TEACHING MATTERS -- January 17, 2013


January 17, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Wright's Law video

Inspiring Teaching

Mr. Wright Teaches Law of Physics and Law of Love

Tara Parker-Pope profiles Jeffrey Wright, an exceptional high school physics teacher in Louisville, Ky.  In her NY Times article, she notes the 23-year veteran's "antics as a physics teacher, which include exploding pumpkins, hovercraft and a scary experiment that involves a bed of nails, a cinder block and a sledgehammer," but it is his unselfish love for his children with disabilities and for his students that make Mr. Wright a teacher to emulate. View a short video of Wright that was made by one of his former students, Zack Conkle, which is garnering much attention in education circles.

students in Mr. Wright's class

The President's Plan to Make Schools Safer

Yesterday President Obama introduced a new plan to keeps guns out of the wrong hands, make schools safer, and increase access to mental health services. “While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge,” President Obama said during the announcement, “protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one.” Read more. Read about Duncan's reaction to the President's plan.

Latest Study from the MET Project

How to Identify Effective Teaching

A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study found, "Two-thirds of American teachers feel that current evaluations don't accurately capture the full picture of what they do in the classroom. They want information that they can trust from measures that are fair and reliable." The latest round of research from the MET Project was released this month. Researchers found that a formula based on classroom observations, student test scores, and student feedback allowed them to pinpoint the best teachers and predict how much their students would learn. Read more from Reuters.

from MET study


Resource from the School Turnaround Community

The School Turnaround Learning Community is offoffering a free webinar to help educators working to close the opportunity gap in disadvantaged communities: Alternatives to Traditional School Discipline: The Multi-Tiered Behavioral Health Prevention Framework. Jan. 23, 4 pm−5:30 pm (ET). E-mail questions to info@schoolturnaroundsupport.org.

Career and Technical Education

February is CTE Month

CTE Month is a nationwide awareness and celebration event highlighting the positive opportunities for career exploration and career skills development that career and technical education offers for all students. Teachers can learn strategies to help students prepare for careers by checking out the resources on the Career and Technical Education Month site. Content includes promotional videos for career education created by students, including "What's Your Future Sound Like?" and "Passion into Paycheck." Learn about the student poster contest and preview CTE events happening nationally and locally during February.

RTT-D Facts

Did You Know?

The FY2012 Appropriation for the Race to the Top District (RTT-D) Competition represents the first time that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) was given Congressional authority under the Race to the Top program to grant discretionary funds to districts.  Here are some other little known facts about RTT-D.

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  • ED received 372 applications from over 1200 local education agencies representing 48 states. 
  • Every district in the country was eligible to apply, including those from states who did or did not receive other discretionary funds or waivers. ED recruited 308 qualified experts from across the nation, including Higher Education, State, District and School leaders and practitioners, to serve as peer reviewers or alternates for RTT-D applications.
  • In December 2012, 16 applicants were awarded RTT-D grants. The grantees are from 55 school districts across 11 States and DC.
  • A key element of the Race to the Top-District competition was educator buy-in and support. Eleven of the 16 grantees had teacher union representation and secured the support of their union presidents.
  • The five grantees that did not have educators represented by collective bargaining units (i.e., were in Right to Work states or part of Charter Networks without union) provided strong evidence of teacher support. For example, the Harmony Consortium from Texas provided evidence that approximately 94% of their participating educators supported the proposal. KIPP DC provided evidence of roughly 90% participating educator support.
  • Awardees will receive from $10-40 million over the next four years to personalize learning and improve student outcomes.

To view grantee application or for more information on the Race to the Top- District Program, visit the RTT-D website. 

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

MOST ASKED FAFSA QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS. #1: What do I do if my parents haven't filed taxes yet?  Read all of the questions and answers.

YOUTH CREDENTIALS. The U.S. Department of Labor, Division of Youth Services, recently launched the “Credentials for Youth” tool, which provides a step-by-step process for helping youth attain credentials in high-demand occupations. It also connects users to resources that can help them find high-demand occupations in their local area using labor-market information.

COLLEGE SEARCH. The U.S. Department of Education hosts the College Navigator website, a free tool to assist students in their quest to find the perfect college. The database provides accreditation, financial aid, graduation and retention rates, and other information on over 7,000 colleges and universities and allows customizable searches by major, state, type of institution, and more.

Scale Up Your Impact on Teaching, Visit San Francisco

Join LearnZillion's Dream Team

Common Core logo

LearnZillion is recruiting 200 great teachers who want to broaden their impact beyond the classroom to work with coaches around the country to create lessons and materials built from the Common Core State Standards. Learn more and apply (due Jan. 27). 

All lessons are free and will be available to teachers and parents on LearnZillion.com. They are recruiting math and literacy teachers in grades 2 through 12. The work is virtual and flexible and each Dream Team teacher gets paid $2000 to create approximately 20 lessons and all related materials. 

With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dream Team teachers will also participate in TeachFest in San Francisco, the first weekend in May, with all expenses covered.

School Violence

The New Math

School-associated homicides decreased between 1992 and 2006.

• From July 2009-June 2010, there were 33 school-based violent deaths; 25 were homicides, five were suicides and three were legal interventions.

20 percent of students who committed school-based homicides had been victims of bullying and more than one in ten had suicidal intentions.

Download a Bully Prevention Manual from the OSEP Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and Youth Suicide Preventions from the University of South Florida.  

Quote to Note

"We will never fully understand why 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School—or why still more students and educators lost their lives at Columbine, Chardon or Red Lake high schools, Westside Middle School, Virginia Tech or the many other campuses and communities in our country where guns have cut short dreams and created fear."

Arne Duncan in his article, Now Is the Time to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools and Communities.

Language and Learning on the Border

The Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAFs) continue talking with teachers throughout the country about transforming the teaching profession.This month the Fellows traveled to Arizona and New Mexico. During one stop, Kareen Borders, Toni Hull, Cindy Apalinski met with a group of stakeholders in Columbus, N.M. (Deming Public School District). Read Dr. Borders's blog about their visit to Columbus.

And the Award Goes to...

Teaching Tolerance Honors 2012 Culturally Responsive Teaching Award Winners

Congratulations to Lhisa Almashy, Anna Baldwin, Darnell Fine, Robert Sautter, and Laurence Tan! Next week, these five outstanding educators will receive the 2012 Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching, presented by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. The award honors educators who have demonstrated excellence in teaching students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Videos of their teaching techniques will be used to create professional development resources that will help educators across the nation better support students. Read the ED Week article. Check out lesson plans and resources that focus on teaching tolerance. Receive Teaching Tolerance magazine free at your school.

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Teachers' Notes

• GETTING "A BIT" DIGITAL. The Alliance for Excellent Education is holding a Digital Town Hall on national Digital Learning Day, Wednesday, February 6, 2013, from 1:00 p.m.– 2:30 p.m. (ET). Moderated by Leon Harris, award-winning journalist and anchor of ABC7/WJLA-TV (Washington, DC), the Digital Town Hall will demonstrate “digital learning in action” and feature high-profile education leaders and a live studio audience.

2013 SUMMER TEACHER INSTITUTES. The Library of Congress is now accepting applications for its 2013 Summer Teacher Institutes in Washington, D.C. The five-day institutes will provide educators with tools and resources to effectively integrate primary sources into classroom teaching. Learn more.

• IT'S GOOD TO BE GREEN. National Green Week, the largest K-12 sustainability education campaign in the nation, kicks off February 4-8.  GEF offers six sustainability themed programs, each with their own 5-day lesson sets, activities, tips and recommended reading to make Green Week as simple as possible. Sign up at www.NationalGreenWeek.org by February 1 to be entered to win eco-friendly prizes.

THE STATE OF THE STATES. StudentsFirst issued their benchmark "State of Education: State Policy Report Card" earlier this month. States were given letter grades for their efforts to elevate the teaching profession, empower parents with data and choices, and spend dollars wisely and govern well. At a briefing and panel discussion at the Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, panelists acknowledged that this is a document primarily for reform advocates that helps states ask questions about how to improve.

SPRUCE UP YOUR SCHOOL SWEEPSTAKES. Enter the Discovery Education TurfMutt Spruce Up Your School Sweepstakes for a chance to win a $5,000 grant to help make your school's play area more eco-friendly and green by adding trees, shrubbery and more. Entries must be submitted by K-5 teachers. Enter before March 21st and check out other free resources for educators.

• A BYTE OUT OF LESSON PLANNING. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a new interactive online tool to help researchers, educators, and students explore future U.S. energy-use scenarios. The interactive Buildings, Industry, Transportation, and Electricity Scenarios (BITES) tool allows users to adjust inputs, such as electricity generation and transportation fuel use, and compare outcomes and impacts on carbon dioxide emissions and the U.S. energy mix.

Emerging Educational Research

New from the Institute for Education Sciences

Improving College Access. A recent study of 1,600 high school students living in a poor community in Toronto, Can. examined the impact of offering an online informational video and financial aid material to them. The report found that students from low-achieving schools in Toronto who were offered these resources reported more accurate assessments of returns to postsecondary education, less concern about postsecondary costs, and higher expectations for their educational attainment.

Spelling to Improve Literacy. The SpellRead™ program (formerly SpellRead Phonological Auditory Training®) was found to have potentially positive effects on alphabetics, reading fluency, and comprehension for adolescent readers. SpellRead™ is a small-group literacy program for struggling readers in grades 2–12. SpellRead™ integrates the auditory and visual aspects of the reading process and emphasizes specific skill mastery through systematic and explicit instruction. Students are taught to recognize and manipulate English sounds; to practice, apply, and transfer their skills using texts at their reading level; and to write about their reading.

Projections of Education Stats through 2012. The projections include statistics on enrollment, graduates, teachers, expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, degrees conferred, and expenditures of degree-granting institutions.

open book

Recommended Reading

• LOOKING AHEAD. Mind/Shift's Annie Murphy Paul outlines trends in education that seem poised to dominate our conversations in 2013. Check out her take on the big themes in learning for the new year.

NOT IN IT FOR THE MONEY. Read the NY Times article about Zachary Dearing, a recent graduate of M.I.T. who deferred job offers and a Wall Street salary to teach math in Dallas,Texas.

• PROTECTING STUDENTS FROM GUN VIOLENCE. Those interested in learning more about protecting students from gun violence, may be interested in checking out a few of these resources. Children's Defense Fund 2012 Report; Department of Justice: Defending Childhood Report (Chapter One: Ending the Epidemic of Children Exposed to Violence, pp. 22-29); American Medical Association: The Intricate Link Between Violence and Mental Disorder; Rand Corporation: Helping Children Cope with Violence and Trauma; National Center for Mental  Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention: Developing Safe Schools Partnership: Spotlight on Juvenile Justice and Mental Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence; Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: History, Defining Faiures, and Misconceptions.

HOW SCHOOL CULTURE AFFECTS THE ABILITY TO LEARN. A collaboration between the Education Week newsroom and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, Quality Counts 2013 investigates the impact of a school’s social and disciplinary environment on students’ ability to learn and on the teachers and administrators tasked with guiding them. Read the executive summary or the full report: Code of Conduct: Safety, Discipline, and School Climate.

• A TEACHER'S NEW YEARS' RESOLUTION: BRAG MORE. Read the Edweek blog by literacy coach and Teach Plus member Julie Conlon (Melbourne, Fla.). Let her ideas serve as your inoculation against anti-teacher folks.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

 Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We need to get kids who are interested in math and science to become teachers rather than trying to redirect those in teaching to math and science." (Teacher, Phoeniz, Ariz.)

4. "I applaud any effort to change the teaching profession so that it is on par with other respected professions in this country." (ELPS on the ed.gov blog)

3. "It is time that we seek ways to prevent children and adults from getting to a point in their lives where they are so deteriorated in their thinking that they would reach for a gun or any weapon and harm others." (Brenda on the ed.gov blog)

2. "Remove the structures of funding models that set up competition instead of collaboration. We're not being rewarded for collaboration but instead are rewarded for doing better than someone else." (Teacher, Ariz.)

1. "As a native of our state, and as a product of our public school system, and as a teacher and a parent of kids in the public school system---I am going to quote Eleanor Roosevelt: We cannot allow ourselves to feel inferior without our permission. It is our job to craft the vision."  (Teacher, Ariz.)

Arne Duncan on the bus tour