The Teachers Edition

May 8, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Monday's thank you call

From his office in Washington, D.C., Arne Duncan phones Marca Whitten (shown on the right below), a school founder and ELA/social studies instructor in Studio City, Calif. During the call, Duncan thanked Whitten for her work on behalf of the country's children and for her teacher leadership. Whitten was recommended for a call from the U.S. Secretary of Education by her principal, Leah Raphael. Teaching Ambassador Fellows, including Lisa Clarke and Emily Davis shown here, recommended teacher leaders for Arne to phone during Teacher Appreciation Week. Below left, Arne and Dr. Jill Biden surprise teachers at Marie Reed Elementary School (Washington, D.C.) during their Teacher Appreciation Breakfast. 

Ms. Witten


One Week is Not Enough

For the third consecutive year, Teacher Appreciation Day sent officials from the U.S. Department of Education back to school, shadowing teachers in the Washington, D.C. area and throughout the nation. At the end of the day, teachers and their shadows from ED talked with Arne Duncan, sharing stories about what they learned and how the experience has affected their thinking. 

Marie Reed

Staff from ED also participated in a number of activities to support teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week: a #ThankATeacher social media campaign, a series of telephone calls to teachers from the Secretary of Education, a teacher social and Tweet Up at the White House with Dr. Jill Biden, a discussion with Hope Street National Teacher Fellows, and a visit to a local school's Teacher Appreciation breakfast. Teaching Ambassador Fellow Joiselle Cunningham also hosted two sessions designed to give ED staff insights into the complex work of planning lessons that engage and meet the needs of all learners. 

"No doubt it's a busy week," said Teaching Ambassador Fellow Lisa Clarke. "But really one week is not enough time to understand and appreciate the work of teachers." 

View photos from ED Goes Back to School (including the debriefing sessions at the end of the day). Read the Storify and the timeline from the #ThankATeacher social media campaign. 


TEACH TO LEAD. As the Teach to Lead initiative begins to take shape, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and ED have launched a Twitter profile @TeachtoLead where they will be posing a Question of the Week every Tuesday and sharing a weekly summary and reflection on the responses received. The first question is, Why do America's students need teacher leaders? Teachers who want to participate should include the hashtag #TeachtoLead in their response!

The initiative also has a new website where teachers can learn more about the initiative and share ideas. Ultimately, teacher leadership is about teachers exercising their voices in decisions that affect their classrooms and increasing real opportunities to lead without leaving the classroom. 

CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS GET TOUGHER. The AP's Carolyn Thompson reports that “Seven states now require state-approved performance assessments for graduation or accreditation” after calls by groups such as the American Federation of Teachers and Council of Chief State School Officers for better measures of teacher readiness. Read the story (Denver Post).

DIVERGENT CHARACTERISTICS OF TEACHER LEADERS. In her Stories from School blog, Arizona teacher and 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Cheryl Redfield characterizes teacher leaders as those who "function outside the norm" and proposes that they can be identified by specific traits. She also offers tips for emerging teacher leaders. Read her article (EdWeek).

President Obama with Sean McComb

President Barack Obama honors Sean McComb, National Teacher of the Year, and the State Teachers of the Year in the East Room of the White House, May 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)  

State Teachers Get Some Respect

Last Thursday President Obama and Secretary Duncan honored 53 State Teachers of the Year, including National Teacher Sean McComb (Baltimore County, Maryland), in a ceremony at the White House. Earlier in the day, the teachers were hosted by several members of the Domestic Policy Council, who heard recommendations for improving education from them. Learn more. Watch the video. Read President Obama's remarks.

Teachers of the Year in a breakout discussion at ED

On Wednesday the State Teachers of the Year visited ED to discuss teacher leadership, meet education officials, and learn more about the RESPECT and Teach to Lead initiatives. Shown on the left in a breakout session are Teaching Ambassador Fellow Joiselle CunninghamJeffrey Hinton, Nev.; Allison Riddle, Utah; Timothy Smith, Calif.; Carolyn Torres, N.M.; Monica Washington, Texas; Catherine (Beth) Maloney, Ariz.

That evening the Teachers of the Year were honored in an annual black-tie gala celebrating their accomplishment. Arne Duncan met privately with the four finalists and four principals of the year earlier in the week. 

Learn more about the Teacher of the Year program and the teachers honored this year.

Soul Pancake Edutopia video


Teachers' Letters to Themselves

In this video by Edutopia and Soul Pancake, teachers read letters they would have written to themselves on their first day of teaching if they had known what they know now. In the letters, the teachers offer their younger selves the encouragement and wisdom that has come from experience. Watch the video.

Common Core Connections

COMMON CORE CHANGES EVERYTHING. This KUSA news report profiles how the Common Core affects Cerri Norris as she teaches kids in first grade in Englewood, Colo. Norris is working on skills that she hopes her students will use as adults and business professionals. Her views about the shift in what students are learning? "One thing that I really like about the Common Core is they're a lot more concise and clean than the previous Colorado academic standards we had," Norris says. "They're easier to use as a teacher." Watch or read the report (Garcia).

"COMFORT AND JOY" IN MAY. Education writer Jay Mathews lauds the Common Core standards movement. Matthews contends that the standards provide "encouragement and political shelter to” teachers “who want to challenge their students in unaccustomed ways.” Although “nationwide changes in school practice can be erratic and slow,” he says, “they can make a difference, often for the better in the hands of good teachers.” He concludes by arguing in favor of Common Core because it can give “aid and comfort” to these type of teachers. Read his column (Washington Post).  

WHEN PROFICIENT ISN'T ENOUGH. Read the story of how fourth-grade California teacher Angel Chavarin uses the Common Core State Standards to teach higher-order thinking skills (Wingert, Hechinger Report). 

HOW THE FIELD TESTS ARE FARING. Sarah Rosenberg reports that with the second phase of field testing of new Common Core assessments kicking in soon, the first phase of the test drive went remarkably well. Though there have been expected technical glitches--"forgotten passwords, frozen computers, or discrepancies in how different browsers handle the test''--she writes that "on the whole" it's "so far, so good." Read her story (Education Gadfly).

P Chat

Principal Chat

FOUR STEPS PRINCIPALS CAN TAKE TO CLOSE THE GAP. Gail Connelly, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, offers sound advice about what school leaders can do to close achievement gaps. "Research over the past 30 years shows that strong school leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success and is most significant in schools with the greatest need," she writes. Read her strategies (Learning First Alliance).

Did you know?

Effects of Bullying

An estimated 250,000 bullying victims were carrying guns, knives and clubs to school within the last 30 days. 

From a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and reported in Health Day (Preidt).

"The shift towards higher standards hasn’t been without struggle. It’s more difficult to teach critical thinking skills than memorization."

(Lake Charles, La. Principal Keith Leger in an open letter to the Advocate.)

Quote to Note

the New Math


 Forty-eight states — all except Alaska and North Dakota — are spending less per student than they did before the recession;

 States are spending 23% less per student nationwide this year than they did in 2008;

 In the last year, 42 states increased funding per student, by an average of $449 (7.2%);

(According to a report from the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, higher education funding remains well below pre-recession levels in almost all states.)

Seriously? News no one can use.


Earning Less 

(While Doing More)

When Megan Taber started her job at North Carolina's Chapel Hill middle school, she was promised a modest salary increase for every year she worked. Now, after seven years in the classroom, she actually makes less than she did on her very first day, when inflation is taken into account. And she is not alone. Read her story (Klein, Huffington Post).

Then there's Dave Hartzell, a "star" teacher at Sterling Elementary (Charlotte, N.C.), who started a 40 Book Project "to send libraries of donated books home" with his students. Hartzell won't be teaching next year. His wife just had a baby and they can no longer afford to live on a teacher's salary. Read his story (Helms, Charlotte Observer).

Read an editorial in the Raleigh News Observer arguing that the state must "be bold on increasing teacher pay." Public Impact's Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel write, "With all the talk about teacher pay, no proposal is as ambitious as North Carolina needs."




Career & Technical Education

An analysis by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) found at least 78 substantive policy changes via legislation, state board rules, and executive orders specific to career and technical education (CTE) and workforce development in 2013. Among some of the state policy trends highlighted in the report:

 Formalizing ways for business and industry to inform CTE offerings;

 Blending high school and postsecondary learning opportunities;

 Incentivizing completion of industry certifications and credentials; and

 Expanding opportunities for internships and apprenticeships.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• "JUST RIGHT." EdWeek's Catherine Gewertz reports on a survey released Tuesday that concludes "teachers and administrators are looking more favorably than they did two years ago on the amount of time that students spend taking tests, and teachers spend preparing for them." Read her report.

• CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS. Amy Norton (Health Day) writes about a study indicating that innate abilities do not account for achievement differences in reading and math between Asian and other students, including whites and minorities. According to the study, "Asian-American students have a reputation as high achievers, and a new study suggests their success comes mainly from hard work rather than innate ability." Learn more.

• WORLDWIDE TESTING TRENDS. NPR's Cory Turner examines testing in the U.S. and compares it with what kids are taking elsewhere. One conclusion: "The U.S. tests teens a lot, but worldwide, exam stakes are higher." Read or listen to the report.  

• GIRLS GET THE GRADES. A new study of academic performance in more than 30 countries and spanning nearly a century shows girls get better grades than boys in math and science as well as other subjects (Hilburn, Voice of America).

• CELEBRATE ASIAN-PACIFIC HERITAGE. May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Help kids celebrate the rich history and culture of the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to America's diversity and success with resources from the Smithsonian, the National Park Service, and more in the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE).

 PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS. This week Arne Duncan announced the 50th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 141 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics or the arts. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 3,900 candidates qualified for the 2014 awards. Learn more.

¡GRADÚATE! FINANCIAL AID GUIDE FOR HISPANIC STUDENTS. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has announced the release of "¡Gradúate! A Financial Aid Guide to Success" to help support Hispanic students to enroll and afford a postsecondary education.

The guide, available in English and Spanish, includes recommendations on how to prepare a college application, how to choose the right college, and types of financing options, including resources for students granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and non-U.S. citizen students. Learn more

College Education Worth $830,000 More Than High School Diploma

According to a new report issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBS), the answer to the often-asked question of whether or not it is still worth going to college is an unequivocal, "Yes!" A story analyzing the report indicates, "[T]here is an $830,000 difference between getting a college education over just a high school diploma." Read the story (Forbes). Check out the report from FRBS.

Students' Corner

Emerging Research

STEM Students Needed

A new STEM index finds that America's STEM "talent pool is still too shallow to meet demand." The new U.S. News annual index measures key indicators of STEM activity in the U.S. Despite isolated signs of progress, the report finds that "student aptitude for and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has been mostly flat for more than a decade, even as the need for STEM skills continues to grow." Learn more. Go to the index

A related story in the Washington Post reports that high school students, who are often tech savvy, often lack instruction in computer science that could serve them in careers (St. George).  

Read a related story about a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on STEM fields and what schools are doing to make STEM a part of everyday life (Golod, U.S. News).

Cover of "From Good to Great"

Recommended Reading

FROM GOOD TO GREAT. American Institute for Research's Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, in partnership with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and five other leading national organizations just released "From Good to Great: Exemplary Teachers Share Perspectives on Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Across the Career Continuum." Recommendations are taken from a survey that asked over 300 National and State Teachers of the Year what professional experiences and supports they believe most contributed to their growth and eventual excellence as a teacher. Read the report.

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

elementary school

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Excellent professional development looks like teachers having time to talk with each other and work together to disaggregate data, develop strategies to build skills, and help us all become master teachers." (Kindergarten Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

4. "We [teachers] have a passion and respond to challenge." (Teacher, Baltimore)

3. Explaining why it is difficult for teachers to take on leadership responsibilities without release time: "Teachers don't have enough time to think." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

2. "Social justice is what motivates me to be a teacher: seeing what kids need and what options I want them to be able to choose from." (Teacher, Swain Co., N.C.)

1. Elaborating on challenges with traditional teacher preparation programs: There is too much theory and not enough practical experience. We need to know about Vygotsky, but it's much better to examine his ideas in practice in a classroom." (Teacher, Los Angeles, Calif.)