TEACHING MATTERS - December 13, 2012


December 13, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Felicia opens the Turning Point video recommendations to ED

(Above) Felicia introduces a video that students at Turning Point Academy created for the U.S. Department of Education called "The Turning Point of Academic Reform." (Right) ED officials discuss students' ideas in a live video teleconference with the class.


Kansas Students Weigh in on Education Reform

After meeting Arne Duncan on his back-to-school bus tour, a group of high school students from Turning Point Academy (Emporia, Kan.) began to engage with the Department about their ideas for reforming education. Read an article about their recent video teleconference conference with ED and their recommendations for transforming teaching and 21st century learning. Read students' blogs about education reform.

ED officials during video teleconference

Sequestration Could Send Poor Kids Over the "Cliff"

While educators from all over the country hope to avoid drastic cuts to education if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff in January, new data published by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) indicate that poor kids in districts that are already suffering economically would suffer the most. States--in addition to facing reductions in staff (both instructional and non-instructional), professional learning, academic programs and afterschool interventions--will experience "unequal sequester pain" creating "an extremely dire situation" for schools. Read their report. Download the AASA's Fiscal Cliff Toolkit.

Quote to Note

Parents Should Demand Better Education

“I wish we had more demand. I wish we had a lot more parents... demanding a world-class education, not just on the policy side, but on the advocacy side. We have a 25 percent dropout rate in this country--a million young kids leaving our schools for our streets each year... Our goal has to be to go from 25 percent to zero as fast as we can.” (Arne Duncan during the release of the NAACP's report, “Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America’s Children.” Quoted by Michele Molnar in EdWeek.) Read about the Department's new Framework for Improving Family Engagement. View resources to engage community and family partnerships from the School Turnaround Learning Community. View a video of a recent Academic Parent Teacher Team (APTT) meeting at Stanton Elementary school in Southeast Washington, D.C. The video includes specific strategies for parents and teachers to work together for academic success.

Scores on International Tests Are Fairly Encouraging

While U.S.elementary student gains in some international tests on reading, math, and science provides encouraging news, eighth graders aren’t making as much progress. According to Arne Duncan, “These new international comparisons underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement in secondary school and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps. Learning gains in fourth grade are not being sustained in eighth grade, where mathematics and science achievement failed to measurably improve.” Read the TIMSS PIRLS data and Arne’s Huffington Post article.

New Evidence

Higher Standards Help Struggling Students 

According to a new Education Sector research study of student achievement, there is no evidence that high standards have hurt low-achieving students. When looking at NAEP data from states, researchers found that states with high standards saw bigger gains in their poorest-performing students than states with low standards. Read the study by Constance Clark and Peter Cookson.

The Learning Registry

Did You Know?

The Learning Registry is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Defense, with support of the White House and numerous federal agencies, non-profit organizations, international organizations and private companies. The Learning Registry is an open-source technical system designed to facilitate the exchange of data behind the scenes, and an open community of resource creators, publishers, curators, and consumers who are collaborating to broadly share resources across the Web. Learn more in a video and ED blog about the Learning Registry. Using the Learning Registry, teachers can share information, including learning content, ratings, and opinions. Read a Q&A in EdWeek.

question mark

Moments of Truth from Our Students

Recently, Secretary Arne Duncan asked teachers to Tweet the most powerful words they had heard from students. From "Your class is the reason I didn't drop out" to "Thank you for believing in me," read what teachers shared. Tweet your most inspiring student quotes using #TeachTalk.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

PASSING THE SMELL TEST. This resource offers teens going through puberty 11 tips for how to stay healthy as their bodies are changing. The article also provides teachers and parents with a non-threatening way to inform students about the need to take showers and wear deodorant, and practice other habits of good hygiene.

TESTING THE COLLEGES. In this piece in U.S. News and World Report, Arne Duncan and other higher education experts offer students tips about choosing a college. Duncan advises students that the most important thing to consider is whether a school is the "right fit for [them] in terms of coursework, affordability and quality." Read the article.

BACK ON TRACK AFTER BEING BEHIND BARS. Arne Duncan and other top advisors at the Department of Education recently met with a group of youth who are returning to society after being incarcerated. Read how they are rebuilding their lives and investing in college and technical education. 

Milken Educator Awardee--Bobi King

Tapping into the Joy

Educators who need a shot in the arm during the frenetic holiday season should watch clips of the latest national Milken award winners upon discovering they have been singled out for excellence. In highly secretive, surprise ceremonies, these teachers learn that they have been chosen by the Milken Family Foundation to receive a $25,000 prize and the accolades of their school and state. Bobi King, shown right, teaches third grade at Farragut Intermediate in Knoxville, Tenn. "Even on tough days, I never doubt that I should be teaching," King told supporters. Watch other recent winners' videos: 

Candace Ewing, assistant principal at Snacks Crossing Elementary in Indianapolis, Ind. Kristi Plummer, math Intervention specialist at Passmore Elementary in Alvin, Texas. Her award is announced by an especially enthusiastic Rick Perry.

Bobbi King

TAF map

The New Math

Stats on the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship

Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAFs) are current teachers who help inform policy and shape the Department's understanding of the field. Positions are paid for one-year on a full and part-time basis. As TAFs must represent the diversity of our student body and settings in which students receive instruction across the country, we aim for a diverse overall team of Fellows. Spread the word to the teachers you know that the application for the 2013-2014 cohort will be announced soon! Sign up for updates.

Here are some facts about the demographics of the first five classes of 80 Teaching Ambassador Fellows

  • States Represented = 33 and DC (States never represented: Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming)
  • School Settings: 68 Traditional Public Schools; 11 Charter; 2 Alternative; 2 Arts Integration; 1 On-Line; 0 Private; 0 Tribal
  • Community Settings: 34 Urban Centers; 34 Suburban/Towns; 12 Rural
  • Grades Taught: 36 High School; 24 Middle; 16 Elementary; 4 Early Learning
  • Subjects Areas: 30 in the Humanities; 25 in STEM Field; 12 All Subjects; 6 ELL or Language; 2 Arts; 2 Physical Education; 2 Special Education; 0 Career/Tech
  • Racial Demographics: 56 White; 10 Hispanic; 9 Black; 1 Asian American; 4 Mixed Race/Other; 0 Native American
  • Gender Demographics: 48 Female; 32 Male

Notice an under- or non-represented group? Consider applying and sharing the news with your colleagues!

Password OER video still

Password OER

This video, called Password OER, was the second-prize winner of the Why Open Education Matters video contest. In the video, educators and students describe how they use Open Education Resources to save money, share content, and stay up to date in the 21st century. It was produced by Laura Rachfalski and her team. Laura is an artist, videographer and photographer from Philadelphia. Read Mind/Shift's blog by Audrey Watters about 10 Open Education Resources You Might Not Know About (But Should). Though first posted in 2011, it is still relevant today.

Running the Good Race

ED announced 16 winners of the Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition on Tuesday. Approximately 44 percent of the winning districts came from rural schools who banded together in a consortium to apply. Winning districts will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The nearly $400-million RTT-D competition supports locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers. Find out which school districts won grants and read more.

Students' Self Portraits at ED

 Yo Soy, Je Suis, I Am

In celebration of International Education Week, students with special needs from around the world came to the U.S. Department of Education to showcase their expressions of themselves. Read the ED blog. Find out about how special-needs students in Florida are healing through art therapy (in the Florida Sun Sentinel).

student in wheelchair showcasing his artwork

This exhibition was part of the Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program, which provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.

sticky notes

           Teachers' Notes

  • RURAL RESOURCES. Check out resources for rural schools from ED's School Turnaround Learning community.
  • A WORD ABOUT VOCABULARY. A new study of NAEP data from ED’s National Center for Education Statistics validates what many educators know from experience: vocabulary plays an important role in the process of reading comprehension. This is the first time that the federal government has analyzed vocabulary, and the results show that, overall, students have not made much progress in learning vocabulary over the last few years.
  • GOING WITH THE FLOW. We like this short video from Sarah Brown Wessling posted on the Teaching Channel because it validates teaching that honors the emerging and organic needs of learners.    
  • COMPUTER SCIENCE IN A BOX? During Computer Science Education Week, check out resources for teachers, including a comprehensive approach to teach computer science, math, science, and critical thinking—without using computers at all. Computer Science-in-a-Box: Unplug Your Curriculum introduces fundamental building blocks of computer science to students, ages 9 to 14. Students learn how computers work, while addressing critical mathematics and science concepts from number systems and algorithms to manipulating variables and logic. Download the PDF for Computer Science-in-a-Box. 
  • WILL THE CARNEGIE UNIT GO THE WAY OF THE DINOSAUR? The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has received a $460,000 grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to support research on the Carnegie Unit and its role - past, present, and future - in American education. The credit hour was created by the Carnegie Foundation in 1906, but is now considered by many to be outdated and inadequate.
  • FINDING OUR WAY BACK. The NAACP has released a report, Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America’s Children.” The report asks constituents to advocate for the following large-scale, research-informed, proactive education reforms: prekindergarten prep for achievement; effective teaching; more time for more learning; and targeted spending for widespread success.
  • WHAT HIGH-SCHOOL PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE COMMON CORE. Kelsey Sheet of US News & World Report produced this helpful cheat-sheet for parents, many of whom know little to nothing about the new standards. 

Teach Plus T3 Teams Make a Difference in Boston

Teach Plus has just released a report indicating that their T3 Initiative (Turnaround Teacher Teams) is having a remarkable impact in Boston's lowest-performing public schools. Students in their partnering schools are showing impressive gains in math and reading and narrowing pernicious achievement gaps. Read about the report. Peruse the Hechinger Report article about the findings. Download the report.

open book

Recommended Reading

  • STATE OF THE UNIONS. Teacher and union leader Michael Stryer describes a demographic shift taking place in teachers unions and offers a fresh perspective about how newer, younger teachers are changing the debate about teaching effectiveness. Read his article in the Washington Post.
  • A NEW KIND OF TEACHING. In her blog on Edutopia, middle school teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron describes an "awakening" taking place among those in the profession. She urges teachers to "find their place in this new profession."
  • FADING LEGACY OF DESEGREGATION. From the Hechinger Report, Sarah Garland reflects on a recent Stanford study, which indicates that U.S. efforts to end segregation in schools seem to be dying down. Garland notes in her article that "On average, those districts that stopped forcing schools to mix students by race have seen a gradual but steady – and significant – return of racial isolation, especially at the elementary level."
  • THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST. In Flypaper, Chester Finn offers an interesting take on the huge dilemma facing the consortia building assessment systems for the Common Core State Standards:  how to set meaningful cut scores that work for all participating states. Read his analysis of the issues facing those who will determine the cut scores.
  • SPADE-TOOTHED, BEAKED WHAAATT? Read how Los Angeles teacher Sujata Bhatt uses the news to keep learning relevant and alive in her fourth-grade classroom. A good reminder for the teachers in all of us.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5.  On how to affect change: "It's about the partnerships... administrators and teachers need to come together to change things.'” (Principal, Calif.)

4. On effectively dealing with bullying: "Peer mediation really works. Let's face it: kids don't want to hear from adults about what they are doing wrong, but if their peers tell them something is wrong, that's another story." (Student, Washington, D.C.)

RESPECT conversation with teachers and TAF Toni Hull

3. "Our problem is that even though we have good stories, nobody knows them; we just have to tell them." (Principal, Ill.)

2. "(Saying) it's all about the children is the biggest lie. The current system is all about the adults." (Teacher, Austin, Texas)

1. "It is extraordinary how fast teachers [and principals] improve if the people reviewing know instruction." (Teacher, N.C.)