THE TEACHERS EDITION -- September 11, 2014

The Teachers Edition

September 11, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

discussion with students at Spelman College

Students at Spelman College discuss teacher recruitment with Arne Duncan during the Partners in Progress bus tour.



Celebrating Progress

As students, teachers and principals around the country headed back to school, Secretary Arne Duncan and senior ED officials visited Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee during the back-to-school bus tour this week. 

Check out the blog from the first day, the second day, and the third day. Read about the kick-off event at Booker T. Washington High School with First Lady Michelle Obama, who urged students to work hard and go to college no matter what it takes. Read Arne's takeover of the White House INSTAGRAM and the Storify compilations from day one and day two. Peruse photos from Spelman CollegeBooker T. WashingtonSouthwire, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, as well as others from BirminghamHuntsville and Chattanooga. Watch the video diaries of day one (with clips from the First Lady's speech) and day two (with clips from the Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, Tenn., which is open every hour of every day of the year) and day three. Read about Arne's trip to NASA's space camp in Huntsville, Ala. (Camera, EdWeek).

Educators can also connect digitally with the bus tour on Twitter by following hashtag #edtour14 for the latest, and keep up to date by following @usedgov and@arneduncan. Also visit or subscribe to email updates.

This is the fifth back-to-school bus tour for Arne Duncan. Last year, the tour traveled throughout the Southwest. In 2012, the Department’s tour went coast to coast; in 2011, the tour rolled through the Midwest; and in 2010, Duncan and his team visited the South and the Northeast.

Commit to Lead

Teach to Lead Update

Since our announcement last week, nearly 400 educators have signed up for Commit to Lead and are weighing in about advancing teacher leadership across the country. But we know many more of you are watching from the sidelines

Besides posting an idea, here are three other ways to jump in:

  1. Explore the ideas that have been posted by others. Using the social media buttons at the top of each idea, share the ones you believe are most promising with your network on Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Vote on the ideas you like best so they rise to the top.
  3. Share feedback on ideas by posting a comment.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Read an inspirational story of teacher leadership in action to get ideas about projects you might pursue. Each week new stories are posted. This week four new stories are featured:

• Tammie Schrader created a program for her school and district to teach computer programming and coding to middle school students so they are qualified for jobs in a growing sector. 

• Joanna Schimizzi and Rob Leichner formed a teacher-driven professional development community called Uncommon Planning that works to collaboratively build and evaluate Common Core instructional tools.

• Alex Kajitani rallied teachers in his school to solve a persistent challenge: never having enough substitute teachers at school (and forcing teachers to cover classes during planning).

• Doug Hodum led a committee of teachers and other stakeholders to reform teacher evaluation in Maine.

ON THE RADIO. Teachers Maddie Fennell (Nebraska) and Chris Polous (Connecticut) talked about teacher leadership and Teach to Lead live on EdTalk Radio with host Larry Jacobs and Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (BlogTalkRadio). Listen to their informative and inspiring conversation and learn how one state is intentionally creating opportunities for teachers to lead.

from the 9/11 documentary project


Remembering 9/11

On the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is important for teachers to have access to useful materials to discuss the event and its aftermath. ED has a web page that provides resources and ideas, including links to tips to help maintain a positive school climate, answer Constitutional questions raised by 9/11, and observe the national Day of Service and Remembrance. 

The photo on the right is taken from the Library of Congress Documentary Project

What Works Clearinghouse homepage


Tools for Teachers

Each year the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) provides educators with new ways to start the school year, reviewing research to find what works in education. Check out the latest.

Core Subjects. The WWC has quick tips for math, language arts, and behavioral issues to try in your classroom. New from the WWC: Visit What Works in Math, a central source for effective math programs, products, practices and policies.

Front Office. Looking for the best evidence on mathreading and other subjects? Use the Find What Works tool to compare the research. Choosing new math programs, policies or practices? This new video can help.

Homeroom.Thpractice guide offers recommendations to help teachers manage their classroom while keeping the focus on academic content.

Did you know?


Did you know that September 17 has been designated as Constitution Day by the U.S. Congress?

A provision in Section 111 of Division J of Pub. L. 108-447, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,” Dec. 8, 2004; 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45, requires educational institutions that receive federal funds to hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on or around September 17.

The day chosen commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The Federal Convention first convened in May to revise the Articles of Confederation, but the need for an entirely new form of government became clear. State delegates debated issues, such as federalism and representation, all through the summer as they drafted the articles of the new Constitution.

Here are some resources for educators.

physics lesson


Having a Ball with Physics

Those who have not yet viewed teacher Maria Ikenberry's video of a physics principle in action will want to check out the "beautiful and cool" demonstration on her Facebook page. Be sure to watch all the way to the end to see the balls move to chaos and back--again and again. Ms. Ikenberry also answers FAQs about the video and provides links to other resources.

P Chat

Principal Chat

A FRAMEWORK FOR ELL STUDENTS. The Council of the Great City Schools has released A Framework for Raising Expectations and Instructional Rigor for ELL Students. The framework re-envisions English Language Development and the Common Core State Standards and elaborates on ELA and math instruction. 

CLOSE CONNECTIONS. School leaders may value this interesting blog about how to connect schools and families through social media (ASCD). 

Common Core Connections

10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT PARCC. Here are 10 things educators living in PARCC states should know about the PARCC assessments at the start of this school year. #1: "PARCC is not a testing company." Find out why it's not.

NEW ELA RUBRICS. PARCC has released updated ELA rubrics for prose constructed response. Learn more

NEW RESOURCES FROM THE CONSORTIA. Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced have a number of resources available for educators.

"The implementation of Common Core standards offers the opportunity to expose the inadequacies in our present systems and remedy them. We need to teach and measure what is valuable and necessary rather than teach what we know how to easily assess."

Teacher Laura Louis and Southern Word founder Benjamin Smith, in an article about the value of higher standards that empower students to express themselves (Score).

Quote to Note

the New Math


About 1 in 5 American students, or between 5 and 7.5 million, miss a month of school every year.

From a new report by nonprofit advocacy group Attendance Works. According to the report, missing just three or more days of school a month can put a student behind by the equivalent of two full years.

computer screen


Welcome Back Blogs We Love

This week we are reading amazing blogs written by teachers celebrating the beginning of a new school year 

7 THINGS I WASN’T PREPARED FOR. First-year teacher Erin Shulz (rural Washington) describes with refreshing candor, humor and insight, the “surprises” she wasn’t prepared to field when school started this year. Among them: “The time it takes to organize a classroom. I am pretty sure I spent 90% of my time on Thursday finding the die cut at my school and punching out letters” and “Surges of doubt.” (Teacher Pop).

• DEAR NINTH-YEAR TEACHER. We love this letter from Cristina Duncan Evans (Baltimore, Md.) to teachers who have been in the classroom a while and who are there because they know "the joy of witnessing a child actually learning something trumps pretty much everything else there is." Hooray for those who are in the game for more than a few innings!

BACK TO THE POINT. Geneviève DeBose (New York, N.Y.) wrestles with three classroom challenges upon her return to teaching after three years wandering in the policy desert.

I LOVE MY JOB. Tom White's (Lynnwood, Wash.) homage to everything that's wonderful about teaching is worth putting into your file (or drawer) of notes from parents and students that keep you going when you need positive vibes.

BRIDGING THE GAP.  Nicora Placa (New York, NY) writes about the intersection between research and classroom experiences, describing two areas of practice where she would like to improve this year.

DIGITAL INSPIRATION IN SOUTH CENTRAL, LA. Antero Garcia showcases what educators in South Central Los Angeles, Calif. are doing to make learning fun through connected learning and gaming. 

GAME CHANGER. Linda Yaron (Los Angeles, Calif.) makes her case that this school year feels like it "has the potential to make all the difference in our public schools." Read her six reasons why.. 


An Open Table for Educators

Some impressive educational leaders have formed a non-partisan, nonprofit communications organization, called Education Post. Their purpose is to open up what they describe as a "different conversation about public education and what our children need — an honest and civil conversation of many voices, united by a common belief in the power of education to transform lives."

The new shop is organized around these principles:

  • There should be high expectations and rigorous standards for every student.
  • Principals and teachers should be responsible for helping every student meet those learning standards and that they can’t do it without the full support of parents, communities and elected officials at every level.
  • Education is not one-size-fits-all; that every family deserves to choose from a range of schools to find the right fit for their children, including high quality charter schools.

Learn more. Check out some of the interesting blog articles, including "The Not-So-Sexy Skinny on Test Selection" (written by former ED Race to the Top guru Ann Whalen) and Chris Stewart's "Is School Reform Incompatible with Unionism?"

clip from Last Week Tonight


John Oliver Takes on College Costs

Huffington Post's Carol Hartsell offers clip of John Oliver riffing on the rising cost of higher education and what he sees as the primary causes of student debt that is out of control. On Last Week Tonight, Oliver compares student debt to HPV and offers new (also unconventional) approaches to writing form letters of protest.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

KINDEST KID. Celebrate a pre-schooler's acts of kindness by nominating him or her for Sprout's Kindest Kid Contest. The winner will receive a trip to Sprout to be the Chief Kindness Officer for a day on TV plus a $5000 charitable donation made in the child's name. Nominations due November 21.

POLLUTION PREVENTION. For National Pollution Prevention Week, September 15-21, check out these resources and activities for ways that kids can conserve resources and reduce pollution at home and at school: Energy Star Kids, Trash Smash Game (NOAA), Kure Waste Chase Game (PBS), National Institute of Health resources, Water Sense (EPA).

ED SEEKS WINTER/SPRING INTERNS. Have you ever thought about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country? The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns! Learn more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS. This week we are flagging two blog articles by teachers that offer insights into teacher evaluation. In "Shifting our Mindset Around Teacher Evaluation," Jon Alfuth (Memphis, Tenn.) describes inefficiency of systems that label teachers as either effective or ineffective. Such systems, he argues, arise from a myth that teaching is a gift and that "some have it and some do not" (The Educator's Room). In "Widening the Hoop on Teacher Evaluation," Cristina Duncan Evans (Baltimore, Md.) characterizes the teacher evaluation systems of the past as "another hoop to jump through" examining how evaluations are finally changing for the better (EdWeek).

 IS TEACHING REALLY WOMEN'S WORK? Teaching has always been a profession dominated by women, and it's become even more female lately. In this NY Times analysis, education reporter Motoko Rich explores the issue and asks why more men don't go into teaching. 

• THE ART OF QUESTIONING. Todd Finley offers a helpful primer on how and when to use questioning to reinforce learning (Edutopia). His strategies move beyond giving enough wait time.

• FREE WEBINAR: ENGAGING STUDENTS IN TEXTUAL ANALYSIS. On Sept. 18, 2014, 3:00 p.m. ET, Pérsida and William Himmele will share teacher-tested techniques for helping students become analytical readers, who critically engage with literature and informational texts and who are able to write about texts in clear and cogent ways. The webinar, appropriate for teachers of students in grades 3 through 12, will provide tools for taking students past simply comprehending and retelling, toward a deeper analysis of their reading. Learn more.

 WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM CHARTER SCHOOLS. Did you know that though charter schools educate only five percent of America’s students, they dominate this year’s high school rankings, representing 30 percent of the top ten schools? Learn why and what other schools can learn from them. Hint: it's not about selective admission (Williams, Daily Beast).

 STRONG START IN THE URBAN CORE. Learn about New Schools For Phoenix, a charter school initiative in Phoenix's urban core that--with the help of an OII grant--created a program to train new charter school leaders to focus on quality of instruction and academic success from the start. Read the article (Herbert, OII homepage).

• THE A-B-Cs OF GIVING FEEDBACK. North Carolina teacher Ashley Hurley offers sage advice about how to give constructive feedback. "If you think about it," Hurley writes, "feedback is as much about you as the person you’re providing it to. Your feedback is a reflection of you." Learn more (Teaching Channel).

Emerging Research


This First Look report provides some selected findings from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey along with data tables and methodological information. The purpose of the Teacher Follow-up Survey is to determine how many teachers remained at the same school, moved to another school or left the profession in the year following the administration of the survey. Learn more (NCES).


Many What Works Clearinghouse resources summarize the research evidence on reading programs and strategies. These resources provide guidance for improving reading comprehension, fluency, and literacy achievement for readers in grades K–12.

  • Laying the FoundationGet young readers started on the right track. To help young learners, teach skills from a WWC practice guide on reading comprehension.
  • Ticket to LiteracyLooking to improve your school or district’s literacy achievement? WWC intervention reports examine the effectiveness of interventions for K–12 students. 
  • Making the ConnectionA WWC practice guide on teaching academic content to English learners provides instruction strategies, recommendations, and tips to improve literacy for elementary and middle school English learners.
  • Getting Up to SpeedGet practical tips from a WWC practice guide to help struggling readers.
  • The "Write" TrackRecommendations from a WWC practice guide offer steps and solutions to address common writing roadblocks.

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

DC Principal of the Year

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "If a school goes downhill after you leave, people say, well, you were really doing a good job. But that's not the case. If your school doesn't continue to do well, you were not doing your job." (Principal, Washington, D.C.)

4. “We had a state takeover and I was in what was called ‘a priority school,’ but no one was making us a priority.” (Principal, Tenn.)

3. "I am a principal now because, regardless of my background, a teacher believed in me. (PrincipalChattanooga, Tenn. )

2. "I left [my first teaching job] because I didn't feel I was being cultivated as a teacher." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

1. “What would have kept me there? If [the district] assured me that the teachers that were going to replace the six star teacher leaders I just lost for new opportunities would be as capable.” (Principal, Tenn.)