Five Student Complaints That We Should Be Listening To -- THE TEACHERS EDITION - June 16, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

June 16, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.

ED Highlights Pay Gap for Early-Childhood Teachers

pre-K report

Preschool is critical for giving every child a strong start and for expanding educational equity and opportunity more broadly. Studies show that children who attend high-quality early education are better prepared and more likely to do well in school. Yet, preschool teachers are paid less on average than mail-order clerks, tree trimmers and pest control workers. ED and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report Wednesday that shines a spotlight on the gap in pay for early-education teachers—97 percent of whom are women—and the impact that inequity has on schools’ ability to attract and retain experienced, high-quality staff with higher levels of education.  

Summerville head shot


Cody Summerville, a kindergarten teacher in Pflugerville, Texas, knows firsthand the value of students attending prekindergarten. In this entry on our Homeroom blog, he reflects on how students enter his classroom much more prepared when they've attended a high-quality prekindergarten program and how making sure they're ready for kindergarten requires making sure that highly trained pre-K teachers are compensated appropriately for their work.

Making Each Day Better for Children

What is it really like to spend all day with young children? Secretary King shadowed New Jersey Pre-K teacher Raquel Lima last week to understand. Also, watch this video about a Day in the Life of a Pre-school Teacher. Share it with your colleagues and friends

Preschool teachers day in life


King Speaks Out on Orlando Tragedy

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history in Orlando last weekend, Secretary of Education John King posed the question in an interview: "Do we want to be explaining to our children these terrible acts of violence that take so many lives? It's very hard to make sense of the senseless and to help kids process an event like this without feeling scared all of the time." In an email to ED staff, King wrote, "It is more important now than ever to acknowledge that our work to secure freedom, safety, and full rights for LGBT Americans is not done and we at the U.S. Department of Education will continue to do our part to bring equity to education in all forms." 

Five Student Complaints That We Should Be Listening To

It's no surprise to hear kids complaining about going to school. But maybe we should listen to their complaints, writes Florida teacher Alex Stubenbort. When he hears a student say, "School sucks!" or "When am I ever going to use this in real life?" he's got answers -- and questions -- at the ready. 

NYC Classroom in Brooklyn

Choosing a School in a Segregated City

New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones struggles with her school choice options in New York City: “It felt like accepting the inevitability of this two-tiered system: one set of schools with excellent resources for white kids and some black and Latino middle-class kids, a second set of underresourced schools for the rest of the city’s black and Latino kids,” she writes. She also explores the history and research that shows the benefits and power of integration, while noting that “black children are more segregated than they have been at any point in nearly half a century.” Find out what happens when you read this powerful exploration of the fight for fair education and see ED's recent work on promoting integrated schools.

Students Tour Country to Hear How Peers Feel About School

"Students spend at least 35 hours per week in a classroom and therefore have much insight to offer on what is and is not working," says University of North Carolina student Andrew Brennen. Brennen is leading a group of students traveling the country to hear the voices of their classmates about how to improve their schools. They hope to engage students in all 50 states using their Student Bill of Rights.

Why We Should Abandon Letter Grades

Letter grades have been with us for over a century, but research shows they actually have a detrimental effect on student performance. Former Principal Howard Pitler makes the case for eliminating grades because they're inadequate measures of student performance and then shares an alternative to the current grading system. 

Secrets of Successful STEM Teachers

At a conference last month, successful STEM teachers shared how they engage students. One Maryland teacher asks her students at the beginning of the year to draw a scientist. Inevitably, male figures or the stereotypically crazy-haired mad scientist take form. By the end of the year, her students complete the same assignment, but this time many draw themselves. Find out how she helps her kids imagine themselves differently and how some of her counterparts around the country are similarly engaging students (Leonard, U.S. News & World Report). 

What This Principal Learned by Guest-Teaching Every Class


Principal William Bernhard wanted to know the inner workings of his Long Island, N.Y., school and thought there was no better way to do that than to "guest teach" classes in every subject offered there. During this school year, he "taught a lesson on Aristotle on English, played Frisbee in physical education, spoke about immigration in social studies and even pounded a chicken breast" in a family and consumer science course (TyrrellNewsday).

Get Kids into National Parks

In support of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation has donated $25,000 to, a crowdfunding platform for teachers. The donation will allow fourth grade teachers to take their classes on “Every Kid in a Park” field trips, covering transportation costs to a U.S. national park, forest, wildlife refuge or other national public lands and waters. Post your request at To qualify, use the phrase "Every Kid in a Park" in your essay. 

Recruiting -- and Keeping -- Teachers of Color

A growing chorus of voices is calling for more minority teachers to fill America's classrooms, especially as minority students become the majority. But even when schools can recruit minority teachers, the challenge is to keep them. Find out more about some programs that are aiming to address the problem in Harvard's Ed Magazine article by Josh Moss. And also see some of the action steps Black male educators in Philadelphia are taking to try to get more of their counterparts into classrooms (Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks).


Powerful Graduation Stories

It's graduation season, and that means a good number of heartwarming stories of students beating the odds. A couple of our favorites come from the Baltimore school that celebrates its largest graduating class ever -- despite mourning the deaths of three students -- and the two Texas valedictorians who used their platforms to share that they are undocumented (Green, Baltimore Sun, and Rogers, New York Times). Meanwhile, Fast Company rounds up the best advice in commencement speeches this year, including wisdom from actors Matt Damon and Spike Lee

Resources to Use

  • Make a Movie. Announcing the third annual White House Student Film Festival. This year’s theme is “The World I Want To Live In” and submissions are encouraged from students in grades K-12 (including seniors from the class of 2017). Students can cover issues including civic engagement, girls education, the environment, service, citizenship, or any topic about which they are passionate. Learn more at WH.Gov/FilmFest.  The deadline is July 15.
  • Department Works to Combat Anti-Muslim Discrimination. The U.S. Department of Education issued a joint statement against anti-Muslim discrimination earlier this month, reminding schools that they must take immediate action to respond to complaints of discrimination. 

What We Heard from Educators This Week

King in preschool class

5. "If you're not tired, then you're not teaching," (Teacher, Connecticut).
4. "We have to shift the status quo. Make a habit of asking, 'What are we changing next year?'" (Assistant Principal, Texas).
3. I remind myself often (and my team) that innovation comes when we're uncomfortable," (Principal, Texas).
2. "If a teacher misses a deadline or does something wrong, we don't take away their planning period. Let's not take away a kid's recess" (Administrator, Missouri).
1. "Leaving school college- and career-ready is crucial. But leaving school with a deep belief that you matter is what changes the world" (Assistant Principal, Oregon)