THE TEACHERS EDITION -- April 24, 2014

The Teachers Edition

April 24, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

student in a Teacher of the Year video

A student who has overcome tremendous obstacles speaks passionately about the role her teacher, Sean McComb, played in her success in both school and life.


Game Changers

The Teaching Channel has created a composite video that profiles the four state finalists for National Teacher of the Year. Though the Council for Chief State School Officers will announce the National Teacher of the Year next week, all four of these educators would do a superb job speaking for our profession and our students. 

For each of the finalists, viewers can watch videos that profile their practice, offering deeper insight into an aspect of each teacher's practice. Some of our favorites include Dorina Sackman (Florida) breaking down the Common Core State State Standards to meet the needs of English Learners; Sean McComb (Maryland) inspiring and empowering students in the academic middle; Ryan Devlin (Pennsylvania) using an innovative "living wax museum" to help students examine the persuasive techniques of historical figures; and Melissa Ann Porfirio (Virginia) offering academic choices to support first graders as they retell a story and demonstrate comprehension.

The State Teachers of the Year will all be honored in a Rose Garden Ceremony with President Obama May 1. They will also participate in discussions with policymakers at the White House and ED that week. 


Moving Away 

from Blue Collar Models 

of the Profession

In an EdWeek report, Marc Tucker describes U.S. educator accountability models as "blue collar," and urges states to adopt strategies that move educators toward professional models instead. 

"Blue collar models," says Tucker, "assume the work provides little in the way of intrinsic rewards and so requires the boss to provide carrots and sticks—mostly sticks— to keep the workforce on task. The blue-collar model also unites the workers against the bosses." 

Tucker suggests that districts and states should develop multi-step career ladders modeled on top-performing educational systems around the world so that each step up the ladder comes with "considerable additional compensation, responsibility and autonomy." Read his article.

Delaware school visit

Secretary Duncan visits with students at East Side Charter School & Learning Center in Wilmington, Delaware on April 9. (Photo by Leslie B. Williams, US Department of Education.)



A $300 Million Opportunity

Teachers touch the world one kid at a time, usually working overtime to improve their students' skills, lives and choices. While we strive to bring the best educational experiences to all of our children, we know that far too many--often from under-served groups and communities--lack full access to a quality education. 

To expand educational opportunities so that all children have access to rigorous course offerings, strong teaching and leading, and supportive educational environments, President Obama has proposed a $300 million grant program called Race to the Top-Opportunity. This will support district and state efforts to develop and implement plans to address the deepest disparities in opportunity and performance and to identify the strategies that are having the greatest impact on high-need students, schools and districts.

What's next? Our civics and history teaching colleagues would remind us that when the President requested $300 million for this program in his 2015 budget, he was only starting the process that we hope will result in funding being available for Race to the Top-Opportunity grants for interested districts and states.

Learn more


Tap into Students' Inner Scientist

The third annual USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo takes place April 26 & 27, and it is free and open to the public from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C.

At the Festival learners of all ages can explore burning questions like: What is the universe made of? What will be the next medical breakthrough? What does science have to do with Extreme Sports? Does Hollywood get the science right? 

The festival boasts more than 3,000 fun, hands-on activities in fields like robotics, genomics, advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, DIY/Makers, space exploration, green chemistry, bioengineering, and oceanography. There are over 100 stage shows starring Dirty Job’s Mike Rowe, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Grammy Award-Winners They Might Be Giants, Basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, MoneyBall’s Paul Depodesta, and cast and crew members from TV Shows like Big Bang Theory, House and Breaking Bad. Other highlights include the Career Pavilion for high-school students with a Job and College Fair, and a Book Fair featuring over 30 leading science authors. 

Learn more 


On the Common Core, New Tests 

& Tying the Data to Teacher Evaluation

Parents' Views about CCSS

Gallup recently reported on parents' perceptions of the Common Core and issues related to new assessment systems.

Although many admit they know little about the new standards, parents who say they do know something about them have generally positive views. 

Get the results by political party and learn what else parents had to say in the story (Ogisi and Saad).

Common Core Connections

HOW IT'S GOING. Libby Nelson posted an interesting piece about how the field tests are playing out in schools, where there are glitches, and what states are learning (Vox). The Center for American Progress has also issued a report on the "challenges and opportunities" of the new assessments that were created in response to the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind-era assessments. Educators can get a primer on what the new tests are attempting to achieve as well as potential pitfalls and benefits of the two testing consortia (Polikoff).

THE FIRST STATE. Delaware's website offers interesting Common Core resources for teachers, including tool kits by subject area, a calendar of upcoming events, and the latest news about the state standards. 

TEACHERS SAY... In this two-minute video, educators from New York explain what they like about the Common Core State Standards and why they are necessary to prepare their students for a solid future.

LEARNING FROM ONE ANOTHER. Learn how teachers in the Washington, D.C. area have been meeting regularly with one another to share information and exchange ideas to implement the Common Core. The teachers are part of the DC Common Core Collaborative, which has about 200 participants from 22 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools in the city.

Much of the partnership between schools has been funded by the states' Race to the Top grants, which seek to ensure that teachers and principals receive the support, coaching, and professional learning opportunities they need to help their students succeed. What stands out about the District of Columbia program are the newly forged connections between teachers in charter and district schools. Learn more

Neil deGrasse Tyson


"What's Up 

with Chicks in Science?"

Though he concedes he has "never been a woman," astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson offers superb insight into why there are so few women in science today. He offers his comments based on the difficulties he has experienced as an African American boy who was encouraged to compete in sports but not to study science. 

"I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power," he says, and he had to combat them "at every turn." This clip in which he addresses the quirky audience question, "What's up with chicks in science?" is both motivational and just plain fun to watch.

National Parks summer teacher program


A Walk in the Park

Teachers may be interested in a summer professional development opportunity where they learn and work in our nation’s largest classrooms – the national parks. 

National Park Service units, ranging from the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to Channel Islands National Park, provide a chance for teachers to truly experience science, history, and the diversity of American stories. 

Teachers may work on a variety of projects, such as preparing curriculum materials for parks and presenting interpretive programs for the public. Each will receive a $3,000 stipend at the end of the summer and can receive course credit through a graduate seminar offered by the University of Colorado Denver. Apply by April 30, 2014. 

Did you know?

Skills Gap

About 90 percent of manufacturers have moderate to severe shortages of skilled production employees such as front-line workers, machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians.

From a 2005 National Association of Manufacturers report. Check out an article profiling how schools in Magic Valley, Idaho, are creating "craft classes" that build students' skills and lead to certification in welding, residential construction, cabinetry, auto mechanics, technology, and health care (Smith, Twin Falls Times-News).

P Chat

Principal Chat

SUMMER LEARNING CURVE. Spring is a good time of year to revisit Rand's 2013 report of Recommended Practices for Success when creating and maximizing summer learning programs to improve attendance, boost student learning, increase the fun and, ultimately, reduce the summer slide.

COMBATING SEXUAL ASSAULT. ED recently released resources to provide more information to support school and community efforts to create safe, healthy learning environments and identify, investigate, and remedy teen dating violence and sexual assault. Learn more.

"As a high school math teacher in Charlotte, N.C., I find myself asking why we have waited so long to adopt standards like these that call for our students to think, discover, explain and truly understand concepts."

Rob Leichner, high school math teacher, in his article "Common Core: Honoring the Societal Contract of Success through Education" (U.S. News and World Report).

Quote to Note

TAF News

TAMI FITZGERALD (Current Classroom Fellow), ANGELA MCCLARY-RUSH (2011 Classroom Fellow ), SHARLA STEEVER (2011 Classroom Fellow) and TAMRA JACKSON (2009 Classroom Fellow), joined ED’s Ursula Wright, Jane Hodgson and Dennis Bega to discuss the importance of rural housing incentives that can aid in the recruitment and retention of strong teachers in rural schools.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

WHAT MAKES A POSITIVE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE? Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs have written a book based in part on their survey of current college students and alumni, called How College Works. This article summarizes useful information for high school juniors and seniors trying to choose a college (Lewin, NYTimes). Read their research study.

WIN A TRIP TO NYC. ENTER THE "STORY OF THE JEWS" ESSAY CONTEST. Based on the PBS series The Story of the JewsWNET is sponsoring a national essay contest for high school students in grades 9-11 that runs until June 13

Because the essay prompt asks students to reflect on how stories have shaped their personal and cultural identities, no background knowledge in Jewish history or culture is necessary to submit an essay. 

Five grand prize winners will receive a free trip to New York for themselves and a parent/guardian, including a personal tour of The Jewish Museum with Emmy Award winning host Simon SchamaTeachers may want to check out related classroom resources.

FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ON STUDENT LOANS. This article provides solid advice about what to consider before taking on a student loan so that students are able to repay the loan after graduating from college. College seniors who have student loans might want to check out this piece on what to do with your student loan before you graduate. 



In the Weeds

REVIEWERS NEEDED FOR SCHOOL CLIMATE GRANT COMPETITION. ED is seeking expert reviewers for the Fiscal Year 2014 School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG) program competition to be held this summer. 

The SCTG program is one of several programs developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice. The purpose of the School Climate Transformation Grant Program is to provide competitive grants to state educational agencies and local educational agencies to develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for, and technical assistance to, schools implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions for all students. 

Those interested in serving may register, provide background information, and upload a resume at Learn more about reviewers needed for grant programs.

NEW COLLECTION OF RESOURCES FOR SCHOOL TURNAROUND LEADERS. The School Turnaround Learning Community has added a new collection to support leaders in turnaround schools. The new collection, Leadership for Quality Instruction, features 16 resources about leadership practices that promote high quality instruction and higher student achievement. You can also access collections about research-based Leadership Practices and Training and Supporting Turnaround Leaders. The STLC will continue to add resources to the Resource Library and expand on Collections related to this new grant program. 

Emerging Research


Students Do the Math

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has reviewed the report, “Benefits of Practicing 4 = 2 + 2: Nontraditional Problem Formats Facilitate Children’s Understanding of Mathematical Equivalence.”

Study authors used an experimental design with 7- and 8-year-old students to examine the impact of nontraditional practice, compared to traditional practice and no extra practice, on three measures of mathematical equivalence understanding administered immediately after the intervention: (a) equation solving, (b) equation encoding, and (c) defining the equal sign.

What did the study find? The study authors reported, and the WWC confirmed, that using nontraditional addition problem formats had a statistically significant positive impact on measures of students’ understanding of mathematical equivalence, relative to using traditional addition problem formats. Specifically, there were significant positive impacts shown for equation solving, defining the equal sign, and equation solving with feedback. Learn more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

 THE SECRET TO GREAT TEACHING? A BEGINNER'S MIND. Iowa teacher and 2011 Teacher of the Year, Sarah Wessling Brown reflects on the four finalists for this year's title and offers advice to new teachers, all while taking a page from Zen! Read her column (Teaching Channel).

 THE TEACHER LEADERSHIP CONUNDRUM. Tony Klemmer penned this interesting piece on how the country can address challenges of teacher retention and upward mobility by involving teachers as leaders who solve the problems in their profession. Read his commentary (Real Clear Education).

• PARENT LEADERSHIP. Raise the Bar is a project that brings parents and guardians together to discuss their children's academic progress. Raise the Bar hopes to bring together a diverse group of parents with children in grades 3-7 who want to connect with other parents to support their child’s learning.

Parent Leaders will have access to free resources and will be founding members of the community, helping to inform and guide the conversation. Apply to be a founding leader of Raise the Bar.

• MORE ON THE NEW SAT. The College Board has provided more information about the SAT's scheduled 2016 transition from an aptitude test, designed to measure innate intelligence, to an achievement test, meant to assess what students have learned in school. The essay will be optional and math will focus heavily on algebra. Learn more from the College Board and view sample questions. Read an interesting article about what may be motivating the changes (Anderson, Washington Post).

• TEACHING IS... The Center for Teaching Quality is gearing up for Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) by launching #TeachingIs, a social media campaign designed to challenge stereotypes about the profession and set the record straight. Teachers who feel like the public has it all wrong when it comes to what teachers really do can join the movement.

• RECOGNIZING GREEN SCHOOLS ON EARTH DAY. To celebrate Earth Day Tuesday, Arne Duncan announced the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Award recipients. Joined in an online live stream by Acting Chief White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots, Secretary Duncan celebrated the forty-eight schools and nine school districts chosen for their exemplary efforts in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. Learn more.

• THE CALM AFTER THE STORM. Former teacher turned photographer Aliza Eliazarov recently photographed several New York educators in the moments after the school day ends in a series called "See Me After School" -- capturing their feelings in that moment as they celebrate the day's successes or reflect on disappointments. Check out her photos (Huffington Post).

• NEVER TOO EARLY TO BE TECH. In this blog article, ED's Libby Doggett makes the case to parents and educators that it is time to get serious about bringing the tech revolution to early learning.

The New Math


For a snapshot of how many Latino students are completing college, check out the latest facts released by Excelencia in Education, including an interactive tool showing degree completion in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Among the findings:

• For the U.S. to regain the top ranking in the world for college degree attainment, Latinos will need to earn 5.5 million more degrees by 2020.

• 20 percent of Latino adults (25 and older) had earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 36 percent of all adults;

• 41 percent of first-time, full-time freshman Latino students graduated, compared to 50 percent of all students; and

• In the last two years, the gap in graduation rates of first-time, full-time Latino and white students has narrowed from 14 percent to nine percent.

open book

Recommended Reading

DON'T BLAME TFA (FOR TEACHERS LEAVING THE PROFESSION). According to Fordham education analyst Chad Aldeman, recent research shows that Teach for America and other alternative certification programs like TNTP are not the cause of the trend of rising rates in teacher attrition. What is causing the high turnover? "The simplest explanation is that teachers are part of a larger trend in the U.S.," says Aldeman. "As our society as a whole has become more mobile, teachers have been part of that pattern." Read his report (Education Next).

WHY ED POLICY OFTEN GOES "CLUNK" (AND WHAT STATE AND FEDERAL POLICYMAKERS CAN DO ABOUT IT). This insightful editorial by Arkansas teacher Justin Minkel makes the case for what teachers bring to discussions about emerging policy and programs and why those who leave them out do so at their own peril. Read his article (EdWeek).

RAISING A MORAL CHILD. In this NY Times editorial, Adam Grant discusses research that parents worldwide are more interested in instilling compassion in their children than achievement. Educators interested in fostering both may want to check out his piece that includes specific suggestions from psychologists.

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

elementary class

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on an important role of principals: "My job is to protect teachers from what they shouldn't have to deal with so that they have time to do the important work." (Principal, Washington, D.C.)

4. Describing what she likes about being an elementary school principal: "I like thigh hugs and chest hugs and teachers celebrating the growth of their kids...the human stuff." (Principal, Ill.)

3. "Part of why I love being in a school is because I see myself as a freedom fighter... agitating and advocating for change." (Principal, Philadelphia, Pa.)

2. "I want to go back to the classroom because the work is hard and there's never been a better time to be in the profession. I want to be part of the movement that's started in teaching." (Teacher-turned-policymaker heading back to the classroom)

1. A student's question at an ED conference for School Leadership Program grantees: "What is the balance between urgency and patience in reform?" (Student, Washington, D.C.)