Teacher Voice in the Classroom--THE TEACHERS EDITION -- February 26, 2015

The Teachers Edition

February 26, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

students at Pearl-Cohn

A student works on ProTools in the control room of the recording studio located at Pearl-Cohn High School.


The Producers

Imagine a school that houses a commercially-distributed student-run record label, where the students sign, record, promote and produce student artists from the district. Students at Pearl-Cohn High School in Nashville, Tenn., don't just imagine it; they experience it. Located in the heart of the music industry, Pearl-Cohn opened its doors as an entertainment magnet in 2011, with support from an ED Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant.

Unlike many performing arts-based schools that focus on the development of student performance, Pearl-Cohn focuses on preparing students for the business side of entertainment. Through an innovative entertainment-themed curriculum, they engage in exciting and relevant project-based learning to build workplace skills.

Nashville’s entertainment industry has gotten behind the school’s mission as well. Warner Music Nashville supports distribution of the student-run record label, Relentless Entertainment Group, and provides student internships. The school has multiple partnerships, including Belmont University and The Recording Academy. The Golf Channel donated $1.4 million in equipment and professional sets to the school’s Entertainment Communication Academy.

Check out this video for an overview of how the school is changing school culture and creating opportunities for its students. This video details the entertainment theme.

Relentless Records team

Student staff members of Relentless Entertainment Group, the commercial record label run by students at Pearl-Cohn High School, gather for a staff meeting.


Teach to Lead update

Next Up: Leadership Labs

The first Teach to Lead Leadership Lab will be held Friday, February 27, at Marshall Middle School (Marshall, Mich.). This Leadership Lab will introduce the IF Project, answering the question, "What IF all students succeed?" It is a teacher-led, community-wide approach to increasing student achievement in at-risk populations, particularly those in middle school. The Lab will engage state and local stakeholders to strengthen the teachers’ strategic planning and will explore collaboration with other schools and districts. Participating educators first worked on their leadership idea at the premier Teach to Lead Summit in Louisville, Ky., in December.

WHAT DO TOM BRADY, DANCING SHARKS AND TEACHER LEADERSHIP HAVE IN COMMON? Read teacher leader Megan Allen's insightful and inspiring blog about the relationship between teacher leadership and the Super Bowl.

68 & CLIMBING. Two more organizations have joined the list of Teach to Lead official supporters. They include the Center for Teacher Leadership at the VCU School of Education and Loyola Marymount University Center for Math and Science Teaching.

2014-15 Teaching Ambassador Fellows

2014-2015 Teaching Ambassador Fellows with Arne Duncan. Left to right: Antero Garcia, Emily Davis, JoLisa Hoover, Patrice Dawkins-Jackson, Tami Fitzgerald, Katie Taylor and James Liou. 



The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship (TAF) was started at ED in 2008 to give teachers a voice in government and a place at the table. Since then, over 80 teachers have been involved in everything from influencing policy to raising issues of concern to teachers. Most recently they have worked on issues like transforming the profession, improving teacher evaluation systems, and increasing teacher leadership without leaving the classroom. Read more (Brenneman/Edweek).  


House Bill Would Allow Billions in Cuts to Schools 

ED released data this week detailing the impact of potential cuts to school districts serving high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students as a result of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

The data show that the House Republicans’ proposal would provide the largest 33 school districts with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students over $3 billion less in federal funding than the President’s budget over six years. The cuts in education spending would be the result of locking funding at sequestration levels and allowing states to divert money from schools serving vulnerable student populations to wealthier districts.

Of the 100 largest school districts in the country, the following, which serve high concentrations of Black students, could lose a total of more than $1.3 billion in federal funding: Baltimore City Public Schools (Md.), Detroit City School District (Mich.), Prince George’s County Public Schools (Md.), Shelby County School District (Tenn.), Atlanta City School District (Ga.), Clayton County School District (Ga.), DeKalb County School District (Ga.), Cleveland Municipal School District (Ohio), Columbus City School District (Ohio), Milwaukee School District (Wis.) and Philadelphia City School District (Pa.). For example:

  • Philadelphia City School District – which is 55 percent Black, could lose $412 million.
  • Shelby County schools in Tennessee – which is 81 percent Black, could lose $114 million.

Of the 100 largest school districts in the country, the following, which serve high concentrations of Hispanic students, could lose a total of more than $1.9 billion in federal funding: Brownsville Independent School District (Texas), Santa Ana Unified School District (Calif), San Antonio Independent School District (Texas), El Paso Independent School District (Texas), Pasadena Independent School District (Calif.), Los Angeles Unified School District (Calif), San Bernardino City Unified School District (Calif.), Aldine Independent School District (Texas), Dallas Independent School District (Texas), Northside Independent School District (Texas), Dade County School District (Fla.), Albuquerque Public Schools (N.M.), Fresno Unified School District (Calif), Houston Independent School District (Texas), Tucson Unified District (Ariz.), Fort Worth Independent School District (Texas), Austin Independent School District (Texas), Denver County School District 1 (Colo.), North East Independent School District (Texas), Osceola County School District (Fla.), Long Beach Unified School District (Calif.) and Garland Independent School District (Texas). For example:

  • Houston Independent School District – which is 63 percent Hispanic, could lose $205 million.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District – which is 74 percent Hispanic, could lose $782 million.

Learn more.

Save the Environment


Reuse, Refuel, Win

Two awards will recognize teachers and students who care about the environment. The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes teachers who use innovative approaches for environmental education. Teacher awardees may receive up to $2500. Their local education agency will also receive an award to fund environmental activities and programs. Learn more and apply by March 13 deadline.

Curious young people who promote environmental stewardship through projects they develop may be eligible to receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The PEYA program encourages youth to see what difference they can make for the environment with an award-winning project. Learn more. Apply by December 2015.


Nobel Prize for Teaching 

What makes a Global Teaching Prize finalist? How about hands-on, highly interactive classes focused on environmental literacy and outdoor education; growing food indoors and outdoors all year round, using low-cost technology that requires 90% less space and 90% less water; and teaching English as a writing-reading workshop where students choose the subjects they write about and the books they read.

Three Americans have been named as finalists. Naomi Volain (Springfield Central High School, Springfield, Mass.), Stephen Ritz (Public School 55, New York, N.Y.) and Nancie Atwell (Center for Teaching and Learning, Southport, Maine) are on the short list to win $1 million for their efforts to promote "global citizenship." The winner will be announced on March 15 in Dubai.


"I am embarrassed that professionals responsible for the preparation of teachers seem to oppose so adamantly efforts to evaluate the competence of the workforce they produce."

Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, in an op-ed in the Washington Post about resistance to proposed federal regulations for assessing the quality and impact of teacher preparation programs. Pianta further writes, "As a scholar who works in areas related to the assessment and improvement of teaching, as an educator and as a dean of a school of education with a teacher preparation program, I worry that, rather than recognizing an opportunity for real leadership, my profession has reached a new low in the teacher wars. The response to the proposed regulations is a failure to recognize our responsibility to the public and to our own goals and values." Read the article

Quote to Note

Find Your Park


Every Kid in a Park

Federal agencies are joining forces to help get all children to visit the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to visit our public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters -- for them and their families -- for a full year. Learn more.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

MY PARENT, MY FAFSA. There is a way to figure out how to report your parents’ income and how to identify your parent for reporting purposes when you fill out the FAFSA. Learn more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• FEDERAL FLASH. Learn more about what’s happening with the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as HR-5, as well as ED’s recent new requirements for School Improvement Grants in this video from the Alliance for Excellent Education.   

• MY ESEA. Teaching Ambassador Fellow Patrice Dawkins-Jackson penned this blog reminding lawmakers that they should ask educators before creating a new federal education law. The blog provides a mechanism for teachers to offer their ideas about what should be in the bill that replaces NCLB.

• "DON'T GIVE UP ON GAINS IN EDUCATION." In this editorial, the NY Times editorial board weighs in on reauthorizing ESEA, urging Congress to listen to state lawmakers who want to preserve "strong accountability systems that set out clear short-term and long-term goals for student improvement; that use multiple measures, including test performance; and that break down student test data by race, income and disability status."

• WHEN P.D. BECOMES "PAINFUL DETENTION." The Teachers at ED like this blog by New Jersey teacher Michael Dunlea because it illuminates the characteristics of bad PD and offers examples of outstanding professional learning.

• SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT IN NEVADA. Third grade Nevada teacher Katy Scherr, frustrated that educators’ voices are being drowned out by politicians, explains how she sees the Common Core benefiting her early learning students. The early elementary years are a time of unlimited discovery and excitement, she says, and the new standards allow teachers to give their students the tools and knowledge to dream big. Read her story (Las Vegas Review Journal).

Emerging Research


Are We Closing the School Suspension Gap?

The reliance on student suspensions to maintain discipline in public schools varies dramatically across the 50 states, but a new statistical analysis has identified the individual districts with the most egregious records while finding American children are losing almost 18 million days of instruction due to suspensions. The report was released this week by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies.

The new analysis for the first time breaks out federal data by elementary and secondary schools and combines all out-of-school suspensions to calculate comparative suspension rates for every district in the nation. It found the highest suspending state for all students at both elementary and secondary levels was Florida.

The Sunshine State suspended 5.1 percent of its elementary students and 19 percent of its secondary students just in 2011-12, the latest data available. At the elementary level, Florida was followed by Mississippi and Delaware, each suspending 4.8 percent of their students. At the secondary level, Florida was followed by Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, each reporting a suspension rate of 16 percent.

Learn more.

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

Arlington, VA

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Describing changes to her classroom since the adoption of the Common Core State Standards: "Students have to do more of the thinking now. They were used to their teachers doing it for them." (Teacher, Calif.)

4. "Teacher leaders empower students." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)

3. On the importance of engaging with teachers before implementing new policies or programs: "People will own what they help to create." (Teacher, Ariz.)

2. "It's time to take back public education. We owe it to our students." (Teacher, N.Y.)

1. "Many dreams start at school." (Principal, Ariz.)