The Teachers Edition

May 14, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Grad students


Highest Grad Rate. Ever. 

America's schools are better preparing more students for college and careers by getting more of them across the high school finish line. According to Grad Nation’s recent report, more of our students are on track to graduate from high school than ever before. For the third year in a row, the nation’s graduation rate is increasing. Most of our gains are coming from African American and Hispanic students. Some states and school districts with large numbers of low-income students have made real progress, too.

Arne Duncan spoke at the release of the Grad Nation report, crediting the sustained effort of educators, businesses, civic leaders, and public officials. He also reminds us that “more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students.” Read the report and Duncan’s statement.

thank a teacher



It's a Wrap 

# THANK A TEACHER. A teacher's job never really ends. We follow some of our students forever, and they often remember us. Watch short videos of ED officials remembering their favorite teachers. These include James Cole Jr., ED's General Counsel; Deb Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education; and Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary. Watch Arne as he surprises and thanks teachers at Moten Elementary School (Washington, D.C.).

MORE WAYS TO GIVE THANKS. Keep teacher appreciation going year round by using our #ThankATeacher graphic and sharing it on social media. Learn more

NEVER SAY "JUST A TEACHER." Last week, Arne Duncan phoned teachers around the country to thank them for their incredible service, their genuine passion and their support for students. Read more and watch as the teachers receive unexpected calls for their amazing work. 

"HELLO, ED CALLING." Forty-one ED staff members, several of them former teachers, called 380 teachers from across the nation to express gratitude for educating America’s children. Most phone numbers came from employees who know teachers who make a difference or ones they knew when they were students. Next year it could be your turn. Read Mia Long's blog.

Teach to Lead logo


Submit an Idea for

D.C. Teacher Leadership Summit

Educators are able to submit ideas for the Regional Teacher Leadership Summit (in Washington D.C.) through 11:59 PM ET June 5. At the Teach to Lead Regional Leadership Summit in D.C., July 22-24, teachers from around the country will work to advance teacher leadership in their district and state. They will also network with supporter organizations and gain important skills and feedback on their work.

Want to learn more about Teach to Lead? Check out the Commit to Lead website and read stories from some of the teacher leaders who attended past summit experiences.  

teacher leaders


Teach to Lead

At the International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2015 teachers and principals had opportunities for learning about educational issues in other countries. 

In his blog, 2013-15 Principal Ambassador Fellow Sharif El-Mekki says that Secretary Duncan encouraged the U.S. delegation to help engage the international community. "This symbolized that educators were both an integral part of creating the United States’ commitments, as well as key to meeting them." 


Editor's note: The following is part of a series reporting on excellent African American educators. Educators were selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.


Celebrating African American Educators

Jeanette Patterson is the Principal at Horizon Middle School in Aurora, CO. In 2014, she won the State Principal of the Year Award for Colorado.

Why and how did you decide upon a career in education?

In elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I took the Iowa Basic Skills Exam in the 4th grade and my exam results indicated that I would be a teacher. I loved history - preferably African American History - and I knew I wanted to teach it. My uncle, the late Dr. John F. Henson and my father, the late Matthew Washington were instrumental in me becoming an educator. Even though my father did not graduate from high school, he sat on the local school board for 25 years. He fought for the educational rights for the mentally challenged in my home town of Wellington, Kansas and eventually opened a handicapped workshop for the adult handicapped people. My uncle and I have the same doctoral degree; he was instrumental in Kansas City, Kansas by teaching history to young African American students but also becoming a community college dean at a young age as well.

What is the one thing you most celebrate about your students?  

The one thing I celebrate about my students is they represent our school mission in a positive way; they are true to the mission statement. When they are visiting another school, they respect self, others, learning and the environment. They are kind and caring young people that will give 100% to help others.

 In what ways do you encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning and development of African American students? 

I encourage parents, family members and other caring adults by modeling a “go for it” attitude. I strive for the best in everything thing I do, but I also take risks. I believe if you want to do something, then go for it. I have had many accomplishments and the way I have obtained those accomplishments is through hard work, encouragement from family and friends and taking a risk.


Colbert's Gracious Gift 

South Carolina teachers got a big surprise when comedian Stephen Colbert donated $800,000 in grants to fund almost 1,000 projects in over 375 schools there. The requests were made by teachers on the crowd-funding site and included items like books with more diverse protagonists, tie-dye kits, musical instruments, gym equipment, paper, pens and pencils. 

Colbert, a native of the state, made the announcement on a live video feed to Alexander Elementary School (Greenville, S.C.) Read more (Svokos, Huffington Post). 

Did you know?

Most states will be taking this spring’s Common Core-aligned assessments, but few are using the scores for student-related decisions, and most teachers won't be affected. 

It turns out that most states are giving schools the time to learn from the tests and adjust. Plans for the future vary. Read more

(The Hechinger Report, Mongeau, Felton and Butrymowicz

Kyle's robot

Without his robot, Kyle Weintraub, a 7th grader at David Posnack Jewish Day School (Davie, Fla.) who is being treated in Philadelphia for lymphoma, would likely be unable to keep up with his studies or his friends. Technology like this interactive VGO makes it possible for him to learn, participate and maintain his sense of belonging, as if he were right in the classroom. Watch the video to see Weintraub talk about how his robot has changed the opportunities he has for learning. 


Schools of the Future

Technology has become an integral part of many of America's classroom. It lets learning come alive. In Arne Duncan's short piece, "What Can Technology Do for Tomorrow’s Children?" he shares his ideas about the value of technological tools. He writes, “Innovation in education isn’t about the latest gadget or app or how adept a student is at using a smartphone to consume the latest Internet meme. It’s about how technological tools can empower students to become who they want to be and who we need them to be -- the kind of students who ask, ‘What can I improve? How can I help? What can I build?’” 

Read more about the three things Duncan says we need from technology, so that our students can flourish in the world that awaits them: 

1. Ensure access and equity in digital learning.

2. Make sure technology empowers and enhances the crucial relationship between educators and learners.

3. Use technology to amplify the rewards and diminish the difficulties of being a teacher. 


Planting STEM Took Off like Weeds

The acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has become wildly popular since being introduced by the National Science Foundation at the beginning of the decade. It caught on with businesses and policymakers anxious for students to improve their international standings. It caught on with schools and organizations. Many take-offs are sprouting up: E-STEM, STREAM, STEAM and more. How many do you recognize? Find out more (Adler, StarTribune).  

let's talk


Talking is Teaching  

Too Small to Fail released Talking is Teaching Community Campaign Guide, a how-to roadmap for local leaders across the country working to close the word gap and boost young children’s early brain development.  


Check out the free guide and corresponding materials. It includes content and resources that encourage parents to talk, read and sing with their children during everyday routines.


“Kids can spot a phony a mile away with blindfolds on.”

Virginia high-school teacher David Webb in "Getting Along with Teenagers" (Virginia Journal of Education). The article is worth a read.

Quote to Note

David Johsn talks with participant

Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans David Johns (right) hears from one of the participants at ED's symposium on Male Educators of Color.


Expanding Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color

The needs of young men of color are getting a lot of attention recently. ED hosted a symposium on "Male Educators of Color" that brought together more than 140 men of color from across the country who are committed to educating our nation's youth. The event highlighted educators' success stories, addressed issues of teacher recruitment and retention, and provided an opportunity for male teachers of color to come together to learn from and empower each other. Learn more in a great blog written by D.C. teacher and attendee Gary Hamilton

There is also the formation of a new volunteer organization, My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a private sector non-profit organization that is an outgrowth of the initiative started by President Obama. The president described the goals as economic imperatives: "Helping lower high school dropout rates, reduce crime rates, and ramping up employment." Read more (Jackson, USA Today).

TAF and PAF news

JILL LEVINE (2013 - 2015 Principal Fellow): Recognizing emerging talent of our students is key. Read this story of how Levine helped launch the acting career of her then-third grade student Rendell Debose, now a professional actor. He appeared recently at the D.C. Warner Theatre for a performance of “Memphis: The Musical” (Maquiñana, TeachForAmerica).


How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive Comments 

The teachers at ED love this column about how to handle comments about the profession from others who think they understand the profession but clearly would not last a day in the classroom (We Are Teachers). 

The writer offers both recommended and inappropriate responses to a variety of common but ignorant statements about teaching. Our problem? We sometimes like the inappropriate responses. For example, in response to “I don't know why people think teaching is so hard. It would be so nice to have a whole summer off—the rest of us don’t get a break," we prefer: “Double-dare you to spend a week with my fifth period. You’d need two years to recover.” 

Readers' responses are also worth a read.  

Game Jam


Better Games 

for Better Learning

In this blog, teachers Antero Garcia and Chad Sansing tell teachers how students, educators, developers, and policymakers can use games as a part of their students’ education. 

The authors participated in the Games for Learning Summit last month at the White House. They write that "Game-based learning isn’t about consuming a product to pick up a fact or two; it’s about learning to analyze or produce pieces of interactive media that require critical thinking, persistence, and problem-solving to master, critique, play, and make.” Read more and watch the video of kids learning from a new game developed there by Red Storm 

bike the country


Biker Chicks 

Pedal STEM Classes 

as they Cross America  

Teaching their students to be courageous, Elizabeth Case and Rachel Woods-Robinson, who met in a UCLA physics class, are riding their bicycles across the country and teaching science lessons at pop-up middle schools along the way. Learn more about their amazing story of persistence and passion for science (NBC News). 

Students' Corner


Tools for Students

Login credentials for ED's student aid platforms are changing. Instead of using a PIN, borrowers will create their FSA ID. The simpler process will make your personal information more secure and easier to verify. Learn more.  



Good Stuff for Eduwonks

School counselors can make a huge difference in students' lives, helping them to navigate the social and emotional school landscape and guiding them to classes and choices that will affect their futures. Now ED has awarded more than $24.8 million to 67 schools districts in 26 states across the country to establish or expand counseling programs. Read more

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• MEANINGFUL PD. North Carolina teacher Ben Owens penned this terrific piece about meaningful professional learning. "Peer-to-peer collaboration, as opposed to traditional training workshops or classes," writes Owens, "is how one grows in his or her profession—not by going it alone but by sharing ideas with experts in the same field" (Hope Street Group).

 GETTING THE PICTURE. How can we use data from our classroom assessments to understand a particular instructional strategy? This toolkit from the Regional Educational Laboratory Central in collaboration with York Public Schools in Nebraska can help. 

• PRESCHOOL ACCESS INCHING UP. The latest look at preschool in the U.S. from the National Institute for Early Education Research's annual "State of Preschool Yearbook" shows that state funding and enrollment are up slightly, but access varies significantly from state to state (Mongeau, EdWeek).

• FIFTY YEARS OF FEDERAL POLICY. Register for a May 18 webinar on the politics of education reform with Jack Jennings, longtime education policy expert and author of a new book—Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools and Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise

• LAB TECH OR AUTO MECHANIC. Career and technical education courses can offer a look at career fields without the commitment of formal training. Read more about T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Va.) students who earn credit and gain experience, regardless of where they go when they graduate (Quinton, National Journal).

Emerging Research


Two recently released studies show higher test scores by students who are taught by board-certified teachers. 

The first , From Large Urban to Small Rural Schools: An Empirical Study of National Board Certification and Teaching Effectiveness, was funded by National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and conducted by CNA Analysis and Solutions. The second one is by James Cowan and Dan Goldhaber, both of the Center for Education Data & Research at the University of Washington Bothell. Read more (Sawchuk, EdWeek).

open book

Recommended Reading

• EXPERIENCE MAY BE A BAD TEACHER. In "Fooled by Experience," Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth examine the ways we make decisions and suggest that alternate paths may lead to more successful outcomes (Harvard Business Review).

• LOOKING IN THE MIRROR. Improving instructional practice means thinking about how we do what we do. In "Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building Your Capacity for Success in the Classroom," Pete Hall & Alisa Simeral help us deepen our thinking about being educators. Watch the authors talk about their ideas

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

Arne Duncan with teachers at the White House Teacher Appreciation Program May 5

Arne Duncan with D.C. Education Innovation Fellows at the White House Teacher Appreciation Program May 5. From left to right: Alex Brown, Jerriel Hall, Eric Collazo, Arne Duncan, Milton Bryant, Dwight Davis.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on how she became a teacher: "Teaching chose me." (Teacher, Va.)

4. Reflecting on a teacher's role when the country experiences tragedies, such as the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the subsequent unrest: "Teachers have to rise to the occasion and help students understand Baltimore. We must help students process complex emotions and become change agents." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

3. "How do we, as educators, change the narrative of systemic failure in education? We talk like we are failing everywhere." (Teacher, Fairport, N.Y.)

2. "The relationships with students keep you in the classroom." (Teacher, Olathe, Kan.)

1. "We need teachers to lead. We have a lot of loud mouths in this room, but sometimes we feel like we are shouting at walls." (2015 State Teacher of the Year)