THE TEACHERS EDITION -- November 20, 2014

The Teachers Edition

November 20, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Note: The Teachers Edition will not be published next week but will return to your inbox December 4.

hands raised - superintendents

Office of Educational Technology Director Richard Culatta leads a White House conversation with invited superintendents to launch the Future Ready initiative.


The Time for Future Ready Districts and Classrooms? Now.

It’s a familiar sentiment that teachers have heard many times, and we at ED firmly believe: teachers prepare students for the future. Too many teachers, however, work in schools and districts that lack the essential tools and resources to prepare students — particularly when it comes to the technology resources we take for granted in our own homes and coffee shops: reliable Internet access, digital devices and rich digital content.

We are now at a critical point in making access to this technology a reality for everyone. Two major initiatives in particular have emerged that could change everything in this realm: Future Ready and the E-rate program.

The Future Ready initiative is an effort to dramatically change this reality for teachers and students across the country. This week more than one hundred superintendents from around the country joined President Obama and Secretary Duncan at a White House event, “ConnectED to the Future,” a convening of leaders committed to directing their districts in the transition to digital learning. The convening builds on the President’s ConnectED Initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of students to broadband in 5 years.

And the timing couldn’t be better for this collaborative effort. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to give more funding, known as E-rate, to bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century by ensuring they have reliable high-speed Internet connectivity.   

Learn more about the Future Ready initiative, read the  Future Ready District Pledge, key resources such as an infrastructure guide and a professional development toolkit, and how your district can sign up for the Regional Summits.


Unlocking Language for English Learners

This EdWeek article by Arkansas teacher Justin Minkel contains strategies to teach English learners (EL) the structures of the language that are invisible to native speakers and to help ELs work at high levels with individualized instruction. 

Minkel teaches first grade at Jones Elementary School in Springdale, where  91.1 percent of the students live in poverty and 85 percent speak English as a second language. He loops with his kids to second grade and achieves remarkable growth with them. Last year, 23 of 24 second graders were identified as proficient or advanced, when the year before only seven were reading and speaking at grade level. In the article, he describes the factors that he believes led to this growth and identifies strategies any teacher of English learners could use.

post it notes with principal's job functions


My Principal, My "CFO"

Principal Ambassador Fellow Jill Levine led a session with principals of National Blue Ribbon Schools last week. During the session, she asked principals to work in groups to list all of the roles they play in the school. This snapshot of what some of them said provides real insights into challenges of this multifaceted work, when one minute a principal is an instructional leader, a social worker, a custodian...or a CFO. Learn more about the National Blue Ribbon Schools celebration.

Teach to Lead Update

Submit Ideas for the Denver Regional Teacher Leadership Summit

We are now accepting ideas for consideration for the regional Denver Teacher Leadership Summit on January 10-11, 2015. All educators are welcome to submit ideas as individuals or as a team (teachers, principals, administrators, school board members etc.). There is no cost for summit registration or lodging. The deadline for idea submissions for the Denver Summit is December 9, 2014. Submit an idea for possible inclusion in the summit. Learn more.

SAVING TEACHERS FROM BURNING OUT OR DROPPING OUT. While better teacher preparation is a crucial element to solving our teacher quality and retention issues, it’s only half the challenge. In this article, Jonas Chartock and Ross Wiener talk about the importance of developing teacher leadership to keep truly great teachers engaged and effective as they settle in to their careers. Read the story (Hechinger Report).

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

  • Making an Algebra Scope and Sequence that Makes Sense. As a teacher leader in Washington, D.C., John Mahoney partnered with other district math teachers to map out a scope and sequence for Algebra I that aligned with the Common Core State Standards and to teach the sequence to teachers.
  • Building the Capacity of Beginning Teachers. To improve the capacity and skills of beginning teachers in Montana, teacher leader Anna Baldwin worked with a team to create professional learning to improve the teaching skills of beginning teachers in the district.


Easy A's

Majoring in education is an easy route to high college grades and graduation, according to a report published by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that calls for higher standards in teacher preparation. The report found that at 58 percent of schools, "teacher preparation programs are much more likely to confer high grades than are other majors on the same campus." 

The report, Easy A's, takes a look at two questions: (1) Are teacher candidates graded too easily, misleading them so they believe they are genuinely ready to teach when this may not be the case? (2) Is teacher preparation coursework rigorous enough, simulating the complex demands of teaching?

Download the report or the executive summary. Read Joy Remosovits's coverage of this and other studies of teacher preparation (Huffington Post).

Recently the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation issued a comprehensive and helpful report about how institutions of higher education can create an evidence-based system for teacher preparation programs. It is definitely worth reading.

Did you know?


Closing the Gap

If the United States were able to close the educational achievement gaps between native-born white children and black and Hispanic children, the U.S. economy would be 5.8 percent—or nearly $2.3 trillion—larger in 2050. The cumulative increase in GDP from 2014 to 2050 would amount to $20.4 trillion, or an average of $551 billion per year.

(From The Economic Benefits of Closing the Achievement Gap, by Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, published by the Center for American Progress. The report estimates the increases in U.S. economic growth that would occur if racial and ethnic achievement gaps were closed and the educational playing field were leveled. Download the complete report.)

Standards in Six Buckets

In Six Buckets, the Skinny Version of Standards

After working with the Common Core Standards for the past few years, Sarah Brown Wessling, a high school English teacher in Iowa and the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, noticed a trend in her work: “I’ve been engaging in exercises that actually make them bigger. I’ve unpacked, re-worded, aligned, and explained.” 

So she set out to see if there was another way. Could she “skinny” the standards and make them truly accessible on a day-to-day basis for both her students and herself? Could this process help her shift the ownership of learning to the students? See in this video how her students use six buckets of learning in a lesson with the book, The Hunger Games. Then read about the steps that Sarah took to get there in her Teaching Channel blog.


Classes Prepare Students for Manufacturing Jobs

The need for filling jobs in the nation’s factories is increasing and manufacturers are looking to high schools and community colleges for help to fill vacancies. A revival of engineering and technology classes and apprenticeships are preparing more students for where the jobs are – in manufacturing. Educators, too, are trying to spark students’ interest in the field, borrowing lessons from several German companies that have successfully trained new workers. Project Lead the Way, President Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and other community initiatives are getting students excited. Learn more (Davidson, USA TODAY)

Warren students personalized learning


Personalized Learning Case Studies

Four Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) program grantees are the subject of a new research study from ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.  In keeping with their role as innovation laboratories, they share their initial experiences with the adoption of personalized learning approaches to prepare their students to succeed in the 21st century global economy. Personalized Learning in Progress: Case Studies of Four Race to the Top-District Grantees’ Early Implementation contains insights from the four diverse school districts — Iredell-Statesville Schools (N.C.), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.), New Haven Unified School District (Calif.), and Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Ind.) — that were among 16 districts to receive RTT-D grants in 2012. 

The report shares the thinking, planning, and actions taken by each district in response to three questions: What are the grantees’ approaches to personalized learning? What actions did they take in the early stages of implementation? What realities did they encounter as they implemented their ideas and plans? Four common strategies are also explored, including shifts in teachers’ roles as they support student-centered learning. 



One-to-One Computing

Learn more about a new technology initiative in Florida’s Citrus County School District that is taking a step-by-step approach to transform teaching and learning through a one-to-one computing initiative. Although many districts are giving students laptop computers, Citrus County gets high marks for ensuring that the technology is transforming both teaching and learning. “We didn’t want these to simply be used for things like note taking or as a place to go for electronic worksheets,” said Kathy Androski, a media specialist at Citrus Springs Middle School who coaches her fellow teachers on how to use the technology. “We wanted the students using technology to really ratchet up their learning experience.” Learn more in the new post up on PROGRESS!

Common Core Connections

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STANDARDS AND TEACHING. In this brief video, teachers and principals describe how their states' more rigorous standards are helping them improve their teaching (Education Post).


"Change is hard, change is difficult and change is usually not welcomed. But Common Core change is necessary... America has some of the greatest minds in this universe... if not THE greatest! Those great minds will stagnate and not reach their full potential if we do not give students the tools they need to take knowledge to the next level!"

(Excerpt from a message written by teacher Connie Meiers on Education Post's Facebook page. Read her complete post.)

Quote to Note

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

FUTURE BUSINESS LEADERS, ECONOMISTS, STATISTICIANS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers resources for students and teachers. Students can tap into resources and tools, such as occupational outlooks, reference materials, career search tools, and games. Teacher resources include inflation calculator, graphing exercises for price changes, and activities using real world examples, such as the latest statistics on employment, prices, and wages.


Building Blocks for Better Residencies

How prepared were you? A question that often prompts the sharing of memories of those first days in front of students is also the essential challenge for all teacher prep programs. One growing trend in the continued effort to thoroughly prepare teachers for the hard work is teacher residency programs. Urban Teacher Residency United recently issued a report offering a sneak peek into the inner workings of two highly effective urban residency programs, Aspire Teacher Residency in California and the Denver Teacher Residency. Both programs, funded through ED's Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, provide structured coaching, clear evaluation, and rigorous selection processes - successful strategies that benefit all types of teacher prep programs.

And speaking of ED-funded residencies, IES also this week released an implementation report on all 30 teacher residency programs funded through the 2009 and 2010 TQP grants.


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

UNDERSTANDING THE COHORT GRADUATION RATE. This is the third year that all states used a common, rigorous measure to indicate how many students receive diplomas, and the latest state-by-state graduation rates demonstrate our continued progress. The new data, for the 2012-13 school year, indicate that 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85 percent, up from 16 states in the 2011-12 school year and nine in 2010-2011. This progress is a tribute to the tireless efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and other educators and staff, and of the students themselves. Read more.

EXTEND ESEA FLEX. A Fact Sheet to help states understand the process and what they need to know about extending ESEA flexibility waivers is now available. States that are interested may apply before their current waiver expires at the end of the current school year. Flexibility has allowed states and districts to develop creative solutions tailored to their individual cultures, with major benefits for all students, regardless of background. The guidance for renewal requests can be found here.


A Global Matter

International Education Week (IEW) celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This year marks IEW’s 15th anniversary. In his IEW 2014 video message and blog, Secretary Duncan encourages everyone to promote the global mission of ensuring that every child receives a world-class education. Learn more.

In honor of IEW, find out more about these initiatives to increase global competency:

State of Global Competence. Two years ago, ED released Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement, a strategy linking domestic and international priorities to strengthen U.S. education. In this blog series, Maureen McLaughlin, the Director of International Affairs at ED, reflects on where we are and how far we have come in terms of global competencies.

Global Learning Fellowship. NEA Foundation offers a Global Learning Fellowship that provides educators with the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, advance pedagogy in their school/district, prepare students to thrive in the flattened global age, and contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap. Fellows participate in training, receive Spanish language instruction, and will travel to Peru and complete service-learning projects. Meet the 2015 class of NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows and read reflections from past fellows about how a global professional development experience has the power to transform practice and learning, at home, in school, and throughout communities.Check out global lesson plans.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• DEEP THOUGHTS ON DEEPER LEARNING. This interesting piece examines the concept of deeper learning. The author contrasts examples of authentic deeper learning with surface examples that often pass for deep learning. Read the article (Bellanca, Learning First Alliance).

• VOTE FOR A $100,000 PROPOSAL. The Dream Big Teacher Challenge is now open for voting. Back in May, teachers were invited to propose ideas for a $100,000 grant. Read the innovative proposals of the 15 finalists, watch their inspiring videos, and then vote for one (or more) of these visionary educators. Five of them (one from each region) will win a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance University of Farmers Education Foundation to implement their proposal.  

• PLAYGROUND SWEEPSTAKES. Could your school use a new playground? Enter the Together Counts Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes to win $30,000 in prizes for your school’s wellness program or a new playground from Playworld Systems, Inc. Anyone can enter on behalf of your school. Submissions close on March 19, 2015.

• PUBLIC EDUCATOR 101. Read one principal's response to Time Magazine about what it really means to be a public educator. Read the related Washington Post article (Strauss).

• WHY SCHOOLS NEED LIBRARIANS. This is a re-post from last week's Teachers Edition with corrected information: the video was produced by the California School Library Association (CSLA), not the California Library Association. This video produced by the California School Library Association offers insights into the important work of school librarians, who teach students to be smart about using information. Teacher librarian Connie Williams compares her work teaching information literacy to a crossing guard teaching students to be safe looking both ways before crossing a street. On the Internet, she says, "looking both ways includes looking at the source, looking at the credibility, looking at the accuracy and looking at the reliability."

textbook materials


Consumer Reports for Textbooks

Check out this exciting initiative to provide free Consumer Reportsstyle reviews of instructional materials focused on alignment to Common Core and other indicators of high quality. Current classroom teachers review the materials for high quality indicators, including usability, teacher support, and differentiation. EdReports, the new independent nonprofit behind this bold move, offers a refreshing perspective on how to navigate the curriculum market and provides those responsible for purchasing materials, detailed information for making more informed choices. The first set of reviews of K-8 mathematics materials will be released in the spring. "One thing we're trying to do is put pressure on the publishers to do better" noted Melissa Hurt, a reviewer for EdReports and a curriculum coordinator in Shelby County, Tenn., in a recent EdWeek article.

What we love about this organization: it takes teacher leadership to a whole new level with teachers recognized as the experts in this process. EdReports is seeking educators to become content reviewers for future reviews.

open book

Recommended Reading

• LOVE NINJA. The teachers at ED love this story about how an elementary teacher worked systematically to both stop bullying and to look out for the loneliest kids in her class. She calls her technique the "Love Ninja" strategy. Her approach is well worth reading (Melton, Reader's Digest).

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

Los Angeles roundtable with teachers

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "At some point we've tipped the scales and because we are testing so much we don't know what's good data and what's not." (Principal, Ala.)

4. Reflecting on the summative test her state was using before the Common Core assessments: "It's almost like the test in the past was an injustice to our student's capabilities." (Teacher, Ark.)

3. “I have the privilege of having many young teachers who got their credentials with the Common Core as the basis …so for me as a professional, the increased standards means that we’re all using the same measuring stick. We have the same high expectations across the country. It’s going to help us calibrate good instruction and equalize resources for children.” (Principal, Los Angeles, Calif.)

2. Describing changes to teaching since the advent of the Common Core: “The shift is more of a focus on how students learn and less on how to teach.” (Teacher, Los Angeles, Calif.)

1. “The only thing that made me successful was education – and not every teacher – the really good ones. I wanted to be one of those teachers for kids like me.” (Teacher, Los Angeles, Calif.)