How Teachers Can Go From Good to Great to Influential -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- March 31, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

March 31, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.


College Students Share Ideas for Improving Graduation Rates

At a recent Student Voices session at ED, college students and recent graduates discussed with Secretary John King their experiences and what supports they believe are needed to get more students to and through college. Among the topics discussed were how it can be difficult to understand financial aid while in high school and how a good school counselor can make a huge difference (Anderson, Washington Post). The department has identified expanding college access, affordability, and completion as one of its main priorities this year, and these students' suggestions made an impact. 



Kim Reykdal, a career and college counselor at Olympia (Wash.) High School (pictured with student Steffany Heredia), is seeing more of her soon-to-be first-generation college students complete applications and find success after they enroll. Part of the recipe, as she explains in this entry on our Homeroom blog, involves ensuring that all students have champions who look out for them and push them to apply even when they think they might not get in.


Students at Newark All-Boys School Are Beating the Odds

Part of the recipe for success at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., involves helping the freshmen realize that they are all on the same path to success, instead of in competition with one another. That symbolic message is made tangible on a four-day, 55-mile Appalachian Trail hike, where encouragement and support carries one breathless student to the finish line. In a powerful 60 Minutes report, Scott Pelley takes viewers inside the majority-minority school where 98 percent of students graduate and 85 percent earn a college degree

After Getting Great, How Teacher Leaders Can Be Influential

For years, education leaders have talked about how to ensure that teachers are most effective in order to improve student outcomes. A new paper from the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and NNSTOY takes a look at how teachers can go beyond good and great -- in order to become influential. The study makes the case for why districts and schools should promote hybrid teacher leader roles, create models for distributed leadership, and increase the exposure of new teachers to established teacher leaders.

Top High-School Scientists Take Home Six-Figure Prizes


The three winners of this year's 75th Intel Science Talent Search competition did a lot more than build baking soda volcanoes: they tackled real-world problems, including cleaning polluted streams, detecting lung problems, and treating cancer. Doing so earned them $150,000. The winners, from Massachusetts, Maine, and California, were honored by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who reminded them that scientific research is "more than being about answers. It's about the questions" (Brookshire, Student Science).  

We Want to Get in Touch with the Best Teacher You Know

During Teacher Appreciation Week on May 2-6, the U.S. Department of Education wants to say thank you to some great teachers. Recommend a friend, a colleague, your child’s teacher, or the 7th grade teacher who inspired you! Tell us about a teacher you want to highlight along with a few details about why and how we can reach them. We hope to directly contact each nominee but cannot guarantee that we will be in touch during that week. We may also use this information for additional teacher highlighting purposes throughout the year. 

kids state dinner w Mrs obama rachel ray

Have a Talented Student Chef? 

The First Lady is hosting the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people across the nation. The challenge invites kids ages 8-12, in collaboration with a parent or guardian, to create an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. One winner from each U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia will win the opportunity to be flown to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2016 Kids’ “State Dinner at the White House. Kids will learn from television personality and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Rachael RaySubmit a healthy lunch recipe by April 4 for a chance to dine with the First Lady at the 2016 #KidsStateDinner!

Schools Find Ways to Repurpose Outdated EdTech

Undoubtedly your school has some computers that take five minutes to boot up or that periodically disconnect from the Internet. Considering the lifespan of most devices is only three years, some districts have found creative ways to extend the life of their aging technology. Instead of tossing their outdated laptops, these districts are converting them into Chromebooks, which use less computing power (Sterling, 

on Deck report

Teachers Share How to Improve Teacher Prep

Hope Street Group’s 2015 National Teacher Fellows collaborated with ED and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education to learn from nearly 2,000 teachers about teacher preparation, and what pre-service future American educators need to be successful in the classroom. The teacher-led, teacher-sourced findings were released in "On Deck: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers," and these 18 teacher leaders are poised to deepen conversations about this important topic back home. Share the report and your thoughts about teacher prep using #TeachersOnDeck!

More Teachers Priced Out of Homes Near Where They Teach

In high-priced real estate markets, from Boston and Seattle to Rocky Mountain resort communities and even in some rural areas, some teachers are struggling to find affordable places to live near the schools where they work. That impacts a lot more than their commute, they say: it impacts their ability to coach a team, tutor, and serve as a faculty adviser, all of which is difficult to do when you've got an hours-long drive each day (Westervelt, NPR). 

Two Low-Cost Ways to Combat Childhood Obesity at School


As childhood obesity continues to rise, two low-cost solutions are worth considering. One came from Florida seventh-grader Aaron Johnson, who called for involving his classmates around the country in decision-making: "the vast majority of the 'call to actions' and strategic plans for childhood obesity are written by adults, shared by adults, discussed by adults, and the information never gets out to the people most impacted: the children." Another involves increasing students' access to water at school: research on more than 1 million students shows that students were less likely to be overweight when they had access to drinking water (Loki, AlterNet). Of course, that requires lead-free water

Google winner desgin

Google's Top Student-Artist Credits Teachers as Inspiration

"My Afrocentric Life,” by Akilah Johnson is the Google Doodle you may have seen last week as you searched for the latest movie, basketball score or news. Akilah, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C.,was named Google’s big winner in the Doodle 4 Google contest. “One of my teachers from Roots Public Charter School, Baba Camera, is really [who] made me look at art in a different way,” Akilah said. Another art teacher crucial to Akilah’s creative journey, Zalika Perkins, personally urged Akilah to enter Google’s contest (Cavna, Washington Post).

Lots of Inequity in State Spending on School Buildings


Every day, students attend schools with leaky roofs, overcrowding, and unsafe drinking water. The likelihood of those things getting fixed depends on what state they live in, according to a new analysis of state-by-state spending on school infrastructure. The report found that six states pay for all or nearly all of the capital construction costs for schools in their state, while 12 others provide no direct support to districts for capital construction. See how your state does and read the recommendations

Teacher Offers Secret Weapon for ELL Teachers' Arsenal

ell students

English Learners come with various levels of English proficiency, so data analysis provides a snapshot of what they should know, and what can be done to meet their academic needs. Camelia Perez, an ESL teacher from Greenwich High School (Connecticut) shares her experience on how to collect data about EL students, how to reflect on the data collected and the students’ learning needs, and how to ensure their successful transition to a tech world and 21st century job market (EdSurge). Also, see the benefits of being bilingual: improved social skills, executive functioning, and more (Kinzler, New York Times).

Resources to Use

Science with ELLs in Mind. Despite the growth in diversity in the classroom, few teachers report feeling prepared to provide science instruction for diverse student groups, including ELs. In a large-scale study involving more than 6,000 fifth graders, an innovative science curriculum was found to have a positive impact on science learning for students with different levels of English proficiency.  

Calling Young Filmmakers. Youth 18 and under are invited to make a video on how to make "Peace in the Streets." Films can be made on any device - phones, tablets, or video cameras - and will be judged both for originality and creativity. Winners get to go the United Nations. Films are shown at the 2016 Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival 

What We Heard from Educators This Week

King and Mitchell at the table

5. "As a first-year teacher, I got a key and a classroom, and then didn't see anyone for six months" (Teacher, South Carolina). 
4. "Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others, but to bring out the best in them" (Teacher, Illinois).
3. "If teachers don't have administrative support, there isn't enough money to keep them in the classroom" (Teacher, South Carolina). 
2. "Students need to see us own our mistakes, struggle, and engage in reflective work. Model acceptance and fortitude" (Administrator, New Jersey). 
1. "Accountability is often put all on the teachers, but education is a collective effort" (Teacher, South Carolina).