THE TEACHERS EDITION -- September 25, 2015

The Teachers Edition

September 25, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Prize-winning art in the Scholastic Art Show at ED

Ashley Gong is one of the five National Student Poets who read her poem "Goldfish" to an audience at the U.S. Department of Education last week. She is viewing Unknown Soldier, a painting by 17-year-old Karlie Kitchens, an 11th grader at Sandy High School in Sandy, Ore. Gong, age 15, is a student at Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Ct. She is the founder and president of the Latin Club, co-president of Global Voice, a human rights club, and founder of Newtown Middle School Latin Learning Program, which strives to instill a love for the Latin language in middle school students in her community. Her parents are first-generation immigrants from China.


When Art Comes to Town


Staff at the U.S. Department of Education met with a group of creative students at the opening exhibition of the 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards winners last week.

During the event, the recently chosen five National Student Poets held the audience spellbound as they confidently read their original poems. The young poets (Weston Clark, Julia Falkner, Ashley Gong, Madeleine LeCesne and Cameron Messinides) will each represent a different region of the country during the coming year as Ambassador Poets.

Twenty of the student artists attended, and 55 Scholastic works from around the country will be on display at the Department and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, in Washington, D.C. for the year-long exhibit. Winning films and animations will show continually in the lobby, as will a display of the Best of Teen Writing book featuring this year’s winners. In addition, 23 winning works of art from Portland, Ore., will be shown in a rotating exhibit for two months.

The painting above, entitled Chernobyl, has captured many people’s attention because of the stark white pants worn by the subjects. One of the security guards stationed by the painting said folks were upset, even after the painting's title was put up, because some young viewers didn't know about the history of Chernobyl. Artist Pearl McCann explained, “This acrylic painting shows the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Many children of a nearby town were born with missing left hands. These four children try to hide their deformities as they stand bare and vulnerable to others' mistakes.” 

Read up on what else ED did to celebrate Arts in Education Week. Learn more about ED's Student Art Exhibit Program.

still of preschool boy playing with camera equipment


The View from Three Feet

SoulPancake has released this endearing video that features young children talking about their favorite part of school while projecting somber images as they consider the one-out-of-two children who don't get to go to preschool. 

“We can change textbooks, shrink class sizes, publish test scores, and build new buildings, but unless we change what adults do every day inside their classrooms, we cannot expect student outcomes to improve.”

(Thomas Kane in "Never Diet without a Bathroom Scale and a Mirror: The Case for Combining Teacher Evaluation and the Common Core," Brookings.) 

Quote to Note

Teach to Lead Update

Leading from the Classroom

1. LOOKING IN THE CRYSTAL BALL AT TEACHER LEADERSHIP. In this interesting reflection, CTQ's Barnett Barry points to some good signs of teacher leadership in the Hawkeye State. Among them: Iowa's Teacher Leadership Compensation system, designed to spread teaching expertise while raising the status of the profession. He also prognosticates about what teacher leadership will look like in 2017. It's worth a read (and a "High Five!").

2. TEACHER LEADERSHIP IN ACTION. Check out the teacher leadership stories posted on Teach to Lead this week.

• Jon Alfuth created a blog where teachers can tell their stories and have their policy perspectives shared constructively with the larger education community.

• Gretchen Sage-Martinson, Carrie Bakken & Nora Whalen created a project-based, teacher powered high school.

• Terri Vest developed an interdisciplinary approach to the Common Core, a training for teachers in Vermont who do not teach math or English language arts.

3. THE GROWING IMPERATIVE FOR TEACHER LEADERS. Lindblom Math and Science Academy teacher Gina Caneva, in Chicago, Ill. makes a case for supporting master teachers so that they can remain in the classroom and help train the new teaching workforce. "Leadership roles and incentives can inspire teachers to stay in a profession that currently has extremely high turnover," she writes. Read more (Catalyst Chicago).


Apply to Win $10,000

The Character Lab is sponsoring a contest asking teachers to send great ideas for cultivating character strengths in the classroom. The seven teachers with the best ideas will each win $10,000. Learn more

Did you know?


Why does the U.S. flag have 13 stripes?

According to the Civic Education Initiative, this is one of thirteen questions students should be able to answer before graduating from high school--the same questions that immigrants must answer to become naturalized citizens. 

Proponents, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, have organized campaigns to enact the same civics test to high school graduates in at least seven states: Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. Learn moreTake the federal government's self test.


Recognizing the Diversity of Gifted Students

ED has awarded $3.9 million to partnerships of post-secondary institutions and school districts that focus on increasing the number of minority and other underrepresented students in gifted and talented programs. The awards are targeted at programs aimed at enrolling students that are economically disadvantaged, limited in English language skills or have disabilities. Learn more

My School Information Design Challenge logo


Enter Contest to Design School Report Cards

The Foundation for Excellence in Education announced a national competition to rethink and redesign school report cards, called My School Information Design Challenge (#schoolinfo).

Incorporating 21st-century technology, the challenge seeks to re-imagine school report cards – a required and critical tool for communicating school performance – into a clear and accessible, easy-to-understand format to best convey information to parents, policymakers and the public. The competition offers prizes totaling up to $35,000 for designers who employ the latest advancements in data visualization to effectively re-imagine the transparency, presentation and usability of school information.

P Chat

Principal Chat

WHAT MAKES EFFECTIVE SCHOOL TURNAROUND PARTNERSHIPS? A new brief by the District and School Improvement Center at AIR attempts to answer this question. The authors explored two lines of questioning: What features of an external partnership make success likelier, and how can school administrators make these relationships more effective?

WHY PROFESSIONAL LEARNING MATTERS. Administrator Ben Johnson uses an example from a recent workshop – when a principal had an aha moment – to illustrate how he came to understand the importance of quality professional development for teachers. "If we want students to learn, the most critical element is the teacher," the principal concluded. "So professional development is the overall most important thing we can do to help students learn." Read his article (Edutopia).

WEBINAR: KEY STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP POLICYCCSSO's State Consortium on Educator Effectiveness and the Wallace Foundation are hosting a free webinar for principals and district leaders from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. (ET) on October 9. Participants will hear a discussion among representatives from national policy associations that may inform their strategic planning to develop teacher leaders in support of a new vision in district leadership. Register and view the agenda.

Common Core Connections

CORE DEFENSE. Boston (Mass.) teacher Erin Dukeshire refutes a critique of the Common Core made by principal Carol Burris, who wrote that the new standards dictate what teachers will teach. "As a ten-year veteran teacher in Massachusetts, I agree with Ms. Burris that we should avoid a federally mandated curriculum," writes Dukeshire. "But the Common Core is not that." Read more (Education Post). In the same publication, second grade East Palo Alto (Calif.) teacher Marciela Montoy-Wilson writes that the new standards provide students with a "foundation to deeper understanding" that "illuminate the achievement gap" and provide teachers with more "focused guideposts" of what students should learn. Read her blog

MAKING THE CUT. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is diving into the difficult – and politically delicate –  task of setting cut scores for its Common Core exams. And it wants educators' help. The consortium is asking teachers, parents and anyone with an interest in education to spend a few hours reviewing test questions and recommending proficiency levels. Panelists can pick the grade level and subject matter they’d like to review. The deadline to register has been extended to Sept. 26. Learn more. Register

PARCC LAUNCHES MONTHLY TWITTER OFFICE HOURS. The first session will be held on Sept. 22 starting at 5 p.m. ET. Participants can ask about what they need to know while gearing up for the spring 2015 assessments using the hashtag #askPARCC.

PARCC IN SPANISH. Julia O'Donoghue reports that Louisiana will administer the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessment in Spanish “to newly arrived immigrants who are still learning English for the first two years they are enrolled in school.” Thereafter, they must take the tests in English. Read more (Times-Picayune).


Breaking Ground at DoD Schools

Department of Defense (DoD) schools serve approximately 82,000 students in 180 schools in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Students at a DoD school fold the U.S. flag

Learn more about how DoD schools are able to boast about high test scores and graduation rates, while continuing to be very popular with military families who make use of them. 

"MY HERO IS..." CONTEST. The National Military Family Association and the American Heroes Channel recently announced the launch of the “My Hero Is…” contest. The national competition provides an opportunity for viewers to nominate their own personal military hero and tell why they deserve the honor. Entrants can submit a video of 30 seconds or less explaining who their military hero is and why. Students can submit their video on behalf of their local school. The school with the most number of entries will receive a Veterans Day assembly event hosted by the National Military Family Association, Discovery Education and American Heroes Channel, which will celebrate local veterans within their community. Learn more

two arrows hitting target


Gwinnett and Orange Counties Make Their Mark

For the first time in its 13-year history, the Broad Prize for Urban Education has been awarded to two school districts: Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia and Orange County Public Schools in Florida. A nine-member bipartisan jury of prominent leaders from education and public service—including two former U.S. secretaries of education, a former senator and two former governors—decided to award the 2014 Broad Prize to both districts after determining that honoring two districts with two different strategies might inspire more school leaders around the country to take note of varying ways to raise student achievement.

In analyses which compare each district’s actual proficiency rates in reading, math and science to expected results, Gwinnett outperformed expectations for performance 100 percent of the time in 2013, while Orange County increasingly outperformed expectations for improvement 100 percent of the time between 2010 and 2013.

Learn more. Watch an inspiring video about the finalists.

TAF and PAF news

STEVE OWENS (2010 Classroom Fellow) has penned a thought-provoking article for VIVA educators that examines the difference between using multiple measures and multiple data points in teacher evaluations. "We know that no one data point is a silver bullet that provides a complete, valid and reliable picture of professional practice," writes Owens. "Professional practice is a complex and sophisticated enterprise that must be viewed through a variety of lenses." He argues that states and districts should use "multiple data points, a research-based rubric and anchor components" to streamline and improve the validity of teacher evaluation systems. 

Mauro Diaz photo

Left: 2013 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Mauro Diaz (Wyoming) is one of several Hispanic teachers featured this month. Check out the profile of 2009 Fellow José Rodríguez (Texas).


Celebrating Latino 

Achievement & Scholarship

During Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will be featuring Hispanic teachers through various communications platforms to stakeholders across the country. By celebrating the work of teachers, not only in their classrooms but also within their communities, the Initiative hopes to inspire more Hispanics to enter the teaching profession. Using the hashtag #LatinosTeach, the initiative will spotlight Hispanic educators devoted to teaching the skills necessary to be globally competitive to the next generation.  


Globally Connected

In honor of Connected Educator Month in October, National Geographic Geo-Educator Community is hosting two global collaborative project events to help teachers connect their students to other students around the world. 

October 1st Google+ Hangout. In this interactive hangout, hear from two educators who have run successful global projects. Staff at iEARN and PenPal Schools will share tips to get started. Sign up.

October 7th Online Meetup. Connect with educators across disciplines via Blackboard Collaborate to share ideas and activities for incorporating Global Collaborative Projects into lessons. Register.

For ideas on how to implement a global collaborative project, check out the Gooru Resource Library

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

1. ARE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW THE NEXT STEPHEN KING? ANDY WARHOL? KEN BURNS? The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are accepting submissions from students in Grades 7-12 who aspire to follow in the footsteps of great writers and artists and gain opportunities for exhibition, publication, scholarships and more.

Students in the U.S. and Canada, and those attending American schools abroad, are invited to submit creative works in the Awards' 28 categories, ranging from comic art to photography, flash fiction to poetry, video game design to novel-writing and more. All works are evaluated through a blind judging process based on originality, technical skill and the emergence of a personal vision or voice -- the same three criteria since the program's founding in 1923. Deadlines for submissions vary by region throughout the winter months, with winners announced in March 2015. Learn more. Visit the Scholastic media room online.

2. MANAGING YOUR MONEY. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have created some resources for students on how to make good financial decisions. Some of our favorites include a Sesame Street tool for preschoolers that encourages sharing and saving and a special edition of Consumer News for Teens that provides advice on everything from avoiding fraud to taking out a car loan. 


Get on the NASA Wavelength for Teachers

NASA features an ongoing Wavelength blog highlighting current issues and topics in STEM education and connections to NASA resources, activities and projects. Recent topics have included:

Finding and Supporting the “E” in STEM . To accomplish NASA satellite mission objectives, scientists and engineers must find a synergy between their disciplines. NASA Wavelength resources can help you appreciate the distinction between the two, how they work together, and how they relate to NGSS.

Girls in STEM. This two-part series includes NASA resources and programs featuring female role models, as well as resources using proven instructional strategies (based on the SciGirls Seven on PBS) for engaging young women in science, including cooperative learning, hands-on investigations where they suggest their own approaches to a problem or project, and applying their own creativity to solving problems.

Citizen Science. A four-part series featuring NASA citizen science projects for all ages, including GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment), Student Cloud Observations On-Line (SCOOL), SatCam, PicturePosts, and Zooniverse and CosmoQuest.

Emerging Research


A Study in Contrast

According to a report by the American Institutes for Research, standards used to measure student progress have varied widely among states. The report includes some interesting findings.

• The “expectations gap” is so large that it is more than twice the size of the national racial achievement gap. "Closing the achievement gap is important, but so is closing the larger expectation gap," write the report's authors.

• There are "vast differences in what is considered proficient" by state. The difference between the standards in the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards is about 2 standard deviations, with the highest and lowest standards representing three to four grade levels.

• The percentage of proficient students for most states declined when compared with international standards.

• Student success under No Child Left Behind is largely related to using low performance standards. According to the report, "The states reporting the highest numbers of proficient students have the lowest performance standards. More than two-thirds of the variation in state success reported by No Child Left Behind is related to how high or low the states set their performance standards."

The report concludes, “These large differences among states clearly indicate why we need more common assessments and the Common Core State Standards. It is not that each state should teach the same thing at the same time in every grade every year—instead, we need to reduce the extreme variability that we now have, whereby some low-achieving states have low expectations and higher-achieving states have higher expectations. These huge differences in expectations deny students in states with low performance standards the opportunity to learn from a challenging curriculum.”

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• OH, THE GAMES WE PLAY IN SCHOOL! This interesting article sheds light on the emerging role of video games in education (Homeroom). 

• THINK GLOBALLY. TEACH VIRTUALLY.  NNSTOY is offering a free webinar with 2013 Kansas State Teacher of the Year Dyane Smokorowski about how to connect students to experts, museums, National Parks, zoos and even other classrooms around the globe. Smokorowski will also examine globally connected classrooms that are taking the Common Core's concepts of curiosity, critical thinking, creating, and collaborating beyond the final frontier. September 30th, 8-9:00PM EST. Learn moreRegister.

• CELEBRATE THE CHANGING SEASONS. With the arrival of fall, find ways to spark students' interest in seasonal activities from federal institutions like the U.S. Forest Service, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This FREE page offers resources for teaching color, Earth science, reading, art and technology.

• YIPES! Rebecca Klein writes about a National Center for Education Statistics survey that finds former teachers are happier at new jobs than they were when teaching. Teachers who left the classroom say their new job has "better working conditions, more autonomy, and prestige." Most stayed in education, but not in teaching positions. The article also notes that past surveys show that teachers who stay in the classroom are also happy (Huffington Post). Read the survey.

• "A" IS FOR APPS: TEACHERS SHARE TOP DIGITAL TOOLSIn this NPR story, reporter Elissa Nadworny checks in with educational technology teachers to discover what digital tools are trending. At the top of the list: Remind, ClassDojo, Twitter, Socrative, and QR code readers. Find out what teachers and their students are doing with them.

• POSITIVE IMPACT. Here is an interesting white paper about using a "sustainability lens" to cultivate certain soft skills in students, including conscientiousness, concern for others, and perseverance (Kappa Delta Pi).

• BE DISASTER AWARE. Although September is a busy time for schools, it's also a good time to make sure the school community is up-to-date on emergency plans, policies and procedure. Learn more during National Preparedness Month.

 NEED A SCHOOL-BASED JOB? The state of Arizona apparently has 527 full time jobs available for teachers and additional jobs for counselors and paraprofessionals. Learn more (Dana, AZ Central).

open book

Recommended Reading

 12 WAYS TO DE-MOTIVATE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS. Rick Wormeli begins his article with proven strategies that keep middle level students from becoming interested in school. Then he offers better approaches that move beyond "carrots and sticks."  Read his article (Educational Leadership).

• LIFTING THE PROFESSION THROUGH RESIDENCY. "The authority of any profession is not determined by the strength of one individual's talent, but by the reputation of the collective talent,"  National Board President Ron Thorpe told staff at ED a few weeks ago. In this article in Kappan, he lays out a vision to transform teaching by creating a teacher residency process modeled after the medical profession. 

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

photo of Principal of the Year finalists

Finalists for NASSP Principal of the Year (from left to right): Adam Mokelke, Burchell High School, Wasilla, Alaska; Jayne Ellspermann, West Port High School, Ocala, Fla.; Rob Miller, Jenks Middle School, Jenks, Okla.; Ronald Rowell, Theodore High School, Theodore, Ala.; Susan Evans, Ridgely Middle School, Lutherville, Md.; and David Essink, Hastings Middle School, Hastings, Neb. 

Top 6 Quotes

Wisdom from principals heard by ED

Six of the finalists for NASSP Principal of the Year (shown above) stopped by ED to chat about their experiences and to talk policy. Here are some insights they shared.

6. "Changing school culture and climate always come before academic growth and success. This just takes time." (Principal, Wasilla, Alaska)

5. "A principal has to have a PhD--passion, humility and determination." (Principal, Theodore, Ala.)

4. "All schools have their own DNA. We [principals] have to figure out our own way to make the school work." (Principal, Luthersville, Md.)

3. "Leadership is about not being afraid to share leadership." (Principal, Ocala, Fla.)

2. Speaking about state and district requirements for certain kinds of professional development that may or may not be needed: "It's hard to start new things, but it's even harder to stop old ones." (Principal, Jenks, Okla.)

1. "When teachers tell me they are thinking of moving to a more affluent school down the road, I say, 'Do you want easy or do you want to make a difference?'" (Principal, Hastings, Neb.)