THE TEACHERS EDITION -- February 5, 2015

The Teachers Edition

February 5, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

high school student

The President's budget proposal calls for a $1 billion increase for Title I programs to help ensure that all students—including poor and minority students, students with disabilities, and English Learners—graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.


President's Budget Focuses 

on Educators' Priorities

Our nation has made incredible strides in education over the past few years. The national graduation rate is at an all-time high and a million more black and Hispanic students are now in college. That’s progress educators can be proud of.

This week the President released a 2016 education budget request that reaffirms the work that teachers and principals are doing and shows he is listening to educators and focusing on our students' needs, especially those who are most vulnerable.

The budget focuses on four key areas: increasing equity and opportunity for all students; expanding high-quality early learning programs; supporting teachers and school leaders; and improving access, affordability and student outcomes in post-secondary education. 

Educators will like the $1 billion increase in Title I programs. He also calls for greater investments in English Learners ($36 million), Native American youth ($50 million), and children with disabilities ($175 million for IDEA Part B and another $115 million for programs for younger children with disabilities).

In addition, the budget includes significant resources that states can use to address concerns about excessive or inappropriate testing. This includes a $403 million request to assist districts and schools in reviewing local assessments to eliminate redundancy and ensure that tests are of high quality and designed to help students achieve state standards. Learn more.

WEIGH IN ON THE EDUCATION BUDGET. In the coming weeks, Secretary Duncan will testify before Congress on the President’s budget proposal. Before he goes, he wants to hear from educators. Tell us what the budget means for you, so he can share that message when he testifies before Congress.



If You're Happy and You Know It

Some of our teacher friends are asking educators to turn off the negative talk about their profession and take time during Valentine's Week to celebrate the joys of the profession using #LoveTeaching.

We are "tired of reading articles and blog posts about the drawbacks of teaching, why people are quitting," one teacher wrote to us. "We are hoping to get teachers to share their love the week of Valentine’s Day (2/8-2/14) and flood Twitter, Facebook and the blog-o-sphere with why we #LoveTeaching." Learn more


The Country's "Fork in the Road"

Arne Duncan with educators and parents

At Bates Middle School (Annapolis, Md). Arne Duncan speaks about the need for a bipartisan bill to replace the outdated ESEA law. "We're at a fork in the road right now," he told parents and educators Wednesday. "There is a very different vision for where we need to fix a law that's frankly broken."

Teach to Lead Update

Teaching is Leading

LESSONS FROM THE FIRST TWO SUMMITS. In this Homeroom blog, teachers share their impressions of the Teacher Leadership Summits in Louisville, Ky., and Denver, Colo. (Fitzpatrick). On videos embedded in the story, teachers Christina Jones (New Orleans, La.) and Xian Barrett (Chicago, Ill.) offer their perspective on the events. 

BOSTON BOUND. Educators from 27 states are gathering this weekend at the third Teacher Leadership Summit in Boston, a town where we are told teachers describe "six inches of snow" as a "light dusting." Roughly 130 educators will be working with about 25 supporting organizations to advance their 40 individual teacher leadership ideas.The rest of us can follow the action on Facebook and Twitter @Teach to Lead and #TtLSummit.

Uptown Funk still


School's "Uptown Funk" Goes Viral

Tired of education politics? Got the winter blahs? Check out Dallas, Texas, theater teacher Scott Pankey and students at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in this impressive video that went viral last week. The students used technology and got their groove on with each other and Mr. Pankey, while dancing to the catchy tune, "Uptown Funk."

P Chat

Principal Chat

  "BLACK SONRISE" AT THE MANHOOD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. The efforts of the Oakland, Calif., school district to improve grades and graduation rates for black male students received strong affirmation by an independent University of California-Davis study, called "Black Sonrise." 

The study identifies the Oakland Manhood Development program as a model for other districts. It focuses on helping black males in middle school and high school earn better grades, improve school attendance and lower suspensions. Classes taught only by black men offer students leadership training, college and career preparation, and coursework that includes black history lessons and conversations about black men in society. Learn more (Mitchell, EdWeek).

• FREE WHOLE-CHILD PD. ASCD is offering a free trial of their online course, “An Introduction to the Whole Child.” Get information.

dancer from PTA show

Jillian Miller, a sixth-grader at H.B. Thompson Middle School (Syosset, NY) and recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance, "You Can be Anything." (Photo credit: Paul Wood, U.S. Department of Education)


Dream Big 

That’s exactly what student artists from 21 states did to win honors in the 2014 National PTA Reflections program celebrated at ED in mid-January. The young artists showcased their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire! Secretary Arne Duncan launched the celebration calling arts education part of a well-rounded curriculum that helps students gain core knowledge, preparing them for success not just in school but in life. Read more.

Common Core Connections
Pat Sprinkle

HISTORY TEACHER TO THE CORE. New York AP social studies teacher Pat Sprinkle wrote this enlightening article describing changes to the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) test following the introduction of Common Core. Sprinkle tells how teachers across the country are almost halfway through "a new experiment" that is aligning the History/Social Studies Common Core State Standards with the internationally renowned APUSH course. He welcomes the changes, saying "...they are pushing our students to think critically about the United States and their role as citizens in a democracy." Check out his before/after example about the Great Awakening.  


Model Code of Ethics Released

Most professions have well-articulated, clear guidelines for professional ethics that describe a strong set of principles used to guide decision-making. The American Bar Association has Model Rules of Professional Conduct; the American Nurses Association has its Code of Ethics for Nurses; and the American Institute of Architects has the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The education profession, however, has not yet adopted a model code of conduct.

To remedy the situation, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification has just released a Model Code of Ethics for Educators

The purpose of the Code is to serve as an ethical guide to assist educators in constructing the best course of action when faced with the complexities of P-12 education; to establish principles that define ethical behavior and ethical best practice; and to clarify for current and future educators the nature of the ethical responsibilities held in common by all educators.

Educators are invited to peruse the rationale for creating the standards and review and comment on the online draft. 


"I started teaching when the standards movement was in its infancy and test-based accountability was virtually non-existent. I remember one episode from my first year of teaching 6th grade science in Worcester, MA, in 1995. I did a baking soda volcano with the kids. After the obligatory 'oohs and aahs' from the class, the kids started piping up: 'I did that same thing last year'; 'I did it in fourth grade and second grade'; 'I think I’ve done this every year of school so far.' That was the world we lived in then."

(Teach Plus founder and CEO Celine Coggins in her weekly email message, this time about the need for annual, streamlined assessments.)

Quote to Note

Be A Star Video


Be a Star

Teachers looking for ways to build a positive classroom culture can learn from Washington Elementary School teacher Kimbery Laurance (Berkeley, Calif.), who has created an engaging activity that does this and more. It's called "Star Student of the Day." Watch students turn into stars and connect with peers, while learning to practice writing and reading skills in the process.

First Lady


"If I Can Do This, 

So Can You" 

First Lady Michelle Obama invites students to take the Near Peer Challenge and compete to be the school where she will give a commencement speech next spring. She's challenging student groups, admissions officers and college presidents to create new ways to open up their campuses to high school students who often may not consider attending college.

Possibilities include going to a local high school and setting up a mentoring group, creating a program that exposes students to college lectures, and bringing students to eat in your cafeteria with other students. Those who make the greatest impact could see the First Lady on their campus next year. Learn more and share your story in a video. Submissions are due February 27.



Making Cultural Connections

• ELL SESSION @ ED. At a session open to the public on February 17, ED’s Office of English Language Acquisition will co-sponsor a session with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association featuring nationally recognized researcher Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University. She will present an historical overview of strategies to effectively implement college –and-career-ready standards for English Learners. A panel of teachers will respond to the presentation and research findings. For more information and to RSVP contact

WARM WELCOME. To help make the transition to new classrooms easier for students, Colorin Colorado offers some valuable resources. They include ideas for creating a welcoming environment for newcomers, as well as ways to connect with refugee students and students whose formal education has been interrupted. In both articles, be sure to take a look at the great video tips from ELL experts, also available on YouTube.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

INSPIRED BY X-STEM. Teachers and middle and high school students with a strong interest in STEM can register to attend the 2015 X-STEM Symposium, a “TED-style” conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, April 28. Speakers and workshops feature Segway inventor Dean Kamen, commercial space travel champion George Whitesides, teenage NASA astronaut-in-training Alyssa Carson, and many more STEM leaders. Space is limited. Learn more. 

ED NEEDS SUMMER INTERNS. Explore education policy, education law, business and finance, or research and analysis while learning about the role federal government plays in education. ED is accepting applications for summer 2015 internships through March 15. Interns also participate in lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, the Supreme Court and other local sights. Learn more.

WE KNOW FAFSA. ED’s website is a one-stop source of information for students and their families who are preparing to apply for aid to attend college. It is designed to help get through every step of the financial aid process.



How Are SIG Schools Faring? 

The Council of Chief State School Officers issued a report that examines trends in performance among urban schools receiving federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) awards. Their analysis indicates math and reading gaps have narrowed steadily over the first two years of the grants, and then leveled off in the third year.

The report also finds SIG-award schools reduced the percentage of students in the lowest proficiency levels on state assessments. Importantly, "In elementary and middle grades, the percentage of students in the lowest performance category is at its lowest level since these data were collected." 

Arne Duncan issued a statement supporting the report and saying, "Turning around chronically low-performing schools is some of the hardest and most important work in education, with a direct and enormous impact on the life outcomes of young people."

Black History Month


On Racial Equality

During February, The Teachers Edition will feature teaching resources to support this year's African American History Month theme, "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture," which focuses on African Americans who struggled to achieve equality in American society

• EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, offers a treasure trove of Black History Month teaching resources for teachers, students, and parents. These include multimedia resources to understand and appreciate the 400-year-long history of African Americans, including influential voices and memorable images that help bring history and culture to life.

• HERO OF THE DAY. Collaboration between the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and the Because of Them We Can Campaign will highlight images and fun facts about important African American figures. The campaign was the brainchild of Eunique Jones Gibson who was previously honored for her idea to use images of young people dressed as important historical figures as a teaching tool when she was named a White House Champion of Change for STEM access & diversity in 2014.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• SAY "AMEN," SOMEBODY! The New York Times published news that the much-lauded author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, will be publishing a second novel this summer. Go Set a Watchman features characters in the original novel and is shown through the eyes of an adult Scout Finch looking back on her life. Learn more (Alter).

• WHY CURIOSITY BREEDS LEARNING. Researchers of soft skills tell us that, when it comes to learning, curiosity can be as important as intelligence. In this Edutopia articleMarianne Stenger examines the relationship between curiosity and learning, explaining how curiosity prepares the brain for learning and makes learning more rewarding.

• DEBUNKING THE MYTH THAT U.S. TEACHERS COME FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE HEAP. Columnist Jill Barshay uses a 2014 study of new teachers in New York state to debunk a commonly-held belief that most American teachers come from the bottom third of their high school class. According to the study, even at the state's lowest point, in 1999, while one third of the teachers did come from the bottom of their class, one third also scored in the top of their class. Read the story (Hechinger Report). 

• STORIES TRENDING FOR TEACHERS. Check out the top 10 stories that teachers read in The Teachers Edition in January. The findings are based on the number of clicks each story received in each issue last month.

• LESSONS THAT MAKE CENTS. Learn about the resources on the U.S. Mint’s website that will help teachers convey the history and artistry of coins. And sign up to receive their monthly email newsletter that highlights lesson plans and activities.

• CAMPAIGN PROMISE. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network and the 150+ communities working with the Campaign are dedicated to narrowing the reading gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers. Learn more about the communities that have joined and how your community can gain access to experts and policymakers focused on the issue. 

open book


A Teacher, a Condor and a Meter Stick...

The teachers at ED are relishing this great blog by Allegheny County (Md.) teacher of the year Carol Detrick Garner as she describes her classroom antics during a lesson about the extinction of the California Condor. 

Garner also offers plenty of great insights about the art of teaching, like this one: "The point of this isn’t to say that education needs to be a performance, but it does need to recognize that we can’t rely on saying things louder and slower. We can’t just keep repeating ourselves."

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

Secretary Duncan talking with educators

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Teachers should be able to increase salaries faster by staying in the classroom." (Teacher, Leander, Texas)

4. "Teachers are undervalued in many ways because what they provide for children everyday is priceless." (Media Specialist, Ga.)

3. "Education is moving forward so much. A lot is changing. It's all about differentiation--differentiation of classes and levels so that students work at their own pace." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)

2. "It’s part of my job to make sure that you don’t grow up stupid. It’s bad for the world." (School Counselor, Texas)

1. “We know the impact we can have on students’ lives. There simply are not enough of us.” (Counselor of the Year Cory Notestine, Colo.)