TEACHING MATTERS -- April 4, 2013


April 4, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Edutopia video image


Teachers Redesign Their School

Edutopia recently profiled the inspiring story of teachers at Sammamish High School (Wash.) who redesigned their teaching strategy to focus on inquiry learning. Teachers were given time during the school day to work together to create meaningful plans and make decisions to redesign the culture and practices of their school. The curriculum shift was funded by an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from ED. Read more. Watch the video. 


Gates and AFT Issue Joint Recommendations

They define themselves as one of education's "oddest couples," yet last week the heads of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) came together to make six recommendations to evaluate and develop teachers. Read their article in the New Republic (Phillips and Weingarten).

Quote to Note

Teacher to Teacher

"Let's move the policy dialogue away from thinking of teacher evaluation by itself. Instead, let's ask how evaluation can be used to deliver the supports, strategies, and resources needed to develop all teachers into their best, most effective professional selves."

Angela Minnici and Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt in their EdWeek blog, Making Teacher Evaluation a Launch Pad for Growth.


Expanding Evidence Report Released

The final version of OET’s Expanding Evidence report is now available, suggesting new ways to collect evidence about what works in a fast-changing digital world.  Read the report, or skip right to the Evidence Framework.

OET report

History of Hispanic students' college attainment

"The biggest jump we’ve seen among students attending college is for Hispanic students – 32% now attend college, compared to 24% in 2003."



Good News, but More Work Ahead

In this blog, ED's Marco Davis makes the case that while Latino high school graduation rates continue to soar, there is still a great deal of work to be done, because college completion rates have not kept pace. Davis serves as Acting Executive Director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Read his article.


Urban Districts' Student Gains Lead the Pack

the broad prize for urban education

Finalists for the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education have been announced. They include Corona-Norco Unified School District (Calif.), Cumberland County Schools, (N.C.), Houston Independent School District (Texas) and San Diego Unified School District (Calif.). Read what they are doing to improve student learning, narrow achievement gaps, and raise graduation rates.

NCLE Report Cover


Making Room for What Works

After surveying more than 12,000 U.S. educators, the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) recently issued a report that indicates teachers of all subjects support teaching literacy but that they need structured time to collaborate and make it happen. 

Specifically, the report finds that 77% of teachers believe literacy is not just the responsibility of educators and that co-planning is the professional learning experience they value most. However, the majority of educators (54%) get less than one hour during the school week to work with team members.

Read the complete findings and what the NCLE recommends for states and districts.


Did You Know?

The Investing in Innovation (i3) program seeks to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers.

Last week ED announced the start of a $150 million 2013 i3 competition, releasing the program's invitation for pre-applications for the Development grant category and a notice of final priorities for the i3 program overall. The i3 program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. Read more.

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Hart Middle School students talk with Arne Duncan

"I worry about me not growing up and being a man." -- Hart Middle School Student


Heartbreaking Stories of Community Violence

In March Secretary Duncan visited Hart Middle School, where he spoke with students about their experiences with school and community violence. Every student present knew at least one person who had been shot. One explained that her stepfather had been killed during a robbery at gunpoint while she was walking home from the store with him and her mother. Another said, "My whole father's side of the family has been ... shot from guns for no reason." Students talked about fears they have for younger siblings, and one said, "I worry about just growing up and being a man." Watch a short video of highlights. View the whole discussion. Read Arne's blog about the conversation. 


Enter Photo Contest

Do you have an inspiring photo of how you and your school or organization are engaging students in environmental education? EE Week invites you to upload your photos, including those from digital cameras, camera phones and social media sites like Instagram to the EE Week Photo Contest. Prizes include a Samsung Galaxy Note® 10.1 (Wi-Fi) 16GB, a 14.2 Megapixel Samsung SMART Camera and a Dual-View Smart Camera with Built-in Wi-Fi.

students researching environment

Common Core Connections


The Partnership for Assessing Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is one of two consortia working on developing the assessments for the Common Core State Standards. In March PARCC issued guidance that may interest teachers, including the following:

1) the design of PARCC’s English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics assessments;

2) the number of testing sessions and approximate testing time;

3) the number of days over which schools may administer the assessments (testing window);

4) “rule of thumb” guidance for the number of computer devices needed to administer the assessments; and

5) a new tool designed to assist local policy makers and educators build the technology capacity they need to administer PARCC’s computer-based assessments in 2014-15. Download the PARCC guidance.



Liana Heitin (EdWeek) profiles a Rockville Center (N.Y.) principal who believes that the key to ensuring all of her students are ready for more rigorous standards is to make high school courses more demanding. At South Side High School, Principal Carol Burris insists that all 1,100-students - even English learners and students with disabilities - take advanced classes. She cites research that the "rigor of a student’s K-12 curriculum is a greater predictor of college readiness than test scores." Read her story.  

Students' Corner

Tools for Students


The U.S. Department of Education has launched two key features on its StudentLoans.gov website: a Complete Counseling Web page and a new Repayment Estimator that lets borrowers compare what their monthly payment amounts would likely be across all seven repayment plan options. Students graduating this spring are now able to take advantage of new tools that can help them better understand their loan debt and stay on track in repayment. Read more.



The College Navigator includes a number of handy tools for students looking to find the right college. The site contains more than 7,400 post-secondary schools, and students can compare up to four of them at one time -- including graduation rates, default rates and median debt -- in a side-by-side format. They can "like" certain schools and save their favorites. There is also a link to figure out a student's personal net price for college, as well as links to the College Affordability and Transparency Center and Federal Student Aid.

Higher Ed State Spending

States are spending $2,353, or 28%, less per student on higher education, nationwide, in the current 2013 fiscal year than they did in 2008, when the recession hit.

From a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

the new math


KIPP Middle School Students Sustain their Growth

A study examined whether attending a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) middle school improved students’ reading, math, social studies, and science achievement for up to 4 years following enrollment. The study found that students attending KIPP middle schools scored statistically significantly higher than matched students on all of the state assessments and follow-up periods examined, including reading and math, for 1-4 years following enrollment. The study analyzed scores on state assessments for approximately 16,000 students attending 41 KIPP middle schools in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Read the report.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• CAREER READY. Students and staff of the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (Trenton, N.J.) spent a morning last week sharing their perspectives about career and technical education with Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown. Read about what he learned.

 HABITS OF MIND--NOT JUST FOR ARTISTS. The eight Artist Habits of Mind published in 2003 by Harvard College are worth a second look by teachers looking to engage students in any subject. Habit Seven, "Stretch and Explore," encourages learners to "reach beyond one’s supposed limitations, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents." Download the habits.

 EARN PAY IN PARADISE. The Hawaii Department of Education is seeking early-career teachers to participate in 6-week paid internships over the summer. Learn more. 

 • STILL SMILING? An analysis of polling data from Gallup-Healthways finds that teachers rank second only to physicians in well-being. Well-being is measured by several factors, including physical and emotional health, job satisfaction, and feelings of community and safety. Teachers also beat other professions when answering questions such as whether they "smiled or laughed yesterday." Read the NYTimes article (Rich).

 • SPECIAL ED RESEARCH SUMMARY OF FINDINGS: 2006–2012. The National Center for Special Education Research has published findings for programs that target infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities or who are at risk for developing disabilities. Findings include the identification of effective interventions, validation of assessments to identify children for earlier intervention, and the development of technological innovation to provide support and instruction for children with disabilities and their families. Read the summary.

 • CLASSES 4 CLASSES. Kaitlin Roig, the first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who valiantly rescued her class by hiding them in the bathroom, has started a new website to teach her kids how to give to others. Watch a clip of her story. Visit the site. Check out their mission statement.

 • MENTAL HEALTH. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle testified last month to a subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives about ED's efforts to improve mental health support for students. Read her testimony. View the proceeding.  

Resources from the School Improvement Turnaround Community


The SIGs Keep Coming!

Arne Duncan announced that 10 more states will receive funding to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. Awards are being made on a rolling basis. To date, 21 states have been approved to receive SIG funding. Read more and find out if your state is one of the grantees. 

Questions or comments about Teaching Matters?  Please email them to Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov

Recommended Reading 

• NEED A JOB? INVENT IT! Justin Minkel, the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year and 2006 Milken Educator, recommends this NYTimes piece by Thomas Friedman. Minkel, whose mantra is "High Expectations, Literacy Through Literature, Teachers at the Table," urges educators to teach ingenuity, collaboration and critical thinking.

open book

• GUIDE TO OERs. The Software and Information Industry Association recently released a free guide to using Open Educational Resources (OERs) in K-12 and postsecondary education. The guide answers a host of educator questions ("What about copyright laws?") and tackles issues such as how to adapt the content to meet educational objectives. Learn more.

What are you reading, David Johns?

Teacher Leaders from America Achieves visited with ED last month to offer their perspective on how to bridge policy and practice.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

America Achieves Fellows who visited ED March 22 and offered their advice on teacher evaluation and the Common Core

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Leaders need to have the professionalism to step aside and let the experts - the teachers - do their work. We need to expect and equip.” (School Administrator, Mobile, Ala.)

4. "We need teachers to understand the Common Core before they can embrace it. There are standards, and then there are pedagogical and instructional shifts." (Math Teacher, Windsor, Conn.)

3. "[Teacher evaluation] needs to be seen as a cycle of development, not an endpoint." (Elementary Teacher, Newark, N.J.)

2. "I think I owe it to [my students to communicate that my job] is not a joke. It's not something that I did because I couldn't do anything else. You know, I could have done anything else, and I chose this because this is where I belong. And I want them to know that I take my job very seriously." (Middle School English Teacher, Chelmsford, Mass.)

1. "We need to focus on people, not programs." (Principal, at ASCD Conference in Chicago, Ill.)