The Teachers Edition

Note: The Teachers Edition will not be published next week, but the newsletter will return with witty, informative information for educators on June 26.

June 12, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

bear and fox animation


Connection Counts

In this beautifully animated short video, University of Houston researcher and educator Brené Brown introduces students to the concept of empathy and explains how it differs from sympathy. Brown uses concrete examples of real responses, and she connects them to four attributes of empathy defined in the research of Teresa Wiseman. The video provides practical tips to create genuine empathic connections, largely by getting in touch with our own vulnerabilities. “Empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection,” she says. Watch the video (RSA Shorts).

broadway theatre banner


Nominate Your Teacher for a Tony Award

Behind every great success is a great teacher, and "behind every Tony winner is a teacher who inspired and nurtured a young talent to grow, to pursue big dreams and accomplish great things," according to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) President Subra Suresh

To highlight the importance of dramatic arts education, the Tony Awards and CMU will launch the first national recognition program to honor K-12 theater educators who demonstrate a positive impact on the lives of students and advance the theater profession.

In addition to a trip to New York and a financial prize for the theater arts program at the winner's school, the winning teacher will receive the honor on stage at the 2015 Tony Awards. Get more information or nominate a drama teacher for a Tony starting in September 2014.



Teaching's Top Ten

TNTP has published a listing of the top teaching awards, including prestigious fellowships designed to give teachers recognition for their work and continue to develop them in the profession. The list includes links to more information so that teachers may apply or nominate a colleague they respect. 

Another award the teachers at ED like, called the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellowship, is designed to develop the leadership potential of STEM teachers who are just starting out in the classroom.

Saray Felix teaches at Woodrow Wilson Senior School in Los Angeles, CA.

Saray Felix teaches at Woodrow Wilson Senior School in Los Angeles, Calif. 


Video Chronicles Teachers' Early Career Experiences

New teachers and veterans who mentor other teachers may want to spend a little time watching this short documentary that follows two teachers through the highs and lows during their first year teaching in Los Angeles. See what happens as they implement their lesson plans in real classrooms -- how they deal with disciplinary issues, engage their classrooms, develop relationships with their students, and respond to student needs. Watch the video from the Teaching Channel


Still Dreamin'

Teachers serving immigrant children will want to be aware that Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced a process for renewing enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Updated forms to renew deferrals for a period of two years have been submitted to the Federal Register by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Read the press release. View frequently asked questions.

"For students in California and every other state, equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher. The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students."

(Arne Duncan, in a statement regarding the decision in the Vergara v. California case after a California judge ruled Tuesday that the state's laws governing teacher tenure and the firing of public school teachers is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the laws interfere with the state's obligation to provide every child with access to a good education. Plaintiffs in the case had asserted that the tenure system for public school teachers in California disproportionately harms poor and minority students. Read Duncan's complete statement.)

Quote to Note


Teachers at the Policy Table

Teachers who want to have a voice in what appears in programs can apply to be a peer reviewer for the upcoming Teacher Quality Partnership grant competition. The program seeks to improve the quality of new teachers working in high-need local educational agencies and high-need schools by supporting reforms that result in model pre-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs and model teaching residency programs for talented and qualified individuals who are new to teaching.

Reviewers must meet at least one of the criteria:

  • Be a recent (within the last 5 years) PK-12 teacher with policy knowledge
  • Be a current professor, instructor, or administrator in a teacher preparation program
  • Have education evaluation experience
  • Be an LEA administrator

For more information, see the flyer. To apply, e-mail a copy of your current résumé highlighting your experiences according to the announcement criteria, along with the following information: preferred mailing address, home and office telephone numbers, e-mail address, and past experience as an ED grant reviewer to, and include "Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program Reviewer Application" in the subject line.

Common Core Connections

PUTTING ASSESSMENTS IN PARCC!  Last week, more than a million students in PARCC states completed the trial run of the new tests developed by member states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. 

The goal of the field test was to try out the test items developed by teachers, college and university faculty and others from the PARCC states. The field test was also an opportunity for students and schools to test out their own technology and the test platform, learn about the test administration procedures, and provide feedback. 

Student survey results revealed they generally like the online format of the test, and many found the test questions more engaging than their previous standardized tests. Test administrators were also positive, though they noted that the instructions for administrators were too long and could be clearer, something PARCC members will be working to address. Learn more.

DEAR ELECTED OFFICIALS... Writing that he has seen "a drastic shift in the mindsets of teachers and students as they approach learning" as a result of the Common Core State Standards, North Carolina math teacher Rob Leichner recently wrote to the North Carolina General Assembly and urged them not to change course. Leichner points out that with the new standards, "students are producing at levels much higher than before" and that "teachers are beginning to see the results stemming from students who are truly prepared for high school by achieving two years of high-level middle school standards." Read Leichner's article about the Common Core (U.S. News and World Report).

MOTIVATING STUDENTS TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES. In this Huffington Post article, Lindsey Siemens recognizes that students in special education classrooms have as much potential as any student. The key to their future success? Providing them “with the right tools to stimulate their thinking and increase learning potential.” 

AND THE SURVEY SAYS. As reported by Andrew Ujifusa in EdWeek, a survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that most of the local K-12 leaders (more than 500 district superintendents and administrators from 48 states) are firmly behind the Common Core State Standards. But it also found that they are wary of implementation, with high-poverty districts feeling generally less prepared to implement the standards than their counterparts in low-poverty districts. 


Ensuring Equal Opportunity

Recently ED staff met with seven formerly incarcerated youth and heard about their educational journey. What we heard were grave stories about services for special needs that were not provided and education credits that did not count towards a diploma. 

At a Federal Interagency Reentry Council meeting, staff at ED shared a letter sent to states in support of these youth, which suggested how federal dollars might be utilized. Read the letter. Learn about Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's new efforts to address the needs of incarcerated youth (Homeroom).

the New Math

Native American Students 

More Subject to Harsh Discipline 

While American Indian and Alaska Native children account for 2 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions, they represent only 0.2 percent of in-school suspensions.

From “School Discipline, Restraint, & Seclusion” report, written by ED's Office for Civil Rights. By contrast, white students, who accounted for 51 percent of enrollment, comprised 40 percent of in-school suspensions, 36 percent and 31 percent of single and multiple out-of-school suspensions respectively and 36 percent of expulsions. Read a related article (Indian Country Today).


A Tale of Two Cities

Despite economic challenges and difficult political realities, some cities are forging ahead in their commitment to the future by expanding early childhood education. During recent visits to Dallas and Salt Lake City, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett learned how these two very different communities are overcoming challenges and signing kids up for pre-school. Read more.

Michelle Obama


Traversing the Globe with the First Lady

Creating connections around the globe is important for building empathy, for understanding the world, and for the future success of our students. On a recent trip to China, Michelle Obama emphasized the importance of international education in her talk with students. "In the years ahead, much like you and I are doing today, you will be creating bonds of friendship across the globe that will last for decades to come," she reminded them. Watch the video. Read a blog by Maureen McLaughlin about a recent policy seminar on the importance of education diplomacy hosted by the International Affairs office at ED.

TAF and PAF news

Sharif El-Mekki (Campus Principal Fellow 2014): Sharif, principal of Mastery Shoemaker campus (Philadelphia, Pa.), celebrated College Signing Day at his school with an event mirroring athletic signing parties. On this particular occasion, 460 high school seniors who pledged to attend and graduate from college were recognized.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• WRAPPING IT UP. With the school year coming to an end, it’s time to clean up the classroom and re-organize materials for next year. Instead of putting off the daunting task, check out some helpful tips on how to make the process more efficient.

• AVOID THE HEAT. During the early summer, seniors often focus on immediate needs like graduation, spending those last months with friends and family, and shopping to move out. The last things on their mind are the the dreaded college forms and paperwork. Teachers can help them get organized and get to college with these hints to stop procrastinating and be ready for the change of venue.

• BOOKS AND OPPORTUNITIES. Students from grades four through eight were challenged with implementing what they learned in school to help better their communties in the 2014 Belk Service Learning Challenge. Learn more about the winners and how they positively changed their community. 

MOTIVATION: THE MEANS TO HIGHER GRADUATION RATES. While high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, there is still a long way to go, and experts agree that academic factors don’t tell the whole story. Education Week’s Diplomas Count 2014 report focuses on student motivation, exploring efforts to ensure that students want to attend school, work hard at their studies, and earn their diplomas. The report includes several articles examining this topic and profiling schools and districts, procedures and theories, and technologies.

• LOOKING BENEATH THE SURFACE TO STOP BULLYING. Glennon Doyle Melton shines a light on one teacher’s exquisite strategy to curtail bullying. Developed after the teacher witnessed Columbine, the fifth grade educator asks students every Friday to write down “the name of one student who has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week and four classmates with whom they’d like to sit the following week.” By analyzing the results she figures out “those who are struggling to connect with their peers and falling through the cracks of the class’s social world, not being noticed, perhaps being bullied.” Read more (Reader's Digest).

• USING VIDEO TO TRANSFORM TEACHING. This free webinar from Learning Forward features author Jim Knight exploring the use of video as a professional learning strategy. Learn what it takes to get started, why it helps, and the elements that make it effective, as well as the role of instructional coaches in using video to improve instruction. Watch the hour-long webinar.

• STARS AND STRIPES. Flag Day is coming up soon (June 14 to be exact). Learn about the beginning of our nation and the creation of our flag. See these tips for ways to engage and teach students about the history of our flag through history, art, science, math and reading.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

HELP WantED.  ED is currently accepting applications for fall Internships. Students who are interested in policy-making and the role of the federal government in education are encouraged to apply. Internships offer firsthand government experience, great networking opportunities and professional development. You might even find yourself writing newsletter items like this one! Learn more about interning at ED and how to apply.

LOAN RELIEF. President Obama recently signed a memorandum that will make repaying college loans easier and less of a burden for those graduating from college. Through this memo, the President hopes to make loans less of a cloud over the heads of graduates as they start out in life. Read the article.

DOODLE FOR GOOGLE. Kids all over the country submitted Google logo designs inspired by the prompt of an invention that would make the world a better place. 11- year old Audrey Zhang of New York was this year’s winner with a piece that included a machine that purified dirty water. View her and other finalists’ artwork.

open book

Recommended Reading

MINORITY MALES. The National Writing Project released the third issue in its Teacher Voices series, Teaching Young Men of Color. This report represents an important contribution to the national conversation about expanding opportunities for minority males, the focus of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. It compiles the insights of 12 extraordinary classroom teachers, from diverse geographic and ethnic backgrounds, as they reflect on their students’ experiences in the academic world and society at large. Additionally, they share classroom assignments they have found effective in teaching young males of color.

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

Teach to Lead discussion in Colorado

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. (Clarifying how much money she spends on classroom supplies): "My husband is always asking me, 'What? Another Amazon package for your class?'" (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

4. "Kids don't have a year to wait on us to get things right."  (Teacher, Tenn.)

3. "During the past 10 years working with students, teachers in my school, and teachers throughout the district writing curriculum to fit our new standards, I have seen a drastic shift in the mindsets of teachers and students as they approach learning. Most of this shift is the result of the Common Core State Standards." (Teacher, N.C.)

2. "I don't know a great teacher who does not embrace accountability." (Teacher, N.Y.)

1. "Inclusion is just a policy, and not a time or place." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)