TEACHING MATTERS Newsletter -- March 8, 2012


March 8, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

three students with project

Teachers Keep REAL-Time at Glasgow Middle

Three years ago, Principal of Glasgow Middle School (Fairfax, Va.) Deirdre Lavery found herself face to face with the classic middle school dilemma. Read the article about how she called on teachers to design and lead a school-based solution to improve student engagement and increase their 21st century skills.

A Digital Age Calls for More Excellent Teachers, Not Fewer Teachers

A paper by Public Impact's co-directors, Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hasse, argues that as digital tools improve, the need for exemplary teachers will increase, rather than remaining flat. Read their paper published recently by Fordham.

Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in other schools

graph - teacher salary
Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released data showing disparities in schools today. The data also reveal that minorities are less likely to have access to rigorous courses and more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Read the blog article. Visit the Civil Rights Data Collection site.

Arne on the basketball court

Students Say the Darndest Things

The following dialog between a recent student and teacher was sent to ED by a teacher in Columbus, N.J. in reference to Arne's appearance during the 2012 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

8th Grade Student: “Did you know that every 26 seconds a high school kid drops out of school?”

Teacher: “Where did you learn that?”

Student: “I saw this secretary on TV who was wearing the number 26 and he said that. You know, for a white dude who’s a secretary, he plays pretty good ball.”

Read the related ED blog. Watch Arne in action! 

Plenty of Room at the Teacher Table

In a recent blog, Teaching Ambassador Fellow and Spanish teacher Maryann Woods-Murphy reflects on the teachers she knows personally and why the Department's recent announcement of Project RESPECT is so critical for teachers:

"I know that these voices matter. What teachers do matters a lot. President Obama said it in his State of the Union and now Arne Duncan is calling on all of us to look at ways we can improve teaching and learning." Read more.

The New Math (Hint: It's not good.)

graph - AP
* From the 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation, Published February 8, 2012.

Based on their PSAT scores, a significant number of students who should be able to succeed in AP courses do not take them. According to the College Board, four out of five black/African American high school graduates who could have successfully completed an AP course were either left out of the AP subject or attended a school that did not offer the subject.

Middle Grades Students Make Recommendations to ED

Seventy-five percent of future dropouts in large, high-poverty urban schools can be identified before they enter high school, according to Robert Balfanz's research. How do we catch these students before they become the statistic?

At a recent policy briefing, 14 middle school students presented their research findings and innovative ideas to ED staff on how to engage students. Read more. Watch a video of students presenting their research findings at their school’s first Education Forum.

middle school students presenting research


"I am absolutely convinced that the future of the teaching profession and the future of our nation are inextricably linked… As we fight to strengthen our nation economically, as we fight for social justice through strong and genuine educational opportunity, the voice of teachers has never been more important. There will be areas of disagreement. It will proceed in different ways in each state and school district. There will be no single formula for success. But, one way or another, change is coming to the field of education. I know that, if our teachers are at the table demanding that change and leading that change, the outcomes will be in the best interests of our children, our teachers, and our nation."
-- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2/15/12), formally launching the RESPECT Project

Follow the International Teaching Summit

Education ministers, national union heads, and teacher leaders from 24 countries around the world will meet in NYC March 14th and 15th for the 2nd annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP 2012). The summit is co-hosted by ED, the OECD, and EI with the support of the NEA, AFT, CCSSO, NBPTS, Asia Society, and WNET. It will focus on three themes: developing school leaders, matching the supply and demand of quality teachers, and delivering 21st century skills. Follow the 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession on Twitter at #ISTP2012 or watch the webcast, which goes live March 14th at 1pm.

Gregory Mullenholz

Ask Mr. Mullenholz


Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow Greg Mullenholz answers teachers' burning questions about education policy. In this issue, he takes up School Improvement Grants.

Teacher Question (TQ):  What are School Improvement Grants, also known as SIG?
Mr. Mullenholz (Mr. M):  The goal of these grants is to turn around persistently low-performing schools and substantially raise the achievement of the students who attend them. School Improvement Grants are formula grants that fall under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 that are awarded to states. States then take these monies and use them to create smaller subgrants that they can award to the districts that apply for them and show the greatest need for turnaround funds. Read more.

Teachers' Notes

  • Check out the Boston Teachers Union School, a teacher-led school that exhibits true collaboration in action.
  • Gates Foundation recently released Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's Schools, which shows teachers’ own thoughts on education reform, rooted in classroom realities. 
  • Review the assessments that you have used with your students at Assessment Advisor, a new website created by teachers that allows teachers to help close the information gap about which assessments work, and which don’t.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Teacher: Is that a Zebra in My Classroom?

Missy is that kind of student teachers get every so often that makes you wonder if you are in a classroom or watching a soap opera. Drama and theatrics are a normal part of Missy’s day, and you find yourself wondering, “If only all of that energy could be channeled…”  
Read Classroom Teaching Fellow Sharla Steever’s account of a memorable student experience that she calls a “Missy Moment.”
cartoon zebra

PAEMST Awards - Nominate Now!

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science teaching. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on the behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Anyone—principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public—may nominate exceptional mathematics or science teachers who are currently teaching grades K-6 for the 2012 Award Year. You need only the teacher’s name and contact information. Teachers may also apply directly at www.paemst.org. The Nomination Deadline is April 1, 2012. The Application Deadline is May 1, 2012 for elementary school teachers (Grades K-6). Secondary school teachers (Grades 7-12) are eligible to apply during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Arne with Teach Plus Fellows

Project RESPECT in the News

  • Teachers throughout the California Bay Area participated in Project RESPECT discussions, providing their perspective on how to transform the teaching profession. Read the Mercury News article.

  • Teach Plus teacher leaders write eloquently in the Huffington Post about the value of the RESPECT Project. Read "Promise for RESPECT." 

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from Teachers heard by ED

5. "We can take two approaches to this achievement gap—deny OR acknowledge and address.” (Madison, Wis.)

4. Teacher candidate advocating for teacher residencies: "We need more than 6 weeks or 6 months. We need more time with teachers who are skilled. We need time to grow." (Oakland, Calif.)

3. A sad case of teacher burnout: "Teaching is no longer fun... [It's] just mundane work of test preparation. I am following a scripted teaching model. Why can't I use my brain and be creative?" (Boston, Mass.)

2. "The truth is, teachers don’t need elected officials to motivate us. If our students are not learning, they let us know. They put their heads down or they pass notes. They raise their hands and ask for clarification. Sometimes, they just stare at us like zombies." (from Confessions of a Bad Teacher, March 3, 2012, NY Times)

1. On the need for teachers to have ways to advance in their careers: “As a 32-year veteran, the idea that my job description is the same 30 years later is a bit absurd.” (San Francisco, Calif.)

teacher at the board

Teaching Ambassadors Recommend Reading

    • From Kareen Borders: "Invaluable Allies: Partnering with Parents for Student Success" by Margery B. Ginsberg. This article makes the point that some of the best professional learning is neither expensive nor prescribed. Shadowing students is an example of professional learning that is accessible, inexpensive, and influential in the ways it affects teachers' awareness and instructional practice.  

    • From Steve Owens: The Mindful Teacher by Elizabeth MacDonald and Dennis Shirley. Against a policy backdrop of reductionist accountability run amok, this book quietly restores a measure of sanity and balance.This book could not have arrived at a better time for educators feeling under siege.This university/school partnership created a sophisticated and successful professional learning community that improved student learning in tangible ways. See Steve's full review

    • From Laurie Calvert: "Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them" by the Annenberg Institute. This report by Annenberg makes six smart recommendations about how teachers can improve their profession.  It mirrors much of what we are hearing from teachers and offers strategies for savvy teachers to get involved.