May 2, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

White House science fair

President Barack Obama talks with Evan Jackson, 10, Alec Jackson, 8, and Caleb Robinson, 8, from McDonough, Ga., while looking at exhibits at the White House Science Fair in the State Dining Room, April 22, 2013. The sports-loving grade-schoolers created a new product concept to keep athletes cool and help players maintain safe body temperatures on the field. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


Young Scientists WOW the President

Last week President Obama celebrated the remarkable achievements of student science fair winners and extraordinary kid innovators from across the nation in the third White House Science Fair. The Fair brought 100 students from more than 40 states to an all-day, hands-on celebration of the power and potential of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Read more.


Choosing the Right Battles

At a meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Secretary Duncan discussed emerging issues around current standardized testing and offered his views about how to move forward. "I think we can generally agree that standardized tests don't have a good reputation today—and that some of the criticism is merited," he told the crowd. However, he rejected the argument that standardized tests are forcing people to cheat or that there is no value in looking at data to see where students are growing and where there are gaps. Read Duncan's speech. Read the EdWeek coverage of his remarks (Sparks).

ribbon cutting at premier of military students' art


You Gotta Have Art!

In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, the U.S. Department of Education Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to host the art exhibit “America’s Children.” The exhibit features some 50 works of visual art and writing from students based around the U.S., including Puerto Rico, Canada, and Germany. Learn more.

“When people ask me what I do and I say, 'I’m a teacher,' they look down on me, which is very sad. Because what I do is wonderful and it’s very important.” (Elementary teacher in Tenn.)


"Spend Money on Things You Value" 

Elementary school teacher

Teachers from Tennessee spoke with Arne Duncan last month about the value of teaching, the potential for the Common Core to change their practice, and the best kind of teacher evaluation, among other issues. Watch this video excerpt (5:41 minutes) of advice straight from the teachers.



National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) calls on NBCTs: "Show us how you embody RESPECT!" Our colleagues at the NBPTS recently called on National Board Certified Teachers to share how they are leading the transformation of the profession and embodying the key components of RESPECT. Learn more.

• Join the movement to transform teaching and leading. Sign up to get updates on the Blueprint for RESPECT  and to be added to the mailing list for opportunities for educators to lead the transformation of their profession. Check out the RESPECT webpage.

Stem Master Teacher Corps. During the White House Science Fair, the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard recently issued a white paper supporting the President's plan to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps, mentioned in his State of the Union Address. A collaborative creation by Math for America, Google, and the Broad Institute, the document is signed by a number of STEM teachers and educational leadership organizations. The white paper includes specific recommendations, based in part on the administration's Blueprint for Respect, for how the Corps might operate. Here's an excerpt: "In order to attract and retain the best STEM teachers, we must significantly reward excellence in STEM teaching, elevate the status of the profession, and create paths within the profession to which all STEM teachers can aspire." Read the recommendations.

Stephen Sawchuck covers the release of the Blueprint for RESPECT and related materials in EdWeek.

• NEA President Dennis Van Roekel comments on RESPECT. Read the press release.

• 2008 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Nicora Placa argues that it is more constructive to transform education than to discourage others from becoming teachers. Read her blog in Bridging the Gap. 

How to RESPECT Educators

"As National Teacher Appreciation Day approaches, rather than cookies, donuts, cards, or balloons, we as an American public could show our appreciation for the millions in our country who teach by asking the simple questions: Why is RESPECT not the reality? And, what can policy makers, voters, business leaders, teachers, principals, superintendents, and others do to make this a reality?"

(Greg Mullenholz in his op-ed: Teachers Aren’t Widgets That Can Just Be Replaced.)

Quote to Note


Join a Discussion with African American Teachers and ED

On Monday, May 6, ED will hold a Google+ Hangout with African American teachers, Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, and David Johns, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Educators may view the conversation "Celebrating African American Teachers in our Classrooms" live at 4 pm EDT at www.google.com/+usdepartmentofeducation or check out the archived version of the Hangout afterwards at www.youtube.com/usedgov. 

Common Core Connections

THE NYTIMES AND THE COMMON CORE. The editorial board of the New York Times analyzes the Common Core State Standards, describing them as "clearly the most important education reform in the country’s history." Read the editorial.


Green Ribbon Schools Named


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off Earth Day by announcing the 64 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and 14 District Sustainability Awardees for 2013 during a visit to Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC. From 29 states and the District of Columbia, this year’s honorees provide concrete examples of how all schools can reduce costs and environmental impact, promote better health and wellness, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways. Read the ED blog. Check out these resources for ways that educators can make their schools greener.

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community


FAMILY INVOLVEMENT IN SECONDARY SCHOOL. Family Involvement in Middle and High School Students' Education is a research brief from the Harvard Family Research Project that synthesizes the latest research, demonstrating how family involvement contributes to adolescents' learning and development. The brief summarizes the latest evidence based on effective involvement — specifically, research studies that link family involvement during the middle and high school years to positive outcomes and programs that have been evaluated to show what works in increasing family involvement. Click here to download Family Involvement in Middle and High School Students' Education.

POST-SECONDARY SUCCESS. The Texas Comprehensive Center addresses how family and community involvement influences a culture of college and career readiness and suggests that a positive association exists for certain types of involvement. Families and communities that provide support and encouragement, as well as assist with planning, increase the probability that students attend and graduate from college. Key strategies for increasing involvement include: making efforts to include families in postsecondary planning, providing information to support postsecondary planning throughout a student's education, and addressing linguistic and cultural barriers, parental time issues, and other factors across populations that are traditionally underrepresented in institutions of higher education. Click here to download Parent and Community Involvement in a College/Career-Ready Culture.

ED Mission

Did You Know?

The Department of Education's mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

question mark

Friends of History awardees


Friends of History Celebrated 

Winners of the 2013 Friend of History Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) were recognized for outstanding support for historical research or the public presentation of American history at OAH’s 106th annual conference on April 13. Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement's Teaching American History Program.

Tools for Students

STOP BULLYING. StopBullying.gov has launched a Tumblr page as a way to engage youth from across the country to take a stand against bullying in their schools. The page features messages of empowerment, encouraging teens to engage with each other in a positive way in an effort to stop bullying.

BATTER UP. The U.S. Mint is inviting youth through age 13 to design a coin that captures "What's Great About Baseball." The competition is divided into three age categories and is open until May 23. For more information and to register, go to the Challenge website.

Students' Corner

early learning bar graph


Key Studies on Effectiveness of Early Learning

As part of the Department's work to transform teaching and learning, ED published a summary of the key research studies that shaped President Obama's focus on the importance of high-quality preschool for all. Review the research. Read the President's plan. Read Arne's opening remarks at the release of NIEER's The State of Preschool 2012 Yearbook.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• THANK A TEACHER. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and Tuesday, May 7, is Thank a Teacher Day. You can thank the educators who have made a difference in your life by Tweeting #thankateacher. Check out the host of ways to get involved in the NEA's celebration of National Teacher Day.

NEW FORUM TO SHARE WRITING. In response to expanded options for writers that “have probably made writing, and learning to write, more complex," the National Writing Project, an ED grantee, launched the Digital Is website in 2010 to provide a forum for teachers to share and engage with other educators in the field of digital writing. Learn more.

• FILE UNDER "WHAT NOT TO DO." The Broad Foundation recently released this list of 75 examples of how Bureaucracy Stands in the Way of America's Teachers and Students. There are many interesting observations, including #34: "Central office staff and principals are not evaluated regularly nor are they held responsible for teacher or student success." Review the list.

• EXAMS AREN'T EVERYTHING. In How Tests Can Help Low-Income Students (Atlantic), Massachusetts Teacher and Teach Plus Fellow Talmadge Nardi weighs in on the Atlanta cheating scandal and how we can continue "to be passionate and skillful teachers of critical thinking, writing and reading," even while testing.

Recommended Reading

• PROOF POSITIVE. In a recent Youth Voices policy briefing at ED, four students participated in a panel discussion on the ED programs that they credit with their success in school. In this inspiring ED blog, Kelsey Donohue introduces readers to these remarkable students and the programs that propelled them into a positive future. 

open book

• CREATING A COLLEGE-GOING CULTURE. 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow Linda Yaron serves up a strategy for high schools to cultivate school leadership and create the expectation of going to college, even when resources are tight. Read her Ten Ways to Pump Up the Volume on Student Leadership.

• THE NEXT BIG THING. Talk about teacher evaluation or testing with any educator these days and the conversation inevitably turns toward professional learning. In this piece on Learning First Alliance's site, professional learning's guru Stephanie Hirsh explains why our assumptions about how to improve education are shifting dramatically. Read her article, Shifting Assumptions.

Teacher and Arne Duncan

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. “We have the tools to improve our schools; we just need the guts.” (Principal, Portland, Maine.)

4. “Education revives my soul.” (Teacher, Clarksdale, Miss.)

3. During a RESPECT conversation with educators: “I actually felt respected today as a teacher. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t doing enough, but rather felt that I might have some answers about how to make things better.” (Teacher, Naples, Maine)

2. "Teachers want more time, not more money." (Assistant Principal, Ore.)

1. "RESPECT’s time has come. Providing teachers with autonomy also requires knowledgeable, skilled professionals who have opportunities to grow and advance their knowledge base, and then have time to share with other colleagues." (Janice, on the blog)