TEACHING MATTERS -- March 28, 2013


March 28, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Arne Duncan with a teacher at Rogers Heights

Keeping it Real


Secretary Duncan recently met with eight teachers at Rogers Heights Elementary School (Bladensburg, Md.) to talk with them about their experiences in the classroom. Specifically, he asked them to speak about how they and their students are affected by the number of education initiatives converging at one time. The teachers shared concerns about access to high quality early education, testing overload, and the need to include art, music and gym in the school day. Watch a video of excerpts (4:42 minutes). View the hour-long conversation. Read Arne's blog about the event.


Wisconsin Tapping Teacher Talent and Expertise

Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers has assembled 19 outstanding teachers to serve on a newly appointed Wisconsin Teachers of the Year Council. Composed by classroom teachers who served as Wisconsin Teachers of the Year from 2007-2013, the council is expected to act as an ongoing advisory panel providing direct feedback to the state superintendent and the Department of Public Instruction. Similar councils are being developed in other states, including New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. Learn more. Read about 2011-2013 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Leah Luke's contribution to the teacher council.

Chris Lehmann

"I want teachers who understand the difference between these two statements: I teach math, and I teach kids math," said Principal Chris Lehmann, who describes his leadership style as one "grounded in progressivism."


Principal Leader

The Odyssey Initiative caught this video of Principal Chris Lehmann waxing eloquently about education at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Penn. Watch him spin his special brand of magic as he talks about silver bullets (he believes in them), teachers who laugh, building a vision, and reducing the space between adults so that students can learn.


Read Naturally Has Potentially Positive Effects for Adolescent Readers

Read Naturally, a supplemental reading program designed to improve reading fluency, accuracy and comprehension, uses a combination of books, audio CDs, and computer software. The WWC found that Read Naturally has potentially positive effects on general literacy achievement for adolescent readers. Read the report.

“When I walk into a classroom, I look at the groups. Can I distinguish the different groups, whether by socioeconomics or by race? If I can pick out the differences by groups, I get uncomfortable.”

Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary in the Office of Innovation and Improvement, on a visit to Grandview Hills Elementary (Austin, Texas), explains how he surveys a classroom to determine equity in educational excellence and expresses his concern when he can easily perceive the gaps. Read more.

Quote to Note

It’s Time to Fix Warped Incentives in College Sports

men's basketball bracket for academics


In an op-ed in USA Today, Arne Duncan and Tom McMillan argue that compensation packages paid to top college football and basketball coaches are "wildly out of whack." By way of example, they note that if colleges advanced in the NCAA tournament based on academic achievement, schools like Syracuse University, which did well in early tournament play, would not get past the first round. Read the op-ed. Read the USA Today article. View the men's and women's academic brackets.

Columbia College student Alex Perez teaches elementary students how to tie neckties during a monthly Boys II Men “Juniorversity” session.


Illinois Programs Curb Neighborhood Violence and Help Kids Navigate to Success

Read about the work of three nonprofit organizations that collaborate with city officials and educators in Aurora, Ill. to keep boys out of gangs and offer them skills and experiences to help them succeed. Supported in part by Race to the Top funds, Boys II Men, SPARK, and the Illinois Pathways to Prosperity initiative provide mentors, prepare students to find skilled jobs in high-growth areas, and involve young children in meaningful early learning experiences.  

Columbia College student Alex Perez teaches elementary students how to tie neckties during a monthly Boys II Men “Juniorversity” session

Questions or Comments about Teaching Matters? Please send an email to ED's teacher liaison at Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov

Students' Corner


¡Qué Bien!

On the last Wednesday of each month, Federal Student Aid (@FAFSA) hosts #AskFAFSA Office Hours, a live Q&A session on Twitter. During this time, students tweet questions to the @FAFSA team and receive live answers from the experts on topics related to financial aid. Past topics include financial literacy, Back-to-School, and FAFSA Completion.

This month, Federal Student Aid partnered with New Futuro to host the first bilingual #AskFAFSA Office Hours! The topic: "Why FAFSA? Why Now?" Students and teachers who were not able to participate in the live chat can catch a summary on our Storify page.


Tools for Students

This short video from www.StudentAid.gov provides students with an overview of both the need for and the pitfalls of taking on student loans to pay for college. At the end of the video, there are links to other videos that dive even deeper into the issues.

responsible borrowing art

Common Core Connections
video clip of student facedown on a table

"This is something that they will learn--even if I have to throw a kid on the table."  -- Katie Novak

Sharing Common Core Language Goals

This short video published by the Teaching Channel offers educators insights into one teacher's pedagogy and practice of communicating the Common Core ELA goals with students.

Here 7th grade teacher Katie Novak introduces students to language goal 5A--Biblical and mythical allusions--and reminds them why they are studying this literary tool. "They deserve to know what they are learning," Novak says.

GIVE TEACHERS THE LEAD ON THE COMMON CORE. Celine Coggins of Teach Plus reminds educators that when new initiatives come along, the usual tendency is to mandate professional development delivered by an outside guru. A better approach, she suggests, is to let teachers lead professional learning on the Common Core from their classrooms. Read how Teach Plus accomplishes this strategy.


Principals at roughly 11% of the public schools in New York City have not identified any teachers as "unsatisfactory" in their evaluations in the past eight years.

From Wall Street Journal (3/19, Fleisher, Subscription Publication).

the new math

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• ALL A TWITTER ABOUT MATH. In 2012, 40 math teachers from 19 states and three countries met in St. Louis, Mo., to build relationships and create their own professional development strategies. Twitter Math Camp was born of their effort. Check out their Math Twitter Blogosphere, which helps mathematics professionals connect with one another.

• TO THE SUMMIT ONCE MORE!  Vivien Stewart, senior advisor to Asia Society and author of the last two reports from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, shares the discourse from the event and offers more of the international perspective about teacher evaluation. Read her EdWeek article. View the Center for Teaching Quality's (CTQ) post-summit webinar on "Lessons Learned," featuring Teachers of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki and Paul Anderson, ED's Joanne Weiss and CTQ's Barnett Berry.

• BROKEN PROMISES. This Washington Post article describes in tragic detail the effects of the budget sequester on our country's reservation schools. In Poplar, Mont., the Ft. Peck superintendent can’t hire a reading teacher though more than half the elementary school's students do not read or write at grade level. Lyndsey Layton writes, "In a school system where five children recently committed suicide in a single year — and 20 more made the attempt — plans to hire a second guidance counselor at the high school have been scrapped, leaving one person to advise some 200 students." Read the article. Keep tissues close by.

• 10 LESSONS THE ARTS TEACH. From the National Art Education Association "Advocacy" page, this piece reminds us all to resist the temptation to narrow the curriculum to only a few subjects. Read the list. Read about the NAEA's annual conference from ED's Doug Herbert, who recently attended the event in Fort Worth, Texas.

open book

Recommended Reading

• MIRROR, MIRROR. Interesting piece by Katie Ash about how districts are designing and remodeling school buildings, based on the belief that "classrooms should mirror the workplaces of today and the future." Read the story in EdWeek.

• THE EVERGREEN EFFECT. Chad Aldeman of Ed Sector has written a report examining whether or not the state of Washington's teacher and principal evaluation systems look at individual educators or treat them more like interchangeable parts, as described in TNTP's Widget Effect. Using data that Washington made available through State Fiscal Stabilization Fund requirements, he learned that most Washington schools didn’t identify a single unsatisfactory teacher or principal in 2010–11, making it extremely tough to turn around their lowest performing schools. Read the report.

• DREAMING IN TEACHER. In the Teaching Ahead collaboration between EdWeek and CTQ, teachers take on the topic of their dream teaching job. Turns out teachers are looking for ways to stay in the classroom while taking on additional responsibilities in hybrid positions. Learn more.

What are you reading, Steven Hicks?

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "I loved school, but I was always getting in trouble.” (2013 State Teacher of the Year)

4. Referring to the Common Core State Standards“I like that it goes deep and not wide.” (Teacher, Bladensburg, Md.)

3. "The Common Core is not something that you do on Tuesdays." (Science Teacher, Charlotte, N.C.)

2. "We ask our teachers to dig deeper holes, but give them spoons. If we want it, we have to fully fund it." (Parent, Jackson, Miss.)

1. "We need to teach for our future and not for our past." (Teacher, Mobile, Ala.)

teachers at ED