TEACHING MATTERS -- February 28, 2013


February 28, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Undroppable student

Braden Showers is Undroppable

Stronger than Circumstances

Urban and rural students are graduating everywhere against great odds. UNDROPPABLE is a social media campaign created by Jason Pollock. It includes brief testimonials from the students, including the one above by Braden Showers of Joplin, Mo. The UNDROPPABLE project is also working on a feature-length documentary to highlight the inspiring students who are somehow able to muscle through and graduate no matter what. View their videos and share them with students and teachers who need encouragement to succeed in the toughest of circumstances: Angelique Jones witnessed a shooting on her block; Jose Abreu and Deandre Wilson escaped gang life and avoided the path to prison that their friends and families did not.


Duncan Presses to Save Teacher Jobs and Protect Vulnerable Kids

Arne Duncan has been focused recently on avoiding harmful budget cuts imposed by the impending sequester. Making the rounds on the morning news shows and appearing before Congress, he has argued that these blunt cuts would harm the nation's most vulnerable children and affect teachers, many of whom would be furloughed or laid off. 

Duncan on Face the Nation February 24

On Face the Nation, Duncan said, "We don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is. It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need and as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs." Read the transcript. Read the President's plan to balance the budget and avert the sequester, including White House data about how sequester will affect states. Read Duncan's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. More resources: find links for state impact tables in this blog; Read an article: Education Secretary Decries Sequestration.


What New Teachers Need

On Tuesday, Arne Duncan sent this tweet : "Teachers, what was your biggest challenge during your first year of teaching?" The teachers responded immediately with a cavalcade of wisdom: "New teachers need support and for their voices to be heard and valued"; "I needed mentorship, coaching, and feedback from effective instructional leaders."; "My biggest challenge was balancing school and personal life. Needed to be held more accountable for planning ahead!" Read the rest of the responses in our Storify.

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community

Turnaround Webinar Bank. The School Turnaround Learning Community website offers a number of archived webinars for educators searching for strategies to improve their school. Subjects include Positive Approaches to Discipline, Early Learning Common Core and Literacy, and Evaluating Teachers of English Learners. Peruse the full list.

Partnership to Support AmeriCorps in Schools. ED and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced a new competitive grant program that will provide $15 million in public funds over three years to reinforce and accelerate intervention efforts in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. The new School Turnaround AmeriCorps program will support the placement of a dedicated cadre of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the country. Learn more.


NY Teachers Buy Advertising to Push for Quality Evaluations

Teachers at Educators for Excellence have launched their first television advertising campaign in New York, calling on lawmakers and the teachers' union to reach an agreement on meaningful feedback and support. The message to Albany? "We can't wait any longer." Watch this ad.

Jemal Graham of E4E



Math educators are saying that the rigor and approach of the Common Core State Standards are causing them to take a second look at not only their curriculum, but also how they teach. At Osawatomie High School, teacher Justin Burchett breaks students into groups to research Billboard’s top 20 songs and create scatterplots using data analysis software. He also gets the students to think about what the numbers and equations they use really mean. Read more in the Miami County Republic (Newton).


MET Study Illustrates the Need for Transformation 

According to the 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, teacher satisfaction has dropped 23 points since 2008, including a 5-point decrease in the last year. Many of the reasons for educators' dissatisfaction have to do with transformation within the profession. For example: Less satisfied teachers are more likely to be located in schools that had declines in professional development (21% vs. 14%) and time for collaboration with other teachers (29% vs. 16%). At the same time, teachers indicate interest in career ladders that offer them opportunities to teach and to lead outside the classroom. Half (51%) said they are at least somewhat interested in teaching in the classroom part-time combined with other roles or responsibilities in their school or district. Read the VIVA teachers' report: Reflections from the Classroom: Teachers Explore the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Research Experience and its Influence on Future Education Practice.


Did You Know?

In a test given in 65 developed countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 15-year-old girls outperform boys in science — but not in the United States. According to the OECD, in the United States, "boys are more likely than girls to see science as something that affects their life." Read the NYTimes story, including the powerful graphics that accompany the data.

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Students' Corner

Tools for Students

LIFE AFTER FAFSA. Students who have already submitted their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can go to this link to learn what to expect and what to do next.

UNCOMMON JOURNEYS. The Peace Corps offers a number of free resources for teachers on its worldwise schools site, including Uncommon Journeys, with lessons in a variety of subjects that include readings, maps, and "adventures across cultures." There is also a rich assortment of multimedia slides, podcasts, e-books and videos. Teachers can also request a speaker to come to their class.

Sequestration: "The Height of Dysfunction"

"There's no one in their right mind who would say this is good for kids and good for the country, yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington. I just think people don't spend enough time in the real world."

Arne Duncan's testimony on Capitol Hill

Quote to Note

Students at Harbor School Chart Their  Course

A little more than a week after the State of the Union address where President Obama spoke about redesigning high schools to equip graduates with the skills that employers demand, Secretary Duncan and several Department of Education staff visited a school in New York City that meets this challenge head on. Located on Governors Island and accessible only by boat, Urban Assembly New York Harbor School was established back in 2003 with one goal in mind: preparing students for success in college and careers through restoration of the local marine environment. Read more.

Harbor School

For Each and Every Child


Equity and Excellence Commission Delivers Report to Secretary Duncan

The need to improve the country’s education system is urgent, according to the Co-Chairs of the Equity and Excellence Commission who formally presented their report to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday. The Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child,” highlights the need to eliminate “education disparities affecting millions of underserved and disadvantaged students.” Read more. Download the report (PDF).

Safe and Healthy Schools

Nearly 8 out of 10 LGBT youth are harassed at school.

We know that students who are bullied are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and other health concerns, as well as decreased academic achievement and participation. That is one reason why this statistic is so alarming.

From GLSEN's National School Climate Survey. Read an ED blog that includes four ways to help improve the school experience of LGBT youth, written by Michael Yudin.

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International Summit logo


World Educators to Take on the Tough Questions

At the International Summit on the Teaching Profession taking place March 13-14 in Amsterdam, educators and education ministers from around the world will be offering their answers to some of the same issues facing US schools:

  • How is teacher quality defined by policymakers, the teaching profession and society? What standards are set and by whom?
  • How is teacher quality evaluated? What systems are in place and how are the evaluations carried out?
  • How do evaluations contribute to school improvement and teacher self-efficacy? What impact can be expected on teaching and learning from teacher evaluation?

Educator Webinars. The Oganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is holding pre-summit webinars for the international community on Wednesday, March 13th 2013, at the following times: 11:00 am Europe Time (Paris, GMT+01:00) and 1:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00). The webinars will present the report, "Teachers for the 21st Century: Using Evaluation to Improve Teaching," which addresses effective approaches to teacher appraisal and provides examples of reforms that have produced specific results, showing promise or illustrating imaginative ways of implementing change. Learn more and register. Check out the Summit's 2013 website to follow their progress.

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Teachers' Notes

SMART SNACKS IN SCHOOL. The United States Department of Agriculture announced the opening of the public comment period for proposed new standards to ensure that children have access to healthy food options in school. The public can comment on a proposal to ensure vending machines and snack bars include healthy choices. More info.

  FINALLY, AP EXAM SCORES ARE ON THE RISE! "As Advanced Placement exams have expanded to a more diverse group of high school students, more failures and lower average results seemed almost inevitable. But recent high school graduates seem to be bucking the trend: For the first time on record, average scores, the percentage passing, and top scores are all increasing." Read the Huffington Post story (Pope)

 • PISA REPORT ON EQUITY. Sarah D. Sparks writes at Education Week (2/21, 39K): “Inside School Research” blog that US schools are 'making progress' toward increased equality in the education system. She cites a study that found "in 2009, countries often held up as educational role models, including Finland, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, had significantly higher PISA reading performance as well as smaller socioeconomic gaps... From 2000 to 2009, the United States reduced the gap in reading performance between students of higher and lower socioeconomic status, but its students’ overall scores on PISA did not improve significantly.”

ABANDONING "POCKETS" OF EXCELLENCE. When Superintendent Austin Obasohan noticed that an early college program was working well at Duplin County (N.C.) Early College High School, he decided to offer it to all 9,375 students in Duplin County schools. "We decided to scale up," he says. "Because we think it would be an injustice to deprive any child." Read how he pulled it off (in EdWeek/Adams).

DRILLING DOWN ON THE MEGA STATES. California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas enroll close to 40 percent of the nation’s public school students. The importance of these “Mega-States” goes beyond the sheer size of their population since they serve more than half of the nation’s English language learners and some of the largest concentrations of children from lower-income families. Read the latest report about their educational outcomes from National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment Governing Board.

TEACHER CHAMP. Colby Burnett, a 29-year-old world history teacher at Fenwick High School (Chicago, Ill.), won the Tournament of Champions on Tuesday’s episode of Jeopardy. His earnings include a $250,000 grand prize and $100,000 won after winning the teachers tournament last fall. Read the story in the Chicago Sun-Times (Rackl).

 PRE-K FOR ALL. What You Need to Know About President Obama's Plan to Provide High-Quality Early Education for All Children.

Mike Humphreys

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Recommended Reading

TEACHERS HELP TEACHERS GET BETTER. While many districts rely on outside experts and conferences to sharpen educators' skills, Stephen Smith (Hechinger Report) highlights one California district that employs teachers to enrich each other. Read more.

PROMOTING GRIT, TENACITY, AND PERSEVERANCE: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century was released for public comment earlier this month by the Office of Educational Technology. It’s a deep dive into the non-cognitive factors that are crucial for student success. It’s dense, but fascinating material for teachers to consider. The recommendations for practice and implementation alone are worth the (free) price of admission. Check out the report and leave comments on the public draft. 

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "(You) create policies at the 10,000-feet level, but I work on the ground floor." (Teacher, Grosse Pointe, Mich.)

4. "CTE programs provide the training for the needs of high-growth industries, like health, renewable energy and STEM fields." (CTE Teacher, Reno, Nev.)

3. "Recent tragic events have once again highlighted what school-employed mental health professionals have been saying for a long time: children’s mental and behavioral health are vital components of the education process." (John, on the ED.gov blog)

2. "Although it has been more than three decades since I was in high school, I remember the stigma lowered at those ‘perceived’ as gay, like me – or just different – very clearly. Students were not the only ones guilty of this, however; teachers, parents, school staff – all played a part. A much-earned salute to you all for your efforts to end this senseless, inhumane, and completely bigoted behavior." (David, from the ED.gov blog)

1. "(Education) is about much more than the Common Core standards, which are so rich... Education is about teaching people to be creative human beings." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

educator roundtable