TEACHING MATTERS -- August 14, 2012


August 14, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Educators discuss transforming the profession.

Teachers and Principals Get Engaged

Earlier this month, teacher and principal leadership organizations and their members met at the U.S. Department of Education to map out strategies to advance educators' work reforming their profession. Read the blog article about the event, which includes recommendations from teachers and principals. Read 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Patrick Ledesma's EdWeek blog about the event, What Happens After Teacher Leaders Meet? Read the reactions of a teacher from Educators 4 Excellence in this Teachers Talk Back interview.

ED Welcomes the 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellows

Secretary Duncan has named the 12 teachers selected to serve as Teaching Ambassador Fellows for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.
2013 TAF group
Five teachers will become full-time employees at Department of Education headquarters in Washington, D.C., one will work full-time in the department’s Seattle regional office, and six will remain in their classrooms and participate on a part-time basis. Now entering its fifth year, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program was created to give outstanding teachers an opportunity to learn about national policy issues in education and to contribute their expertise to those discussions. Read the press release. Read the related Pioneer Press article about a St. Paul teacher’s role in the program.

Race to the Top Competition for Districts to Support Classroom-Level Reform Efforts

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it has finalized the 2012 Race to the Top-District application. This year’s competition will provide nearly $400 million to support school districts in implementing local reforms that will personalize learning, close achievement gaps and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and their careers. The program sets a high bar to fund those districts that have a record of accomplishment, clear vision for reform, and innovative plans to transform the learning environment and accelerate student achievement. Read more.

AP Exam Grants for Low-Income Students

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded more than $21.5 million in grants to 43 states to cover fees charged to low-income students for taking Advanced Placement tests. "These funds will help eliminate financial roadblocks for more low-income students and allow them to fully benefit from the AP program," Duncan said. Participation in AP courses is an important factor in creating college access for all students; college credit that is earned for high school AP courses can reduce the time and cost required to complete a postsecondary degree. Read more.

Eddie Kim

Student Poet Slams Stereotypes

We first premiered this video of student Eddie Kim reciting his original slam poetry at a convening of teacher leaders and principals as a way to remind us all why we are in the profession. His inspiring performance was well received by educators because it spoke so eloquently and powerfully about Asian stereotypes in our country and about his passion to become a teacher who makes a difference. Watch the video on YouTube.

The New Math

At the National Conference of State Legislatures, former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, now head of the Alliance for Excellent Education, shared these grim statistics about high school students:
  • 1 out of 4 of the ninth-graders who will enter school over the next few weeks will not graduate.
  • 4 in 10 students of color will never earn a high school diploma.
  • Only 25% of the students of color who do graduate from high school will actually be college ready.

All in a Day's Work: A Teacher's Response to Extended School Days in Chicago

In response to the debate over the extension of the school day in Chicago, Chicago high school teacher and 2009 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Xian Barrett shares his perspective about the reality of a teacher's day in this CNN Schools of Thought blog post. He urges society to move "beyond the common teacher bashing narrative" and acknowledge that no matter which side of the table you are on, we all want what's best for children.

Great Teachers Harness the Energy of Students

When a Department of Education official had the opportunity to shadow Lisa Clarke, high school history teacher and 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, he witnessed a teacher's ability to channel students' energy into an enjoyment of learning. Read the ED blog.
Lisa Clarke's students group photo

Principals Own the Morale of Teachers

Former NEA executive John Wilson's EdWeek blog response to The New Teacher Project's "The Irreplaceables" study examines principals' responsibility to create a school culture and working conditions that nurture and retain the strongest teachers.

Here's an excerpt: "Great teachers will walk away from a school where the leadership does not respect or trust them, not to mention empower them. Conversely, great teachers will follow a principal to the most challenging school if that principal has demonstrated trust and respect as well as a willingness to allow great teachers the freedom to select and implement the best instructional methods for their students. Teachers thrive in a culture of high expectations, creativity, collaboration, and collegiality. Principals have the most impact on creating that environment." Read a related New York Times article.

PTA in the (White) House

On Friday, the White House welcomed over 150 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) leaders from 41 states, DC, and US military bases overseas for a briefing. As part of the program, the White House honored 12 parents as “Champions of Change.” The Champions of Change program was created to honor Americans doing great work in their communities. “The PTA Champions of Change we are honoring have collaborated with school administrators and community leaders, launched innovative advocacy campaigns, and worked tirelessly to grow their local PTAs to involve more parents in their children’s education,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President. Read more

What Are You Doing to Prevent Bullying?

At last week's third annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit, one recurring theme emerged: we all have a role to play to prevent bullying. It is also important that we base our efforts on the best available knowledge, work together so we advance the field rather than reinvent the wheel, and engage youth. During the summit, the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention announced the launch of their “Stop Bullying Video Challenge” allowing teens13-18 years old to submit PSAs on how their peers can be “more than a bystander.” Read the ED blog. Check out the federal website dedicated to bullying prevention. 
Secretary Duncan speaking at summit

Teachers' Notes

  • Hope Street Group just launched the Teacher Evaluation Playbook. The site serves as a guide for implementing strategies around teacher evaluation systems with specific focus on engaging teachers in reform. It is designed to help states learn from each other and contains examples with helpful tools for a variety of education stakeholders--state policymakers, district administrators, union leaders, and educators.
  • Teachers connecting students in meaningful educational projects with peers in their country and around the world - in a safe and structured learning environment - are encouraged to check out iEARN.
  • In their State of the Union guest column in EdWeek, Educators 4 Excellence co-founders Sydney Morris and Evan Stone talk about teachers' continued support for unions and their changing expectations of what unions can do for them.
  • Research Analyst Vanessa Vega offers a Primer on Free Curriculum Sharing Sites that offer free material for teachers in this Edutopia blog.
  • Teachers who are struggling to make their mortgage payments in the face of stagnant salary schedules may be interested in visiting the HOPE NOW site. The nonprofit agency's free service helps them meet with mortgage holders to reduce payments and avoid foreclosure.

Teacher Evaluation Improves Teaching

Teachers understand that effective evaluation systems can help them sharpen their practice by making them more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and pointing the way for future professional learning. However, a recent study indicates that mid-career teachers improve their effectiveness simply by participating in "practice-based assessment that relies on multiple, highly structured classroom observations conducted by experienced peer teachers and administrators." Read more about the study in an Education Next blog by Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler. 

Eating the Elephant

Battelle for Kids has posted this video about the impact of its work, which is supported by the Ohio Race to the Top grant. The video illustrates the “value of collaboration” occurring across schools in its Appalachian collaborative and the importance of trusting relationships among teachers.

teacher reporting out

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

(Wisdom from teachers heard by ED)

5. "To count a teacher’s working minutes by looking at the time we are directly teaching students is like only counting the minutes that a dentist has the drill in your mouth." (Chicago, Ill.)

4. "Stop asking for permission (to transform the profession)... Proceed until apprehended!" (NEA President)

3. "Universities need to prepare students for current practice, like how to teach to the Common Core." (North Carolina)

2. "Our 7th and 8th graders are caught up in the violence of Central City. The violence in our city is heartbreaking. But we are at the forefront of helping our students to make a way out.” (New Orleans, La.)

1. “Being evaluated is stressful for me.” (Washington, D.C.) 

New Teaching Video Released: Introducing NAEP to Teachers

Teachers play an integral role in the lives of students, and their encouragement makes a big difference. This new video from the National Center for Education Statistics can be used as a resource for school staff to learn more about the impact of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the online resources that are available to them, and the strategies they can use to motivate students to try their best on the assessment. Watch the video.

Game-Based Learning

The topic of “game-based learning” is gaining considerable attention as more and more young people are learning from games outside of school and more and more teachers are leveraging the power of games to engage students in school. Read this ED blog post about games that have been created for use by teachers and students through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. IES recently announced a new round of awards through the SBIR Program. Applications will be due in late fall 2012. For information on the program and for video demos of more than 20 products supported by this program, click here.

Common Core Insider's Secrets

In this blog published by the Teaching Channel, 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling offers 10 insights into the Common Core informed by her experience in the classroom. Epiphany #1? "Common isn’t same: the standards are not curriculum." Read the blog.

Teaching Ambassadors Recommend Reading

  • From Mike Humphreys: The Children in Room E4, by Susan Eaton. This book deftly chronicles the ongoing challenges and rewards of urban education through the lens of Hartford's landmark trial, Sheff vs. O'Neill.
  • From Laurie Calvert: "Five Myths about the Common Core State Standards," by Robert Rothman. Originally published in the fall of 2011 in Harvard Education Letter, this article sheds light on origins, scope, and potential effects of the Common Core.