TEACHING MATTERS -- January 8, 2013


January 8, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

ACE Leadership High School

The Odyssey Initiative

Project-Based Learning (on Steroids)

Educators at ACE Leadership High School (Albuquerque, N.M.) teach students 21st century skills - including literacy and math - by solving real-world problems. Instead of posing theoretical dilemmas for learners, educators take students through 2 half-hour classes during which students work together on actual architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) projects. The classes not only build their skills, but also their sense of personal accomplishment. Watch the powerful video posted on the Odyssey Initiative's site. Follow the Odyssey Initiative on their year-long voyage to identify successful practices from schools of every kind before they design and open their own model public school.

Promise Neighborhoods

Grants Awarded to Improve Educational Opportunities in High-Poverty Communities

Arne Duncan recently announced 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant fund to "provide families and children with the support they need to help break the cycle of poverty that threatens too many of our nation’s communities." The awards are split between ten planning grants totaling more than $4.7 million and seven implementation grants totaling nearly $30 million. Remaining 2012 funds will go toward second-year funding for the five implementation grantees awarded in 2011. Planning grantees will each receive one-year awards of up to $500,000 to create targeted plans for combating poverty in the local community. Implementation grantees will receive awards up to $6 million to fund the first year of a five-year grant to execute community-led plans that improve and provide better social services and educational programs. Read more.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Resources for Teaching a Symbol of  Hope

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the National Archives has a number of resources to help educators teach about the Emancipation Proclamation, an historic document that paved the way for the 13th Amendment ending slavery in our country. View the National Archives YouTube video of the Emancipation Proclamation with commentary (3:49 min.). Read a press release with a schedule of events. Show your students a PDF of the actual document.

former slave views Emancipation Proclamation

Quote to Note

"No scientist has produced a more powerful weapon... A teacher is the power of a nation."

Malala Yousafzai, Time magazine's runner-up for 2012 Person of the Year and the young Pakistani woman who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about women's and children's rights. This quote comes from an essay she wrote for English class entitled "Teacher," one month before the shooting, as reported by Time.

A Teacher's Perspective

Teacher Cabinets Bring Teacher Voice to the Education Reform Conversation

Virginia teacher and Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) Mike Humphreys writes about an emerging practice in state education reform: teacher cabinets. In this article, he discusses recent efforts by Governor Bob McDonnell to incorporate the teacher perspective into the state's education reform work. 

A Teacher's Link to Policy

Did You Know?

The U. S. Department of Education has an email address for educators who have questions or comments about federal education policies or programs. The email is staffed by teachers at ED. Write to TeachTalk@ed.gov.

question mark

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

HELPING STUDENTS DE-STRESS. Ninth grade health teacher Christopher Pepper offers specific tools to teach kids about the effects of stress and techniques to reduce stress. The article, posted on Edutopia, includes videos and helpful links to resources.

FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD COMPLETE THE FREE FAFSA APPLICATION NOW. Reason #1: It’s the only way to gain access to the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. Learn the other 4 reasons and more.

NEW STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT OPTIONS. The Department recently announced a new Pay as You Earn student repayment program that makes it easier for students to repay college loans by lowering payments and capping repayments at 10% of discretionary income. Learn more.   

Teaching Ambassador Fellows

2013-14 Application is Open

ED recently posted online applications for the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship (TAF). Teachers may apply to be a full-time, paid Washington Fellow (taking a year's leave of absence) or to work part-time (from their school) as a Classroom Fellow

Teaching Ambassador Fellows from all cohorts

Fellows gain significant knowledge about the Department’s information and resources, share this information with other educators across the country, and contribute their classroom expertise to the national dialogue. Teaching Ambassador Fellows are outstanding teachers, with a record of leadership, strong communication skills, and insight into educational policy based on classroom experience. Read more about the Fellowship. Check out the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship home page. Email questions to teacherfellowship@ed.gov. Applications are due January 29.

Promise Neighborhoods

The New Math

Since the inception of the Promise Neighborhoods program in 2010, 54 communities have benefitted. Almost 1,000 partners have worked with high-poverty communities to narrow opportunity gaps, serving students in more than 700 schools 

Duncan at Promise Neighborhoods event on bus tour

Join the President

National Day of Service

On January 21, 2013, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), a national holiday during which we honor the legacy of the civil rights leader Dr. King through a day of service and volunteering. 

This year, MLK Day commemorations will coincide with the Presidential Inauguration, so the President is asking all citizens to join him in participating in a National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19. The Presidential Inaugural Committee will host a wide range of volunteering events in Washington, DC and around the country. Additionally, the Committee is encouraging people to pledge a commitment to serve after MLK Day throughout 2013. 

President Obama has been deeply committed to engaging more Americans in service since taking office four years ago. He expanded Americorps and launched the Serve.gov platform to make it easier for Americans to find and post local volunteer opportunities. Americans are volunteering in increasing numbers and interest in national service and civic participation continues to grow. As President Obama has said, “America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us together.”

Learn more about Presidential Inaugural Committee’s National Day of Service and about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Common Core State Standards

Common Core Connections

Balancing Fiction and Nonfiction. Fordham University's Kathleen Porter-Magee digs deeply into states' Common Core Standards to answer this question: does the distribution of literary and nonliterary texts really restrict the teaching of great works of literature? Read her answer. Check out Magee's analysis of the effects of the Common Core State Standards on using "just right" works of literature to improve reading skills.

Lifting the Veil on Close Reading. Implementing the Common Core State Standards: A Primer on “Close Reading of Text,” by Sheila Brown and Lee Kappes (published by the Aspen Institute) demystifies anchor standards 1 and 10 of the Common Core State Standards. The writers examine the research about close reading and put their findings into a context that teachers can manage by parsing fact and fiction. The document answers a number of important teacher questions, including these: Should I still teach background knowledge strategies? Are we abandoning the instructional practice of gradually releasing responsibility for reading to the students? View the Alliance For Excellent Education's webinar on close reading, which includes commentary by the authors.

A Course in DiscourseMATH Discourse! Middle school math and science teacher Marsha Ratzel offers readers a primer on the pedagogy and practice of teaching her students to talk about math and mathematical practices. Her EdWeek article presents both strategies and resources for teachers to help students build conjectures and develop their number sense.

sticky notes

Teachers' Notes

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING LEADER. The social networking community edWeb.net recently received the 2012 Edublog Award for 'Best Free and Open Professional Development for Educators.' Take a short tour of the site.

PROJECT-BASED LEARNING. Mariko Nobori describes a project-based learning (PBL) model at Manor New Tech High School (Manor, Texas). She also offers effective PBL practices that motivate students and drive academic achievement. 

TIPS FOR USING OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES. Bridget McCrea offers educators 5 tips for using Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs include teaching, research, and learning materials that are licensed for use (and often modification and redistribution) without prior permission under an open license.

MORE FREE STUFF. From Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, teachers can explore a range of materials for Arts & Music, Health & Phys Ed, History & Soc Studies, Language Arts, Math and Science.

HEALTHY LEARNERS. Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced more than $80 million in Affordable Care Act funding for 197 school-based health center programs. This funding will allow school-based health centers to serve an additional 384,000 students. A school-based clinic typically offers a combination of primary care, mental health care, substance abuse counseling, dental health, and various health promotion activities. Read more.

REBOOT YOUR TECHNOLOGY SKILLS. Digital Learning Day (February 6) is a national celebration of teachers, shining a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms. Sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the day provides an opportunity for teachers to add their voice and expertise to a conversation with tens of thousands of other educators - representing nearly 2 million students - through ongoing activities, idea sharing, and collaboration. Teachers can also win money for their schools and equipment for their students.

Artist Chuck Close speaking to students

Turnaround Arts Program

Arts as Antidote for Academic Ills

Stationed in front of one of his large self-portraits, the artist Chuck Close raised his customized wheelchair to balance on two wheels, seeming to defy the laws of gravity. The chair’s unlikely gymnastics underlined the points that Mr. Close was making to his audience, 40 seventh and eighth graders from Bridgeport, Conn.'s Roosevelt School: break the rules and use limitations to your advantage.

Saved from closure by a committed band of parents, the school was one of eight around the country chosen last year to participate in Turnaround Arts, a new federally sponsored public-and-private experiment that puts the arts at the center of the curriculum. Arranging for extra funds for supplies and instruments, teacher training, partnerships with cultural organizations and high-profile mentors like Mr. Close, Turnaround is trying to use the arts to raise academic performance across the board. Read the complete NY Times article.

Nominate a Great Teacher

$10,000 National History Teacher of the Year Award. Founded in 2004 to honor the country’s best K-12 American history teachers, this award is given to one teacher in every state and the District of Columbia who shows imagination and creativity in the classroom and expertly uses primary documents of history. Awards alternate each year between elementary teachers (K-6) and middle and high school teachers (7-12). The 2013 award will honor K-6 teachers. Nominations must be submitted by February 1, 2013.

$25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. The New Teacher Project's Fishman Prize honors up to five exceptional teachers a year with $25,000, a unique summer residency, and the chance to share their expertise nationwide. The deadline for teachers to apply is Monday, January 14, 2013, so nominate a teacher today. 

open book

Recommended Reading

A MATTER OF PRINCIPAL. In March, Educators for Excellence (E4E) published Principals Matter: Principal Evaluations from a Teacher Perspective. If you haven't downloaded it yet, it is worth a read given the renewed attention being paid in reform circles to the importance of school culture and leadership. Read a blog article about key findings of the E4E report by teacher Tamara Gilkes (on NYCAN).

WHO IS MAKING THE MARK ON STUDENT WRITING? Great piece by UK elementary teacher Chris Williams about the impact made on his students when he invites guests to read and mark up the students' written work. The blog article from the Guardian offers insights into the process and the pedagogy of letting others do some of the teachers' work!

• NOT FINNISHED YET. In this December 27 post, Kathleen Porter-Magee offers an interesting reflection of education reform in Finland, beginning in the late 1960s, noting what the U.S. may be able to learn from the Finnish experience. Among other strategies, Finland improved learning by instituting rigorous national standards and dramatically improving teacher preparation and certification requirements. 

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Allow me to be innovative, for then I grow. If I'm put in a lock-step curriculum, I wilt." (Teacher, Ariz.)

4. "The mathematics shifts in the Common Core are not a tweak." (Teacher, Atlanta, Ga.)

3. "We looked around the room and saw the teachers who are Nationally Board Certified. We admire them. That's who we want." (Principal, Ariz.)

2. "We used to think of diversity as (something) kind of nice. We had a foods, festivals, and fashion approach to teaching about cultural differences. Now we use diversity to deepen our understanding, to mine others' points of view." (Principal, Boston, Mass.)

1. "Everyone wants to be a teacher at least once (in their lives)." (Student, Emporia, Kan.)

Arne Duncan talking with an educator in New Orleans