TEACHING MATTERS -- February 14, 2013


February 14, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters




Obama Outlines Bold Education Proposals to Grow the Middle Class


President Obama emphasized the importance of education in Tuesday's State of the Union speech before Congress. Early in his remarks, the President outlined three priorities, saying, "Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?" Sources at ED tell us that 14% of the President's speech was dedicated to education issues as he laid out strategies to achieve those goals, including reducing the cost of college, expanding early childhood education, and preparing our young people for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Read more. Read the transcript. Watch the speech. Read about the "College Scorecard" highlighted by the President, designed to help students choose the best college.

Teachers in the House

The morning after meeting the President and listening to the State of the Union speech in the Capitol with Jill Biden and Michelle Obama, three  educators stopped by the Department to talk with Arne Duncan about education. The educators discussed the President's message, school safety, early learning, arts integration, and testing. Pictured here with Secretary Duncan are Susan Bumgarner, Pam Hibbs (both early learning educators in Okla.), and Kaitlin Roig, who teaches first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary (Conn.).

Teachers from the State of the Union who visited ED

An Opportunity to Talk About Testing

In this week's EdWeek, former teacher and current Teach Plus CEO and founder Celine Coggins capitalizes on a teachable moment brought about by the testing boycott at Garfield High School (Seattle, Wa.). Coggins says that the "protest offers us an opportunity to have a more robust debate about how the right assessment can better help teachers improve practice and foster student learning." She also argues that teachers should own the challenges that arise from testing. She writes, "[T]he central question we should be asking is not: How can we turn turn back the clock to the pre-standardized-test era and stop trying to figure out whether and to what degree students are learning? But rather: How do we ensure that assessments are aligned to the standards teachers are expected to teach with useful, timely information to improve their practice?" Read more.

Arne Duncan with Senator Franken



Breaking Free from NCLB


In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week, Arne Duncan promoted the value of providing flexibility to states under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which the Department of Education began offering in 2011. Duncan said that granting states new flexibility through waivers was not his first choice—he would have preferred that Congress reauthorize, or amend the law instead. But in light of congressional gridlock over reauthorization, Duncan said that he was “not willing to stand by idly and do nothing while students and educators continue to suffer under NCLB.” Read more and view Power Point slides from Duncan's presentation. Download publications about ESEA Flexibility. Watch the C-SPAN video.

ED Awards Nearly $50,000 to Help CPS Recover from Shootings

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded Chicago Public Schools (CPS) an Immediate Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling nearly $50,000. The grant will provide assistance for recovery efforts following 35 shootings this past year at four high schools in the Greater Englewood community.

Project SERV grants provide critical support to districts that have experienced a significant traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish safe environments for students. The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded more than $29 million to 99 grantees, including CPS, since the grant program began in 2001. Read more.

Ms. Jacqueline Simms

Tearful Teacher Wins the Milken

Last week third-grade teacher Jacqueline Simms, from Anne Beers Elementary School in Washington, D.C., was surprised to win the prestigious $25,000 Milken Educator Award before an audience of her peers and students from her school. Simms, whose work as an academic- intervention coach drew attention from the Milken Family Foundation, was cited for being "the rare individual who can inspire students, ignite colleagues to strive for their best, and lead the transformation of an entire school culture around teaching and learning." Watch the emotional video and read the Washington Post article. 

Ms. Jacqueline Simms

Quote to Note

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs.”

John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer


Recruiting and Retaining Rural Teachers

In this You Tube video, Arne Duncan discusses school-based agriculture and education and what the nation must do to recruit and retain great teachers for rural schools.

Arne Duncan talks about ag education.


Summer Intervention Study

A study examining the impact of a summer literacy program on kindergarten and first-grade students who were at moderate risk for reading difficulties was confirmed by the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) to have had a statistically significant positive effect on student outcomes. Read the study.

Video for Leslie Nicholas


Students Send Shout-Outs

The Horace Mann-NEA Foundation recently announced their picks for this year's Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and posted the videos submitted by students supporting their teacher.

This montage was created for middle school language arts teacher Leslie Nichols, who teaches at Wyoming Valley West Middle School (Penn.). In his class, students hold funerals for boring words and perform a ritual when students say something "so hot" that "they're on fire."

Watch the other videos: Julia Marshall, teacher interventionist and literacy coach, Rosewood Elementary International School (S.C.); Melissa Collins, second grade teacher, John P. Freeman Optional School (Tenn.); Jennifer Thomas, instructional coach and English language arts teacher (Calif.); and Kellie Blair-Hardt, special education teacher, Metz Middle School (Va.).

Teacher Prep


Next Generation of Educator Preparation Accreditation Standards Released for Public Comment


As the new national accreditor for educator preparation, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), is seeking public comment on the draft of the next generation of accreditation standards and performance measures. All stakeholders in education and educator preparation are encouraged to review and comment on the draft standards during the public comment period. The standards will be available online starting February 15, 2013, with a microsite opening for online public comment February 22. Please visit http://caepnet.org or follow @CAEPupdates on Twitter for the most up-to-date information.

VIVA logo


NEA & VIVA Idea Exchange Kicks Off

The National Education Association is hosting an online collaboration for classroom teachers to ensure they have direct input in a conversation on school safety. Join the NEA VIVA Idea Exchange and share your solution to creating safe schools. A group of Idea Exchange members will deliver the group’s recommendation to public officials in Washington, D.C. and in key state capitols around the county. Open to all NEA teachers and school staff in Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Mississippi or Alabama.


Did You Know?

According to Scholastic.com, Oprah Winfrey's OWN network will air Blackboard Wars, a six-part story of the attempt to turn around New Orleans' McDonogh High School.

question mark

paint chips


Seeing is Believing

In this popular video on the Teaching Channel site, Sarah Brown Wessling masterfully demonstrates using paint chips to teach her high school students high-level vocabulary. 


Extended School Time


Resource #1: ELT: Expanding and Enriching Learning Time for All

This policy brief provides concrete strategies to support expanded learning time in schools, such as schools forming partnerships with community organizations to create a cohesive learning day that both supports a longer school day and meets the needs of working parents.

Resource #2: Expanded Learning Time in Action: Initiatives in High-Poverty and High-Minority Schools and Districts 

This report examines the revision of school calendars in high-poverty and high-minority schools and districts, including addition of learning time as well as creative strategies to use learning time differently. It identifies more than 300 initiatives implemented between 1991 and 2007 in high-poverty and high-minority schools across 30 states, and offers additional snapshots of school and district initiatives to extend learning time.

Affordable Care Act


Tools for Students

To help states, districts, and schools encourage healthy students, the Department urges school communities to make use of new provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The health care law is helping to bring more primary care providers to the neediest school communities. The new law allows students, teachers and parents to focus on the important work of learning, rather than being distracted by the financial burdens of medical care. Youth under the age of 26 can also be covered under their parents’ insurance.

National Six-Year Graduation Rates


National Six-Year Graduation Rates

Source: The Pell Institute: Moving Beyond Access; data pulled from Department of Education Beginning Postsecondary Study.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

TOOLS FOR TECHIES. Mind/Shift's Katrina Schwartz offers a number of articles for teachers interested in learning how to integrate technology into their teaching, including "Golden Rules" and case studies. Read more.

• "EXCELLENT" POLICY WEBINARS. The Alliance for Excellent Education will hold a "Federal Education Policy" webinar this Friday, February 15 from 2-3 pm ET. The webinar will provide the Alliance's take on "what’s currently happening with education policy in Washington, DC, as well as what’s likely to get done and what’s likely to linger this year." On Tuesday, February 26, they will host "Building on the Common Core State Standards to Improve Learning for English Language Learners," also from 2-3 pm ET. 

• FIGHTING POVERTY & IMPROVING LEARNING. A network of Cincinnati Public Schools known as community learning centers are aimed at improving academic achievement in the poorest, lowest-achieving schools by creating “hubs” for a given community. The schools — 34 so far and counting — have full-service health clinics, mental-health counselors, tutoring programs and after-school programs for everything from ballroom dancing to construction classes. Read the story in the Toledo Blade (AP).

• CTE RESOURCES. The Association for Career and Technical Education offers an Educator Resource Center with links to a library of lesson plans, e-tools and professional development. Since February is CTE Month, why not take a look? It is also worth checking out the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium website, which offers a number of educator resources, including CTE State Data Snapshots.

• TEACHERS' TAKES ON DIGITAL LEARNING. During Digital Learning Day, officials from the U.S. Department of Education joined educators from across the country to celebrate teachers and shine a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms. Read teachers' responses.

digital learning

Every Day Should Be Digital Learning Day

Educators can check out resources and information from last week's Digital Learning Day, including a digital town hall and an initiative to support digital learning, called Project 24. Read Karen Cator's article about how educators have moved from "technology immigrants" to "natives." Catch up recent technology posts, including: How one teacher went from digital doubter to tech guruDigital Learning Day: No Better Time to Consider Our R&D Investment in Technology and Education, and Digital Engagement at Home Increases Early Math Skills.

Recommended Reading

• In Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School (the Atlantic online), English teacher Jessica Lahey makes a good case for a somewhat contentious idea: "Every child should be graded on class participation -- and parents don't help their children when they argue otherwise."

open book

THE CASE FOR TEACHER PAY. In Why Educators' Wages Must Be Revamped Now, Erik Hanushek argues that districts grappling with smaller budgets shouldn't cut teachers in an effort to force the system to eliminate waste fraud and abuse. Instead, he asserts that "the only way that efficiency will be significantly improved is by strengthening the relationship between salaries and performance."

What are you reading, Dan  Brown?

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "To make a strong difference for kids for life, (a school) is about more than one teacher in one classroom. . . It's about having a nurturing community of great teachers." (School Leader, Washington, D.C.)

4. Describing one role of teachers: “You are the teacher of your principal when they don't understand your work." (Teacher, Oklahoma City, Okla.)

3. "The doctor and the dentist who best know your medical and dental needs use digital imaging, data processing, and technology-based research to diagnose and to treat your individual needs. I would expect no less from any great teacher." (FrancisJ on the blog)

2. "I went into the military because I knew a teaching career wouldn't afford me the life I wanted." (First-year teacher who just retired from the military)

1. "Dropping out is a process, not an event." (Principal, N.Y.)

Arne Duncan talking with teachers while visiting a class