January 19 TEACHING MATTERS Newsletter

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  Teaching Matters

    ED's bi-weekly newsletter celebrating teachers and teaching

January 19, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters


Mentoring Cop Makes a Difference

January is National Mentoring Month, a time to honor those who work with students outside the classroom, often helping them succeed in the classroom. Officer Anthony Jones is such a mentor. Jones is not a superhero. He doesn’t wear a cape or challenge masked villains, but Jones still fights the good fight – both professionally and personally. As a school police officer and after-school mentor in Philadelphia’s Germantown High School, to many students, Jones is super. Read more. Read the White House blog about President Obama recognizing math, science, and engineering teachers who mentor students.

Escaping the Constraints of ‘No Child Left Behind’

On the ten-year anniversary of NCLB, Arne Duncan's op-ed from the January 6 Washington Post discusses challenges the law poses for current efforts to improve education and highlights creative strategies that states and the federal government are using to circumvent its limitations.
Arne Duncan

Duncan Answers Burning Questions

On Thursday Education Week's Michele McNeil published a recent interview with Arne Duncan in her Politics K-12 blog. In the interview, Duncan deals with a number of timely issues in education, including waivers, Race to the Top, reauthorization, and the election. 
An excerpt on waivers:
Q. People have been clamoring for the ability to measure growth. In reading the first 11 waiver applications, it's clear growth is a huge part of these new accountability systems. Are you worried that there will be so much emphasis on growth that you lose this desire to still get kids to a certain level of proficiency?
A. I think all of these are false choices. The only way you ever hit a high bar is by better growth. So it's growth to what? ... I think some of these accountability systems will be more complex, there will be more factors, but I think it will be such a more fine-tuned system. And not that it's going to be perfect. ... So, yeah, the growth is important to me. But look at graduation rates. Look at dropout rates. Look at our kids going to college. ... And so I think you're going to see a level of sophistication that just didn't exist 10 years ago, and we want to look at a range of factors...(more)

ED Releases New Tools for Teachers

Doing What Works (DWW) is a website sponsored by the U.S Department of Education that translates research-based practices into examples and practical tools to support and improve classroom instruction. Download the latest of 17 research-based, field-tested practice guides for teachers, including:

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from Teachers (Heard by ED)

5.  On the need to support teachers: "I've seen class sizes go from 24 to 35. I've gone five years without a pay increase. Morale is way down." (Alpharetta, Ga.)
4.  On teachers' multiple duties, including acting as social workers and parents: "Teachers just wanna teach." (Los Angeles, Calif.)
3.  Reflecting the undaunted optimism of teachers: "I teach at the best high school in the United States." (New Orleans, La.)
2.  On transforming teaching: "If we offer leadership opportunities to high performing teachers, this could be a real game-changer for the profession." (Houston, Texas) 
1.  On the agony and the ecstasy of tenure: "I’ve been here for 30 years and it would be pretty hard to fire me, but others have to watch their back." (New Orleans, La.)
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Keil Hileman
What a Difference A Teacher Makes!

Study Links Good Teaching to Lasting Gains

(NY Times, January 6). "Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years." (Read more.)
Read Gates Foundation Report in Huffington Post on using a three-pronged approach to teacher evaluation.

Tweet with American Teachers

On Friday, January 27, the U.S. Department of Education will host more than 200 teachers for a screening of the documentary, American Teacher. Following the screening, teachers will engage in a discussion with their colleagues, ED policy experts, and Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellows in a Twitter discussion around this question:  How do we attract, retain and support the best teachers? To be a part of the discussion, log onto Twitter and use the hashtag #TeachTalk, starting at 7:45pm EST Friday.
American Teacher poster

Less is More! 

Teachers Decry "Empty Praise"

In an article in Sunday's Washington Post, Michael Alison Chandler describes why "an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise." According to Chandler, educators are learning to utilize more specific praise so that they are less likely to be afraid of taking risks and engaging in challenging work. 

Rethinking Civic Education

Lamenting a growing challenge in American education--that civic and democratic courses are sometimes being treated as add-ons to a curriculum focused on literacy and STEM subjects--the U.S. Department of Education issued a report last week urging educators to reimagine civics education so that all students are ready to participate in and strengthen our democracy. Read the report. Read Arne Duncan's responses to ten questions posed by social studies educators posted this week on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) webpage. Read Arne's remarks at a Jan. 10 White House Civics Forum.
Arne Duncan in Columbus

Tackling the High Cost of College

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discuss strategies to keep college within reach at Lincoln High in Gahanna, Ohio. (Read the blog.)

Teachers' Notes

  • All Children Reading Challenge Launched. USAID, World Vision and AusAID are partnering to launch a multi-year initiative that seeks to improve early grade reading outcomes in low-resource settings and awarding up to $300,000 in grants for innovative reading improvement ideas. Submit your idea to address childhood literacy by applying for the challenge. Applications will be accepted through January 31st at 2 pm EST/19:00 GMT.
  • National PTA and Arne Open Student Art Exhibit at ED. 
  • December "School Days" Video Journal features President Obama’s speech on the importance of education for middle class prosperity.
  • American Graduate series kicks off Jan. 27. Those who live in Washington, D.C. may tune in to Metro Connection, 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27, as WAMU 88.5 News launches the American Graduate series, a nine-part look at the District's high school dropout crisis by education reporter Kavitha Cardoza and producer Ginger Moored. In Part One airing next week, Kavitha and Ginger talk to one family in which several members have not received a high school diploma. The series will air during Metro Connection with rebroadcasts on Tuesdays during Morning Edition, through March.  
Teaching Ambassadors' 

Recommended Reading

  • From Maryann Woods-MurphyThe Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in AdulthoodWe know that teachers matter, but have you ever wondered how much? Check out this Harvard study, which tracked one million children, from 4th grade to adulthood. The study shows how high “value-added” teachers impact not only learning, but students’ likelihood to attend college, earn higher incomes, avoid teen pregnancy and live in a better neighborhood. Given the vibrant debate about the “value added” approach to teacher effectiveness, this study provides us with fascinating information. 
  • From Geneviève DeBoseWhat is Missing in Teacher Leadership? A Roadmap & DestinationTeaching Ambassador Fellow Patrick Ledesma’s blog article from his series Leading from the Classroom speaks to the lack of opportunities for teacher leadership in our current system. He suggests recommendations to ensure that teachers who want to demonstrate leadership don’t have to leave the classroom. This article is a must-read for any educator who wants to expand their reach but stay connected to their students.
  • From Leah Lechleiter-Luke: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie. Ever wonder how to maintain creativity and sanity in a structured, rules-orientated work environment? This collection of vignettes assures readers they can "orbit the giant hairball" both creatively and responsibly while still maintaining the vision of the company's success. A principal gave me a copy of this book over a decade ago. I have read and re-read it more than any other in my collection. I frequently use excerpts from it in motivational speeches.  Be sure to read "A Chicken's Tale" and "Life is a Peach." You will definitely draw parallels to the world of education.