to help financial aid professionals, school administrators, and practitioners track and increase FAFSA completion. The tool -- updated bi-weekly through the spring -- provides every high school in the U.S. whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2014-15 application year. It also provides comparison data from the 2013-14 application year. And, coming online soon will be a resource for states to provide counselors with information to see if particular students have completed their FAFSA.

"Despite all of the implementation challenges, Common Core is the best thing for our country." 

(America Achieves Fellow and teacher Kaycee Eckhardt at a conference in Washington, D.C. last month.)

Quote to Note

A Problem Schools Can Solve

One-third of the U.S. unemployment rate is due to the mismatch between skills that job seekers have and skills that employers need. 

(From New Skills that Work.)

the New Math

Teaching the Movement report


Teaching the Movement

The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued a report on how well students are being taught the Civil Rights Movement as part of our nation's history, called Teaching the Movement. The report finds that in most states there is still a great deal of work to be done. Other findings:

• Many states mistakenly see the Civil Rights Movement as a regional issue or topic of interest only for black students. 

• The farther from the South a state is, the less attention the Civil Rights Movement gets in schools.

• Georgia is doing a great job teaching the movement. Find out what they're doing right.


Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Make March a moment to check in with your school about how they are handling bullying issues, especially when they involve children with disabilities - either as the victims or as the bullies. Find resources, such as the Bullying and Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Health Needs Tip Sheet at Also learn more about civil rights laws that protect students with disabilities against harassment.

Places Where Women Have Made History


Celebrate Women's History Month in March

As part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the National Park Service has developed this National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary, Places Where Women Made History.

Each year the National Women's History Project selects a theme for the celebration of Women's History Month. The theme is used to unify the thousands of observances that are planned throughout the country as well as to honor specific women. This year's theme is "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment."

President Clinton established the Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History to consider how best to acknowledge and celebrate the roles and accomplishments of women in American history. 

The National Gallery of Art offers a series of lesson plans regarding women in the arts, including Heroines & Social Media (Grades 5–8); a children's video tour of Mary Cassatt's The Boating Party; and a video podcast of Rachel Whitehead's Ghost. is offering Women’s History through Art and Dance: 5 Ways to Celebrate and Express Creativity by offering hands-on activities for kids.

Tools for Students

COCKROACHES, SPIDERS AND INSECTS THAT BUG YOU. Teachers and their students can learn what makes cockroaches good parents and other fun facts while exploring the lives of insects in "Inside the Insect Zoo," a live webinar with Dan Babbitt, Manager of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion, on March 13 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. EST. 

Teachers can check out the teacher guide, lessons and other related websites for more insect information. Download Maurice Sandoff's Shrinklit of Franza Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" to entertain students with a poem about a famous story whose protagonist "...wakes to find he's a bug--the cockroach kind."

Students' Corner

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• WANT TO TEACH AND LEAD? CTQ is accepting applications for their 2014-2015 cohort of Teacherpreneurs, hybrid teacher-leaders positions for those who want to lead but don't want to leave their classroom. CTQ Teacherpreneurs are classroom-based leaders who incubate and spread innovative ideas on behalf of their students and their colleagues. Teachers may apply to be part of the 2014-2015 cohort here. Initial application materials are due by March 9, 2014 at 5 p.m. ET. 

• WHERE ARE ALL OF THE BLACK MALE TEACHERS? In this EdWeek article, Donald G. Nicolas explores the challenges of recruiting and retaining African-American male educators and highlights work of TEACH to change this.

• THROWING OPEN THE DOORS. Katrina Schwartz explores transparency in schools and how it can help to change education for the better. Schwartz asks readers, "But what if teachers embraced the idea of transparency as a form of activism, a way of shining light on what works in the classroom?" Read more (Mind/Shift). 

• COLLABORATORS AT HEART. Learn how Delaware and Hawaii teachers and coaches are using data to identify student needs and inform instructional improvement strategies. 

• A NATIONAL IMPERATIVE. William H. Swanson argues that STEM education must become a national priority. "If we do not change course, then we will lose out on these STEM jobs – and our ability to drive future innovation – to our better-educated international competitors, relegating America to economic mediocrity and jeopardizing our national security," he says. Read more (US News). 

• TALK ABOUT YOUR TEACHABLE MOMENTS! Read about Lynn McNulty, a New Jersey teacher, who wasn't going to let bad traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike keep her from teaching. When stranded at the Willow Grove exit, she taught her history class at Hun School remotely, from her tablet! Learn more (Mease, Times of Trenton).

• MY BROTHER'S KEEPER. Learn about President Obama's new effort aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society that too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. 

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

Teaching Ambassador Fellows talk to Arne Duncan

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We're still relying on models [of professional development] that have individual presenters, talking heads, at the front of the room. Think about how valuable it would be if education departments could take into consideration recommendations from folks across the state saying, 'We need more time to share resources. We need more time to talk to each other.'" (Teacher, Alaska)

4. "When you actually read [the Common Core standards], they are beautiful." (Teacher, Mo.)

3. "The school I've always wanted... is where people tell each other the truth." (Teacher Leader, Washington, D.C.)

2. "The school I have always wanted is one where teachers are empowered to take on leadership roles while still having the opportunity to teach kids, even if it's only one class per year." (Teacher, Fairfax, Va.) 

1. "The classroom I always wanted ensures that teachers have time to design beautiful and engaging projects that challenge students and foster a sense of joy." (Teacher, Philadelphia, Pa.)