THE TEACHERS EDITION -- March 13, 2014

The Teachers Edition

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

Pat McGoldrick

Last November, senior Pat McGoldrick, discovered that his strict math teacher, 70-year-old Vietnam vet Jim O'Conner, has a very tender heart.


Strict Teacher Has a Soft Heart 

While working on a blood drive for Children's Hospital (Los Angeles, Calif.), senior Pat McGoldrick learned that his no-nonsense math instructor at St. Francis High School had a secret life. Find out what Mr. O’Connor does in his spare time--but don't tell his students. He doesn't want to ruin his bad reputation. Watch Steve Hartman's CBS News broadcast (Inspire 52).

page 8 of NCLE report


Report Breaks Down How Educators Learn Best

Based on a nationwide survey of over 3000 teachers, the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) published a special report on the implementation of new standards in light of last year's report, which showed teachers working together is working smarter. 

Key findings reflect what teachers already know: collaboration and sufficient time are critical, job-embedded professional development is key, and the ability to have a voice in the process and decisions makes all the difference when it comes to efficacy and satisfaction. 

In addition to the report, NCLE issued policy recommendations:

1. Provide more time for educators to learn and plan together.

2. Encourage and support teachers in designing and innovating.

3. Include everyone who has a stake in strengthening literacy teaching and learning.

Get more information and read the report.


Promising Practices

TFA's PLAN TO OFFER YEARLONG TRAINING. Teach For America (TFA)  plans to provide a year of up-front training for a subset of its new teacher recruits—and put more of an emphasis on teaching for longer than the group's two-year requirement, the organization's leaders announced in a speech. The two pilot programs, outlined by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer during a "What's Next for TFA" address in Nashville, mark the organization's biggest shift in internal policy since its founding in 1990. Learn more (SawchuckEdWeek).


SEATTLE'S MEDICAL MODEL. Mary Beth Marklein profiles the Seattle Teacher Residency program, which is “one of about 50 teacher-preparation programs” in the U.S. “modeled after medical education.” The program was developed by a group of “founding partners” including “the local teachers union and the University of Washington College of Education.” Learn more (USA Today).

Schools Worth Watching


From Content to Craft

Check out Nick Malawskey's profile of Hampton High School, just outside Pittsburgh. In "How one of the best public high schools in Pennsylvania gets education right," Malawskey breaks down reasons why the school does so well preparing students for college and future careers. He also explains the school's "paradox in state standardized testing." One of their secret weapons is Principal Jeff Finch, who has been orchestrating an instructional shift "from content to craft."



Education Statistics through 2022

"Total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment was 55 million in fall 2011, representing a 5 percent increase since fall 1997 (table 1). Between fall 2011, the last year of actual public school data..."


If you are able to read the quote above, then you must rush to download the IES's Projection of Education Statistics to 2022, which is chockfull of predictions about enrollment, graduation rates, teacher/student ratios, and more. The excerpt above is from the report's introduction.


An Entrance Exam in Motion

The College Board announced last week that it is rolling out the first major overhaul of the SAT college entry exam in nearly a decade. Among the changes:

 Overall scoring will return to the old 1600 scales, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math.

• The essay will become optional.

• The penalty for guessing wrong will be eliminated.

• Obscure vocabulary words will be cut.

• Math questions will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.

 Every exam will include primary source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies. In some cases, students will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen.

• Every exam will include a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents."

The College Board will offer programs to help low-income students, including fee waivers allowing them to apply to four colleges at no charge and a partnership with Khan Academy that will offer free online practice problems and instructional videos showing how to solve them.

Learn more (Lewin, NY Times).

Common Core Connections

WHAT'S SCIENCE GOT TO DO WITH THE COMMON CORE? Lakebay (Wash.) teacher Kareen Borders answers questions she has been hearing about the Common Core from teachers, including how the new standards connect to science and why she believes teachers need the field tests. Read her article (Wa Teacher Voices).

SOCIAL SKILLS BUILD BRAIN POWER. Lyndsey Layton reports on new research indicating that a Responsive Classroom teaching method, intended to boost social and emotional skills, also contributes to academic achievement. The study found that "children in classrooms where the technique was fully used scored significantly higher in math and reading tests.” Learn more (Washington Post). 

DO STANDARDS MATTER? Teacher and E4E member Cole Farnum argues that common state standards allow educators to maximize the potential of learners so that students in all states are ready for the increasingly complex work that awaits them in their future careers. "We need to ensure that regardless of their zip code, our students receive the core instruction that will lead them to successful careers in school and life," he writes. Read more (Common Core Watch).

PARCC PD MODULES AVAILABLE. PARCC is creating a series of online professional development modules to accompany its next-generation assessment system. The five modules will consist of a series of short videos to support teachers and schools as they transition to the PARCC assessments. More.


A Teacher's Guide to the 

New Field Tests 

(Part 2)

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 test items, technology and systems in preparation for rolling out the new assessments in 2014-2015. 

In the second article in this series, learn what the consortia are doing to create tests that are accessible to students with special needs and English learners.

Did You Know

• 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.

 Using evidence-centered design principles, both PARCC and Smarter Balanced have invested in designing and developing items from the beginning for all students, not just retrofitting the tests after the fact. PARCC and Smarter Balanced are committed to ensuring that all participating students—including students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities—are able to engage in a meaningful and appropriate manner so valid results can be obtained for all students. 

Both consortia have spent considerable time over the past three years consulting with experts and practitioners who understand the benefits and challenges of including students with disabilities and English learners in the assessment system and have been involving them in the development process. Furthermore, both consortia have been working with the two consortia of states developing new alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) and Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM). (More on these consortia in the next issue.)

Teachers and other educators who know the needs of students with disabilities and English learners have been part of writing and reviewing items, including checking that items are free of bias and accessible to students. Both consortia are also evaluating the complexity of the language used in the assessment system to make sure it is appropriate.

Both are using technology to expand the tools available to all students during the test so that they better match technology used in the classroom and daily life (e.g., highlighters, enlarged font, text-to-speech features).

• Both the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments include accommodations that adjust the testing situation, test administration, or how student responses are captured to ensure equitable access during assessments for students with disabilities, students who are English learners, and students with disabilities who are also English learners. As with past practice, the accommodations will be based on students' IEP or 504 plans.

• Since the field tests are tests of the assessments themselves, the consortia will be collecting information to evaluate what changes need to be made to proposed accommodations and systems when the assessments are rolled out to all students in the 2014-2015 school year.

• Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced are focused on how to provide supports for English learners. In addition to reducing unnecessary text complexity, both are focused on translating the mathematics assessments. Smarter Balanced will translate the math field test into Spanish for students enrolled in dual language programs and will provide pop-up glossaries for students in Spanish and the 8 next most commonly spoken languages among students in their member states. Smarter Balanced will also translate the test into American Sign Language. PARCC will provide the option for states to use a translated math test in Spanish in the 2014-15 school year.

Resources: PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations, Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines

“What I’ve noticed in my classes now is they’re loud.” 

Monroe Middle School teacher Christina Phillips explaining how the Common Core is changing teaching and learning. “Where in the old days it was, no, you want that silent classroom, but the more they talk, they’re all on task, Phillips said. "They’re all working on that same common goal." Read an article that describes why Florida teachers believe their high-needs students benefit from the new standards (O'Conner, Hechinger Report). 

Quote to Note

TAF News

TAMMIE SCHRADER (Classroom Fellow 2008) was recently appointed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee to serve on the Professional Educators Standards Board (PESB). PESB exists to oversee all educator preparation, licensure and professional development in the state of Washington.


Follow Mrs. Obama to China

The First Lady Michelle Obama will travel from March 19-26, 2014. During the trip to China, as on previous international trips to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the First Lady will be focusing on the power and importance of education, both in her own life and in the lives of young people in both countries.

She will also be visiting important historical and cultural sites in China, and will share the stories of the students she meets in China with students in the U.S., as well as interesting facts about China’s history and culture – emphasizing the importance of students learning from one another globally. The First Lady is encouraging students and classrooms across the U.S. to follow her trip by signing up for updates throughout the visit. View the First Lady’s message to students here

Students' Corner
Poster from the 2013 contest


2014 Easter Egg Roll Poster Contest

The White House invites all elementary and middle school students to submit poster designs for the 2014 Easter Egg Roll. This year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” promotes the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

(Last year's winner is shown at left.)

The First Lady will select the winning design, which will be used as part of the White House 2014 Easter Egg Roll program. The deadline for submissions is March 21, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Submissions should be uploaded to, related to this year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” and may not exceed two megabytes (high-quality scans measuring either 8.5x11 at 600 dpi or 20x16 at 300 dpi must be available upon request).

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• THE PD THAT TEACHERS LOATHE. Eduwonk posted this short video under the title "Why Teachers Hate PD." Though the instructor appears to be modeling a kind of lesson she wants to see teachers utilize, the technique treats teachers (and students) like cogs in a machine. The teachers at ED prefer ongoing development that is collaborative, solutions-oriented, and treats educators like the professionals that they are.

• THE ART OF CELEBRATING THE ARTS. This blog highlights a number of creative ways that schools are celebrating the arts during March, Arts in the Schools Month. Tap into ways educators can expose students to new kinds of music, dance, and visual arts while cultivating students' abilities to express themselves in authentic ways.

• HOW TO COMPLETE THE FAFSA: A GUIDE TO COMPLETING THE FAFSA ONLINE. Experts from Federal Student Aid will present a free FAFSA webinar training, today, Thursday, March 13, 2014, from 5-6pm EST. Registration is required.

• SHAPE THE FUTURE OF CAREER EDUCATION. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has announced a public comment period for the revised Career and Technical Education (CTE) Standards. Drafted by a committee of CTE educators and other experts in the profession, the standards will be available for review from March 16 to April 13. Once approved, they will serve as the foundation for National Board Certification in CTE. View the survey and get more information

open book

Recommended Reading

• THE FALSE TRADEOFFS OF TEST SCORES, CREATIVITY AND HAPPINESS. In Flypaper, Brandon Wright takes a look at claims that American students will become indecisive and unhappy as a result of working hard in school. "Rationalizing America’s lackluster academic performance is something of a cottage industry," he writes. Read more

• UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Learn why the Aspen Institute's Ross Wiener says that one of the unsung benefits of the Common Core State Standards is that the standards are teaching students to be good citizens. Hint: "The standards identify only three texts that every American student must read: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address." Read the article (Atlantic).

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

Ohio teacher roundtable

Teachers in Ohio participate in a discussion about education with ED's Teaching Ambassador Fellows.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on his move from a private school to a struggling public school: "My mission now is to teach as well at Banneker as I did at Sidwell Friends. Common Core is going to help me do this.” (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

4. Describing her primary mission as an educator: "We are in the business of student achievement." (Teacher, Tenn.)

3. Illustrating how a principal's job is not over at the end of the school day: "My creative ideas come at night. All across my headboard you can find Post-Its." (Principal, Md.)

2. "Good policy is created when teachers are involved in the development, not just the execution, of education policy." (Teacher, Neb.)

1. "There are amazing teacher leaders in every school. Those teachers are leaders in their buildings and districts, not because of a title or position, but because that is who they are." (Teacher, Ohio)