May 9, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Arne Duncan calling a teacher from his car


Duncan Surprises Excellent Educators

Each day during Teacher Appreciation Week, the U.S. Secretary of Education phoned teacher leaders, thanking them for their exemplary service. Monday's call was to Tiffany DeWitt, a biology teacher at Alchesay High School in Whiteriver, Ariz. Later Arne Tweeted about the call, "Just talked w/great teacher on Fort Apache Reservation. Kids need opportunity & adults like her who believe in them. #ThankATeacher." Other calls during the week included those to a veteran teacher in Montgomery County, Md.; an early learning and career and technical education teacher in Burlington, N.J.; a new teacher in Gig Harbor, Wash.; and a science teacher in Forest Lake, Minn. Watch a video of Arne's call to 2nd grade teacher Estelle Moore. Read Arne's statement about Teacher Appreciation Week and check out his blog about Teacher Appreciation Week at ED, Celebrating and Listening to Our Nation's Teachers.


Join a Special Ed Conversation for Change

To examine the impact of existing federal regulations and legislation on the successful transition from school to work of youth with disabilities, a free, public online dialogue will be held May 13-27, 2013. Educator input in this conversation is important. Studies have shown that, compared to their peers without disabilities, students with disabilities are less likely to receive a regular high school diploma; twice as likely to drop out of school; and half as likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs. Learn more about joining the national dialogue. Register to participate.

Teachers inducted into the Hall of Fame

Teachers inducted into the 2013 National Teacher Hall of Fame pictured here with Dennis Van Roekel (far left), Hall of Fame Director Carol Strickland (far right), and Arne Duncan.


Veteran Teachers Share Wisdom and Experiences

The five veteran teachers who will be inducted into this year’s National Teachers Hall of Fame were invited to a discussion with senior officials at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Friday. Later, they were honored at a ceremony at the National Education Association, where Arne Duncan spoke briefly. Read the story about how the teachers, representing 116 years of classroom experience, inspired and informed ED's work. Missouri language arts teacher Darryl Johnson told policymakers, "Nobody achieves in isolation, and no one fails in isolation either." Learn more. Check out their Facebook page.

Duncan Offers a Teacher Appreciation Makeover

In this op-ed (Smart Blog on Education), Arne Duncan asks the country to fundamentally change how we support our teachers. "We need to do something a bit more substantive and lasting than the bagel breakfast," he says. Read the article.

Arne Duncan with educators

thank-a-teacher videos from Edutopia


Not Your Mama's Thank-You Tools

Many organizations are offering 21st century tools for folks to thank teachers this week.

• FIVE-MINUTE FILM FESTIVAL. During the next faculty meeting (or when you need a lift), consider playing one of the inspiring videos in Edutopia's Teacher Appreciation Video Playlist.

• TWITTER. Tweet your thanks at #thankateacher.

• STUDENTS FIRST. Send an ecard.

• PICTURE THIS! GREAT TEACHING. Carnegie is sponsoring a crowdsourced photo-sharing initiative of great teachers and great teaching. Participants can earn money for their school and thank a teacher who has made a difference. Visit the site. 

STUDENT-DRIVEN, TEACHER-FUELED. Excelined has posted parent and student videos thanking teachers in Florida.   

Common Core Connections


TENNESSEE. In a state where fewer than one-third of the students are proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP test), an editorial in the Nashville Tennessean argues that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) substantially increase students' chances to succeed. Read the editorial, which refutes commonly held misperceptions that the CCSS will eliminate literature and that they were developed in secret.

WASHINGTON. An editorial in the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (5/4, 69K) points out that the states' standards "have been discussed, debated and adopted in 45 states since 2009, but apparently this news bypassed some people who want to thwart implementation before getting up to speed." The piece notes the state-level origins of the standards and notes the support of the business community.


African American Educators Talk Teaching with Tamron Hall

On the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week, NBC Education Nation's Tamron Hall hosted a Google+ Hangout with African American Educators and the U.S. Department of Education. Panelists included teachers, ED's Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton and Director of the White House Initiative on Excellence for African Americans David Johns. Read more. Watch the Hangout.

Photo of Google Hangout with Tamron Hall

RESPECT Teaching Update

A Little RESPECT from the Field

FORMER NEVADA SUPT SAYS TEACHERS SHOULD EARN $200,000 A YEAR. James Guthrie, who resigned last month, released a paper through the Nevada Policy Research Institute calling for the state to pay teachers much higher salaries so that great teachers will want to come to and stay in the profession. Read the article in RGC Com (McAndrews).

CTQ: 6 WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF RESPECT. CTQ's Barnett Berry adds to the national dialogue by taking a critical look at the Blueprint for RESPECT, offering plenty of praise and caution. Read his blog.

NEA STATEMENT ON DIGITAL LEARNING IS RESPECTful. The NEA recently issued a statement on digital learning that calls for teachers having a central role in determining uses of technology. Read their statement that is likely to be adopted by their Assembly in July.

DUNCAN CALLS FOR BETTER PAY AND PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. In a Detroit town hall meeting, Arne Duncan called for higher teacher pay and other measures to transform teaching. "We should be paying teachers a lot more money. We should be training them better... we should have better career ladders. I've talked about doubling starting teacher salaries, having a great teacher making $130,000, $140,000, $150,000. The fundamental question is how do we elevate the strength of the teaching profession." Read the story (Burns on MLive). A recent report issued by the National Center on Teaching Quality shows that teacher salaries have fallen during the recession.

TENNESSEE USES RTT GRANTS TO DEVELOP TEACHER LEADERS. Tennessee is using its Race to the Top (RTT) grant to invest in teachers who seek teacher-leader roles in their school. "A requirement of the grant is to show evidence that the proposed programs have a long shelf life," said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “Training educators to be future leaders is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the sustainability of our work,” Huffman said. Read the article (Gauthier, Chattanoogan).

SWEET TWEETS. The RESPECT work is getting support from teachers, including this from an NEA member: "Apples/flowers gr8 but poll shows teachers want RESPECT, end to #testing mania for Nat'l Teachers Day http://t.co/846ZiGZqpM #thankateacher"

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 to learn more about the transformation of the teaching profession. Check out the RESPECT webpage.

Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden at Kramer Middle School in Anacostia

Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden drop by Kramer Middle School's Teacher Appreciation Breakfast for a surprise visit to thank the teachers who are helping students overcome incredible odds.

Arne Duncan and teachers at Kramer Middle School


Dr.  Biden, Secretary Duncan Praise Kramer Teachers

On Wednesday, Arne dropped by Principal Kwame Simmons' school in Anacostia (Washington, D.C.) to thank him and his team for the outstanding job they are doing finding new ways to improve learning at Kramer Middle School.

As school administrators served the teachers and City Year staff a hot breakfast, Biden and Duncan met with every educator in the room and talked with them about their work. One of the veterans noted that she “had never seen a school like this – where everybody works together and works to be innovative and to get better.”

Dr. Biden recognized the difficult work of teachers, referencing her own experiences as a community college educator, and as a teacher in other settings throughout her career. Duncan praised the school's innovation, including their blended learning approach to instruction. 

Teaching Ambassador Fellow Jen Bado-Aleman attended the event and reported that when the pair were first introduced, "The staff seemed shocked, and then the room erupted in applause and a standing ovation, and many whipped out camera phones to take pics."


Teachers Support Higher Standards

75% of the teachers surveyed by the American Federation of Teachers reported that they support the Common Core State Standards.

Less than one-third reported that they have received the training that they need to be successful in implementing the new standards.

Read the report in the Washington Post (Layton).

the New Math

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community


This policy brief by Lyndsay Pinkus of the Alliance for Excellent Education examines the power of early-warning indicators. She argues that their usefulness "lies in the willingness and capacity of school leaders and educators to transform insightful data into strategic decision making" and digs deeper into the issue. Read the report.


Did You Know?

ED has started the Principal Ambassador Fellowship program, which will be run similarly to the Teacher Ambassador Program. Up to 3 principals will be selected to work part time to advise Arne Duncan and staff and to “provide input on policy from the principal’s perspective.”

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Quote to Note

Walking the Talk

"We have to show our appreciation for teachers through actions, not words."

(Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton at Monday's Google+ Hangout with African American Educators, "A Legacy of Excellence." Watch the video.)


Project SERV Funds Suicide Recovery

ED's Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded Windham Central Supervisory Union, a regional education service agency, a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant, totaling more than $48,000. The grant will help with ongoing recovery efforts following the suicide of a 16-year-old student at Leland and Gray Union Middle and High School. Windham Central Supervisory Union serves approximately 900 students located in geographically diverse areas of southern Vermont. Project SERV grants provide critical support to districts that have experienced a significant traumatic event by helping re-establish safe environments for students.

Students Corner


PARCC Seeks Public Comment

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has two draft policies currently out for public comment. Please use the links below to review the draft policies and associated surveys. Draft Grade and Subject-Specific Performance Level Descriptors are posted at www.parcconline.org/plds. (Public review and comment period ends May 8.) The draft Accommodations Manual for students with disabilities and English learners is posted at www.parcconline.org/parcc-draft-accommodations-manual. (Public review and comment period ends May 13.)

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• COLORADO TEACHERS TELL ALL. Interesting TELL survey reveals insights teachers have about their new teacher evaluation system, including its fairness and the degree to which it helps them become better teachers. Read the report in Ed News Colorado (Poppen).

• KEEP IT OR JUNK IT--A STUDENT-RUN LESSON. From the Teaching Channel, this video illustrates how teachers can assess their understanding of a topic from a different perspective by allowing students to run a lesson. Watch a fifth-grade history class's complete student-run lesson, See how great student facilitators can be, and view companion videos.

• PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS. Arne Duncan announced the 49th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 141 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics or the arts. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects the scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Learn more.

If you have comments or questions about Teaching Matters, please send an email to ED's Teacher Liaison: Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov

open book

Recommended Reading

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. Nirvi Shah reports in EdWeek about districts that are getting a boost from the federal Race to the Top district competition for programs that pair them with outside groups on initiatives to improve students’ social and emotional well-being and behavior. Read the story.

TEACHERS AND STUDENTS IN HOUSTON BENEFIT FROM PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY. Performance-based financial rewards improve teacher attendance and retention and students’ test scores, according to a Rice University study of the Houston Independent School District’s educator award program known as ASPIRE. Larger bonuses led to even greater improvements, the study found. The research was conducted by the Houston Education Research Consortium, part of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Learn more.

10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MENTORING STUDENT TEACHERS. Lesson one: Learning to teach is hard. (Larkin in Phi Delta Kappan). Read the article.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. “People have talked about a promotion to become a principal. A promotion would be to be able to go back to the classroom.” (Principal, Madison, Wis.)

4. “We need to ditch the one size fits all PD. Induction teachers learn from their mistakes; veteran teachers learn by observing what works – we need to support teachers where they are.” (Principal, Dover, N.H.)

Teacher chatting with Arne Duncan in Tennessee

3. “We’re facing a paradigm change and we need to involve everyone. There has to be involvement of all organizations.” (Community leader, Indian Island, Maine)


2. On what teachers give up: "You sacrifice your quality of life when you serve your community." (Teacher, Phoenix, Ariz.)

1. "If the doctor protects the body, the teacher protects the mind, body, and soul." (Superintendent, Phoenix, Ariz.)