TEACHING MATTERS -- March 21, 2013


March 21, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Santiago can code!


Writing Code like Poetry

Follow this video tale of Santiago Gonzalez, a 14-year-old computer programmer who is fluent in a dozen programming languages and has already designed 15 apps for the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Santiago describes himself as a student who was bored in traditional school settings until his parents found a college ready to take a risk on him. Today he attends Colorado School of Mines as a junior and writes code that is not only functional, but beautiful, like poetry. In the video, this self-proclaimed nerd says learning is "as essential as eating." Watch the video. Learn about teaching code writing.

A Level Playing Field, an Equal Starting Line

At the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit on Tuesday, Arne Duncan described strengths of the Hispanic community and recent accomplishments in Latino education. He also spoke about important challenges for the near future, including passing the DREAM Act and improving access to quality early learning. Read his remarks.

lockers in shambles


Modern Facilities Needed

The Center for Green Schools released its first State of our Schools report, highlighting the critical need to modernize school facilities to meet current health, safety and educational standards. The report finds that schools are currently facing a $271 billion deferred maintenance bill just to bring the buildings up to working order.

New Green Strides Webinars

The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities with tools to reduce their environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach effective environmental literacy and civic engagement. Sign up to get email updates about Green Strides Webinars.

Mar. 20, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Radiation Exposure on Earth (NASA) 

Apr. 3, 2013, 2-3 p.m. The Three T’s of Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools (EPA) 

Apr. 3, 2013, 7-8 p.m. 21st C. Tools for Environmental Learning (NEEF/ Green Teacher) 

Apr. 10, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Pathways to Green Jobs and Careers in Natural Resources (USDA) 

April 16, 2013 at 4-5 p.m. Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors (NEEF/ EPA) 

May 1, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Bringing Climate Change Home (USDA) 

May 8, 2013, 2-3 p.m. Drinking Water Best Management Practices for Schools and Child Care Facilities (EPA) 

International Summit general session


Summit Summary

This year's International Summit on the Teaching Profession, held in Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, took up the topic of teacher "appraisal." Delegations made up of education ministers and teacher union leaders of the 25 highest-performing countries and the five fastest risers –as defined by the OECD’s 2009 PISA report – participated in presentations and discussion for two days.

Susan Hopgood, of Education International, made closing remarks that summarized much of the learning. Here's an excerpt: "Well-structured appraisal may work. But we must remember what is essential to effective teaching.

  • Feedback is essential.
  • Collaboration is essential.
  • Teacher self-efficacy and confidence are essential.
  • Trust is essential.
  • Teachers sharing knowledge and wisdom is essential. Indeed schools are wisdom organisations."

Read more. Learn more from OECD. Review a Prezi report by Andreas Schleicher that was presented at the introductory session, Using Evaluation to Improve Teaching.

Defining Teacher Leadership

"Teacher leadership is defined as specific roles and responsibilities that recognize the talents of the most effective teachers and deploy them in service of student learning, adult learning and collaboration, and school and system improvement. This definition conjures up images of teachers as innovators, researchers, champions of student learning, leaders of colleagues, and policy advocates."

Rachel Curtis, in Finding a New Way: Leveraging Teacher Leadership to Meet Unprecedented Demands.

Quote to Note


Educator Feedback Wanted

The CAEP Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting is accepting public comments on their newly developed core elements of quality educator preparation through March 29. In addition to recommendations regarding the standards themselves, CAEP seeks feedback on the examples of evidence. Review the teacher preparation standards and offer comments. 

Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge
Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice
Standard 3: Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity
Standard 4: Program Impact
Standard 5: Provider Quality, Continuous Improvement, and Capacity

Students' Corner


Students Talk Safety with Arne

“I have a family with a history of incarceration. My father is serving a life sentence at the moment, and I don’t feel comfortable around [school resource] officers.” 

--Jasmine Jauregui, a youth organizer from the Youth Justice Coalition

Jauregui is one of a number of students who recently met with Secretary Arne Duncan and David Esquith, director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) at ED. The students, who work to break down silos and make their schools and communities safer, represented coalition members of the Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ), the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) and Padres y Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United). One day before the students met with Arne Duncan, they participated in a rally on Capitol Hill, where they called on Congress to implement positive approaches to gun violence and address the impact of school safety policies. Read more.


How Do U.S. Students Compare with International Peers?

With the International Data Explorer (IDE) educators can create statistical tables and charts to find the answers. The IDE has just been updated with 2011 data for the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). Explore student performance in reading, mathematics, and science, as well as contextual data including student demographics, instructional experiences, and school characteristics.


Did You Know?

In the past two weeks, ED has awarded funds for 21 states to continue efforts to turn around their lowest achieving schools. 

Four of the grants were awarded to run new competitions, while 17 are to continue work in previously awarded schools. 

Look for more awards to be made in coming weeks. Read more here and here.

question mark

federal student aid


Tools for Students

Federal Student Aid offers a number of super resources for students along all points of the college spectrum. Whether they are trying to decide if college is right for them, if they qualify for student aid, or how to manage existing loans, the site is worth students checking out. The resources tab houses a rich reserve of links that help answer all types of questions, including videos, fact sheets, calculators and information.


A Teacher's Time

U.S. teachers spend 80% of their day engaging directly with students. In other industrialized nations, teachers spend 60% of their time on instruction and use the balance to plan, collaborate, review data, and develop professionally.

From Linda Darling-Hammond, Ruth Chung Wei and Alethea Andree,  How High-Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers.

Common Core Connections

CORE VALUES. The Council of Great City Schools has published a video to explain the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The video explains the differences between standards and curricula and makes the case that everyone has to work together to translate the standards into learning.

A THEMATIC CORE. In this EdWeek article, Liana Heitin describes how teachers use interdisciplinary units to tackle the integrated content and high-level thinking required by the CCSS. Read more.

CCSSO's Common Core video

PRACTICING NEW LITERACIES. In Educational Leadership, William Kist offers four teaching strategies that give students practice in emerging literacies. He also shows how each of the emerging literacies is closely related to one or more of the CCSS in English language arts. Read the article. 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• CELEBRATE FEMALE EDUCATORS! This Homeroom blog post provides ideas and resources for students to learn more about Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary McLeod Bethune during Women's History Month.

TEACHING TOLERANCE. According to a recent Human Rights Campaign survey, LGBT students report being harassed at school—both verbally and physically—at twice the rate of non-LGBT youth. LGBT students are also more likely to experience negative educational outcomes. This guide from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance initiative offers educators best practices for creating an inclusive climate in school.

FIRST ROBOTICS. U.S. First is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills. Their programs include a Junior Lego League (grades k-3), a Lego League (4-8), a Technical Challenge (7-12), and a Robotics Competition (9-12).

• A FRESH TAKE ON INCLUSION. Smart and heartwarming piece about Amanda Englehart, a Bainbridge, Ohio, teacher who has formed a school club and a class that bring mainstream students into inclusion classes. Read the story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Attina).

• WEBINAR ON NEXT GENERATION OF SCIENCE STANDARDS. The National Association of State Boards of Education is offering a free webinar, A Primer on Next Generation Science Standards and Considerations for Next Steps, March 28, 3-4 EDT. Topics include an overview of the next generation of science standards: what they are, why they were developed, and how they were constructed. Presenters will also discuss policy implications as state boards consider adoption and implementation of the standards. Register.

open book

Recommended Reading

• RESEARCHER MARC TUCKER ON NECESSITY OF HIGH, RIGOROUS STANDARDS: The Common Core State Standards "are not a program, like a new drug, to be field-tested. They are a statement of what we want our children to know and be able to do when they graduate from high school and what they ought to know and be able to do at key points along the way to graduation." Read more (EdWeek). 

• PARCING THE GAP. At the National Newspaper Publishers Association's Black Press conference, Arne Duncan discussed recent success and challenges closing educational opportunity gaps. He also offered his perspective on issues central to educational equity, including school closures, civil rights, quality early learning, and funding. Read his remarks.

• WHAT BOREDOM IN SCHOOL REALLY MEANS FOR GIFTED KIDS. "Boredom, in my experience, is the number one reason parents of gifted students offer to explain any kind of trouble in school—from behavior issues in the classroom to sub-standard performance on report cards," writes Christopher Taibbi, a specialist in gifted education. Read his take (Psychology Today) on "why boredom might not be such the terrible, catch-all culprit many parents imagine it to be."

THE PLANNING AND PREPARING DISCONNECT. Insightful piece by teacher blogger David Ginsburg about the role of preparation in maintaining classroom discipline. Ginsburg recalls how when his lessons fell apart, as a beginning teacher, he blamed students, the text, or cooperative learning, rather than his own planning. Read the EdWeek article.

What are you reading, Joanne Urrutia? MY BELOVED WORLD (Sonia Sotomayor)

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "Successful teaching can be learned. It is replicable.” (Middle School Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

4. "Piecemeal approaches (to professional learning) do not work." (Teacher, Charlotte, N.C.)

3. "You have 49 choices of cereal. Shouldn’t we be able to give our students different options in education too?” (Professor of Education, Kearney, Neb.)

2. Regarding students who are experiencing trauma: "We need to do a better job of thinking about how our young people need to heal." (Teacher, Kent, Wash.)

1. "I can’t do what teachers do. They are amazing.” (Principal, Neb.)

teachers at OELA event