TEACHING MATTERS -- May 16, 2013


May 16, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Steven Hicks at ED Goes Back to School at DC Prep

(Above) Steven Hicks from the Office of Early Learning visits the DC Prep’s Benning Elementary Campus as part of ED Goes Back to School. During Teacher Appreciation Week more than 75 staff in DC and the regional offices shadowed a teacher. (Below) Some of the visited teachers came by the Department to brief ED's Arne Duncan and Jim Shelton. Here Arne connects with Lauren Horn (a teacher at Thurgood Marshall, Washington, D.C.) and her shadow for the day, Jonathan Schorr, a former teacher now in communications at ED.


ED Goes Back to School

As part of the Department's celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10), more than 65 ED officials working in Washington, D.C. went “Back to School,” shadowing teachers in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and experiencing firsthand the challenges and rewards of a day in the classroom. This is the second year that the team had an opportunity to hear about how the Department can provide greater support for teachers and better understand the demands placed upon them. Read more.

Arne Duncan with Jonathan Schore and Lauren Horn

Photo of teacher banner on Twitter at #Thankateacher


How Tweet It Is!

The U.S. Department of Education and the National Education Association asked the country to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week by posting a thank-you on Twitter using #thankateacher. The remarkable outpouring of responses made appreciating teachers a trending topic. Read ED's Storify.


Teachers Talk Policy

During Teacher Appreciation Week, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows held discussions with teachers at the U.S. Department of Education. Lisa Clarke and Marciano Gutierrez hosted a group of more than 18 teachers from the Council for Exceptional Children.

discussion with special ed teachers

The educators provided insights into a number of policy issues, including teacher evaluation, professional learning, rigorous standards, school leadership, and the specific rewards and challenges of teaching students with disabilities. One teacher from Pennsylvania described how he is evaluated for every student with which he has contact. "If you have lunch duty, you've just earned yourself 400 contacts!" he added.


"This is the right work. It's the right time and it's right for our children."

(Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday speaking about the Common Core at an April 26 meeting with the U.S. Department of Education.)

Quote to Note

Expanding Opportunity for America’s Young Learners

By Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Imagine that you’re about to run in a competitive race, and as you approach the starting line, the referee announces that you can’t begin until everyone else is a mile ahead. 

That unfairness is the reality for millions of disadvantaged children in America who can’t begin kindergarten at the same educational starting line as children from better-off families. Fortunately, Congress has a rare opportunity to act in a bipartisan fashion to help level the playing field and fulfill the American promise of providing equal educational opportunity to all young children. Read more.

Danielle O'Leary

Teacher Danielle O'Leary receives a surprise thank-you call from Arne Duncan during Teacher Appreciation Week. 



"Arne Duncan Wants to Talk to You"

Danielle O'Leary nearly didn't believe Principal Tim Winter last Thursday when he handed her the phone and said, "Secretary Duncan wants to talk to you."

"He does not," she answered. "Seriously?" 

O'Leary had been called to Winter's office so that she was available to receive a call from Duncan, who thanked her for being an outstanding teacher leader. This amazing third-year teacher, who co-chairs her department, teaches English at Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor, Wash. Her students credit her for reaching out to build relationships and for having high expectations.


Teacher Appreciation Irony

Last week while celebrating the talents, skills and commitment of teachers across America, we received this discouraging letter from a teacher in New Jersey. We print it here as a reminder that there is much work to do to transform our profession.

I hope this email finds you well. I had a faculty meeting yesterday and a simple, yet profound, problem was highlighted. In my district and in other districts across the state and country I believe that there is a canyon divide between teachers and administrators. Not all of course but over all there is a disconnect. Each year the teachers in my school and district come in the last two weeks of summer and set their rooms up without pay. This year the district gave us no time on the opening day to do any work in our rooms. We usually get 4 hours.

So I asked at the faculty meeting, "Will we be given any time to set our rooms up on the opening day this upcoming year?" The principal's response in front of about 45 employees was "Why would we, you do it on your own time anyway." It was as if I had asked a ludicrous question to be paid for working. There is resentment against teachers and so much disdain that is entrenched in the districts themselves, forget the general populace.

It is so discouraging. We give of ourselves and just want the respect and the appreciation of what we do. Instead we are routinely taken advantage of and put down. The American teacher is suffering. I try to be optimistic but it is getting increasingly difficult.

Send your comments and questions about teaching and the teaching profession to TeachTalk@ed.gov.


Did You Know?

The Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network (TA&D Network) is a collection of approximately 45 centers funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at ED. These projects provide information and assistance to states, schools, educational professionals and families on topics such as autism, deafness, disproportionate representation, dispute resolution, learning disabilities, parenting children with special needs, positive behavior support and transition. Learn more.

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Turnaround Tales: Stories from the School Turnaround Learning Community

Building an Infrastructure to Support Effectiveness

Everett Middle School was a place where students reported feeling unsafe walking in the halls four years ago. Today Everett serves as a model for turning around under-performing schools. Located on the border of the Castro and Mission districts in San Francisco, Everett made such good use of a School Improvement Grant that it has lost its reputation for violence and low test scores and it has built an infrastructure to support success. Read how in this article from the San Francisco Examiner's Andrea Koskey.

Tools for Students

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR STUDENT LOANS. Now that they are graduating and heading into the real world, this primer offers students important advice about how to manage their loans, including information about grace periods, loan balances, and more.

DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS. How long do teens study during a 15-minute period before becoming distracted by digital devices? Psychologist Larry Rosen found that most teens' attention drifted from homework assignments to activities like texting and instant messaging after an average of 2 minutes--even when they knew they were being watched. Read the report in the Hechinger Report (Paul).

Students' Corner

people living during the Roaring Twenties


Feeding Gatsby Fever

The Library of Congress houses a number of free lesson plans and primary documents to use when teaching The Great Gatsby. Check out the resources.

CAPE logo


CAEP Seeking Volunteers for Governance

As the new national accreditor for educator preparation, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is seeking volunteers to serve on several governance committees. This is an opportunity to  shape CAEP as the new accrediting body for educator preparation. To learn more about the opportunities for service, visit http://caepnet.org/aboutus/serve/. Application materials are due by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern), Sunday, June 16, 2013. Governance committees seeking volunteers include: International Committee, Nominating Committee, Research Committee, Standards Committee, and State Partnerships and Content Areas Committee.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• CTQ COLLABORATORY. The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) is welcoming "forward-thinking teachers Interested in connecting with other educators" to improve education through their free virtual community, the CTQ Collaboratory. Powered and led by teachers, the Collaboratory is an open online space to build connections with peers, learn from and with colleagues, and generate innovative solutions that will help all students. Get started at www.teachingquality.org.

• LAUNCH OF C.T.E. WEBSITE. The National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education has launched a website to feature proposed research by the center, related research in the CTE resource section, and online training modules that provide guidance for translating studies into practice. The center performs scientifically based research and evaluation to strengthen the role of career and technical education in American education, exploring how real-world application of core academics can help raise the educational achievement and career readiness of all students. Visit the site.

• PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES. Though schools often acknowledge that a child's first teacher is her parents, sometimes they have difficulty reaching out in partnership with families to support progress in school. To help build these bridges, ED recently announced a New Family Engagement Partnership with the National Center for Family Literacy. Learn more.

• COMMON CORE Q&A. As part of Fordham's "Common Core Watch," Andy Smarick interviews the leadership of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), one of two consortia of states funded by the federal government to develop “next-generation” assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The smart piece answers many of the lingering questions. Read the Q&A. Read the related Q&A with Smarter Balanced and the U.S. Department of Education

Respect Teaching Update

Creating a Culture of Teacher Transformation

Interesting reflection on YEP-DC about the transformation of Teacher Appreciation Week as seen through the eyes of a teacher's daughter and former teacher, Kaitlin Pennington. "No amount of apple-shaped anything, assemblies, or free lunches will make the work of teaching appreciated," she writes, arguing that we need to transform the culture of teaching. Read more

Sign up to get updates on the RESPECT Project and to be added to the mailing list for opportunities for educators to lead the transformation of their profession.


More Difficult than the Ivy League

Only one of every 10 applicants is accepted into a teacher preparation program in Finland.

Competition to become a primary school teacher is even tougher, with 1,789 applicants for only 120 spots, for example, at the University of Helsinki in 2011-12.

(From "Finland's Secret Sauce: Its Teachers," by Joan Richardson.  Read the blog published by the Learning First Alliance.)

the new math

open book

Recommended Reading

• THE DISEASE OF CHILD POVERTY. Teaching Fellow Dan Brown recommended this editorial by physician Perri Klass. It is full of insights to help educators and policymakers understand the overlapping effects of poverty on students. Read the article.

If you have questions or comments about Teaching Matters, please contact ED's Teacher Liaison at Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. One of my roles is to protect my teachers from policies that are harmful to teaching. To shield them in a way to allow them to teach to their students. I try to give my teachers space to learn and grow.” (Principal, Madison, Wis.)

Arne Duncan talking with educators at Kramer Middle School

4. “I am very encouraged (to know) that there is a national push to

rehabilitate the perception of the teaching profession and to

provide guidance in terms of education reform that will improve the

process of teaching and learning.” (Principal, Naples, Maine)

3. “Communities have the right to ‘cultural continuance.' Community has a value system and dream for their community.” (Education Professor, N.M.)

2. “We have very imperfect measures for what makes up an effective teacher.” (Teacher, Las Cruces, N.M.)

1. “Giftedness is an exceptionality just on the other side of the spectrum. How can we say that we are meeting the needs of all learners when we have completely forgotten about an entire population.” (Teacher, Colo.)