The Teachers Edition

June 5, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

My Brother's Keeper discussion with students and President Obama

In 2013, President Obama met with students at Chicago’s Hyde Park Academy High School who were participating in the Becoming a Man program for inner-city youth. The meetings left a mark on the president, who has used them as motivation for a new White House initiative on young men of color, which he promised to launch in this year’s State of the Union. Here are a couple of the students he met (Washington Post photo gallery).


"Investing in Them"

In February, as part of his plan to make 2014 a year of action focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans, the President unveiled the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

Last week the President’s Task Force released its 90-day report, and during a meeting with his Cabinet, President Obama spoke about its significance and the work ahead:

“As we approach Father’s Day, I’m just reminded that I am only here because a bunch of folks invested in me. We’ve got a huge number of kids out there who have as much talent, and more talent than I had, but nobody is investing in them."

This report includes key indicators that will provide a comprehensive view of the environments and outcomes for boys and young men of color and their peers. It also contains recommendations on steps our society can take to expand opportunity in areas including:

  • Entering school ready to learn;
  • Reading at grade level by third grade;
  • Graduating from high school ready for college and career;
  • Completing post-secondary education or training;
  • Successfully entering the workforce;
  • Reducing violence and providing a second chance.

The recommendations identified by the President’s Task Force mark the starting point of what will be a long-term effort—on the part of public, private, and philanthropic actors—that will continue well beyond this initial 90-day progress report. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will continue to support this effort by enhancing and accelerating opportunities and sources of support facilitating Hispanic educational excellence.

View excerpts from a discussion with young Hispanic high school and college students in Denver, Colo., sharing powerful, emotional stories about their lives and challenges, and the implications for education.

Sign up to be a My Brother's Keeper long-term mentor.

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Teacher Leadership

A CAUTIOUS OPTIMIST. In this reflection on the Teach to Lead initiative, Spanish teacher Emily Davis (Hillsborough, Fla.) discusses some of her hopes and anxieties about the near term for teacher leadership. Read her article and watch her interview with Arne Duncan (Homeroom).

Students examining slave deeds under a magnifying glass

Students at Enka Middle School work with magnifying glasses to uncover the truth behind local slave deeds (above). Students at Enka Middle School collaborate to transcribe and analyze Buncombe County Slave Deeds. These students 'read like detectives' to uncover the truth in their county's past (below). 

Students at Enka Middle School work with magnifying glasses to uncover the truth behind local slave deeds.


Learning History through Deeds and Words

In Buncombe County, N.C., students are engaging in a unique and authentic project in school, collaborating to bring slave deeds of sale into the light and providing a unique glimpse into a dark period in our country's history.

Through a collaborative effort with the Register of Deeds Office, the Center for Diversity Education, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools, students are working with civic leaders to search for records, transcribe and digitize deeds, and create a public record for the community and for larger genealogical databases.

Students find the work "highly engaging as they begin to recognize the power of putting names to people who have heretofore been nameless," said Eric Grant, project curriculum coordinator. They also are contributing to a national database that will help many Americans find missing pieces to their family's genealogical puzzle. Learn more in USA Today, at Center for Diversity Education Website, or through this project video. Contact to get involved.


Creating “Educational Stability”

Teaching is often about more than facts and formulas, creativity and critical thinking. The most successful educators are able to cultivate students' soft skills, pushing them to do their best in the face of adversity and building habits to navigate troubled waters. Foster youth, who often face confusion and uncertainty, sometimes gain comfort in the stability of a caring school environment. One young woman writes about how she found solace in her schoolwork and gained the support she needed from her school community to keep going through difficult times. Check out her story. ED recently released guidance for schools to improve educational outcomes of foster youth.

Common Core Connections

WHAT "A" DOESN'T TELL. Insightful piece by teacher Jon Alfuth who sheds light into why he supports the new performance-based assessments rather than the ubiquitous bubble test. "Instead of multiple choice, these [Common Core based] tests ask students to complete open responses that require them to show their work and display their thinking," Alfuth writes. "No more lucky answers. Proficiency is only possible now if a student truly understands the content." Read his article (SCORE).

WORSE THAN LOSING, DELAYING THE GAME. In this impassioned editorial, Tennessee English teacher Casie Jones compares preparing her students for the state's Common Core assessments to coaching an athletic team for a championship game. When students have been training for something this important, she says, it is discouraging to have the game postponed until another season. "Imagine the loss of morale and team spirit, the frustration and pushback, the outcry," Jones writes. "Some might say it gives the team more time to condition and prepare, but athletes know better. The delay opens the door for team replacements and injuries. It's more a message of defeat than of hope and victory." Read her article (Huffington Post).


A Pioneering Practice: Innovations Inventory

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has been pulling together innovative practices in teacher prep in an Innovations Inventory.

In their blog series on the Inventory, Saroja Barnes features iTeachAZ, a program at Arizona State University funded through an ED Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant. One of the nation's largest schools of education, ASU answered the call for increased rigor and effectiveness in teacher preparation by improving candidates' classroom readiness and by extending the student teaching experience into a year-long residency. Data from student assessments shows that iTeachAZ teachers are coming out on top, scoring higher than the state average on every indicator of effectiveness. 

Find out about the recently announced 2014 TQP grant competition.

P Chat

Principal Chat

IS PRINCIPAL EVALUATION “THE FORGOTTEN STEPCHILD”? EdWeek’s Denisa Superville reports on recent developments in how principals are being evaluated. She draws on the work of Vanderbilt’s Ellen Goldring, who calls emerging principal evaluation plans “the stepchild of teacher evaluation” because they have been given less thought than teacher evaluation. Many states do include student data in their principal evaluations, often by as much as 20-50 percent. 

The article describes the three most-common models for incorporating student learning into the results, including the 50-50 percentage model (used in Georgia), the matrix model (Connecticut), and the student data trump model (Delaware).  Learn more

"When experts are doing the kind of practice that makes them better, they are frequently failing, frequently confused, not necessarily seeing gain for what will feel like a very long time."

Angela Duckworth, quoted in “How Failure in the Classroom Is More Instructive Than Success” (SobelThe Chronicle of Higher Education).

Quote to Note

the New Math

Single-Parent Homes and the Opportunity Gap

 Two-thirds of Black and one-third of Hispanic children live with only one parent. 

 Blacks and Hispanics raised by single moms are 75 percent and 96 percent respectively more likely to drop out of school.

(From the My Brother's Keeper Task Force report released last week.)

To focus on building successful practices aimed at improving student-college fit and college readiness for underrepresented, underprepared and low-income students across the country, this week ED announced the availability of $75 million for two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, competitions. Learn more.

TAF and PAF news

SHAKERA WALKER (2011 Washington Fellow) discusses what teachers want from the teaching profession on Bloomberg Radio with Jane Williams. She is joined by National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb (Maryland), who discusses work-life balance with Justin Minkel of Arkansas and José Luis Vilson of New York. Listen to the podcast.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

MOVING OUT. Most high school seniors cannot wait to get out the door and be on their own, but not all understand what that really means. Money, time-management, responsibilities, laundry--freshmen college students can quickly feel overwhelmed as they step out of the nest for the first time. Read this article for some simple tips to help these young adults adjust to life on their own.

CIVIC HACKING. June 1 was the National Day of Civic Hacking. The day promotes citizens and developers working together using publicly available data, code, and technology to reach solutions that enhance communities and associated governments. Here is a tool to show students how they can help their community by using computer technology with resources from the White House and more in the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE).

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Paying off college loans can often feel overwhelming and impossible, especially with the large amounts that many students graduate with and the high interest rates. This article offers strategies to decrease the weight of debt and pay off college loans more quickly and efficiently.  

THREADING THE NEEDLE ON STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT. Finding the best payment plan to reduce student loan debt can be confusing and difficult. There are many options, each with their own pros and cons. This article explains a few ways to pay off loans based on the size of income. Learn about the different payment methods to get rid of loans.

Now, that's progress! Amazing stories of transformation from ED's Progress blog.

BALTIMORE SCHOOL GETS ENGAGED. Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School has made strides to improve their education system for the students and community. After years of floundering, the school has increased reading and math proficiency by 20 percent in the past four years. Learn more about how the school utilized community outreach and parent engagement to transform into a strengthened community.

MORE STUDENTS ADVANCE. Students in Colorado are able to take Advanced Placement courses and exams that had not been previously offered to them. These students are surpassing national average A.P. scores and increasing their college readiness. Many other states around the country have joined in this effort to increase availability of A.P. or higher level courses for college and career readiness. Read the article.



For Eduwonks and Insomniacs

CRITICAL FRIENDS NEEDED. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is seeking public comments on the Promise Zone initiative. Specifically, the initiative seeks feedback on the proposed selection process, criteria and submissions for the second round. The Promise Zones seeks to make education, housing and opportunities more available in high-poverty areas. Visit the HUD website to learn more and give input.

MAKING CAREER READINESS COUNT. Achieve and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium released a new policy brief to expand the framework for college-and career-ready indicators that focus on career preparation. The brief also includes guidance for states to ensure that the "career" in their college-and career-ready accountability and public reporting system is not an afterthought but rather a powerful lever to focus priorities, drive progress, and ultimately see more students, and their communities, succeed. Download the brief.

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Teachers' Notes

• TEACHER TOOLS. Created for teachers in prep programs to keep all of the new strategies ready for their first days in the classroom, is a handy resource for all. The toolkit was developed by ED Transition to Teaching grantee Education Service Center Region XIII in Texas. It includes a collection includes techniques for classroom management, checking for understanding, opening and closing activities. One favorite of the teachers at ED: Quiz, Quiz,Trade.

• POWER PLANT STANDARDS IMPROVE SCHOOL CLIMATE--LITERALLY.  The Obama administration recently released clean power plant standards that would protect the health of students and teachers in schools. The standards will prevent 180,000 school absences and 150,000 asthma attacks per year. Learn more

• BONUS BUCKS. High achieving teachers in Tennessee are remaining in tougher schools partly because of bonuses they earn. In Chalkbeat Tennessee, Jaclyn Zubrzycki shows that high-achieving teachers earning bonuses stay in tougher positions up to 20 percent more.

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY. After giving students ongoing feedback all year, teachers often say they would like their students to return the favor by providing data and comments about their teaching so that they can improve their craft. This Edutopia blog by Vicki Davis highlights easy ways for teachers to find out what students really think and use the information to improve for the next year.

THIS BUS IS MADE FOR WALKING! The walking school bus has been catching on while helping kids get to school safely and on time. Additionally, walking to school with friends and an adult helps promote social connections while combating obesity. Read this article in the Portland Press Harold by Jennifer Mcdermott to learn more.

CLIMATE CHANGE. Two Educators 4 Excellence Teacher Policy Teams in Los Angeles released papers this week making recommendations on the pressing issues of school climate and teacher compensation. "The Equity Movement" calls for state-, district- and school-level investments in school climate by focusing on restorative justice, culturally responsive pedagogy, data and teacher leadership roles. In "Pay It Forward," teachers urge California and local districts and schools to create incentives for teachers to move to hard-to-staff positions, reward commitments to professional development, and provide bonuses for critically-needed leadership roles. Read the reports.

 THE “PARENT INITIATOR" HYPOTHESIS. Holly Yettick reports about an article published in School Effectiveness and School Improvement that helps explain why “schools that made a bigger effort to increase parent involvement were more likely to be among the low-performing schools” and miss making AYP. The authors of the report propose several explanations, mostly centering on communication strategies that reduce parent intimidation and increase access to information regularly. The authors contend that it makes a difference who initiates the interaction between parent and school. Read the article (EdWeek).

 BAD AT MATH? Thought-provoking article by North Carolina teacher Rene Herrick about how improvements in mathematics instruction are helping students develop a “mathematical mind” and get over math phobia. The bottom line: If you think you are bad at math, your attitude may be more the result of learning to memorize, practice, and plug in algorithms that are easily forgotten. New methods, she argues, prepare students much better to use math for life. Learn more (Raleigh News/Observer). 

Emerging Research


Those biding their time for the sequel to the Condition of Education 2013 need wait no longer. This year’s Condition is out, stocked with all manner of statistics, including trends in employment rates, entry status for kindergarten, facts about rural education, and a look at post-secondary financing. Download the report. Visit the webpage.

open book

Recommended Reading

 THE "REASONABLE PERSON RULE" & BUILDING BETTER EVALUATIONS. When Nicholas Fischer began his job as the superintendent of the New London, Conn., schools, he was charged with one goal: improving student achievement. Read his piece about how he worked to build a better teacher evaluation that was useful and effective and followed the "reasonable person rule" (EdWeek). 

 This week we highlight two resources for improving the way educational communities serve young black males, both written by Ivory A. Toldson and Chance W. Lewis

CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO pushes against conventional wisdom on educating black males and uses national data to provide a picture of a productive school environment. The report also offers a comprehensive strategy to ensure equitable resources, college and career readiness, and fair discipline practices for school-aged black males. 

BLACK MALE TEACHERS: DIVERSIFYING THE UNITED STATES' TEACHER WORKFORCE offers sound suggestions for advancing diversity in the teaching profession by providing training materials to accommodate black male students and equipping school district administrators and leaders with information to help recruit and retain black male teachers. Each chapter features policy and practice recommendations and a case example to spur action and increase opportunities for discussion. Review the book information. 

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

TEACH event

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "At the end of the day, it's about raising achievement for our kids. It's not my school... it is their school." (Principal, Denver, Colo.)

4. "A good teacher can teach content; A teacher leader can teach teachers how to teach content." (Teacher, Fla.)

3. "Many teachers have not experienced teacher leadership that is not an 'add on' to their full-time teaching job. Most have only experienced teacher leadership as a volunteer position." (Teacher, Ohio)

2. In the history of teaching, leadership has looked like becoming an administrator, and truthfully, I’ve seen the job description and I don’t want it. I want to have a say in what happens in my classroom without leaving it." (Teacher, Wash.)

1. "Teacher leadership is not a title, but an action." (Teacher, Texas)