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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.
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.
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 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.
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 Cunningham; Jeffrey 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.
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 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).
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).
Effects of Bullying
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.)
HIGHER ED FUNDING
• 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.)
(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."
IN THE WEEDS
FOR EDUWONKS AND INSOMNIACS
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
• Incentivizing completion of industry
certifications and credentials; and
• Expanding opportunities for internships and
• "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
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.
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).
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.
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.)