Outdated Literacy Practices That It's Time to Abandon -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- June 9, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

June 9, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

Districts, Schools Tackle Chronic Absenteeism

Today marks the first day of the Every Student, Every Day National Conference in Washington, D.C. where teams of states, school districts, and other leaders are gathering to ensure students are in school each day so they can learn. The White House and the U.S. Department of Education have worked together this year to spread awareness of the impact of chronic absenteeism on student performance and even the opportunity to access future careers



As many as 6.5 million American students miss more than three weeks of school each year, which puts them at significant risk of falling behind academically and failing to graduate from high school. In this entry on our Homeroom blog, Baltimore Principal Joseph Manko, a Principal Ambassador Fellow, points out some action steps he has taken at his school to ensure his students are learning every day. He writes, "if we want our schools to move students academically, we all have to commit to the hard, first-order work of getting them in the door."

National Data Released This Week Shows Disparities Remain

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education released a trove of data on the nation's 95,000 public schools. The data shows persistent gaps in discipline and access to college-ready coursework. For example, consider this data point: more than 1.5 million students go to schools that employ a police officer, but not a counselor. "What sets the U.S. apart from any other country is the idea that opportunity is universal. These data show that we still fall far short of that ideal," says Secretary of Education John King. Search the database yourself here

The Cure to Teacher Burnout Is Simple

Former teacher and administrator Hal Portner shares the antidote to teacher burnout in an opinion piece for Education Week. It doesn't come in the form of a miracle pill. Instead, the cure to burnout is the opportunity for teacher leadership. He writes, "teacher leaders seldom, if ever, burn out" as they work to "influence the practice among their peers, impact the profession, and most importantly, work to improve student learning." 

What If PreK Is Too Late?

There's plenty of research attesting to the importance of preschool. But what if the most important time in a child's life happens even before they arrive for their first day of PreK? In The New York Times, Nick Kristof draws on evidence to show that what's needed isn't just high-quality preschool, but support during a child's first 1,000 days: "help for families beginning in pregnancy, to reduce the risk that children will be born with addictions and to increase the prospect that they will be raised with lots of play and conversation." 

Senior Draws Divided Class Together — With 411 Portraits


Shortly before graduating from Boston Latin School, Phillip Sossou left behind a powerful gift: a portrait of each of the 411 members of the school's graduating class. His goal was to bring together his classmates after an episode that divided them. His arts teacher said he didn't think it was possible when Phillip proposed the effort, but by sticking with his project long into each night, Sossou recently was able to hang all of the portraits onto the walls of the school, much to his classmates' delight (Irons, Boston Globe). 

How to Keep Your Class Reading Over the Summer

As summer approaches, it's the perfect time to start thinking about how to prevent the summer slide: more than 80 percent of children from economically disadvantaged communities lose one to three months of reading skills over the summer. But it's not a lost cause. ELEducation.org asks a children's librarian how to keep kids reading over the summer and Edutopia's Terry Heick summarizes the research and shares some tips for creative ways to keep reading going

Study Says Teachers Improve with Experience

A report from the Learning Policy Institute shows that as teachers gain experience, their students' achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains occur during the first few years of teaching, this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers. Experienced teachers also have a positive impact on their colleagues and the school as a whole, according to the study. 

Managers Say Recent Grads Lack Certain Critical Skills

An analysis of whether recent college graduates are prepared for the workforce shows some specific areas where hiring managers report their being underprepared. Nearly half of hiring managers report that new grads lack writing proficiency and public speaking ability; even more say their new hires are not strong critical thinkers or that they lack attention to detail (PayScale.com). Speaking of missing skills, check out this lament by a marketing company exec who says "schools were never designed to produce creativity" yet "most importantly, we need creative people in the boardroom" (Meng, The Guardian). 

The Innovative District Leaders Who Took on the Status Quo

Major changes tend to get ordered up more often in school districts where students are far behind academic expectations than in places where most agree that students are doing OK. But some district leaders in places where students are performing above average are shaking things up too, reinventing outdated school systems along the way. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the focus is on personalized learning, engaging students through their passions and community partnerships. Meanwhile, a rural Kentucky superintendent is finding unique paths for each student, putting the district in the national spotlight (Dobo, Hechinger Report).

Outdated Literacy Practices That It's Time to Abandon

University of Michigan Professor Nell K. Duke lists five literacy instruction practices that we should avoid in the 2016-17 school year. We guarantee some will sound familiar to your own elementary school days, even if you're not using them in your own classroom these days. Perhaps most controversially, take a look at why Duke discourages unsupported independent reading time (Edutopia). 

Got A Great Teacher Leadership Idea? Here's Help

The U.S. Department of Education, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, ASCD, and 120 other education organizations want to help you bring your top teacher leadership idea to life at the September Teach to Lead Summit in Long Beach, Calif. Submit your idea and if you're selected, you'll participate in an intensive two-day gathering where you'll get the tools, support, and time to make a plan to get your idea off the ground.

Resources to Use

What We Heard from Educators This Week


5. "What if we didn't save the cool stuff and enrichment for summer school? What if this was everyday for our kids?" (Administrator, Missouri). 

4. "Opening up our classrooms to each other and the community is the key for growing support for schools and teachers" (Teacher, Minnesota).

3. "Professional learning should be need-based. Even if I didn't know I needed it before I learned it" (Teacher, Connecticut).

2. "Happy schools are obsessed about student success, deeply invest in staff success, and celebrate a culture of trust" (Assistant Principal, New York).

1. "How can we expect different results if we're not willing to try something new? Nothing's gonna change if nothing changes" (Principal, Missouri).