TEACHING MATTERS -- April 11, 2013


April 11, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

pie chart reflecting 2014 budget priorities


Bold Budget Strengthens Teaching & Leading

The President released his FY 2014 budget this week, which prioritizes efforts to strengthen teaching and leading. The President’s plan keeps the country on a path toward fiscal sustainability by balancing increases in education funding (up $3 billion over 2013) with savings in other areas.

The budget highlights six priorities: early learning, furthering K-12 reform, college affordability and quality, school safety, expanded opportunities for both middle- and low-income communities, and the protection of formula programs for at-risk populations. 

Of particular interest to teachers will be initiatives for high school redesign, dual enrollment, and career and technical education, as well as a number of programs to support teaching and leading:

  • $5 billion in mandatory funds for RESPECT grants to support states and districts committed to transforming teaching and leading
  • $98 million in School Leadership grants
  • Effective Teachers and Leaders state grants
  • $190 million for Presidential Teaching Fellows scholarships
  • Significant investments in STEM education and School Improvement grants
  • Programs to improve high school and career readiness

Check out the Department's 2014 budget website for additional resources.


"What's the Point of Poetic Language?"

Ah, the ubiquitous question asked in every secondary literature course: "Why don't writers just say what they mean and keep it simple?"

still of seminar rubric

In this Teaching Channel video, Paige Price uses Socratic seminars to guide students through a "scavenger hunt of meaning" in poetry to help them understand the value of figurative language.

The clip serves as a primer on Paideia for beginning teachers and those who are new to Socratic seminars. Price also shows educators how to incorporate English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core (CC) goals into lesson plans. Watch the video. Check out the National Paideia Center's resources for teachers, including lesson plans for Socratic seminars in many subjects such as language arts, math, history, and art.

Orchard Gardens

13-year old student Jamai Dujour-Marshall says that before the arts came to his school, he was one of the troublemakers. Now he is winning awards for his art.



Principal Replaces Security Staff -- with Art Teachers!

View the incredible story by the BBC covering Orchard Gardens Pilot School (Boston, Mass.). Learn how Principal Andrew Bott turned around a failing school by enriching the campus with arts. Ignoring advice to "phase in" the arts, Bott instead decided to "Go big and go bold." He replaced the security team with art teachers. Orchard Gardens is one of eight schools receiving $2 million from the federal government (over two years) to improve arts education. Research shows that participating in the arts can raise attendance, boost academic achievement, and reduce class disruptions.


Iowa Schools Attribute Student Gains to SIG Funds


Three Waterloo Community Schools (Waterloo, Iowa) have shown impressive gains on the Iowa Basic Skills Test in reading and math. For faculty working to turn around some of the lowest schools in the state, the journey has taken time and persistence. Lincoln Elementary Principal Stephanie Mohorne admitted to feeling like she had been punched in the stomach when her school's scores came in lower after the first year of receiving the $2.5 million SIG grant. After the second year, their work began bearing visible fruit. Discipline referrals dropped and scores in reading and math rose significantly. Read the WCF Courier story (Wind) of how Lincoln, Carver, and Irving changed the culture of their schools and lost the label "persistently lowest achieving."   


Nominate a Teacher of the Year

People is taking nominations for their 2013 Teacher of the Year through June 7. The magazine plans to award six prizes of $5,000 each to educators who are innovative, inspiring and excellent. The public will be able to vote for candidates of their choice through August 15. Learn more. Download an application. 

The Power of Ed Tech

"If providing our young people with access to learning through technology does nothing else, it will dramatically increase opportunities to learn and excel for all students, especially those isolated by geography or income and those simply hungry for more than their schools are able to offer."

Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary in the Office of Innovation and Improvement, in Feb. 14 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce. Read more.

Quote to Note

children digging for owl pellets


Students are Digging it!

Read about how students at Griggs Elementary (Mobile, Ala.) are engaging in STEM explorations daily and how everyone benefits from their learning. 

Third graders examine owl pellets for rodent bones.   

Common Core Connections

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE COMMON CORE. Interesting piece by Kathleen Porter-Magee and Sol Stern from National Review examines conservative criticism of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). One tidbit from the right-of-center article: "Perhaps the clearest evidence that states can still set their own standards is the fact that five states have not adopted Common Core. Some that have adopted it might opt out, and they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do." Read the rest.

AND THE TEACHERS SHALL LEAD. Tennessee has taken a bold step by enlisting more than 700 of the state's best teachers to help peers understand the CCSS and the implications for teaching. Read the EdWeek article attesting to the power of teachers to make the difference in helping Tennessee to become "America at Its Best" (Erik Robelen).

PARCC SEEKS FEEDBACK ON PERFORMANCE LEVEL DESCRIPTORS (PLDs). The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has released the draft grade- and subject-specific performance level descriptors in English language arts/literacy and mathematics for public comment. Performance levels, sometimes referred to as "achievement levels," are the broad, categorical levels used to report student performance, and the PLDs describe what that performance means. From April 10 to May 8, the draft grade- and subject-specific PLDs are posted on the PARCC website. Educators may provide feedback through a survey posted on the PARCC website.


Did You Know?

Learning gaps emerge early, particularly among disadvantaged students. According to the ACT, this is one of the better-documented facts in education. Their conclusion: "Students who do not have a good start usually do not thrive later on."

From the ACT's February 2013 research and policy report, College and Career Readiness: The Importance of Early Learning. Read the research.

question mark

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

 • FREE TOOLS FOR CREATING INFOGRAPHICS. This article by Miranda Rensch offers educators 10 free tools for creating interesting and inspiring infographics. Teachers can also create lessons asking students to demonstrate concepts learned in class through their own  visualizations. Read the article.

 • ONLINE DATING FOR EDUCATION JOBS. A site called myEDmatch recently launched with a noble purpose: connecting educators and schools with shared missions, beliefs, and goals. Their underlying assumption is that "great matches lead to great outcomes for kids." Read Stephen Sawchuck's EdWeek article about myEDmatch, Where Teachers and Schools Can Hook Up!

 • FREE MOBILE LEARNING WEBINAR: Empowering Teachers & Learners with Mobile Learning. Joe Morelock (Director of Technology & Innovation for the Canby School District in Canby, Oregon) will share strategies for empowering teachers and learners with mobile learning. Morelock will discuss the 1:1 iPod touch mobility program, the multiple iPad 1:1, and flipped classroom projects. He will also cover what he did to ensure the program's support and empower Canby's teachers and learners. Register here for the edWEB.net webinar taking place from 4:00-5:00 (EDT) on Tuesday, April 16.

 • edWEB LAUNCHES NEW SITE. Offering a free professional social and learning network for the education community, edWEB.net has launched a new site stocked with resources for educators. Check it out or take a tour.

 • EVOLUTION OF SCIENCE STANDARDS. The final Next Generation Science Standards, a new set of voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education, were recently released. Achieve, which led the project, reports that the work is a collaboration of teams in 26 states who worked together for two years to identify science and engineering practices and content that all K-12 students should master in order to be fully prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.

Tools for Students

MY NEXT MOVE. What do you want to do for a living? Students considering answers to this question might be interested in the Department of Labor's What's My Next Move? guide, designed to aid students in exploring career pathways. Learn more.

LET'S GET COOKING.  First Lady Michelle Obama is again challenging America’s most creative junior chefs to put their talents to good use and whip up delicious lunchtime recipes. The second “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner” invites children ages 8-12 and their parents or guardians to create and submit an original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty. Recipes must adhere to the guidance that supports the Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate

Students' Corner

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community

April Webinars for High Schools with High Poverty: Instruction in Action

Three upcoming webinars offered in April are designed for high school teachers in high-poverty high schools who are looking for proven, practical strategies and techniques that can improve instruction across a variety of subject areas. Participants will leave the webinars with short-term steps they can take immediately, next week, and next month. Seminar dates: April 18, 23, and 25. All webinars are at 2:30 PM EDT (1:30 PM Central, 12:30 PM Mountain, and 11:30 AM Pacific.) Register today.

2013-2014 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship

Application Status Update

In February, the Department of Education received over 1200 applications for the 2013-2014 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship. While pleased at the strong response, the large numbers have affected the timeline. Currently, ED is in the process of ensuring that each application receives a fair and thorough review. Applicants should receive an email by the week of April 22nd indicating whether they are moving on to the next stage of the process. If applicants do not hear by that point, they may email TeacherFellowship@ed.gov. While only a very small portion of applicants will progress to the next stage, the great work of so many teachers around the country and the support they have garnered from leaders in their schools and professional communities has been inspiring to read.

open book

Recommended Reading

 • A FAIRER WAY TO EVALUATE TEACHERS. In this Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates uses a football analogy to argue that, like quarterbacks, teachers should not be measured on one data point. Read what he does recommend.

 • GOOD NEWS FOR LOW-INCOME, HIGH-ACHIEVING STUDENTS. The Brookings Institute's Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery studied data on every student in 2008 who scored in the 90th percentile or above on the SAT or ACT and had an A- or above GPA. From this data, they released a surprising report, "The Missing One-Offs: The Hidden Supply of Low-Income, High-Achieving Students." Two weeks ago, Hoxby wrote this blog describing five pieces of very good news uncovered by their research. For one: poverty does not equal destiny. Download the report. Review the key findings.

 • YOUTHBUILD PROGRAMS. Read about how YouthBuild programs help disadvantaged 16-24-year-olds work full-time for six to 24 months, earning credit toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. Emphasis is placed on leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive network of adults and youth committed to each other’s success.

 • COLLISION REPAIR TECHNOLOGY, ROBOTICS, AND MORE. Read about how a thriving CET program at New Jersey’s Gloucester County Institute of Technology prepared Taylor Clow with a valuable experience that has set him up to follow a number of career paths. 

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. On what it takes to close persistent achievement gaps: "There is no magic formula. It takes hard work and a staff that fully buys into the school's culture." (Science Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

4. “Schools are thirsty and we are handing them salt water.” (Teacher at ASCD Conference in Chicago, Ill.)

3. On teachers' salaries: "I was a used car salesman during the summers because I couldn't afford to pay my bills." (Teacher, Carrboro, N.C.)

2. "Teacher leadership is taking responsibility for what is important to you." (Teacher, Seattle, Wash.)

1. “We are caught between two worlds. Do we prepare our teachers for what teaching should be – deep study and inquiry; or what it is devolving into – testing and compliance?” (Teacher Educator, Morris, Minn.)

Arne Duncan talking with a teacher during a school visit