TEACHING MATTERS -- August 8, 2013

Teaching Matters banner

August 8, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Teaching Ambassador Fellows discuss policy with Arne Duncan.

Jonathan McIntosh and Emily Davis join 2012-13 Fellow Cindy Apalinski and regional ED official Helen Littlejohn to discuss education issues with Arne Duncan and two classes of Fellows.

the 2013-2014 Teaching Ambassador Fellows

(Left) 2013-14 Fellows: Jonathan McIntosh (New York, NY), Emily Davis (St. Johns, Fla.), Tami Fitzgerald (Zanesville, Ohio), Mauro Diaz (Natrona, Wyo.), Maddie Fennell (Omaha, Neb.), Tom McKenna (Juneau, Ala.), Lisa Clarke (Kent, Wash.), and Joiselle Cunningham (New York, NY).


New Class of Teaching Ambassador Fellows is Sworn in at ED

This week eight practicing teachers from around the country joined the ranks of previous educators participating in ED's Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program. Over several days, the Fellows met with Arne Duncan and other ED officials and participated in crash courses on policy, teacher engagement, communications, and team building. "The purpose of the program is to bring education policy to the classroom and classroom experience to the policy," said Program Director Gillian Cohen-Boyer. Learn more.


CORE Breaks Free from Burdens of NCLB

Eight districts in California (referred to as CORE) were just granted relief from some of the more burdensome aspects of the No Child Left Behind law. As a result, they will be able to more flexibly allocate $150 million in federal resources now freed up for them to support schools and children with the greatest need. The districts granted waivers serve more than one million students and represent 17 percent of California’s students. They include Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Santa Ana, and Sanger Unified School Districts. Each has agreed to meet with teachers and principals and design and implement evaluation systems that consider their views. Learn more from ED and the LA Times. Read the approved waiver request.



Teachers Making a Difference 

LEARNING FROM THE PROS. Shelby County Unified School District in Tennessee has implemented a new mentoring program. The initiative pairs veteran teachers with new teachers, offering guidance and support on issues ranging from student achievement to classroom discipline. Find out more here (WMCTV, Watson).

TEACHERS' VOICES IN POLICYMAKING. The national organization Educators 4 Excellence recently announced the opening of a new chapter in Twin Cities, Minn. E4E has encountered obstacles as it advocates for teachers' voices in education policy, but co-founder and co-CEO Sydney Morris believes that teachers can unite on the most important issues. “Overwhelmingly teachers say, ‘I want my union, we need a strong union, but I want my union taking on issues like teacher quality,’” said Morris, as covered by the Minn. Post (Hawkins).

GIVING STUDENTS THEIR SAY. Research has been reporting on the remarkably consistent correlation between students' evaluations of their teachers and teachers' success in the classroom. Now Knox County (Tenn.) is using student feedback as part of teachers' performance reviews and using their ratings as 5% of teachers' evaluations. Learn more (McCoy, Knox News).


The "Intellectual Godmother" of Early Education

Arne Duncan recently tweeted about one of his personal heroes, Barbara Bowman, co-founder of the Eriksen Institute for child development and teacher training. As early as 1961, Bowman fought both for early education for our nation's children and to make sure new teachers have the tools they need to be successful. She also personally lobbied then-candidate Barack Obama in the early 2000s for the cause. At age 84, Bowman continues to teach at Eriksen and is currently acting co-president. Fifty years after the Institute's founding, her wise words are finally gaining traction: "Preschool for All" has become the subject of a national conversation. The Chicago Tribune covers her story here (Cohen).


Beginning to See Real Progress

Scores recently released from assessments taken by students in Washington, DC Public Schools show real signs of progress. As reported by Lesli Maxwell in Ed Week, "A record number of students in the District of Columbia public schools reached proficiency in reading and mathematics on the city's annual exams in 2013—growth that comes as the school system has moved aggressively to implement the more rigorous common standards." Julia King, a 7th grade math teacher at D.C. Prep and D.C. Teacher of the Year, told us she wept when she got a phone call telling her that every one of her students passed the test. "I set aggressive goals for each of my students this past year to enable them to achieve at their highest levels and get them where they needed to be,” she said. “These scores are proof that this work can be done. I’m so proud of each one of them.” Some of DC's success could be attributed to extended school days, a practice implemented by eight of the district's schools this year--seven of which showed improvement at an even greater rate than the district as a whole. The National Journal's "Education Insiders" blog covers the story and raises questions about best practices for extended learning time (Johnson).

Let's Read, Let's Move

Arne and special guests Secretary of the Interior Sally Newell and NBA player Jeremy Lin read Where the Wild Things Are.


Summer Series Attracts Diverse Bipartisan Participants

This summer's fourth installment of the Let's Read! Let's Move! Summer Series featured a range of stars, from the NBA's Jeremy Lin to actor Hill Harper, who read to and played with young students visiting ED. Politico (Emma) reports on the broad range of guests who have participated in the Summer Series, which “focuses on engaging kids in summer reading and preventing childhood obesity.” For the first time, this year’s events featured congressional Republicans, including House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline. In addition to athletes and celebrities, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have also taken part, reading to children with ED Secretary Arne Duncan and others.  


"The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him."

(Henry Louis-Stevenson as shared by Learning Forward's Joellen Killion at the National Conference of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year held in Minneapolis, Minn. last month.)

Quote to Note

Common Core Connections


Jason Zimba refutes critics who contend that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics aren't rigorous enough. Read his commentary, which includes some juicy facts about just how difficult the CCSS is in math. "Even the previous California standards never expected California students to demonstrate fluency in the standard algorithm for each of the four operations," writes Zimba. He also shows the strong support for CCSS by groups that have high standards, including Fordham and expert William Schmidt. He reminds us that even one of the CCSS's strongest critics testified recently that they are “better than 90% of the state standards…that they replace.”


Did You Know?

In 2009-2010, teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.

These data, and many other important stats, are available through the Civil Rights Data Collection. Since 1968, the CRDC has collected data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools for use by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

question mark


Foundations Fund Teacher Development 

While some businesses have been criticized as part of a corporate takeover of public education, resources from philanthropic organizations can make up for budget shortfalls in critical areas like recruiting and training new teachers. The Washington Post (Layton) recently reported that Teach for America is receiving a $20 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation, with which it will “add 4,000 teachers to nine cities over the next two years.” The piece notes that a separate $4.3 million grant from the foundation will “train and support 1,000 teachers in the Mississippi Delta.” The Post reports that the grant will go toward recruiting and supporting first- and second-year teachers. Similarly, Ed Week (Sawchuk) notes that, in the past year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded teacher quality initiatives housed in organizations ranging from the American Federation of Teachers to the Center for Teaching Quality. Last but not least, check out these organizations that are purchasing back-to-school supplies for students that can't afford them (Huffington Post; Joseph).

The Deep Divide in Higher Ed

From Georgetown's Public Policy Institute, Separate & Unequal (Carnevale and Strohl)

Resources from the STLC

UPGRADE YOUR CURRICULUM. The ASCD is offering a webinar featuring the authors of the book Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students. The webinar will be offered on August 7th at 3:00 pm EDT. For more information, click here.

DISTRICT-LEVEL INSTRUCTION STRATEGIES. The School Turnaround Learning Community recommends this video about the process of reforming curriculum district-wide including strategies for implementation and professional development.

Arne with DREAM Riders


Arne Meets with Young DREAM Advocates

Last week, ED Secretary Arne Duncan met with the DREAM Riders, a group of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who have been granted protection from deportation through the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program. 

These young people are in the midst of a tour across America to press for comprehensive immigration reform. The stakes are high: 1.1 million individuals of Asian descent are undocumented, and 2 million more are waiting abroad to reunite with their families. See what Arne discussed with the DREAM Riders.

Tools for Students

HOME ENERGY CHALLENGE. The Department of Energy and the National Science Teachers Association have teamed up to create a fun way for students in grades 3-8 to learn about energy conservation. Registration for this contest closes November 15th, 2013, and teams of students will win over $60,000 competing in the Home Energy Challenge and Energy Poster Competition.

Students' Corner


CTE Centers Defy Expectations

Most people think of career and technical education (CTE) as merely 20th century vocational ed with a 21st century name. And yet, CTE represents an innovation in education, supplementing students' high school learning in ways that make them both college- and career-ready. Rather than shuffling students off onto a lesser path, as is often the public perception, CTE allows students to gain technical and leadership skills that launch them into strong colleges and professional career paths. The Biddeford Regional Center of Technology in Maine is one place where CTE is playing an active role in students' lives--and with remarkable results. See this blog post from one of ED's Teaching Ambassador Fellows, Kareen Borders, to find out more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• "THE WINGMAN." Looking for ways to encourage your quieter kids to participate? Giving students responsibility goes a long way. Watch this video on a teaching strategy for engaging reluctant students.

• CHARTER CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS. The 2013 National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C. spotlighted new ED grants to charter schools through the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and the Race to the Top--District competition. For example, the AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation is transforming early childhood education through electronic modules and instructional techniques that allow the Institute to address individual student needs while also conducting an informative study across many different preschool sites. These creative ED grants go to schools that meet high standards for quality and accountability, a challenge Secretary Duncan made to all charter schools at the conference.

• PARENTS HELP WITH COMMON CORE. A school district in Arizona, Chandler United, is going the extra mile in Common Core implementation: recruiting parents to help. Teachers in the district are collaborating with parents to give specific guidance on how to reinforce what students learn during the day once they go home for the evening. They are also sharing more about classroom initiatives and recommendations on parent involvement. The Arizona Republic has the story (Creno).

• ENERGY 101. Want to develop higher-ed courses about energy? Check out this framework for teaching the fundamentals of energy. And if you're interested in the Energy 101 Initiative, contact Dr. Matthew Garcia at matthew.garcia@ee.doe.gov.


Speaking in Code

National attention has begun to focus on equipping our students with strong technological skills for the marketplace. Even Ryan Seacrest is learning how to write JavaScript! (Watch it happen on the Today Show.) To learn more about this issue, check out Code.org, a nonprofit devoted to expanding computer programming education. Want to bring code to your school? Watch this video.

TAF News: Teaching Ambassador Fellowship

LISA CLARKE (2012-14 Washington Fellow). Read the AP report about this social studies teacher who will lead a team of Teaching Fellows during the 2013-2014 school year.

TOM MCKENNA (2013-14 Classroom Fellow). Follow coverage of how this Alaska elementary school teacher is working part-time to represent educators while teaching in his school in Juneau.


Finding a Way Forward

The Learning First Alliance published this insightful blog article about the effects of poverty on education (Dunlop). The piece includes some sobering statistics (see below). It also explores research that suggests "high-poverty schools are fully capable of serving children in spite of their socioeconomic status," arguing that success "requires a committed effort and multiple components operating simultaneously."  

  • 2.8 million American children live in extreme poverty, defined as surviving on less than $2 per person per day in a given month.  
  • On NAEP, fourth-graders who were eligible for free lunch scored 29 points lower than those not eligible.
  • 17 percent, or one out of every six African-American schoolchildren enrolled in K-12, were suspended at least once in 2009-2010; one in four African-American children with disabilities enrolled in grades K-12 was suspended at least once. And schools with high suspension rates score lower on state accountability tests than other schools, even when adjusting for demographic differences.  
  • A quarter of our nation’s African-American students and 17% of Latino students attend high schools in which graduation is not the norm. These numbers are significantly lower than in 2002, a positive sign that we’re moving in the right direction. 

open book

Recommended Reading

• TEACHING AS LEADERSHIP: The Highly Effective Teacher's Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap (by Steven Farr and Wendy Kopp).  A State Teacher of the Year recommended this guide to effective teaching practice to achieve better educational outcomes for our nation's children, particularly those in low-income communities. The authors distill their findings into six principles, including these: Set Big Goals; Invest in Students and Their Families; Plan Purposefully; Execute Effectively; Continuously Increase Effectiveness; Work Relentlessly.  

• INTELLIGENT DESIGNING. From the Reform Support Network, Making High Quality Teacher Evaluation Manageable offers ways to design teacher evaluation systems that are thorough and effective--without draining principals of their time. The report covers a variety of insights for principals and teachers including how to share the responsibility for evaluation, how to create feedback loops that make evaluation meaningful, and how to redefine school leadership to meet the school's objectives.

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. On why he left the profession this week: "When they froze our pay five years ago, I thought it would blow over, that it was brought on by the economy. Five years later, I realize I have to take care of my family [...] my child is on Medicare and we are on WIC [a government program to ensure the nutrition of women, infants and children] [...] I don't want to take the government's money." (Teacher, N.C.)

DC and Maryland Teachers at ED

4. “Why are we in a position where educators don't want their kids to become educators?" (Teacher, Zanesville, Ohio)

3. “Recruiting highly qualified teachers is child’s play when compared to recruiting highly qualified administrators." (Education Professor, Ariz.)

2. “How can we drive education reform from a position of authority and not as victims?" (Teacher, Omaha, Neb.)

1. "Every teacher embraces the idea of increased rigor. Every teacher wants their students to learn at higher rates. [The Common Core] is how we get there." (Principal, Aberdeen County, Md.)