THE TEACHERS EDITION -- April 17, 2014

The Teachers Edition

April 17, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

collage of state travel


Arne Hits 50 (states, that is)

With last month's trip to Hawaii, Arne Duncan visited his 50th state in his role as U.S. Secretary of Education. Read his blog recounting what he learned. Check out an interactive map of locations he visited. If you use Twitter or Facebook, feel free to share the post and/or map. We're using the hashtag #ArneAcrossAmerica.

Celebrating Jazz at ED

Terrell Stafford, director of Jazz Studies and chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, performs on the trumpet, with student Rahsaan Pickett backing him up on the guitar. 


ED Celebrates Music and Values

As part of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), the Department hosted its second annual jazz informance (an informational performance) on April 4th with a full house of D.C. public charter school students, educators, arts leaders, and ED staff—jazz lovers and jazz novices alike. Under the direction of J.B. Dyas, vice president of education and curriculum development at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, students from Arts High School in Newark, N.J., part of the National Performing Arts High School Jazz Program, and special guest recording artist, trumpeter Terell Stafford, director of Jazz Studies and chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, performed during the event. Learn more.


States Update

COLORADO TEACHERS LEAD THE STATE. Teachers want to take leadership opportunities if given the chance. Learn how Colorado is allowing educators to lead the way on adoption of new state standards. 

TENNESSEE REPORT CARDS STRENGTHEN TEACHER PREP. Check out this impressive article about how Tennessee's teacher prep program report cards are helping leaders at institutions to identify strengths and weaknesses and drive conversations on how to improve teacher preparation. Learn more.

DELAWARE RAISES THE BAR ON TEACHER PREP. In June 2013, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed legislation to increase the rigor of the process of recruiting and preparing teachers and principals. Read an article describing what has changed in the state since that time and how the state is collaborating with districts and universities to make a stronger connection between teachers' preparation and work they will do in the classroom.


Absolute Value 

Do you have a one-of-a-kind classroom activity for students in grades 4-8? 

The National Museum of Mathematics has opened the application period for the 2014 Rosenthal Prize for Innovation in Math Teaching. MoMath is looking for an exceptional math activity to share with educators around the country. The winning activity must be innovative, engaging, hands-on, original, replicable, and designed for students in grades 4-8. The winning teacher will receive a cash prize of $25,000. Preliminary applications are due Friday, May 9, 2014. Learn more.

Common Core Connections

TEACHERS STRUNG ALONG TOO LONG? Now that the state has repealed the Common Core, Indiana teacher Fatima Rich has written a passionate plea to legislators to get strong standards in place right away. Frustrated that educators have spent so much time and brain power implementing the Common Core only to have the standards repealed, she points out that "teachers need to know what they will be teaching" and that just any old standards won't do. Indeed, she highlights the Fordham Institute’s recent criticism that the proposed Indiana standards lack the clarity, rigor and organization of both the Common Core and the previous state standards. "Educators have been pushed around enough in the move away from Common Core," she writes. "We have classrooms to plan for, and our students cannot afford to wait on politics." Read her op-ed

Read a commentary from the American Enterprise Institute suggesting that Indiana’s move to withdraw from the Common Core Standards is problematic, since critics of the standards have “failed to put forward a notion of what happens next” (Hess and McShane, National Review).

WRITING TO THE CORE. Sara Carr explains why writing enthusiasts are embracing the Common Core, which has students writing across the curriculum and citing evidence that supports their ideas. Carr cites Lucy Calkins, founder of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, who says that schools should be challenging students to “read fiction like writers." Read the article (Hechinger Report).

ASSESSMENT DIARIES. Third grade Louisiana teacher Em LeBlanc provides several concrete classroom practices she uses to raise the rigor of her math lessons and assessments. They include an ACE strategy that breaks down the problem-solving process with real-world solutions and “talkmoves” that encourage students to listen and think. Check out Assessment Diaries, the Teaching Channel blog series about the new assessments produced with Student Achievement Partners.

EYE ON PARCCEye on PARCC is a cable television show produced by the Chelmsford Public Schools in Chelmsford, Mass. Using a game-show format, the show seeks to prepare the community at large for the change from the state's current standardized assessment to the PARCC online assessment. Watch an episode.


Getting Great Teachers to Students 

Who Need Them Most

A new report by the Center for American Progress reviews data from the newest teacher evaluation systems and reports that the best teachers often do not teach the students who need the most attention. In some areas, poor students and students of color are far less likely than others to have expert teachers. The report also looks at findings that indicate there are some places where excellent teachers are more evenly deployed and examines the policies and practices that help give all students access to great teaching. Learn more (DeMonte and Hanna).

P Chat

Principal Chat

DISRUPTING THE POVERTY-TO-PRISON PARADIGM. Melissa Nixon writes about the differences between situational and generational poverty and offers strategies for reaching students whose families have dealt with the trauma of poverty for generations. Read her article (Principal). 

BRIDGE WEBINAR: LIVING IN RURAL POVERTY. How can educators better support students and families living in rural poverty? Thomas Hirschl, Department of Developmental Sociology professor at Cornell University, will present research on poverty in rural areas and attitudes toward rural poverty. Dr. Hirschl will address the landscape of poverty and present a set of strategies to assist rural educators in their work with low-income families. The webinar takes place Wednesday, May 7, 2014 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., ET. Learn more and register.

"Leaders don't create followers. They create more leaders."

(Tom Peters)

Quote to Note

Tech Ready?

 31 percent of new teachers say they feel prepared to use technology effectively when they start teaching.

 Nearly half of all teachers say they lack the professional development they need in order to use technology to teach.

(Find out more about the ConnectEDucators initiative to get schools and teachers connected and ready to use technology to advance teaching and learning.)

the New Math

Still from Teachers Dispel Myths


Common Core Mythology

In this brief video, New York teachers dispel prevalent myths around the Common Core State Standards and present their reasons for supporting the move to more rigorous standards.

"It's teacher-driven. The standards are set, but the teachers can do whatever they need to reach those standards," says social studies teacher Pat Sprinkle. Math teacher Danielle Goedel adds, "Ultimately, it's my decision what happens in my room to my students." 

Did you know!

Growing and Cultivating 

Our Own Talent

In America 60 percent of teachers teach within 15 miles of where they went to high school.

From the Future Educators Association (FEA). Watch a 7-minute video to find out how teachers in Smyrna, Delaware, are working with the FEA to prepare their homegrown future teachers for success by giving them "a truly authentic experience" as interns in the profession.


Making 1:1 Computing Work

English and history teacher Larry Ferlazzo interviews teachers and technology gurus on the best strategies teachers can use to make one-to-one computing work in the classroom. The bottom line: "Simply putting tech in front of students won't engage them." Read his article (EdWeek).

In this Teach Thought blog, Mark Barnes offers teachers five web tools to give students feedback on their work. Barnes is the author of Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom (ASCD, 2013), The 5-Minute Teacher: How do I maximize time for learning in my classroom (ASCD, 2013) and the forthcoming Teaching the iStudent: A quick guide to using mobile devices and social media in the K-12 classroom (Corwin, 2014). 

Seriously? News no one can use.


Lonely at the Top

Joan Richardson of Phi Delta Kappan offers this agonizing perspective about the experience many teachers face when elevated to leadership status or leadership positions. She begins by recounting a lamentable tale of a teacher who was berated by her colleagues when she was praised for earning National Board Certification in science. When the teacher phoned her in tears about her treatment, Richardson phoned the NBPTS, who reported that this teacher's experience is sadly common. 

"Let no teacher ever assume that he or she is somehow better than anyone else," a representative from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards told her. "Let no teacher seek individual honor, lest that suggest that others aren’t worthy of being honored. Let no teacher raise her head above the crowd." The article goes on to surmise that the situation is changing but that "no teacher should ever have to apologize for wanting to improve her skills or for being honored for her excellent work."

Read the story (Learning First Alliance).

Tools for Students

NO RED INK offers a free classroom resource for students and teachers who want to improve their grammar, usage and writing skills. Teachers can tailor programs based on their students' needs: apostrophes, word choice, comma splices, pronoun case…you name it. 

Students' Corner



In the Weeds

TEACHERS TO LEAD SCHOOL TURNAROUND IN INDIANAPOLIS. Students at the Washington Irving, Clarence Farrington, and Riverside schools in Indianapolis will have a better chance at success this fall thanks to a partnership between the Indianapolis Public Schools, the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation and Teach Plus

Teach Plus, a national non-profit that puts teacher leaders at the center of school and system-level reform, is the recipient of a $1 million grant from the Lilly Foundation to support the implementation of the T3, Turnaround Teacher Teams initiative. The four-year grant will enable Teach Plus to place and support 24 experienced, high-performing teachers in cohorts at the schools, with recruitment for the teacher leader positions already underway. Learn more

BETTER THAN AN APPLE A DAY. ED awarded 67 grants totaling more than $33 million to school districts and community-based organizations that plan to implement comprehensive, integrated physical activity and nutrition programs for their students through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program. Funding is intended to assist these entities with initiating, expanding, or enhancing physical education and nutrition education programs, including after-school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grades. Learn more.

PARENT AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT FRAMEWORK. ED released a capacity-building framework to help schools and districts build relationships with families and the community to help students succeed. The framework provides a model to build the type of effective community engagement that will make schools the center of communities. Learn more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• NOMINATE AN ALL-STAR. Major League Baseball, PEOPLE and Target invite educators to nominate a classroom all-star who has made a difference in the lives of students as well as the community. Thirty teachers will attend and be honored at the  2014 MLB All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota. Learn more.

 LIBRARIES CHANGE LIVES. The National Library Association is asking educators to take part in an initiative that celebrates their year-long theme of "libraries change lives" by signing a Declaration on the Right to LibrariesLibraries can print the declaration and hold signing parties or post the declaration in their lobbies. Educators may also sign the declaration online.

• ARNE ADDRESSES THE TOUGH QUESTIONS. In this interview for EdWeek, Michele McNeil presses Arne Duncan about a number of hot topics in education, including waivers, the Common Core, education funding, educational equity and teacher preparation. Read the transcript. 

• A LONG COUNTRY MILE. A study by Jackie Mader finds that rural students are less likely to attend four-year colleges and top universities. The report also finds that state schools like the University of Illinois are seeing declines in rural enrollment because some students have a fear of large unknown institutions or lack the funds to attend a school that is far from home. Learn more (Hechinger Report).

• CONNECTING THE CULTURAL DIVIDE. ASCD will present a webinar April 29 at 3 p.m. ET examining two main questions: What beliefs and practices of effective teachers are common to the U.S. and China? What beliefs and practices are unique to each culture? Authors of West Meets East Leslie Grant and James Stronge observed teachers in both countries and will present this session. Learn more

• MATH AWARENESS MONTH. During Math Awareness Month in April, teachers can tap into a variety of activities to unlock the mystery and magic of mathematics. 

• WIN $1,000 for STEM EDUCATION! Educators could receive a $1,000 grant for their students by taking the Dow Teacher Challenge by sharing their best ideas for improving STEM education in America's schools. To compete for a chance to receive funding to support STEM education in your classroom, answer the following two prompts in 300 words or less: (1) What is the biggest gap in STEM education that you face as a teacher? (2) If you could change one thing about STEM education, what would that be? How would you apply it in your classroom?

Emerging Research

ACADEMIC PREPARATION, HIGH ASPIRATIONS MATTER. A new ACT research report shows a clear link between student academic readiness and college dropout and transfer rates. The findings suggest students at the greatest risk of dropping out are those who earn lower ACT college readiness assessment scores, particularly those with less educated parents and those with lower educational aspirations themselves.

The report, College Choice Report: Part 3—Persistence and Transfer, looks at the college outcomes of ACT-tested students in the U.S. high school graduating class of 2012. Seventy percent of those students enrolled in college during fall 2012. Learn more

ARE STUDENTS MORE ENGAGED THAN TEACHERS? Anya Kamenetz reports on the state of American schools that draws from a number of recent Gallup polls. The Gallup polls ask students, teachers, principals, and other professionals about their levels of hope, emotional engagement, and well-being at work or school. These skills have demonstrated over time to correlate with a company’s profits or a school’s test scores. 

While 55 percent of American students in grades 5 - 12 scored high on engagement, the report shows that about 70 percent of teachers are disengaged. According to the article, "K-12 teachers scored dead last among 12 occupational groups in agreeing with the statement that their opinions count at work, and also dead last on 'My supervisor creates an open-and-trusting environment.' Learn more (Digital/Edu).

open book

Recommended Reading

• BANNING HOPE. 2000 New Jersey Teacher of the Year Katherine Bassett makes some astute observations about education after enduring a traumatic experience in a hospital. “Hope is not a strategy," she writes. "Our client doesn’t care what we hope to do – they want to know what we will do.” Read her article (NNSTOY).

• IS THE U.S. SWAPPING CREATIVITY IN FAVOR OF TESTING? Read part two of Brandon Wright's analysis of "the false trade-offs of test scores, creativity, and happiness." This time Wright pulls from OECD data to counteract "the theory that low U.S. test scores are acceptable because U.S. students are happier and more creative than their overseas counterparts." Learn more (Flypaper).

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

NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. “The definition of instructional leadership is leadership that encompasses what good instruction is, how to recognize it in teachers, and how to support its growth.” (Principal, Pa.)

4. "I feel like I just want to be listened to. As much as my principal or superintendent will ask, 'What do you think?' no one really listens to the answer." (Teacher, Fla.)

3. "Culture and climate absolutely have to be the first two things that change when trying to turn around a [low-performing] school." (Principal, Washington, D.C.)

2. "I model for my students what being a professional woman of color looks like." (Teacher, N.Y.)

1. "I became a principal because I wanted to right the wrongs I saw in the poor New Orleans school where I taught." (Principal, Chattanooga, Tenn.)