TEACHERS EDITION -- March 26, 2015

The Teachers Edition

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

King/Drew screen shot


A View from King/Drew 

The teachers at ED are celebrating this video about the incredible work being done at King/Drew Magnet High School for Medicine and Science, where every student is on track for college and careers. 

In every class we visited, students were engaged and their teachers were masters of the craft. Two are profiled in this video: chemistry teacher Tatiana Hatchett and English teacher Latosha Guy, along with many of their students. 

Ms. Hatchett runs a program called Urban Fitness, where she helps students keep their grades and their bodies in shape. (Look for her in the yoga scenes of the video.) "She expects a lot from us," 10th grader Frederick Ford said. "It's because she sees us as all as very bright."

Ms. Guy teaches to the head and the heart and keeps learning real for her students with heavy doses of humor. "She helped me to understand that The Scarlet Letter is really all about baby mama drama," Brooke Moore White told us.

Learn more. Check out other videos about progress in education being made in America's schools. 

science fair exhibitors


Extraordinary Exhibitors

Innovative projects, designs, and experiments from students all across America were on display at the 2015 White House Science Fair

Hosted by President Obama, the fair featured a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. The event also included a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work. 

Check out the fabulous story of the Girl Scouts who impressed the president with their Lego page turner (FriedmanNY Times). During their time with him, they reminded the President that it's "just a prototype." 

Learn more about the amazing students and their exhibits. 

Ms Sonya on Ellen


Ellen Show Surprises Kindergarten Teacher

Sonya Romero, a kindergarten teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary school (Albuquerque, N.M.) has spent years helping students. This week Ellen DeGeneres gave her a big gift in return. 

Romero was surprised by Ellen and Target with two $10,000 checks. Romero uses her own money ($2400 last year) to make sure all her kids – 75% who are on free and reduced lunch - have food and clothing. Recently, when Child Protective Services came to her school to put two students into foster care, she added them to her family. Now she is their legal foster mother.  

Folks at Lew Wallace pointed out that their situation is not unique; teachers everywhere "spend countless dollars of their own on their students, children arrive at school without supplies or having been adequately fed, and school clothing banks struggle to meet demand.”

Find out more and watch a clip about Ms. Romero from the episode that brought Ellen to tears (and will have you crying as well)!

TAF and PAF News Teaching Ambassador Fellows Principal Ambassador Fellows

Cage Busters Defy Convention

Do teachers inhabit a cage of their own? That's the question Frederick M. Hess addresses in his new book, The Cage-Busting Teacher, by highlighting stories of teachers who pushed beyond those four walls. 

Among those who have broken barriers are TAFs Emily Davis (2013, 2014 Washington Fellow), Lisa Clarke (2012, 2013 Washington Fellow), Joiselle Cunningham (2013 Washington Fellow), Jonathan McIntosh (2013 Classroom Fellow) and Maddie Fennell (2014 Classroom Fellow). Hess' book is filled with practical ideas on how teachers can fulfill their own ambitions inside and outside the classroom.

academic bracket

ED's brackets show each team’s Academic Progress Rate as reported by the NCAA. See all the results for men's and women's teams on our blog. 


Athletes Are Students First

Looking for more than just a win at the final four, a new ED blog takes aim at just that (Homeroom). What would it look like if your bracket reflected how well an institution is equipping its student-athletes to be successful in the classroom – and ultimately, to be successful after the final game? Find out how well these NCAA schools do. 

Did you know?


What Doesn't Work

“The idea of having students practice answering test questions is ubiquitous and ineffective in raising test scores,” says Timothy Shanahan (University of Illinois/ Chicago) in an article in The Reading Teacher. 

Find out what Shanahan recommends in Kim Marshall's Marshall Memo


A Bad Time to Spend Less  

More graduation caps are being thrown into the air, but will the budget proposed by the Republican Congress be enough to sustain the gains our students are making? Speaking at the White House to superintendents and other school officials from all across the country, President Obama said, “If the budget maintains sequester-level funding, then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America’s schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000. And that’s adjusting for inflation. The notion that we would be going backwards instead of forwards in how we’re devoting resources to educating our kids makes absolutely no sense.”

Many school leaders agreed, describing vital programs in their districts that Title I helps fund, and what it would mean to lose that funding. Listen to sound clouds in the blog, 10 Reasons Why We Can't Afford to Cut Education Funding, as they talk about a "Parent Academy" that has helped more than 3,000 parents prepare their kids to apply for college, extended school days that result in double-digit gains in math and reading scores, development classes that have reduced truancy issues among young black students and more.

States need to step up and fund education, too. That’s the message Secretary Duncan brought to Edwin M. Stanton Elementary (Philadelphia, Pa.) where he joined U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Superintendent of Philadelphia schools Dr. William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera for a community roundtable discussion. Recent data shows that students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. Read more

Denise Khalid


Celebrating African American Educators

Editor's note: The following is part of a series reporting on excellent African American educators. Educators were selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

 Denise Khaalid is the Principal at Oakdale Elementary School, a STEM Magnet School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In 2012, she won the National Assistant Principal of the Year Award.

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

One of my favorite quotes is “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” by Zig Ziglar. I do my best to celebrate my students’ positive thinking. Many of my students experience challenging situations every day. I try to share stories of other people’s resilience, so they know that anything is possible for them.

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

We encourage parental involvement and have a number of activities that allow families and community members to support our students. Last year we began our Watch DOGS Program, which encourages fathers and father figures to volunteer at our school. The experience means a great deal to the children when their fathers spend the day at school, and other students also connect with these dads and look forward to the visits. 

The other program is Parenting Partners. I have discovered that parents really do want to help their children, but many are not sure how. This fall we will have our first graduating class of parents who have participated in the Parenting Partners’ eight-week workshop series to help them with positive parenting. The parents in this cohort have learned together, shared experiences, and created a support group for one another. They have learned some valuable strategies that will help them better support all of the children. I am very excited about the power of this workshop series. We now have a cohort that can serve as leaders in our school, and we will have another cohort in the spring. 

Common Core Connections

DOES THE COMMON CORE PROMOTE MORAL RELATIVISM? Not according to this analysis by Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee. "Rather than reinforcing the prevailing moral relativism in our schools, Common Core actually provides a path forward for students themselves to find their way back to moral facts," she writes. 


"You show me a kid who does not care about his own future, and I will show you a kid who doesn't care about your future either. And that is a very dangerous situation. So even if you don't want to be selfless, at least be selfish."

(Education author Wes Moore at the Teaching and Learning Conference.)

Quote to Note


Special Education Students in Charters

“Unlike lifeboats, schools should have strong incentives to admit every child,” writes Robin Lake, in her blog, Time for Charters to Lead on Special Education. Lake points out that charters are well positioned to serve special needs students yet retain their distinctive cultures, and they should make a serious effort to serve every child, even the challenging ones.  

the New Math

High School Highs

Earlier this year we learned that America’s high school graduation rate is at a record high, dropout rates are down, and 1.1 million more Black and Hispanic students are attending college since 2008. And, according to new NCES data, between 2010-11 and 2012-13, high school graduation rates for:

  • All students increased over two percentage points from 79 percent to 81.4 percent;
  • Native American students increased by nearly five percentage points;
  • Hispanic students increased by over four percentage points;
  • Black students increased by nearly four percentage points;
  • Low-income learners increased by over three percentage points;
  • English learners increased by just over four percentage points;
  • Students with disabilities increased by nearly three percentage points;
  • Asian students increased by nearly two percentage points; and
  • White students increased by over two percentage points.


Coaches Help Principals Get Evaluation Right

ED’s PROGRESS blog reports on the support Tennessee provides principals to help them use the state’s teaching rubric to make their observations of teaching more accurate and helpful.

The Tennessee Department of Education uses the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM), which combines test scores, observations, student surveys and other elements to identify teachers’ strengths and areas needing improvement. At first, TEAM revealed mismatches between teachers’ observation scores and student achievement. The fix: the state hired eight coaches over the next two years to work with principals at 116 schools. After the coaching, principals were able to give teachers better feedback, teachers’ performance improved and student learning accelerated. Read more

Amelia Earhart


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.

HER STORY. Many resources on the FREE website recognize the important role women have played in our nation’s history. The link includes activities about the contributions and accomplishments of women that will help you celebrate this month. 



Rhyme with Reason

ONE A DAY. Adding to his daily routine of integrating a poem into the opening routine of his class, ninth grade English teacher Brett Vogelsinger (Doylestown, Pa.) lays out a strategy for “keeping poetry-reading activities brisk and bright.” These activities keep students engaged by not treating poetry as something they must slog through each day.   

MORE ONE A DAY. Another advocate for the poem-a-day approach is Peter Armenti, literature specialist for the Digital Reference Section at the Library of Congress, who blogs about resources that make it easy to locate and read (or listen to) a poem each day. The resources include the Poetry 180 Project, created by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins in 2001, as a way to introduce American high school students to poetry.

FINE RHYME. Teachers may also want to investigate the analysis tools and activity ideas to help you and your students get excited about poetry on the Library of Congress’s website. The March/April issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, released online, shines a spotlight on the Library’s poetry-related activities, services, and collections. 

Mustang readers


Launching Better Readers

In Portland, Ore., pairing George Middle School students with Sitton Elementary School emerging readers has proven to be wildly successful. Known as Mustang Readers, the program is helping the district ensure that all students read at benchmark by the end of third grade. They're also building strong bonds between Sitton and George, practicing public speaking, improving their own literacy skills and serving as excellent role models. Go, Mustang Readers!

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• NEA OPPORTUNITY DASHBOARD. The NEA is calling for the next version of ESEA to include an “Opportunity Dashboard” that holds states accountable for providing the resources and opportunities fundamental to student success. It's worth checking out and might be even more valuable if states included evidence of student growth or achievement.

• MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO. Teachers can use resources from DisneyNature to help students learn about monkeys. Listen to real monkey sounds recorded from the documentarians who made the recent Monkey Kingdom movie and get information about the mysterious settings they inhabit, food they eat and more in the Educator's Guide that includes nearly 100 pages of lessons and activities targeted to grades 2 through 6. 

 • NEED A PROJECT? Get lots of ideas from Buck Institute which has free resources for teachers around project-based learning... sample units and curriculum for all subjects and grades, articles, planning forms and rubrics for designing project-based learning.

• GROWTH IS NOT OPTIONAL. Education Consultant Jessica Hockett shares her journey toward a differentiated classroom. She talks about early career challenges and how she overcame them, as well as her learning from continuous improvement. She and coauthor of their forthcoming ASCD book, Differentiation in Middle and High School: Strategies that Engage All Learners, Kristina Doubet, reflect on lessons we can learn from failure. Learn more.

 • FACE UP TO FAILURE. For Scholastic’s edupulse blog, Robyn Jackson, a professional development specialist, wrote about the importance of failure – three strategies to help students learn from mistakes, instead of shielding them from errors.

Emerging Research

Grading State Standards

A key objective of the CCSS consortium—the raising of state proficiency standards—has begun to happen, according to the sixth in a series of reports that grade state proficiency standards on the traditional A-to-F scale used to evaluate students.

Find out more about the results from Education Next, including that twenty states strengthened their state proficiency standards since 2011, while just 8 loosened them (Peterson and Ackerman, Education Next).

open book

Recommended Reading

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL. In a blog by Teach For America teacher Craig Brandenburg (Houston,TX), he recounts another reason he is staying in the classroom. 

The opportunity to “Teach for the Cycle,” to teach a family of student siblings who come through his school, is especially rewarding. 

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

teacher at Louisville Summit

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. “There is not a one size fits all solution. The challenge is to allow us to have autonomy.” (Principal)

4. "You need the right people to assume teacher leadership roles. You also need a school climate that is conducive to taking leadership from more than just the principal.” (Teacher, Arizona)

3. "There are so many good teacher leadership ideas. They sit in folders on shelves. What Teach to Lead did was draw attention to our idea so we could get it moving." (Teacher, Connecticut)

2. "Teaching is my passion. Learning is my job." (Teacher, Maine)

1. “I am the most resourceful grant beggar in the West.” (Principal)