THE TEACHERS EDITION -- October 15, 2015

The Teachers Edition

October 15, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 


In This Issue

nyc truancy initiative

Part of New York City's SchoolEveryDay attendance initiative, which aims to collect data on attendance and to encourage kids to come to school.

Absences Add Up

Targeting Truancy

Every teacher knows that you can't teach empty seats. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education heard teachers' concerns and issued guidance for how communities can improve student attendance. Among the ideas: implementing the Check & Connect program, looking deeper than attendance rates to figure out why students aren't coming to school, and encouraging kids to sign up for wake-up calls from celebrities to get them up and ready for the day. An estimated 7.5 million students are chronically absent each school year, and high rates of truancy start as early as kindergarten. Get involved and learn more here.

Toy Technology 

How Smart is New Barbie?

Hello Barbie Image

Children used to rely on their imagination to talk to Barbie. Now, they can actually have a conversation with the iconic toy. Mattel's new Hello Barbie is programmed to talk to young children about career choices, interests, school bullies and their favorite clothes. Like Apple's Siri, her conversational technology has improved, and young children can interact with her in fun and imaginative ways. 

Find out more about how she was created and the race to create artificial-intelligence-powered companions that are personality-rich and capable of conversation (Vlahos, New York Times).   

Teacher Leadership

Coming of Age

Teacher Leadership Finally Taking Hold

"If a significant share of our nation’s teachers — those who know students and families the best — are not leading the transformation of teaching and learning, then our society’s vision of a high-quality public education system for all children will continue to fall short," writes The Center for Teaching Quality's Barnett Berry in the September/October edition of Principal Magazine. Berry, a champion of the role of the teacherpreneur, typically spends 50 percent of her time teaching and the other half innovating. She also shares some examples of the growing number of places that are turning to teachers to innovate. Meanwhile, educator John McCrann's blog, “Two Things Policymakers Should Know about Teacher Leadership,” says that while everyone is talking about teacher leadership, “What we need is not one great solution, but millions of smaller solutions that work for the millions of different schools and communities that we have in this country” (EDWeek Teacher). 

Will He Enter the NBA Draft?

Last week we wrote about Arne Duncan's announcement that he'll step down in December

That leaves the Teachers@ED wondering: will he enter the NBA? 

Watch a highlight reel put together by the Chronicle of Higher Education where you'll see the MVP of the 2014 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game make masterful no-look passes and three-point plays. 

The NBA regular season starts in a few weeks. Just saying.

arne on the court

Teach to Lead

Teach to Lead update

What's their Story? Find out more about the outstanding educators and supporter organizations who came together last month in Washington State to translate their teacher-driven ideas into concrete plans, with a focus on creating change at the school, district, and state levels.

P Chat

Principal's Corner

Principal of the Year. Rhode Island Principal Alan Tenreiro was named 2016 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals last week. He has led Cumberland High School to improved student achievement and graduation rates and added new course offerings, including Advanced Placement and STEM classes.

Differentiate Your PD. There's lots of talk about differentiating instruction for students; Education Week blogger Starr Sackstein wonders why there isn't the same conversation when it applies to professional development. She argues that "what works in the classroom also works for teacher learners."

The Teaching Profession

Rewriting Shakespeare


For generations, high school English teachers have endured the complaints of their students when assigning the translation of one of Shakespeare's plays. Now, the leaders of one of the country's most prominent Shakespeare festivals have sided with dictionary-wielding students. 

Leaders of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced recently that they will perform versions of the bard's plays that have been rewritten for clarity. Some purists are up in arms, while John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia University, writes in the Wall Street Journal that the change will improve how people experience his plays.

great thanksgiving listen

Students Urged to Ask Elders: 'Tell Me About Your Life'

What better way to learn about primary sources than by creating your own? Nonprofit radio-favorite StoryCorps is partnering with teachers to ask high school students to record an interview with an elder, as part of their Great Thanksgiving Listen. About the project, founder Dave Isay writes: "Together we will collect the wisdom of a generation and archive it for the future, while at the same time reminding our grandparents how much their lives and stories matter." Sign your class up here.

TAF and PAF news

Maryann Woods-Murphy (2011 Washington Fellow) a Gifted and Talented Specialist, Nutley Public Schools (Nutley, N.J.) will serve a three-year term for The NEA Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Question mark

Did You Know

Nearly 9 in 10 parents—including more than 3 in 4 impoverished parents—attend general parent-teacher meetings each year, that's more than 10 percentage points higher than any other type of parent involvement in schools.

(2012 Child Trends  and some states are giving it a makeover (SparksEdWeek).

Savanna Flakes

Celebrating African American Educators

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.

Savanna Flakes African American educator

Savanna Flakes is a Secondary Inclusion Specialist in Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia. She also works with Leading Educators and has received several educator awards, including the National Association of Special Education Teachers Outstanding Special Educator Award, a Sontag Prize in Urban Education Award, The College Board Minority Professional Fellowship, and the Alexandria City Jaycee Public Service George Webber Award for Excellence in Education.

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

Growing up I was privileged to have teachers and counselors that held high expectations and believed in my potential when I didn’t believe in myself, and so I wanted to teach in urban divisions where I could be the same inspirational impetus to our students who would benefit from my motivation the most. My career in teaching started from my high school days of peer-mentoring elementary students, to my internships with Upward Bound, America’s Promise, and AmeriCorps. In many ways “teaching” has always been a part of me; I am honored to have the opportunity to play a role in my student’s lives and contribute to their active participation in our community.

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

I celebrate students’ “Growth Mindsets,” the belief that through hard work and resilience they can get smarter, better, and stronger. I appreciate and praise students for their growth-oriented process—what they accomplished through their struggles, efforts, and positive choices: practice, study, persistence, and using/sharing good strategies. I encourage my collaborating teachers and students to create classroom posters that celebrate effort, growth, persistence and the idea of malleable intelligence such as “mistakes are a part of learning, failure is simply the opportunity to begin again” and “I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I am successful."

Rethinking Parent Conferences

student led conference

Who does most of the work at your parent-teacher conferences? At one Chicago school, the students lead the conferences, explaining to their parents what they're proud of and what they still need to work on. Edutopia blogger John McCarthy shares some other tips for making parent conferences more valuable.

Unstructured Playtime

Is U.S. Early Education Too Academic?

Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? asks researchers at the University of Virginia, led by the Daphna Bassok. They found that the American kindergarten experience has become much more academic—and at the expense of play. By contrast, Finnish youngsters are developing their language, math, and social-interaction skills through play. Read more about how Finnish kindergarteners spend their days (Walker,The Atlantic).

"Tag" Banned on the Playground. The game of 'tag' was temporarily banned at a Washington elementary school, until parents pushed back. "Kids need some unstructured playtime...I totally survived tag, I even survived red rover, believe it or not," one mother cried (Schouten, Christian Science Monitor).

Recommended Reading

science of learning report

How Learning Works


The Deans for Impact, a group of leaders in educator preparation, think that if teachers understand how learning works, they'll be more likely to have lasting learning in their classrooms. The report connects cognitive principles with practical implications for the classroom in a way that everyone can understand. 

Quote to Note

Sharing Knowledge

"Sharing is the essence of teaching. It is, I have come to believe, the essence of civilization."                 

(Bill Moyers, journalist and commentator)

Restorative Justice

Judge Rules That Trauma Could Cause Disability

According to one study, 48 percent of children have experienced trauma; meanwhile, many schools are questioning whether expulsion and suspension are appropriate reactions to behavior related to that trauma. Last week, in a class-action lawsuit against the Compton, Calif. schools, a judge ruled that students who experience traumatic events while growing up in a poor, turbulent community could be considered disabled ( 

Resources for Educators

Social Media Can Be An Addiction

#Being13 teens story

Some 13-year-olds check social media 100 times a day.

In a first-of-its-kind CNN study on social media and teens, #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens, kids reveal evidence of addictive or compulsive behavior when it comes to finding out what's going on while they monitor their own popularity status.  

Learn more about the study that was conducted with eighth graders at eight different schools in six states across the country

Teachers' Notes

sticky notepad

• Unique PD. Participate in the first Library of Congress online conference for educators, October 27-28 from 4-8 ET. There will be 15 one-hour sessions on topics from literacy and historical thinking to historic newspapers and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Register and learn about their focus on finding and using primary sources and more

• CrashCourse. Check out the YouTube channel CrashCourse for 10- to 15-minute episodes on a range of educational content that can be used by teachers and students for curriculum — or just to learn stuff. 

• Green Your School. Find resources to green your school, including the latest list of webinars offered from ED's Green Strides. Look for the calendar and sign up for one or more of a dozen that will be offered before the end of the month. 

Using Technology to Teach The Youngest Students

Students' Corner

Stories Using Subtraction. A recently published study shows that math-inspired bedtime stories on the iPad app Bedtime Math led to improved student achievement in math. 

Elmo Teaches Math. Meanwhile, an online course offered by nonprofit Sesame Workshop features ways teachers and parents can integrate math into 2- to 5-year-olds' play. More than 230,000 people took the course last time it was offered.

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Top 5 Quotes

Arne listening to teachers

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We excel, we push, we expect, and as a staff we are all in this together." (Teacher, Iowa)

4. "I don't need this job any more. I own a restaurant. But my work is not done." (Teacher, Illinois)

3. "If life doesn't give you a dream, build one." (Teacher, Arizona)

2. "A professional development conference can't replace me going into a classroom and watching another great teacher." (Teacher, Iowa)

1. "I'm crazy happy that the pendulum in education is swinging toward equity." (Teacher, Michigan)