The Teachers Edition

May 1, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Teacher Preparation information

The visual indicates some reasons President Obama asked the U.S. Department of Education to make significant progress on the issue of teacher preparation. 


Taking Action at the Beginning

of the Teacher Pipeline

Last week President Obama directed ED to lay out a plan to strengthen America’s teacher preparation programs for public discussion by this summer and to publish a final rule within the next year. At a town hall at Dunbar High School, Arne Duncan and representative from a number of organizations discussed the Department’s plan to:

 Encourage all states to develop meaningful systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs across all kinds of programs, not just those based in colleges and universities;

 Move away from current input-focused reporting requirements, streamline the current data requirements, incorporate more meaningful outcomes, and improve the availability of relevant information on teacher preparation; 

 Use state-developed program ratings of preparation programs to determine program eligibility for TEACH grants, which are available to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income school. 

Learn more. Read a fact sheet about President Obama's proposal. Check out what education reporters at the Chronicle of Higher Education (Keierleber), Education Week (Sawchuck) and the Washington Post (Layton) wrote about the announcement. Look into a report issued by edWeb last week on Pathways to Participation for Preservice Teachers, which dives into the topic of preservice teachers and online networks that are available for them to collaborate with other professionals. 

Chavez students' poetry slam

Malachi Byrd, Cedric Harper, Devyn Jefferson, Cynthia Johnson, and Juwan Middletonperformed original pieces as part of the School Leadership Program conference at ED. These students represent CONTRA VERSE, a spoken word team from Cesar Chavez School for Public Policy led by an incredible teacher and coach, Michael Bolds. Throughout the two day convening, these students and others shared insightful perspectives on education and the impact of current reforms on educators and students.


Slammin' on Education

What happens when you invite students to a project directors' conference on school leadership? They infuse the atmosphere with energy and enthusiasm, push the envelope in thoughtful ways, inspire with their creativity, and remind the adults why our work is critical. 

The School Leadership Program office recently hosted a convening for 45 of its grantees currently implementing projects that prepare and develop principals to serve in high-need schools and districts. The conference provided an opportunity for districts, universities, partner organizations, Principal Ambassador Fellows, and federal policymakers to learn from each other and other experts in the field about how to improve and promote school leadership. Throughout the two-day conference, student performers graced the stage to intermittently bring our work back in focus while also challenging us all with provocative questions, such as "At what point does patience give way to urgency in our reforms?" 

In a blog post, Josh Klaris, Resident Principal at ED, reflects on lessons learned at the conference. In particular, he highlights Matthew Clifford's take on the Ripple Effect of principal influence and on Kate Rousmaniere's reminder, "The principal didn’t become the 'most complex and contradictory figure in the pantheon of educational leadership,' overnight."


The Highest Graduate Rate. Ever.

Teachers, principals, coaches, and employers around the country are celebrating a national milestone this week. This is the first week ever that the nation has been able to compare graduation rates uniformly across states, and the numbers are looking up. The 2012 cohort graduation rate was 80 percent, the highest ever in our nation's history.

Arne Duncan celebrated the event at the America's Promise 2014 Grad Nation Summit along with General Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. There, Arne talked about the importance of reaching this milestone: "Because of graduation rate increases between just 2008 and 2012, an additional 100,000 Latino students and an additional 40,000 African-American students graduated from high school. That is 140,000 students of color alone with a better chance of getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family," he said, "As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, administrators, students and their families whose hard work made that achievement possible."

Read the full remarks, including the Secretary's vision for where we go from here. Review the data

Missouri Tigers logo

Our Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert, will be wearing a Missouri Tigers shirt Friday to support college completion. 


Support Friday's College Signing Day

First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at the Fourth Annual College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In her keynote remarks, the First Lady will highlight the significance of pursuing and completing some form of higher education and the importance of students doing their part to answer the President’s ‘North Star’ Education Goal that by the year 2020, America once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

In an effort to inspire kids all across the country to consider applying to college, ED is encouraging journalists, celebrities and folks across the Administration to wear their college gear. It can be as simple as a hat or tie – anything to help get the word out. We would be honored if you would join this effort and wear college apparel on Friday and share photos across social media platforms using the hashtag #ReachHigher. Learn more


Teachers Talk Leadership

In this broadcast on Bloomberg Edu, educators Geneviève DeBose (a 2011 Teaching Ambassador Fellow now working for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards), James Liou (a 2008 Teaching Ambassador Fellow now working with Boston Public Schools), and Justin Minkel (2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year) discuss transforming the teaching profession, education policy and the Teach to Lead initiative introduced by Arne Duncan at the NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference. Listen to the program

Valerie McCreary

ED's Valerie McCreary is thankful for her son's teachers.


An Attitude of Gratitude!

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. One way the teachers at ED are celebrating is through a social media campaign that includes photos of folks holding signs telling why they are thankful for teachers. Here's how you can join:

1.  Before Tuesday, May 6, download and print the #ThankATeacher template and use a marker or a pen to fill in your reason for thanking a teacher. You can thank a specific teacher (Ms. Denton) or a group (every teacher who refused to give up on me). 

2. Take a digital photo of yourself holding your sign.

3. On Teacher Appreciation Day, May 6, post your pic on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ThankATeacher.

4. Encourage others to share the teacher love by using the thank you template:

Where the Jobs Are

Sixty-one percent of online job openings for college grads are in white-collar professional occupations (33%) and STEM (28%) occupations, which together account for 1.1 million job openings advertised online.

The most in-demand white-collar professional jobs are accountants and auditors (with 49,000 advertisements) and medical/health services managers (47,000).

Learn more in a Georgetown University report, Where the Jobs Are.

Did You Know?

Seriously? News no one can use

Confessions of a Teacher "Hater"

Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that in an age when having an opposing view can cause someone to be marked as pariah, Conor Williams's story about being branded a "teacher hater" and "undermining public education" for writing about Teach for America, charter schools, and anything having to do with reform has the teachers at ED feeling a bit flummoxed. Check out the story of his teaching experience and learn why, agree with him or not, this teacher-turned-reporter has earned his creds (TMP Cafe).

P Chat


Principal Chat

New Leaders has released a policy platform in an attempt to develop a new, shared vision for the principalship. Their recommendation includes interesting advice for ED, including:

1. Make a clear differentiation between teachers and principals in major federal programs. 

2. Use the bully pulpit to speak about the importance of great leadership.

3. Focus existing federal investments in principals.

4. Incent states to revise leadership standards.

5. Revise human capital policies to reflect alignment of new vision. 

6. Ensure alignment to evaluation and support systems.

7. Encourage a culture of collective responsibility, balanced autonomy, and continuous improvement.

8. Support research and disseminate best practices.

Learn more

". . . my students. They are the real concern here. At the root of their success is a teacher's willingness to be a voice for what their needs are and to grow the profession. In other words, to practice what we preach- collaboration, patience, and flexibility. Here's to knowing I can and will. I'm not going to say 'hope' because well, I can hope for a lot, but nothing's going to happen if I just sit around and hope. I gotta do something."

(Texas teacher Amy Sharp in her blogspot, A Sharp Teacher. Sharp is a National Board Certified Teacher who recently attended the NBPTS Teaching and Learning Conference and was motivated by discussions about teacher leadership.)

Quote to Note

the New Math


0  ("None.")

The number of traditional teacher preparation programs that DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson reported have sought feedback on how teachers they have trained are doing on the job.

Conversely, Henderson shared that alternative certification programs like TNTP and Teach for America do request information about their performance and regularly use the data they receive to improve their preparation programs. Henderson made her remarks at a teacher preparation town hall held at Dunbar High School April 25.

TAF News

SHARIF EL-MEKKI (2013 Principal Ambassador Fellow) has been characterized as a great leader bringing a "twist of Philly attitude" to Washington, D.C. Read the story (Rowan, Metro U.S.).

KRISTINE WOLECK (2009 Classroom Fellow) has appointed as Principal at East Elementary School in New Canaan, Ct. Prior to earning this promotion, Woleck served as Assistant Principal at West Elementary School since October 2013 and Assistant Principal at East Elementary School from August 2011.


Critical friends protocols to establish a professional learning culture of reflection and improvement.


Making Critical Friends 

Engaging in cross-grade-level critical friends protocols with colleagues can be useful and rewarding professional development for teachers. Critical friends give and get feedback on unit plans, brainstorm new projects, and encourage each other’s development. Watch a Teaching Channel video of the teachers at Tech Valley High School in Albany, New York using a critical friends protocol to learn from student work in a structured and useful way.

Check out the Teaching Channel's videos in this free resource to make STEM come alive, which includes the Barbie Bungee Jump and Edible Cars projects.

Common Core Connections

A TALE OF TWO DISTRICTS. In EdWeek, Catherine Gerwertz profiles two districts, one in Florida and one in California, that used completely different approaches to garner Common Core instructional materials. Read her report about how the districts evaluated their options and determined what it meant to be "fully aligned" to the new state standards. In a related article, check out Gerwertz' report about the chief state school officers from Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina and Tennessee, who describe why they believe the Common Core State Standards are working in their states. 

PRODUCTIVE STRUGGLE. Middle school science and AVID teacher Jodi Alligood characterizes her experience and her students' experience with the Common Core as a "productive struggle." Learn why (Learning First Alliance).

BY COMMON, WE MEAN EQUITY. Boston teacher Michelle Morrissey describes how her early experience teaching in urban schools troubled her. She says the focus on learning styles resulted in having different expectations for her students, who were labelled as behind. Today, she celebrates the Common Core for turning around that paradigm. 

"When the Common Core State Standards emerged," writes Morrissey, "it was both a shock and a revelation—for the first time, the dominant model said that my students, who live in low-income neighborhoods and are predominately Hispanic or African American, would have some guarantee of the same kinds of educational experiences that students at high-performing schools across the country have. All students would be asked to do the hard stuff—and reap the benefits of those high expectations. To me, this is a fundamentally American value." Read her article (TNTP).

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

4 MISTAKES I MADE ON MY STUDENT LOANS (AND HOW YOU CAN AVOID THEM). Learn vicariously through the experiences of digital engagement strategist at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid, Nicole Callahan. Read her article before making the same common mistakes. Also, check out ED information about six things you should know about repaying student loans.

DECODING CODE. Interested in learning programming? Check out Code, a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by increasing access. Try your hand at building your own game or other programming feats. The site even offers "unplugged" tutorials that your teacher can give to you. Your teacher may also find some great resources and ways to get involved. Read a related article (Washington Post).


What Exactly Does it Mean?

President Obama has been pushing for providing high-quality preschool for all. Any teacher of any grade doesn't need the research to tell you that early childhood education makes a critical difference and sets a line of inequity from the get-go. But for such an important topic, what does "quality preschool" mean? In this NPR story, authors Claudio Sanchez and Cory Turner make a case that the role of the teacher is "the foundation of a high-quality preschool program." As way of illustrating their point, they showcase Tulsa teacher Nikki Jones of the Porter Early Childhood Development Center. Read more.

Emerging Research


Alternative Student Growth Measures

States and districts are beginning to use student achievement growth — as measured by state assessments (often using statistical techniques known as value-added models or student growth models) — as part of their teacher evaluation systems. But this approach has limited application in most states, because their assessments are typically administered only in grades 3–8 and only in math and reading. In response, some districts have turned to alternative measures of student growth. These measures include alternative assessment-based value-added models (VAMs) that use the results of end-of-course assessments or commercially available tests in statistical models, and student learning objectives (SLOs), which are determined by individual teachers, approved by principals, and used in evaluations that do not involve sophisticated statistical modeling.

In a new IES report, administrators in eight districts that were early adopters of alternative measures of student growth were interviewed about how they used these measures to evaluate teacher performance. Findings from the study include:

  • Districts using SLOs chose them as a teacher-guided method of assessing student growth, while those using alternative assessment-based VAMs chose to take advantage of existing assessments.
  • SLOs can be used for teacher evaluation in any grade or subject, but require substantial effort by teachers and principals, and ensuring consistency is challenging.
  • In the four SLO districts, SLOs are required of all teachers across grades K–12, regardless of whether the teachers serve grades or subjects that include district-wide standardized tests.
  • Alternative student assessments used by VAM districts differ by developer, alignment with specific courses, and coverage of grades and subjects.
  • VAMs applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments create consistent districtwide measures but generally require technical support from an outside provider.

Read the report summary.  



Job Training that Works

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a reform of America’s job training programs to ensure they "train Americans with the skills employers need and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”  

On April 16, the President and Vice President visited the Community College of Allegheny County-West Hills Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to describe progress on that reform. “CCAC is an outstanding model of the kind of job-driven training we’re trying to encourage all across the country,” the President said. “You’re doing something right that is making a difference in people's lives -- and we want to spread the word” (blog post, with remarks and video).

The President announced a nearly $500 million competition in which the federal government will award grants to community colleges and employers partnering together to develop job-driven training programs. Under the program, all grantees will be required to identify sectors with open jobs to fill, partner with the public workforce system and employers in that sector to address the skills needed for open jobs, and create pathways from entry-level positions to move advanced positions to ensure room for growth for employees with the lowest starting skills levels. This program is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training grant program that has, over the last three years, supported community colleges preparing dislocated workers and other adults for jobs in their regional economies (fact sheet).

The program is designed to ensure that an eligible institution in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico receive dedicated funding of at least $2.25 million. Single institutions may apply for grants of up to $2.5 million, and consortia of institutions in the same state or that share an economic region may apply for grants up to $15 million. The deadline to apply is June 7.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• SMART ABOUT MONEY. April is National Financial Capability MonthHelp kids become smart about money with a new National Credit Union Administration game and more in the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE):

• DEMYSTIFYING A GREAT LESSON. In this insightful piece for practitioners, Tennessee teacher and Teach Plus Fellow Jon Alfuth provides insight into what a great lesson looks like, boiling much of the magic down to asking the right questions. Read his article (Chalkbeat).

• TAPPING INTO LATINO TALENT. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg said his district sees teaching potential among immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally when they were children. As a result, they have begun reaching out to an untapped talent pool. Learn more (Bryson, Denver Post). Read a related story about José Grimaldo, a displaced welder who found his calling as a bilingual teacher in Illinois.  

• LIGHTS ON POSTER CONTEST. The Afterschool Alliance is sponsoring the 2014 Lights On Afterschool Poster Contest. The winning poster design will be printed on tens of thousands of posters, and schools can earn ten free posters from last year's winner simply by entering. The deadline for submissions is June 2, 2014. See contest details and submission guidelines View past winners and learn more

open book

Recommended Reading

THE NEXT GENERATION OF TEACHERS. Third Way has issued a new report with recommendations to ensure the teaching profession is seen by potential new teachers as a prestigious career opportunity. In this paper, they diagnose the hurdles keeping the teaching profession in the past and offer a series of recommendations to attract smart, ambitious, career oriented Millennials into the profession. The report includes results from a poll of  high-achieving undergraduate students that offers data about how they perceive the profession:

• Fully half believe that the teaching profession has gotten less prestigious in the last few years.

• They consistently ranked education as one of the easiest majors, with only 9% viewing it as "very difficult."

• Only 35% described teachers as "smart."

• Education was seen as the top profession that "average" people choose.

Read the report, their poll, and an interesting info graphic comparing teaching with other professions.

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

Melissa Porfirio

Melissa Ann Porfirio, the 2014 Virginia Teacher of the Year, talks with Arne and advisers at ED.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "What keeps me in the classroom are the relationships with students." (Teacher, Fla.) 

4. "I hear a tremendous hunger... for hybrid roles in which a teacher spends the morning teaching (a partner teacher takes the afternoon, for elementary) and has the afternoon to do [a variety of teacher leadership roles." (Teacher, Ark.)

3. "Two things teachers need are space and support. Teachers need to know they have a principal who will help them and support them. And it doesn't hurt to have a mentor either." (Teacher, Ft. Collins, Colo.)

2. "We've got a culture of discomfort around having people in our classrooms. [It would help] if we could have more of a culture of opening our doors to our colleagues." (Teacher, Vt.)

1. "We [teachers] are all in this because of love." (Teacher, Calif.)