President Signs Every Student Achieves Act into Law - THE TEACHERS EDITION - December 10, 2015

The Teachers Edition

December 10, 2015  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition. 


In This Issue

President Signs Every Student Succeeds Act into Law

This morning, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing the long-expired No Child Left Behind law. While it keeps the requirement of annual testing and requires states to improve low-performing schools, it allows for more local control to set goals and make plans for remediation. Find out more from Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, who lays out what you need to know about the "fix to No Child Left Behind." 

teach 2 lead

More than 100 supporting organizations met to collaborate, innovate and network at the summit held at ED this week. 

We Are The Experts

Teacher Leadership: An Even Bigger Priority in 2016

It has been one year since the first Teach to Lead summit, and since then, there have been four more summits, hundreds of empowered teachers, and this week, a gathering for supporting organizations to check in on progress on the teacher leadership front. Secretary Arne Duncan and John King spoke to the 80 teacher-empowering groups that assembled in Washington on Monday about the importance of investing in the experts — teachers. In 2016, Teach to Lead is coming to BaltimoreMinneapolisLong Beach, and New OrleansHow will you get involved?


PS 22 Chorus Hits the Right Notes with 'Hallelujah'

You've heard the PS 22 Chorus before. Now add them to your rotation of holiday season tunes. Check out fourth-grader Elisha and the rest of Mr. B's chorus as they sing a beautiful version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' -- and pass the video along to anyone who downplays the importance of arts education. 

Teacher Leadership

Ed Tech

Why I Wish I Could Take Back The iPads I Gave My Class

Many make the case for why kids should have their own personalized devices. But one Virginia teacher says her school failed to consider the consequences: "My lively little kids stopped talking and adopted the bent-neck, plugged-in posture of tap, tap, swipe." She recalls writing two sets of lesson plans: one if the iPads were working and another if they weren't (Hall, Washington Post). At the same time, 30,000 new Chromebooks are activated in classrooms every day (Taylor, CNBC).

P Chat

Principal Corner

Principals Matter. Check out this series of 10 new short videos from a recent policy briefing The Wallace Foundation held on how state policy can strengthen school principals. 

The Teaching Profession

Wanted: Great Teachers

Major Teacher Shortages Hit Districts Around the Country

Colleges and universities award around 40 percent fewer education degrees now than they did 30 years ago, according to the Las Vegas Sun. What that means is there aren't enough new teachers produced in Nevada to fill the openings in Clark County alone. The same is true in Philadelphia where there were more than 100 teacher vacancies last month. Meanwhile, in Washington, state officials report being on track to hire 3,500 emergency substitutes this year, as compared to 700 in a typical year. Until this problem is solved, one ACLU official says, "there's so much that can be done to close the achievement gap" (Graham,; Markovich, KOMO; Brown, Washington Post).

Improving The Profession

What We Must Stop Saying if We Want to Elevate Teaching

Colorado teacher leader and blogger Jessica Cuthbertson says in our effort to professionalize teaching, we hurt ourselves when we use certain language. Among what we should drop: the phrase "in the trenches," generalizing about certain classes, and cheering for snow days. She offers advice for how to speak about the profession more responsibly. 

More Than Just Data

Don't Forget to Take Stock of the Little Things

loving the small stuff pic

Data can be useful measures of learning, but they don't tell the whole story. Take a look at this great blog by Alaina Adams (Phoenix Union High School District) that highlights how not all that is important can be measured. It also tells some poignant stories about her work with her newcomer students, including one whose initial scowl has now turned into a full-blown hug (Stories From School AZ). 

Andrea L. Dennis

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.

Dennis Educator

Andrea L. Dennis is the Assistant Principal at Theodore High School (Mobile, Ala.). Dennis has experience as a Science Instructor and an Achievement Specialist. She is also a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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

My impetus to become a teacher stems from viewing education as the great equalizer. I left my first year of medical school to pursue a career as a science instructor to share my love of learning with the next generation.  

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

I celebrate the innate curiosity of young people and their desire to discover and learn. I am excited when they embrace, apply, and extend the knowledge that they attain.

What do you want to see change within education to better support the learning and development of African American students?

While our educational system aspires to create learning environments that transcend culture, religion, and social status, an equitable learning environment does not negate the inherent differences among students. My hope is that all educators incorporate the rich cache of our students’ cultural and geographical experiences that contribute to learning.

Education Policy

Departing Secretary

Duncan's Basketball Past and His Impact on College Sports

Author Alexander Wolff and his book "The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama" considers Secretary Arne Duncan's history with basketball and his impact on college sports. Despite being an outsider in his mom's Chicago tutoring center during his childhood, Arne learned some early lessons in diplomacy there. When two players were getting ready to fight one day, “Arne waded in like a referee does, and one of the guys punched him. The gym went silent. They got that guy out of there. There were like threats on his life because he’d punched Arne.”

Our Outdated Schools

Why The Factory Model of Education Is So Hard to Change

Bill Tolley, who teaches at an international school in Beijing, questions why our model of schooling is so resistant to changeThe solution, he says, begins with shifting the framework to empowering educators to “make your students feel fully alive.” He writes that "no matter how well we learn how to hack and disrupt our schools, our best intentions for changing the factory model will fail as long as our efforts culminate in the calibration of our students to factory standards for the college admissions process or the workplace."

Oral History

Powerful Stories Shared in 'Great Thanksgiving Listen'

interview storycorps

Gabriella Rinehart interviews great-grandmother Mae Ridge in the kitchen of Ridge's home in Leitersburg, Maryland.

Students uploaded more than 50,000 recordings of interviews with family members and elders as part of StoryCorps' Great Thanksgiving Listen. Read -- and listen to -- some highlights, including a conversation between Secretary Duncan and one of his mentees from 25 years ago and Maryland high school senior Gabriella's conversation with her great-grandmother who shared having tripped her teacher back in school (Dishneau, Associated Press). Also, listen to the story of the Illinois principal and students who welcomed to school a young man with AIDS in the 1980s. 


Nonverbal Boy Wants Others to See Him as 'Equal Human'

A nonverbal autistic boy in Buffalo shares a message in the newspaper about how kids with autism want to be seen: "People need to hear more about autism from autistic people themselves. Autistic people don’t like being assumed emotionless and uncaring," he writes. "Teachers were well meaning but believed I could not understand much of anything because I could not talk or write to communicate ... To help me best, please see me as an equal human being as you." 

Resources for Educators

Tip Sheets, Videos, Strategies: Resources for ELLs

The latest issue of Colorin Colorado, features a multilingual series of tip sheets from Head Start’s Cultural and Linquistic Responsiveness center that highlights the value of maintaining a family’s home language and being bilingual.  The tip sheets are available in seven languages. Their new bilingual resource section features lots of great articles and classroom videos, including some for incorporating peer learning with ELLs in your classroom. 

Google Hangout on Early Learning and the Latino Community

As part of the 25th Anniversary Year of Action, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics made a national call for Bright Spots in Hispanic Education. To elevate the work, the Initiative is holding a series of public engagements, via Google + Hangout over the coming year. The next in the series of monthly Hangouts, will take place on Wednesday, December 16 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (EST) and will focus on "A Conversation on Early Learning with Bright Spots in Hispanic Education." RSVP and learn more.

Teachers Notes

sticky notepad

• Suspension Rates and Solutions. UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies' analysis of districts throughout California - a national leader in discipline reform - found that lower suspension rates correlate with higher academic achievement.

• Connecting All Students. In the last two years, America has connected 20 million more students to high-speed broadband. Read more in a new report from EducationSuperHighway

National Writing Project Grants for Teachers. Apply for the National Writing Project and LRNG Innovators Challenge grants open to teams of educators, including teachers as well as mentors, librarians, museum educators, teaching artists, and other adults working with youth in learning environments.

• Innovation Revealed. The Exemplar Program, P21 is working to identify, document, promote and celebrate examples of successful 21st century learning. It provides educators and communities a variety of models to draw from, and offers policymakers and P21 State Partners local examples to help encourage their support. Apply to become a 21st Century Learning Exemplar before January 15. 

Top 5 Quotes

john king listening

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. On resources: “They keep saying, 'well, you have to work with what you’ve got,' but that’s not good for the children, that’s good for the budget.” Principal, Washington D.C.)

4. “The principal leads the school, but the job is to think about how others can lead.” (Principal, Virginia)

3. “[Good teacher preparation] helps with placing teachers, with retention, with quality, and then it can help with the reputation for the profession. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s as close as you get.” (Teacher, Vermont)

2. "The replication conversation is really hard -- authentic learning happens in unique contexts. The term 'replicating' is really scary." (Teacher, Minnesota)

1. "It's amazing to me that we entrust our children every day to people who we turn around and vilify and say how unqualified they are." (Teacher, Indiana)