TEACHERS EDITION -- March 12, 2015

The Teachers Edition

March 12, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Selma Speech

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia get ready to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march (Photo by White House photographer Lawrence Jackson).


Mega History Lesson

Teachers at ED love the President's recent speech in Selma, Ala., because it conveys the importance of the journey for freedom and opportunity that has been the guiding light for our work across America and in our schools. Here are a few of the wonderful sections from the speech. 

"The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny," President Obama said. "Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities -- they all came through those doors." 

“We know America is what we make of it. Look at our history. We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit…We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some. And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That is our character. We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life... We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told. We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom… We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who ‘build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.’ We are the people Emerson wrote of, ‘who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;’ who are ‘never tired, so long as we can see far enough.’ That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.” 

Read more or watch the video.  


Getting "Digi" 

Celebrate Digital Learning Day March 13 by highlighting innovative practices to ensure that all students have access to high-quality digital learning opportunities.

On Digital Learning Day educators share successful digital teaching practices and instructional technology programs. The day culminates in Digital Learning Day Live!, a stimulating discussion about the practices driving education throughout the country, highlighting examples of how great teaching, combined with effective technology, improves learning in America’s schools—particularly those that serve high-risk and high-poverty populations. Learn more

Preschool students


Preschool Attendance Pays Off

study released last month shows that children who attended high-quality preschools in North Carolina were significantly less likely to require special education services in third grade.

The authors found that an investment of $1,110 per child in the More at Four preschool program reduced the likelihood of third-grade special education placements by 32 percent. An investment of the same amount in the Smart Start early childhood initiative reduced the likelihood by 10 percent. Access to state-supported early childhood programs not only benefits students, they found, but also results in considerable cost savings to school districts. The study was written by Clara G. Muschkin, Helen F. Ladd, and Kenneth A. Dodge at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The research was published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

For more on preschool, read Secretary Duncan’s op-ed on the importance of an ESEA that expands opportunity to preschool. Read a personal account in the blog by Latoya Smith, chair of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education Policy Council, about the benefits of high-quality preschool for every child.

Teach to Lead Update

Doing the Heavy Lifting

MORE ON THE MARSHALL LEADERSHIP LAB. Marshall Middle School (MMS) in Marshall, Mich., played host to a Teach to Lead Leadership Lab where educators and stakeholders from the region exchanged ideas at an internal fish bowl and discussed a student data approach, known as the IF (Intervention Focused) Project. MMS teachers created the project because "we wanted to understand why some kids fail," according to one of the teacher creators Leslie Hagelgans (Advisor & Chronicle).

CONNECTING LAB PARTNERS. On March 6, over 60 stakeholders from Connecticut attended the Teach to Lead Leadership Lab at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. A team of principals and teachers-in-residence from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and Katherine Bassett from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year had previously attended the Kentucky Summit with the idea of increasing practitioner voice inside the CSDE. In Hartford, they used a consultancy protocol adapted from Aspen Institute to work with other stakeholders to advance their project, delving deeply into their plan and providing feedback to the team. Attendees also pledge their support going forward.

Through the day's work, the team developed The Connecticut Educator Network. The CSDE will work with stakeholders from throughout the state to develop a database of field practitioners who are interested in leading beyond their classrooms. 

A CASE IN POINT. The teachers at ED are loving this blog by Michigan teacher Heather Gauck because it chronicles her quick trajectory into the teacher leadership role, including attending a Teach to Lead summit to work on her leadership idea. Her piece communicates two important ideas: 1) teachers are ready to lead; they long for it. 2) sometimes we just have to take a step, make an effort, to connect with others and turn ideas into action. Find out how Ms. Gauck joined the growing force of teacher leaders.

A NEW PATH FOR OUR BLACK AND LATINO BOYS. After attending a Teach to Lead Summit, Boston teacher Jennifer Aponte penned this eloquent and touching article about how teachers can make a difference for boys of color. Her story is compelling and her insights come from the head and the heart.

Whitney Henderson


Celebrating African American Educators

Whitney Henderson is Assistant Principal at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, La., where she previously taught seventh and eighth grade English. She has worked extensively with TNTP and, in 2012, won the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice.

What is the one thing you most celebrate about your students?

We all have our deficits, but when I look at our children, I celebrate that one factor about them that makes our classroom complete. The one factor that connects us all to our common classroom goal is empathy; we all need each other in this learning process.

In what ways do you encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning and development of African American students?

Improving our awareness and understanding of emotional intelligence is key. We have to constantly remind ourselves what’s an appropriate behavior or response when dealing with children. Most times as adults, we assume the worst when a child is not performing well or when a child is misbehaving, but if we seek answers versus seeking consequences, we can get to the “why” and better equip ourselves and each other with tools that can support the children in their growth and developmental goals.

Read Ms. Henderson's  Fishman Prize Essay, “All the World’s Their Stage” and her recent blog, "My Students, Too, Sing America" (Huffington Post).


Critical Investments

This week, Secretary Duncan testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request. Duncan's proposal includes key investments to expand high-quality early learning programs; increase equity and opportunity for all students; support teachers and school leaders; and improve access, affordability, and student outcomes in college. Watch the webcast or read the Secretary’s testimony.

Did you know?


Members Making A Difference  

Those who think Teach for America (TFA) teachers don’t do as well as teachers prepared by more traditional programs might want to reconsider. 

In 2010, TFA launched a major expansion effort, funded in part by a five-year Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant of $50 million. A study from Mathematica Policy Research covering the first two years of implementation found that TFA teachers hired to teach elementary school were just as effective at boosting student achievement in high-poverty schools as more experienced teachers who didn't participate. 

Sticky Notes for Class


Creative Feedback

Teachers often wonder if anything prevents students from learning. This question comes up in nearly every class. 

In this video from the Teaching Channel, see how teachers use post-it notes to quickly gather student feedback at the end of a lesson and then use this information to clarify any misconceptions. 


Tools for English Learners

Educators know that for English Learners (ELs) to succeed academically, they must be able to use informational text effectively. Here are some articles and videos that offer educators tips for helping students develop their non-fiction reading skills. They include a variety of techniques, from discussing the lay-out of a content-area textbook, to modeling what good readers do as they work their way through a piece of informational text (Colorín Colorado). 

Learning cognates can help ELs whose language or origin is related to English. They can be particularly useful in content areas such as science, math, and social studies. Check out these strategies for using cognates to build comprehension or review this list of helpful English-Spanish cognates as a reference. 

Bullying Poster Art


Beating Bullies with Art

"Be who you are and don’t apologize" is the message behind a unique poster created by Thomas Ledbetter. 

Ledbetter, an 11th grader at Newark High School (Newark,N.Y.) who was diagnosed at age two with autism, experienced bullying throughout elementary and middle school. He decided to channel his negative experiences into positive graphic design. Read more

P Chat

Principal Chat

IS YOUR SCHOOL READY FOR AN EMERGENCY? To help school administrators and emergency management personnel create or revise their school Emergency Operation Plans (EOPs), the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center released a free, web-accessible software application: EOP ASSIST.

The software walks school and district emergency management personnel through the six-step process for creating a customized school EOP, recommended in the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans

Tools for Students

LAW DAY ART CONTEST. The 2015 Law Day Art Contest is open to students until March 31. This  year’s theme is “Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law.” The contest provides an opportunity to learn about the legal and justice systems, to get creative and to win prizes. Learn more.

student corner

Common Core Connections

TURN LESSONS INTO CASHAchieve is looking for educators and curriculum developers to submit units to support Common Core instruction in both ELA/literacy and math. If you have a unit that you’ve created, on your own or collaboratively with your district, you can be eligible to win an award of $1,500 for units rated exemplary by Achieve’s EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products) peer reviewers. Learn more

KNOW HOW. Administrators, legislators and policymakers who want to know what great teachers think about the Common Core need look no further than the excellent series of short videos released by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Each video provides insights about how State Teachers of the Year and finalists view the new standards and how those standards affect their teaching and their students. 


"We have a duty as a nation to ensure that education liberates our children, rather than reinforces the circumstances into which they were born. In that sense, America's children are our children, our responsibility, not someone else's."

(Colorado Senator Michael Bennet in a recent speech on the floor of the United States Senate urging Congress to prioritize solutions that create more opportunity and equality for our children. Bennet called on the body to rise above political dysfunction to break the cycle of poverty that often predetermines whether a child has a chance at educational and economic mobility.)

Quote to Note

Women's history Month


Female Power

Women have always played an important role in the progress of our nation. From fighting for civil rights to advancing the field of science, the contributions of women are recognized every March during Women’s History Month. The Teachers Edition will feature teaching resources to support this year's Women’s History Month throughout March.

BREAK THE MOLD. This lesson plan from PBS Newshour Extra focuses on women who have defied stereotypes. Students will use creative writing to develop profiles on "rule-breaking" women in history. 

BEATING THE ODDS. Why are women still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics? This lesson plan explores the careers of 19 great female scientists and obstacles they overcame (PBS Newshour Extra).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SANDRA. The first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court was born in March. Learn more about Sandra Day O'Connor's contributions to law. Check out this lesson plan that gives a good introduction to the Court (EDSITEment).

Noah McQueen with President Obama

Noah McQueen, age 18, with President Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. 


Men of Color Share Stories

Listen to the short Story Corps interview between President Obama and White House intern Noah McQueen. During the interview they talk about growing up without a relationship with their father, and the President encourages McQueen to find his own way, telling him, "You have this strength within yourself." Read the transcript. Watch the extended video (25:17).

Check out more on ways that  many young people, including boys and young men of color, are achieving their dreams with the help of many stakeholders committed to making a difference in the lives of our nation’s young people in Secretary Duncan's blog My Brother's Keeper: A Year of Progress


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

HEALTHY OPTION. There may be a connection between higher standards and healthier choices that students make while eating their school lunches. A study by Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut found students ate more of their entrees after the standards went into effect, and fewer students who selected veggies ate 20 percent more - effectively decreasing the amount of vegetables thrown out. 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• RETHINKING DETENTION.  In this interesting blog from the Maryland Department of Education, National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb describes how he has come to see detention "as a tool for restoring rapport and rebuilding skills in students who have become disengaged," rather than a punishment. Now he often uses detention as a restorative technique that helps to build both rapport and skills.

• ARTS ARE CORE, TOO. In this blog by Tara Brancato we learn how the National Coalition for Core Arts has crafted eleven anchor standards for creating, performing, and responding to art. These standards are an extension of the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education but aimed at connecting organically to the Common Core.

• PUT A PEN TO ERIC. The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) thesaurus needs an update. You are invited to share your expertise to help improve the tool by emailing ERICRequests@ed.gov. All suggestions received by March 23, 2015 will be considered.

MORE THAN PI IN THE SKY. Celebrate Pi Day with multidisciplinary lessons, tips and tricks, and learn about the history of pi and see what happens when you turn pi into a song in this collection of videos.

• ICYMI. What was the top of the charts last month in The Teachers Edition? Find out and catch up on stories teachers read that you may have missed.

• TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF TESTS. Any strategies for avoiding stress are worth considering, but during test times some of these may just make life a little easier for your students. Read the blog by Lori Branham and Julie Hiltz with seven ways to do it.

• EMPOWER GIRLS WORLDWIDE. The White House is expanding its efforts to help adolescent girls worldwide attend and complete school through an initiative called Let Girls Learn. Partnering with the Peace Corps, they are supporting girls’ education around the world. The initiative will back hundreds of community projects -- from building new libraries to providing resources so that girls have an easier time getting there -- all with an emphasis on keeping girls in school.

• GREATER EXPECTATIONS. In this short video, fourth grade teacher Matt Johnson (Denver, Colo.) talks about the power of a teacher’s high expectations.

• EDUCATOR, ACTIVIST, AWARDEE. California educator Janet Eberhardt, known as a fighter for student causes, defender of human rights, and champion of all things ESP (education support professionals) was named 2015 ESP of the Year. Read more

• ENGAGE THE BOYS. In this Inservice blog post, Rich McKinney writes about how a “Grammar Boot Camp” can engage students – especially boys – in English class.

• WORDS ARE POWER. This article by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey shares how to form “rigorous, engaging vocabulary instruction” and features a video showing how a ninth grade earth science teacher uses a word-sorting activity (Educational Leadership).  


Origins of Gender Bias

An interesting study out of Hebrew University of Jerusalem offers insights into how teacher gender bias in the primary grades contributes to gender gaps in the STEM fields. Read a related story (Moeny, EdWeek).

Emerging Research

open book

Recommended Reading

#1. TEACHER LEADERSHIP AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, by Chicago, Ill., English teacher Jordan Catapano (Teach Hub). In this article, Mr. Catapano provides a terrific overview of teacher leadership, what it is and how it is different from being a good teacher. He delves into the mind of teacher leaders, offering insights into what they think and do and gives practical tips for those interested in jumping into the leadership arena without leaving their classrooms.

#2. NOT A SILVER BULLET. Engaging in collaborative learning projects doesn’t always benefit all students argues Deanna Kuhn in the essay "Thinking Together and Alone." Read her insights (Educational Researcher).

#3. GET THIS BOOK. The blog by Elena Aquilar recommends Tom Little’s new book, Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools, to nurture your educator spirit.

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

Principals at ED

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Learning happens from the inside out. Teachers are at their best when they help teachers grow from the inside out." (Teacher, South Dakota)

4. "School culture neither stops nor starts at the school door." (Principal, Boston, Mass.) 

3. “I thought about a lot of other professions. I considered being a flight attendant, but my mind would always go back to the same thing – but then I don’t get to be a teacher. After a while I realized teaching was the profession I was meant to enter.” (Teacher, Arizona)

2. "The hunger to be the best teacher or to present the best lesson you can is so right for education right now — it’s about the ability to stay in the profession that we love." (Teacher, Florida)

1. "As a teacher leader, I'm driving the bus. I'm the one in the classroom, and [school administrators] need what I know." (Teacher, Colorado Springs, Colo.)