THE TEACHERS EDITION -- December 4, 2014

The Teachers Edition

December 4, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Building strong teacher prep


Strengthening the Front 

of the Teaching Pipeline

The U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations to improve the way new teachers are prepared for the profession. The regulations call on states to rate programs, teachers' and principals' assessments of how well teachers are prepared, and the achievement of a teacher’s students. Get more information or check out the new regulations.

Only training programs deemed effective would be eligible to receive money from federal TEACH grants given to prospective teachers who agree to teach in disadvantaged schools. 

“Too often [teachers] struggle at the beginning of their careers and have to figure out too much on the job for themselves,” Arne Duncan said.

Learn more (Layton, Washington Post). Read a statement by Educators 4 Excellence about the guidelines. Review specific recommendations to improve teacher preparation made by Teach Plus teachers after polling more than 1,000 teachers about their preparation experience. 


A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

According to a report from the Third Way, there are 600 different teacher licensure exams across the country, and states hold aspiring teachers to vastly different levels of rigor. 

Specifically, the report finds that almost every state grants licenses to teachers who score as low as the 16th percentile. The report proposes a certification framework that requires a demonstration of content and pedagogical knowledge before a teacher ever enters the classroom and the completion of a performance assessment within one year of full-time teaching.

PBSKIDS learn math

Special agents Olive (Dalila Bela) and Otto (Filip Geljo) are ready to get their first assignment in the Nov. 26 series premiere of ODD SQUAD. (Photo courtesy of ODD SQUAD© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company)


ODD Kids Tackle Math

Special agents Olive and Otto, along with their boss, Ms. O, and Special Agent Oscar will use math skills and collaboration to solve “odd” cases in a new show on PBS KIDS, ODD SQUAD(The first odd case involves a one-gallon blob that has escaped from a science lab and must be recovered.)

Funded by an Office of Innovation and Improvement Ready To Learn grant, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's show also offers a complementary suite of electronic learning opportunities featuring the ODD SQUAD special agents. 


Examining Poverty, Race and the Use of Force

The AP's Christine Armario reports that "In the aftermath of the Ferguson announcement, classrooms across the nation are taking up uncomfortable topics — race, police use of force and poverty, among others — to give students a voice and help them make sense of events."

In the Grand Junction (Colo.) Daily Sentinel, she describes how some teachers are using the current news to "weave in history lessons" detailing texts that teachers are drawing from, including Officer Darren Wilson's grand jury testimony. The article also highlights resources teachers are using to facilitate classroom discussions. Read the story

It's not only students learning from these events; staff at ED are also reflecting on the news. Read the email message that Arne Duncan sent to staff last week about recent violence and unrest in Ferguson, Mo. He describes his concerns about what can happen when young people lose "trust in our system of laws and democracy, and become disconnected – from adults, from society, from school, and from the police" and urges adults to do everything they can to rebuild it.

girl working in front of mural


The Art of Engagement

A new series of videos on arts integration helps teacher learn how to engage their students in learning through the arts in a variety of grade levels, subject areas, and contexts. 

Created in partnership with The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Teaching Channel, teachers in the videos use arts integration with English Language Learners, students in Special Education, and in conjunction with the Common Core. Learn more and read more about “Harnessing the Power of Arts Integration” in the blog by Lily Jones 

Teach to Lead Update

Louisville or Bust!

FOLLOW TEACH TO LEAD'S FIRST REGIONAL TEACHER LEADERSHIP SUMMIT in Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend on social media using #TTLSummit.

WHAT IS A TEACHER LEADER? Watch this EngageNY video to discover the characteristics of effective teacher leadership. 

A LOOK AT THE TEACHER LEADERSHIP LANDSCAPE. ASCD has published an interesting graphic depicting the current teacher leadership landscape following their three-month forum with educators. The publication breaks down roles and characteristics of teacher leaders and provides insights. For example, when asked to describe teacher leaders, the most frequently used terms among participants were "collaborative" and "approachable."

SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS. Four organizations have joined the Teach to Lead initiative, bringing the current team of supporters to 57. They include the Colorado Education AssociationUrban Teacher Residency UnitedVision Network of Delaware, and Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

announcement for second annual White House film festival


Off the Beaten Path

Looking for something new to do this summer? Why not study Authors in the Prado in Madrid, read Dante’s Inferno in Charlottesville, or analyze Literatures of Indigenous Peoples in Missoula? These are just a few of the tuition-free summer programs for educators offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Participants receive $1200 to $3900 stipends to help cover travel and living expenses while they immerse themselves in new locations and experiences across the U.S. and abroad for one to five weeks of study. Application deadline: March 2, 2015.

Cert Day poster

Congratulations to the 4,000 new National Board Certified Teachers! 

Yesterday, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards officially named and celebrated 4,000 new NBCTs across the country as part of its annual Certification Day announcement. Washington state gained the most NBCTs with 946 teachers achieving in 2014, and 14 percent of the statewide teaching workforce now Board certified. States that experienced the largest growth in their ranks of NBCTs were Wyoming (16 percent), Washington (13 percent) and Hawaii (12 percent).

These teachers met standards for accomplished practice through a performance-based, peer-review process (similar to Board certification in medicine) that was created by teachers, for teachers. 

National Board President Ronald Thorpe said: “Today, only a small fraction of America’s teachers are Board certified. We owe it to our students and our future to make them a majority—and to build the coherent trajectory that supports every teacher to reach accomplished practice.” Learn more.


Win Money to Finance Summer PD

The Rural Trust's Global Teacher Fellowship will award up to 25 fellowships to teachers in 2015 to develop rural teachers.

The awards (up to $5,000 for individual teachers and $10,000 for a team of two or more teachers) support teachers’ participation in self-designed summer learning experiences and a two-day place-based learning institute in the fall following the summer experience.

Teachers are encouraged to center their learning on an international travel and study experience, out of which they develop interdisciplinary, place-based learning curricula aligned with their specific state and local content standards. Learn more.

Did you know?


Evidence that Early Learning Matters

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that full-day preschool in the Midwest Child-Parent Center Education Program is associated with higher scores in 4 of 6 domains of school readiness skills—language, math, socio-emotional development, and physical health—increased attendance, and reduced chronic absence (26% to 45%) over part-day services.

P Chat

Principal Chat

READY TO LEAD, BUT HOW? Check out this fascinating report written by Susan Moore Johnson and colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education about teacher leadership in high-need urban schools. The study finds a strong relationship between a principal's success implementing school improvement plans and the leader's style working with teachers. Here's an excerpt: 

Whatever decisions principals make or mandates they issue, teachers remain the “street-level bureaucrats” (Lipsky, 1983) who independently decide what their students’ true potential and problems are, which of the principal’s initiatives deserve their support, and what they think might improve the school. 

SPOTLIGHT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PRINCIPALS. Read this nifty EdWeek story about ED's current focus on the central role of the principal in the success of today's schools (Superville). "That heavy focus on principals is a departure from that of previous administrations and marks a shift even from Secretary Duncan's first four years," according to the article.

MEET PRINCIPAL AMBASSADOR FELLOW JILL LEVINE. NAESP published this interesting profile of Principal Ambassador Fellow Jill Levine (Chattanooga, Tenn.), talking about her role at ED. Read the story (Communicator).

Common Core Connections
video clip showing new approach to teaching fractions

TEACHING FRACTIONS UNDER THE COMMON CORE. The attached EdWeek article and video by Liana Heitin dig deeply into key shifts in the Common Core math standards, focusing on the new approach to teaching fractions. Instead of teaching students to find the lowest common denominator or distinguish between proper and improper fractions, educators are using number lines. 

IS COMMON CORE MATH TOO CONFUSING AND HARD?  Not according to Robert Pondiscio and Kevin Mahnken, who wrote this well-reasoned response to critics who say the standards are too difficult and confusing for young learners to grasp (Gadfly).

IT'S WORKING: A TEACHER'S REPORT ON THE COMMON CORE. In this article, New York social studies teacher Pat Sprinkle describes why teachers who have more time and experience with the Common Core increasingly support the new standards. "From the perspective of a teacher, I see the exact opposite of what those opposed to the Common Core describe," he writes.


"As soon as you leave the bench, you’ll forget that you need things, like time, to get the work done."

(Kentucky teacher Lauren Hill characterizes one of the challenges in education as "administrator-itis." She says that "too often decision-makers forget that the people doing the work need resources to get that work done." Hill's remedy is for teachers to lead from the classroom and become partners in building the profession. Read her editorial (Washington Post).

Quote to Note

student discussion
In a Socratic seminar at ED, eighth graders from Chattanooga, Tenn., discuss an education policy blog by Arne Duncan, as he watches and listens (below).
Duncan observes student discussion


Socratic Method Inspires Students

About 75 eighth graders from Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, who visited Washington, D.C. on an annual school field trip, met with Secretary Arne Duncan and demonstrated the Socratic seminar method they use in school about three times a week to help them learn reading, writing, listening and math. 

The students featured in this article by Tim Omarzu discussed how they analyzed a blog post Duncan wrote about over-testing in public schools. Officials at their magnet school credit their students' success (of 102 seniors who graduated last year, all but three went on to college, and the three who weren't college-bound enlisted in the military) to the Socratic seminar.

Read an article about how coach Alexis Wiggins uses Socratic seminars to help students learn ethics (Phi Delta Kappan). 

the New Math

Students Entering College,

but Not Earning Degrees

55 percent of the students who entered college in the fall of 2008 had earned college degrees or certificates by May 2014, down from 56.1 percent the previous year.

The overall cohort was 12 percent larger than in fall 2007.

(According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centerthe six-year completion rate for those who started in four-year for-profit institutions in fall 2008 decreased 3.9 percentage points, from 42.3 percent to 38.4 percent.)

TAF and PAF news

Cheryl Redfield, a National Board Certified Teacher in English Language Arts and a 2012 TAF Classroom Fellow, has been elected to the board of directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Currently a teacherpreneur at Highland Junior High School in Gilbert, Arizona, Redfield said, “National Board Certification was created by teachers, for teachers, and so it is an honor to help play a role in shaping the future of board certification, including increasing the number of board certified teachers we have across the country.”


Grounding Our Work in the Facts

How many children live in poverty? How many are overweight or obese? What percentage of students were victims of cyberbullying? 

Educators can find answers in ASCD's 50-state Whole Child Snapshots, which feature data that provide a comprehensive picture of child performance and well-being. The study provides a source of ideas for how families, educators and communities can make targeted and innovative improvements to support the whole child and help students become productive adults and engaged citizens. 


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

STATES MAKE REAL PROGRESS IN EARLY LEARNING. A report released by the U.S. Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services details progress from 14 states that were awarded Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants in 2012 and 2013. States are improving the quality of their early learning programs and more at-risk children are attending high-quality centers. Visit to access the report, executive summary, and individual state reports or the RTT-ELC – Technical Assistance Website

DATA QUALITY. The Data Quality Campaign released its annual survey on the progress of the 50 states and the District of Columbia toward implementing the 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use. In the past 5 years:

  • The number of states budgeting state funds for their data systems increased from 8 to 41; and
  • The number of states producing publicly accessible high school feedback reports with information on how a class of high school graduates fares in postsecondary increased from 12 to 41.

SMARTER BALANCED ACHIEVEMENT LEVELS. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) approved initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments.

Based on data from SBAC’s 2014 field test, it estimates that the percentage of students who would have scored “Level 3 or higher” in math ranged from 32 percent in grade 8 to 39 percent in grade 3. In ELA the percentage of students who would have scored “Level 3 or higher” ranged from 38 percent in grade 3 to 44 percent in grade 5.

Over the coming months, member states will present these achievement level recommendations to the policymaking entities that have the authority to formally adopt achievement levels in each state. This authority most typically rests with the state board of education.

Read detailed FAQs about the initial achievement levels.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• HOW TO MAKE PROGRESS IN EDUCATION. This article, by Stand for Children's founder Jonah Edelman, chronicles "major progress [that] lifts students out of poverty and changes generations to come." He also argues against "vitriol and polarized politics" in discussions about educational challenges, favoring those who focus "practical problem-solving and partnerships" (Daily Beast).

• SPEAKING VOLUMES. Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (San Diego State University) offer practical tips to foster high-quality classroom discussions (Educational Leadership). 

• TIPS FOR RELUCTANT WRITERS. Elementary school teacher Kriscia Cabral (Calif.) offers strategies and motivating activities to boost writing abilities and confidence in the classroom (Scholastic).

Emerging Research

FITKids ARE MORE...FIT.  A new What Works Clearinghouse review of the “Effects of the FITKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function,” looks at whether Fitness Improves Thinking in Kids (FITKids) after-school program improves executive control (maintaining focus, performing multiple cognitive processes), increases aerobic fitness, and lowers body mass index (BMI) in students ages 7–9. Read more.

open book

Recommended Reading

DEAR PARENT...ABOUT "THAT KID." Kindergarten teacher Amy Night has penned this heartwarming response to a parent who worries about how another student's behavior may be affecting her child. Read her blog (Miss Night's Marbles).

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

teacher speaking with Arne Duncan

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. “The biggest challenge [from the Common Core State Standards] is that we teachers need to be students again.” (Teacher, Calif.)

4. "The assessments are just as important as the standards. How do we know if students are learning to the standards and growing without good assessments?" (Teacher, Mo.)

3. Speaking about the value of educational partnerships: "We don't have a lot of money, but what we do have is each other." (Principal, Ala.)

2. "To help build a positive culture, we use a strategy called 'We don't say that here.' Students nominate and vote on words we want to eliminate from our speaking." (Teacher, Wis.)

1. On the value of teacher leadership: “I stay where I’m at because I am empowered by my leadership role. School leadership has made me invested in my school.” (Teacher, Kan.)