THE TEACHERS EDITION -- January 22, 2015

The Teachers Edition

January 22, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

President Obama delivers his sixth State of the Union speech

President Obama delivers his 2015 State of the Union speech calling education a must-have. 


Giving Everyone a Fair Shot

With a focus on “the values at stake in the choices before us,” President Obama in his 2015 State of the Union speech gave education a front row seat. 

He called on Congress to eliminate inequality by making education more affordable and giving more students access to higher education by making the first two years of community college free for most students. Early childhood too, including tax credits for parents to cover childcare costs are essential, he said, because in today’s economy childcare is "not a nice-to-have—it's a must-have.” 

The President also reminded the country that our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high and more Americans than ever before are finishing college. Read the speech and watch.

teacher in Nepal


A Teaching Story 

from Nepal

While the nature and scale of challenges differ widely from country to country, educators all around the world want one thing: to improve learning outcomes.  

In this blog postMariko Shiohata highlights one such effort in Nepal (Global Partnership for Education). She suggests that the key to quality education is great teaching and great teaching is the product of feedback and reflection.

Arne Duncan


Disparate Visions

Arne Duncan penned an op-ed published in Sunday’s Washington Post about what he sees as “two very different visions” for fixing NCLB. Here are some highlights:

The Bottom Line: “No Child Left Behind brought valuable attention to the needs of vulnerable student groups, but its prescriptive and punitive interventions have left it reviled by educators. It’s time for a new law.”

Duncan’s Vision: “On Monday, I laid out core ideas for a law that would ensure real opportunity, one that must expand support and funding for schools and teachers. It must expand access to quality preschool. It must help to modernize teaching, through improved supports and preparation. And it must continue to enable parents, educators and communities to know how much progress students are making — and ensure that where students are falling behind, and where schools fail students year after year, action will be taken.”

On Testing: “To measure student progress in a useful way, states need an annual statewide assessment. But the tests — and test preparation — must not take excessive time away from classroom instruction. Great teaching, not test prep, is what engages students and leads to higher achievement."

“In many places, too many tests take up too much time, leaving many educators, families and students feeling frustrated. That’s why we want to work with Congress to urge states and school districts to review the tests they give and eliminate redundant and unnecessary ones. We’ll urge Congress to have states set limits on the amount of time spent on state- and district-wide standardized testing and notify parents if they exceed these limits.”

Listen to the Secretary discuss his core beliefs for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known now as NCLB). 

map indicating the percentage of students living in poverty by state


The New Majority

For the first time ever, the majority of public school students living in poverty exceeds 50 percent. Today more than 51 percent of students come from low-income families. 

the New Math

 Most of the states with a majority of low income students are found in the South and the West. 

 Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.

 Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: ­almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi, 71 percent, were low-income. The nation’s second highest rate was found in New Mexico, where 68 percent of all public school students were low income in 2013.


Read the report, A New Majority Research Bulletin, published by the Southern Education Foundation

Teach to Lead update


LOOKING BEYOND THE FIRST SUMMIT. Kentucky teachers Natalie McCutchen (Simpson County) and Katrina Boone (Shelbyville) share their account of the first Teach to Lead Regional Summit in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 6-7.

DISTRICTS TURN TO TEACHER LEADERSHIP. Denisa Superville penned this interesting article surveying new ways districts are tapping into teacher leadership in ways that utilize teacher experience and distribute the work (EdWeek). Her article profiles teacher leadership in Washington, D.C., Camas, Wash., and teacher leadership organizations and initiatives, such as Teach to Lead.


Primary Sources

The Library of Congress is accepting applications for its five week-long summer programs for K-12 educators. Held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., this professional development opportunity provides tools and resources to effectively integrate primary sources into K-12 classroom teaching, with an emphasis on student engagement, critical thinking, and construction of knowledge. Tuition and materials are provided at no cost. Applications are due March 24.

General Institutes (open to K-12 teachers and school librarians across content areas): June 22-26, July 6-10, July 27-31

Civil Rights Institute (open to K-12 teachers and school librarians with teaching responsibilities related to civil rights): August 3-7

Science Institute (recommended for K-12 educators who teach science or collaborate with science teachers): July 20-24 

Did you know?


The four-year high school graduation rate rose to its highest rate. Ever.

The four-year high school graduation rate rose to 81% for the 2012-13 school year, with most states showing increases. 

The adjusted cohort graduation rate measures the percent of high school students in public schools who graduate with a regular high school diploma in four or fewer years from their first time in ninth grade. Check out the information from the National Center for Education Statistics, which includes the overall rate for the nation, each state and the District of Columbia for 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13.

When Students Grieve


What to Say When Students Are Grieving

The Coalition To Support Grieving Students hopes to help educators learn about the issue of childhood grief and develop an understanding of how to help. Their website offers resources to help school communities deal with students who have lost a loved one. There are modules and videos on talking with children, what not to say, providing support over time, peer support and more.

Seriously? News no one can use.


Engaging the Engagers

A recent Gallup poll found that a majority, 57 percent, of full-time K-12 teachers in the U.S. are "not engaged" in their work. 

K-12 schoolteachers who are "not engaged" or are "actively disengaged" at work miss an estimated 2.3 million more workdays than teachers who are "engaged" in their jobs.

The teachers at ED have been frustrated with these results and talking about them for days. "That means teachers might be satisfied with their jobs, but they are struggling to remain connected to their work," one teacher said, "and they're unlikely to have the motivation to go the extra mile to improve outcomes."

Another teacher at ED reminded us, "Teachers have little authority or decision-making power, which makes them feel disengaged." She pointed to a recent article in the Washington Post about schools that are doing well because teachers are running them. 

principal who visited ED
P Chat

Principals took a few minutes to pose for a picture after their meeting with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle and Principal Ambassador Fellows.


Principals Tell it Like it Is

A group--more like a force--of 15 principals from all over the nation spent a full day at ED this week. They spent time with a number of senior leaders and learned about ED's priorities, but mostly they shared their experiences and perspectives from the field. Throughout the day, Department staff  listened to the discussion along with representatives from NAESP, NASSP and New Leaders

The principals reported that they were re-energized by the experience and that they were eager to return to their communities to hold similar meetings with their colleagues in order to allow additional voices to be heard. 

Common Core Connections

Give Core Advice to Policy Makers

If you had the chance to speak directly with major policy makers about the best way to implement Common Core, what would you say? 

This year the VIVA Common Core Idea Exchange is bringing teachers across the country together to hear educators’ perspective on positive, action-oriented strategies for implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Specifically, the VIVA Teachers want to know:

● What are the most promising changes in practices you’ve seen?

● What more needs to be done to ensure the standards lead to better student outcomes?

Join their effort.

TAF and PAF news

RYAN VERNOSH (2012 Classroom Fellow), Policy and Planning Administrator at Saint Paul Public Schools, shares news of new policies on gender inclusion that his district is moving forward with to promote more equitable access to facilities, programming and simply respect for transgender and gender-nonconforming students. The district’s policy was helped by ED's statement last year as well as DOJ's recent guidance about gender identity and transgender students being protected under Title IX and Title VII.

STEM Class


Get Ahead with Summer STEM Grants

The Commerce Department’s National Institute for Science and Technology (NIST) has several grant opportunities for middle school science teachers and an opportunity for undergraduate students to spend a summer working with internationally recognized NIST researchers. 

The NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers program is a two-week workshop in Gaithersburg, Md. For teachers who have previously completed the Summer Institute Program, NIST also is announcing grants in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) six-week program. Schools can also apply on behalf of students to the annual NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Deadlines are looming, so check out all the details soon.  

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

AN "F" CAN BE GOOD NEWS. There are some FAQs on the FAFSA that Nicole Callahan, a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid answers in her latest blog. One of the first questions she gets is, “Why do I have to pay to complete the FAFSA?" The answer of course: You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. The "F" stands for Free! Get more resources.

MORE ACRONYMS. After you submit the FAFSA, there are more things to know. Learn what you need to know about the SAR, EFC, and other aspects of federal student loans from Sandra Vuong’s blog, 5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• VARIABLES AFFECTING MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT ENGAGEMENT. An interesting study published in the American Educational Research Journal offers insights into the conditions that improve student engagement in middle school. They include students feeling that they belong, having a sense of their own efficacy, being able to work with some autonomy, and finding meaning in what they are doing in school. 

• TEACHER VOICES ON NCLB. Los Angeles, Calif., teacher Phyllis Hoffman penned this blog about what her colleagues are telling her about NCLB (and why "hate" or "love" are the first words on their lips) (EdWeek). 

FROM NEWS TO YOU. PBS has some relevant student news and teacher resources for grades 7 – 12 on PBS NewsHour Extra.You can check out their timely lesson plans addressing Charlie Hebdo, Selma and Black History Month.

• STAYING QUIET ON IMMIGRATION (OR NOT). Social Studies teacher Marysol Gomez from San Ysidro High School in San Diego, Calif., three miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, blogs about Obama’s immigration initiative in the PBS Teacher’s Lounge.

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

teacher at the Teach to Lead Summit in Louisville, Ky.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We need to put the fun back into fundamental.” (Principal, Ohio)

4. “When people are stressed, we revert back to the ways we were taught… but we know that the world has changed and we need to change the way we teach.” (Teacher Leader, R.I.)

3. "We don't have time to teach our six-week units because there's always a testing cycle going on." (Principal, Camden, N.J.)

2. "I think there's a teacher gap and a principal gap. We need to talk more about how we get high quality teaching and sound pedagogy." (Principal, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

1. "On Monday, in a 5th grade class, I asked students to make sure to complete their drafts by the end of the class period. We were writing mystery stories. As ever, I was circulating around the room when I saw one young girl working diligently on a drawing.

"'What are you doing?' I asked.

'I'm trying to finish this drawing of the giraffe you asked for by the end of class!'" (Teacher, New Jersey)