TEACHING MATTERS -- January 31, 2013


January 31, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

cleaning up after Sandy

NJ Teacher Organizes Relief from Hurricane Sandy

Teachers and Students START the Healing

After Hurricane Sandy devastated Stafford Township, New Jersey, teacher Michael Dunlea inspired fellow educators and his students to rebuild the community. In the storm’s wake, he used social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to create Stafford Teachers And Residents Together (START). Via START, Dunlea organized over 2,000 volunteers to rescue teachers and students whose homes were most affected by the storm. The volunteers dedicated more than 10,000 hours and impacted more than 700 homes. Dunlea estimates that START has saved taxpayers more than 2.5 million dollars.

How did he do it? “I was able to harness the outpouring of volunteerism that followed the storm and connect it to the people who needed the help,” Dunlea explained. “I initially turned to teachers with the plea that we needed to help our fellow educators and students who lost everything. I had 14 volunteers who gutted three homes the first day, 29 volunteers who gutted another 21 homes the second day and so it grew. Many others cooked food and catered hot lunches for all who volunteered.”

Dunlea, who teaches second grade at Ocean Acres Elementary School, is an extraordinary leader. Though he is an America Achieves Fellow and a N.J. Ocean County Teacher of the Year, he says that through this work, he has seen his place as a member of a teaching community. “The community has found a sense of self through all of this,” he said. “We are now beginning to rebuild the homes we gutted. It has profoundly changed all involved.”

Dunlea’s initiative and dedication is exactly what students need in the classroom. Watch his YouTube video about  START’s work and visit their Facebook page. Read about Arne Duncan's tour of neighborhoods affected by Sandy.

Digital Learning Day Goes Live Feb. 6

As the second annual Digital Learning Day approaches, more than 20,000 educators have signed up to participate in the day's events. The day is designed to celebrate teachers and to highlight successful instructional practice and effective use of technology. This year U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be joining Digital Learning Day organizers for a morning demonstration of five digital learning lesson plans. Special guest speaker Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the White House, will be at Digital Learning Day’s annual Town Hall meeting. Sign up for the Town Hall taking place from 1-2:30 ET. Learn more from eSchool News (Stansbury).

Students With Disabilities

We Must Provide Equal Opportunity in Sports

The Department issued guidelines concerning districts’ obligations to provide athletic opportunities for students with disabilities. Arne Duncan wrote in a recent blog article, "Students with disabilities are no different – like their peers without disabilities, these students benefit from participating in sports. But unfortunately, we know that students with disabilities are all too often denied the chance to participate and with it, the respect that comes with inclusion. This is simply wrong..." Read more.

Arne Duncan signing a basketball

The New Math

Disconnected Youth

Disconnected youth, or "opportunity youth," are people who are homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, or who are not employed or enrolled in an educational institution.

There are nearly 6.7 million "opportunity" youth, ages 16-24, in the United States.

Each year, the average "opportunity youth" imposes an immediate fiscal burden of $13,900 per year, or $37,450, when accounting for effects of crime caused by these youth. These figures do not represent the additional long-term costs and implications.

 *From The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth (Belfield, Levin, and Rosen)

Teachers in Action

Taking the Profession Back

In a comprehensive article from Education Next, Richard Lee Colvin outlines the strategies that teachers are using to organize themselves and drive the future of their profession. He describes the Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and digs deeply into the work of emerging professional teacher organizations, such as Educators for Excellence, Teach Plus, the VIVA Project, and Hope Street Group. He also clarifies reform work being accomplished within the traditional teachers' unions by citing the National Education Association (NEA) Commission's report on effective teachers and teaching issued last year. Colvin then quotes NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who explains many of the motives behind the movement: “Teachers are willing to take responsibility for student success—and they want and deserve a voice in how they’re trained, supported, and evaluated.”

Kelly Vallianos

Teachers Talk About School Safety and Teacher Preparation on Bloomberg EDU

On Friday, Jane Williams hosted a conversation on Bloomberg EDU with the President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), two of ED's Teaching Ambassador Fellows, and one National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). Their conversation focused on issues that concern educators today, including the idea of public school teachers taking a bar exam of sorts. Listen to the radio discussion with Randi Weingarten (AFT), Fellows Cindy Apalinski (Linden, N.J.) and Aaron Bredenkamp (Omaha, Neb.), and NBCT Kelly Vallianos (Compton, Calif.).

"Teaching begins with cultivating a conversation and ends with empowerment."

Teacher on Twitter who answered the question posed by ED: Looking back, what do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started teaching? Read the other responses from teachers. Keep the conversation going on Twitter with hashtag #teachtalk.

Quote to Note

Flexibility Logo

Flexibility Info Available Online

The Department has released a set of materials that provide a substantive overview of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility process. Also known as ESEA waivers, 34 states and the District of Columbia have applied for and received flexibility regarding certain provisions of ESEA.The intent of these materials—a brochure and five companion fact sheets—is to explain the rationale and intent of ESEA flexibility, as well as address its key components and highlight plan elements for a number of states approved for flexibility. 

Overview brochure, The Opportunity of ESEA Flexibility

 Fact sheet:  Turning Around the Lowest-Performing Schools 

 Fact sheet: Supporting Teachers, Leaders, and Local Innovation

 Fact sheet:  Protecting School and Student Accountability

 Fact sheet:  Advancing Accountability and Graduation Rates

 Fact sheet:  Continuing to Expose and Close Achievement Gaps

• All materials: ESEA Flexibility website 

Resources from the Turnaround Movement

SCHOOL CULTURE AND CLIMATE. Leading Indicators of School Turnarounds: How to Know When Dramatic Change Is on Track (from the University of Virginia). This report outlines how educational leaders can use data to monitor a school’s turnaround progress, and diagnose and make mid-course corrections. The report includes principles for selecting leading indicators, methods for monitoring leading indicators, and strategies for acting upon them.  


DATA-DRIVEN TRANSFORMATION. The Data-Driven School Transformation Partnership (DSTP) Narrative (from the Bay State Reading Institute). The DSTP is a partnership between the Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI) and 12 high-needs, low-performing Massachusetts elementary schools.

School Turnaround Learning Community

Building Engaged Citizens

Why the Social Studies Matter

"In too many schools and on too many college campuses, courses and programs of study about the essence of a democracy and the importance of civic learning are peripheral to the core academic mission." Read an article about Undersecretary Martha Kanter's tour of schools that are making strides toward placing civic education, service learning, public dialogue and debate, and political participation at the center of their mission to prepare all students for informed, engaged participation in the civic life of our nation.

States improve their policies on teacher preparation.

NCTQ Policy Yearbook

States Improving Teacher Prep. Policies

Last week, the National Center for Teaching Quality (NCTQ) released their 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, "Improving Teacher Preparation." According to the report, 14 states improved their grades from last year on the state laws, rules and regulations shaping pre-service training of teachers. Coming in at the top were Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee. Check on your state's progress.

Social Media

Did You Know?

You don't have to wait until the next issue of Teaching Matters for the latest resources and information from the Department of Education.

Educators can follow ED on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

@USEdGov (to get general ED news and information)

@ArneDuncan (to follow Arne Duncan) 

Official Department of Education Twitter Account (list of official ED accounts, including Rural Education and the Office of the Under Secretary, among others)

ED on Facebook

Arne Duncan on Facebook

question mark

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

  DIGGING INTO TEACHERS' VIEWS ABOUT TEACHING. In November we highlighted the Teach Plus survey of teachers, Great Expectations: Teachers' Views on Elevating the Teaching ProfessionLiana Heitin's piece (EdWeek) about the meaning of the report offers some interpretations of the data.

TEACHERS WHO HAVE FLIPPED! Tammi Hoag profiles the recent technology-driven trend of flipped classrooms. Using this model, teachers turn lectures into homework, and students spend time in class "doing practice problems in small groups, taking quizzes, explaining the concept to other students, reciting equation formulas in a loud chorus," and so forth. Read the story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

• DATA RECIPES. As part of their Closing the Gap initiative, a collaborative of school technology and administrative leaders is offering nine templates to help schools and districts turn their data into action. Read a related article in eSchool News.

• TEACHERS HONORED AT SUNDANCE. At the Sundance Film Festival, actors like Tim Daly, Bill Pullman, and Joey Lauren Adams gave a shout out to teachers who have made a difference in their lives. Read more.

A MAGNETIC MONTH. The National Association for Magnet and Theme-based Schools celebrates National Magnet School Awareness Month in February to showcase the power and impact magnet schools are having on the lives of students and communities across the country. Learn more.


Recommended Reading


 EDUCATION AT A CROSSROADS. Interesting and provocative article (Skrzycki in Biz Voice) exploring the state of reform in Indiana from the points of view of the state's 2012 Teacher of the Year, a teaching candidate who serves as the state's student advisor, the Executive Director of Teach Plus in Indiana, and the CEO of ED Sector.

 A REVOLUTION IN TEACHER PREP. Jonathan Schorr recently joined ED's communications team. His article in the current issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review describes how the newest generation of teacher education programs is reinventing how teachers train for the classroom. Read the article. 

 WHY SMART POOR KIDS DON'T APPLY TO SELECTIVE COLLEGES (AND HOW TO FIX IT). Thoughtful piece by Derek Thompson in the Atlantic that asks all of the right questions.

 WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL. In Time, Andy Rotherham offers his take on the Department's recent statements affirming that students with disabilities must have access to sports. From the column: "Conservative pundits fearing federal overreach claim that President Obama is inventing a right to wheelchair basketball, that he’s forcing schools to start up such teams. He’s not. But the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is doing something important, and hopefully it will prod more schools to give more students a way to participate in sports." Read his argument.

What are you reading?

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "This job changes lives. Stay positive, focused and never stop looking to improve. A passion for learning shows." (Starr Sackstein on Twitter captured in Storify)

4. "If we want a diverse teaching community, we need our kids of color to have great experiences in school." (Teacher, Staten Island, N.Y.)

3. “Teacher education programs should help their candidates become culturally literate and help them with problem solving and critical thinking skills.” (Teacher, Arlee, Mont.)

2. "Every single day when I walk into school I learn so much from (my students) about how to a better teacher for them." (San Francisco, Calif.)

1. "Teaching is not something you do. It's something you live." (Teacher, Watts, Calif.)

Arne Duncan speaking with a teacher