TEACHING MATTERS - August 1, 2013

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August 1, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Arne at a Town Hall


Arne to Teachers:

"I can't support a Student Success Act  that puts students and teachers last."

Recognizing that an extensive overhaul of NCLB is 6 years overdue for Congressional reauthorization, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill called the "Student Success Act" last week to reauthorize ESEA.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged Congress to fix the law that he says “has changed from an instrument of reform to a barrier” for schools and communities.

"I have met and spoken many times with Congressional leaders to try to create a new version of the law that would fix NCLB’s most burdensome and broken elements,” Duncan said. “Unfortunately, the bill passed by the House is not that law."

Instead, the House bill slashes programs that protect our most vulnerable children, including those that support students and teachers. Read an article about why educators are saying this bill is unacceptable (Roth, Orlando Post Sentinel).

Meanwhile, a bill in the House of Representatives to fund the Department of Education has been delayed and Republicans are taking heat for the deep cuts expected in the legislation (Wasson, The Hill). The administration has made clear that Congress must work together to pass a budget that strengthens economic growth, creates new jobs, and makes government more efficient and accountable. While it is not yet clear what is in the Republican proposal, the Department stands firm in the belief that a good education is a cornerstone of middle-class security—and it’s the single most important investment we can make in our country.


From "Jones Jail" to Memphis Street

When a "desperately poor" school in "a dangerous part" of Philadelphia dropped its metal detectors, took down its bars, and focused on supporting its students, violence dropped 90%. Yes, 90%!! School leaders at Memphis Street Academy did more than make the environment more welcoming. They used a model called the Alternatives to Violence Project, an approach developed for use in correctional facilities and adapted for schools. Read the story: A Philadelphia School's Big Bet on Nonviolence (Deeney, The Atlantic).

Common Core Connections

MORE THAN THE "FLAVOR OF THE MONTH." Check out conservative Mike Petrilli's testimony before the Arkansas legislature on why he supports Arkansas's participation in a debate on the Common Core State Standards. An excerpt: "I suspect that not all of my friends agree with me, but I am glad that you are holding this hearing and debating the issue of whether Arkansas should stick with the Common Core. These standards were developed by the states, and to be successful, they need to be owned by the states. Our educators are all too familiar with the 'flavor of the month'—reforms that come and go. They are wondering if they should wait this one out, too. By having this open debate on the Common Core, you can settle the issue once and for all—and either change course or move full speed ahead."

WE'RE IN. The Washington Post reports, "As the political debate swirls in some statehouses over the Common Core math and reading standards, most state education officials responsible for implementing the new K-12 standards are confident that their states will stick with the program" (Layton). The article cites a survey by the Center for Education Policy at George Washington University, which measured the opinions of 41 states that have adopted the standards. Read the article and the report.

FACING HISTORY and THE COMMON CORE. Facing History and Ourselves is offering two free, one-hour webinars connecting history with the Common Core State Standards.  Choices in Little Rock and the Common Core is offered August 15 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, and educators may click here to register. Holocaust and Human Behavior and the Common Core is offered August 21 at 4:00 p.m. EDT, and educators may click here to register.

the New Math

Looking for a Little RESPECT

North Carolina teachers haven't had a pay raise in five years. If North Carolina had increased salaries at the rate of the national average, the average salary would be $52,923, or $7,000 more than the current average salary of about $45,000 per year.

Beginning teachers in North Carolina make $31,000-$35,000 a year, and the highest level, master teachers make $60,000-$68,000 per year.

(From Casey Blake's Asheville Citizen-Times article written in response to a letter by teacher Lindsay Furst.)

PARCC Field Test

Testing the Tests

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia announced this week that they are committed to field testing the next-generation PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments in the upcoming 2013-14 school year. The field tests are part of a plan to roll out new assessments in schools during the following academic year. States that participate will be able to identify benchmarks to measure student growth the following year. PARCC includes a group of states working together to develop computer-based 21st century tests that are aligned to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. Learn more and find out if your state is participating in the PARCC field test. Read about Secretary Duncan's plan to offer states testing flexibility.

Did You Know?

The School Turnaround Learning Community provides states and districts with easy online access to resources and networking that enables them to support schools more effectively.

(Learn more. Join the School Turnaround Learning Community.)

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Students' Corner

Tools for Students

PAYING FOR COLLEGE. Let’s face it—college tuition can be expensive. If you think about it in real terms, the annual cost of attending some colleges can equate to purchasing a new car each year. It seems absurd, right? Like many others, you might be wondering, “How am I ever going to pay for college?” and “Is there anything I can do to lower my costs?” Check out 5 Tips for Saving on College.


"Good standards without good tests are nothing more than a Santa Claus wish list."

(Jeb Bush in the Tampa Bay Times.)

Quote to Note

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Teachers' Notes

• THE INVISIBLE LEVER. Education Pioneers has issued a report about leadership and management in public education that reveals what efforts will be needed to strengthen the leadership pipeline from within education and to bring in people and practices from beyond education.  The Invisible Lever Report: A Profile of Leadership and Management Talent in Education includes a number of key findings and recommendations and one bottom line: "We owe it to our children to transform education into the best-led and -managed sector in the U.S."

• THE ART OF ARTS INTEGRATION. A study by Kylie Peppler (funded by The Wallace Foundation) provides educators with an overview of emerging research and practices concerning student interest in arts learning. She offers a framework for thinking about interest-driven arts learning in a digital age and examines media consumption and creative endeavors online. New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age is useful for schools interested in arts education integration.

ONLINE LEARNING: MYTHS, REALITY & PROMISE addresses misconceptions about what online learning means for students, teachers and the education system as a whole. The white paper is authored by John Bailey (Digital Learning Now!), Susan Patrick (International Association for K-12 Online Learning), and Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark (Getting Smart).

• TO THE MOON AND BACK. The third installment of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series at ED took kids’ imaginations all the way to the moon and back this week with space-themed activities and a strong focus on STEM.

KINDERGARTEN CODERS. A pilot study at Tufts University is examining the effect of teaching 4-to 7-year-olds a graphics-based coding language called ScratchJr. Researchers are learning that many youngsters can code before they can read! Learn more. (Reilly, New Scientist.)

NEVER TOO EARLY. The latest research about early learning from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Synthesis of IES Research on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education, describes what has been learned from research grants on early intervention and early childhood education through June 2010. This synthesis describes contributions to the knowledge base produced by IES-funded research across four areas: early childhood classroom environments and general instructional practices; educational practices designed to impact children's academic and social outcomes; measuring young children's skills and learning; and professional development for early educators.

Secretary Duncan joins Jody Bohrer’s Kindersprouts circle time during his Minnesota visit. He is shown here with students Brody Mallunger (left) and Rubi Torres at Pond Early Childhood Center in Minneapolis. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune.)


A Strong Start in Minnesota

photo from Star Tribune

Minnesota has made it a priority to ensure that students start school ready to learn. Read more about how educators and state officials have dedicated staff, resources, and a Children's Cabinet to shape the cradle-to-career continuum for their youngest students. Learn about Race to the Top Early Learning grants just awarded to Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico (Klein, Education Week). Read Doug Herbert's recent interview with teacher Susan Baumgartner about arts integration in the early years. 

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Recommended Reading

WHY I TEACH. It may be preaching to the choir, but many teachers will love this PBS piece by Thomas Ehrlich, a lawyer who began teaching at Stanford Law School only to realize that he didn't have any idea how to teach. His article is full of insights that teachers will appreciate, including Ehrlich's observation that knowledge of what teachers do does not automatically translate into an ability "to step in front of a classroom and be successful." He now teaches a course at the Stanford Graduate School of Education to help those who could end up in classrooms without having learned critical teaching skills.

• BREAKING OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE. Minnesota English teacher Ryan Ihrke has written a smart blog post for Edutopia about how new demands for teaching and learning are prompting teachers to reconsider established lessons and practices. He argues that while it's not easy, this work is absolutely necessary. An excerpt: "Over time, all teachers become driven by their handouts, their finely tuned worksheets, their greatly loved activities. We begin to forget why we use these and simply use them because we have a nostalgic connection to that one time when the kids loved and learned and we felt accomplished."

• A DREAM DEFFERRED? Are we leaving black students behind? That's the question teacher and blogger Joy Resmovits tackles in her Huffington Post column, part of a series examining the state of Black America. In the article, she reports that black students are often “shortchanged on teacher quality,” resulting in a struggle to keep up with their white peers. The piece suggests that this cycle contributes to the lingering achievement gap and cites federal data showing that “minority students are more likely to have ineffective teachers.”

• VOICES OF REASON FROM THE CLASSROOM. In this Eduwonk blog post, E4E's Sydney Morris and Evan Stone make a strong case that when lawmakers create policy without teacher input, their plans are destined to fall flat. They argue that in our current polarized environment the "rational voice is not going to come from Washington or from either of the extremes that are currently defining the debate. It needs to come from the classroom."   

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

Arne meets with outgoing TAF cohort.

Last week Arne met with members of the outgoing cohort of Classroom and Regional Teaching Ambassador Fellows to hear their recommendations from listening to teachers across the country.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED 

5. "Teachers in the lead is a practice that has for too long not been utilized to its fullest." (Teacher, N.J.)

4. “I’m tired of teaching being called an altruistic profession.” (Education Professor, Ariz.)

3. "In light of the rigor in the new Common Core State Standards, we must look at a way to assess students' needs regarding their development of Academic English. We should respect their neighborhood and linguistically derived language but at the same time we need to assist them in developing the language of school or the language of the Common Core." (Eddie, commenting on the ED blog)

2. “Education is the canary in the coal mine.” (Teacher, Albuquerque, N.M.) 

1. “Teaching is my calling, a true vocation, a labor of love, but I can no longer afford to teach." (Teacher, N.C.)