TEACHING MATTERS -- August 28, 2012


August 28, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

arne talking to room of teachers

Change is Hard... But Necessary

Secretary Arne Duncan spoke to 850 teachers at the Baltimore County Teacher Convening on August 22nd. In addition to delivering a message of hope and gratitude for teachers, he also presented a realistic picture of our education system, addressed the hard work that stands in front of us, and called for tenacity: "We can’t give up. We have to keep trying – keep getting better – keep pushing ourselves and each other. And when we encounter obstacles, we have to go over them, around them, or through them." Read the speech. Watch the speech and the Q&A with teachers. Read a related ED blog, Teaching Ambassador Fellow and Maryland teacher Jen Bado-Aleman's perspective on the event, and the related Baltimore Sun article.

The Cost of Teacher Layoffs

The White House released a report, "Investing in Our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom," that finds that the loss of teachers and other education staff is forcing communities into difficult choices that harm our children’s education and future, including increasing class sizes and shortening school years and days. The report shows that more than 300,000 local education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession – a figure that stands in stark contrast to previous economic recoveries. As a result, the national student-teacher ratio increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, rolling back all the gains made since 2000. Increased class sizes have negative consequences for the future of America’s children at a time when education has never been more important to finding a good job and maintaining our competitiveness as a nation. Read the press release. Read the full report. Read the related Huffington Post article.

map of U.S. with bus tour stops

On the Road Again

The stops for the third annual back-to-school bus tour, Education Drives America, have been announced. This year's tour will take the Secretary and other senior ED officials coast to coast with stops in 12 states. Read more.


Throughout the 250-plus conversations with more than 3500 teachers, the RESPECT document has been continuously refined based on teachers' feedback. As of August 1, 2012, the RESPECT document has been revised again. Find the newest version under "Essential Tools" on the National Conversation website and share it with all teachers interested in transforming the profession.

Teaching Matters. Spread the Word!

The Teaching Matters newsletter began when a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow perceived a need to share relevant stories and information with teachers. When we first distributed this newsletter in November 2011, we had only a few hundred subscribers. Currently, we have 16,286. But we have more than three million teachers in the United States. You can help us connect with all teachers so that they can participate in the conversation. Sign up to subscribe to Teaching Matters now! If you already subscribe, thank you, and please share it with your colleagues and friends. If you are a new subscriber, you can always review past issues in the Teaching Matters archives.

The New Math

New, Startling Data on College Readiness
  • On its college readiness benchmarks, only 25% of all tested high school graduates met the mark in all four subjects (English/Language Arts, Reading, Mathematics, and Science) and 28% failed to meet the standard in any subject.

Obama: Congress Should Back Plan to Hire Teachers

In his weekly address to Congress, President Obama focused on the critical role that education - and specifically, teachers - play in America's future. He urged Congress to back his proposed jobs bill that would help states prevent further layoffs and rehire teachers. Read the press release.

Ask Dr. Borders

About How Teaching Fellows Connect Policy with Practice

Teacher voice is a crucial part of any education reform. Yet, teachers often feel that they don't have a voice or that they are not heard. In this issue of "Ask Dr. Borders," Regional Teaching Ambassador Kareen Borders answers educators' burning questions about the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and how Fellows contribute to ED policy.

Kareen Borders
Teacher Question (TQ):  How does the Department of Education know what is going on in classrooms across the country?
Dr. Borders (Dr. B):  I have been surprised at ED’s connection to classrooms. Arne and other officials often hold discussions with teachers at their schools, host meetings with teachers, and visit classrooms as much as possible. In addition, there are ongoing initiatives, including ED Goes Back to School, Regional Office Outreach, and more. The best example is the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship. The Fellowship provides a two-way link between classroom teachers and ED, informing policy and explaining ED’s agenda to teachers. For example, Teaching Ambassadors recently led over 250 roundtables seeking input from educators for the RESPECT Project, an initiative to transform the teaching profession. Arne Duncan underscored the importance of the Teaching Ambassadors when he acknowledged that the past cohort of 16 Teaching Fellows “continually brought the teachers’ recommendations back into the Department, giving voice to teachers everywhere and putting real names and faces up against our policies.” Read more.

Arne shaking student's hand in front of charter high school sign

On Charter Schools and Swimming Pools: A Changing Tide in School Choice

The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who, when confronted with a cold swimming pool, enter one toe at a time and those who dive right in.
In the world of education, there exists a similar divide: those who are taking their time to warm up to education reform, and those who just dive in. In this ED blog post, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Michael Humphreys reflects on educators' changing views on school choice and the generally shared sentiment that while charter schools (when implemented effectively) are not a panacea, they can provide parents a choice and subsequent opportunities for their children's educational success.

Teachers' Notes

  • Check out the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup 2012 Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward America's Public Schools. This research instrument allows policymakers, administrators, and teachers to gauge the public's opinion on education topics such as budget, bullying, teacher evaluation, and school improvement. Regarding confidence in teachers, the study indicates that the public would generally not give the public schools themselves A's or B's, but that most people have trust and confidence in public school teachers. 
  • "If you haven't failed, you haven't lived." - That is the message in Famous Failures, an inspiring Bluefish TV video that teachers could share with students to motivate them to never give up.
  • Read the perspectives of two Teach Plus teachers in op-eds published in the Los Angeles Times and The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, in response to The Irreplaceables, a report recently released by The New Teacher Project.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities hosts EDSITEment!, a website that offers Foreign Language, Literature and Language Arts, History and Social Studies, and Art and Culture lesson plans as well as interactive student activities and art images, maps, and other reference materials.
  • If you missed the screening of American Teacher that ED hosted earlier this year at headquarters, now is your chance to catch the movie at home. Beginning this Labor Day weekend, American Teacher will air at various times throughout September on the Documentary Channel. Consider inviting friends and family to watch it and engage in a film discussion afterwards. View a list of suggested discussion questions.
  • A new assessment process supported by the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) - edTPA - that focuses on the skills and abilities of aspiring teachers, will be available nationally beginning this fall. Formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), edTPA was developed by Stanford University in collaboration with teachers and teacher educators to help prepare incoming teachers to succeed with all students in all schools. It complements existing entry-level assessments and is intended to be used by states, institutions of higher education, and alternative certification programs as one of multiple measures for teacher licensure. Read the August 14 press release. Check out edTPA. Read the related Learning First article.

School Turnaround Leaders Honored as “Champions of Change”

Last week, the White House welcomed more than 100 state, district, and school leaders and educators from 45 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education, Puerto Rico, and America Samoa, for a briefing on the transformative efforts underway in struggling schools nationwide through the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. The event honored 12 distinguished school turnaround leaders as “Champions of Change” for their roles in building a culture of high expectations, improving instruction, creating safe environments for learning, and fostering professional collaboration among many other notable efforts to elevate the quality of education in their schools. Check out the Champions of Change page for more information. Read White House blog posts by these turnaround leader honorees: David Cicarella, Kevin Gay, Brett Bernard, Jessica Gogerty. David Romick, Lucia Requenes, Carren Poff, Kristen Hayes, Dr. Tanya R. Green, Edward Wiest, Wendell Waukau, and Linda St. Andre.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from teachers heard by ED at Baltimore County Teachers Convening
5. On being proactive: “We need to set up a meeting with our superintendent so that we can each understand where the other is coming from and then we can truly be partners in moving forward.”
4. Reflecting on why the teaching profession needs more respect: "It shouldn’t be a line of work in which one has to exit before she can demand higher pay and more esteem.”
3. “Career and technical education is important. We need to open the doors to college for all kids, but we need to also make sure we don’t close other doors which can also lead to success.”
2. “I like [the idea] of transforming the profession of education from an expense to an investment.”
1. “I’d take more time or more flexibility over a little more pay… that’s if I had to choose only one.”
MD teacher of the year posing question to Arne

ED Launches Enhanced Version of Online Learning Community for School Turnaround

The U.S. Department of Education launched the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC), an enhanced version of its online learning community for school turnaround. The site now features improved search and chat functions and a user-friendly reorganization of STLC resources and materials. Read the press release.

Teaching Ambassadors Recommend Reading

  • From Madonna Ramp: School discipline and self-discipline: A practical guide to promoting prosocial student behavior: How can schools create safe, well-supervised classroom environments while also teaching students skills for managing their behavior on their own? This invaluable guide presents a framework for achieving both of these crucial goals. It shows how to balance external reinforcements such as positive behavior supports with social-emotional learning interventions. Evidence-based techniques are provided for targeting the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie self-discipline, both in classroom instruction and when correcting problem behavior. Describing how to weave the techniques together into a comprehensive school-wide disciplinary approach, the book includes over a dozen reproducible forms, checklists, and assessment tools.
  •  From Patrice Dawkins-Jackson: "The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning" by The Wallace Foundation. After many years of research about school leadership, The Wallace Foundation released this report in January 2012. Incredibly easy to read, this report details qualities - backed by qualitative and quantitative data - that create effective school leaders ultimately impacting the school environment and student achievement.