Social Justice, the Heart of Education -- THE TEACHERS EDITION -- December 15, 2016

The Teachers Edition

What Teachers Are Talking About This Week

December 15, 2016  |  Sign up to receive The Teachers Edition.


Steps to Create Better, Fairer and Fewer Tests in Schools

Last week, the Department released two final regulations to assist states and districts with implementing assessment provisions under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. In addition, the White House has shared a fact sheet about new resources to support states and districts in meeting the goals laid out in the Testing Action Plan that aims to reduce and improve assessments for students. 



Resident Teaching Ambassador Fellow, Patrick Kelly, shares his thoughts on what teachers need in order to change assessments in their classrooms and in the state. Patrick is an AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher at Blythewood High School just outside Columbia, South Carolina.  

guidance counselors

Join Us at the Department of Education as a School Ambassador Fellow

The Department's 2017-2018 School Ambassador Fellowship application is live. Teachers, school counselors, assistant principals, and other school personnel that work with students may apply at this link, but the application will close on January 23, 2017, at 11:59 p.m., so we highly encourage applicants to review the School Ambassador Fellowship website for more information. So far, ED has only targeted teachers and principals, and including other education professionals working with students and educators will bring new perspectives to discussions of federal policy and programs. Stay tuned for more about the program in next week’s Teachers Edition!

art at middle school

Schools Getting a Do-Over with Art

Hurricane protection and energy efficiency characterize many of south Florida's schools. That often means less light and more wall space. All of that is being tranformed through a project with artists from Miami's Art Basel who are painting murals in schools in the Wynwood neighborhood. It's part of RAW, Reimagining the Arts in Wynwood, a project organized by Robert de los Rios (Allen, NPR). 

Ethnic Studies for High School Students


California recently passed a bill to include ethnic studies in high school mirrored from ethnic studies in the University of California system. Research has shown that students, particularly young men of color, benefit from ethnic studies resulting in better grades, fewer school days missed and higher graduation rates. Though the fight for diverse representation in curriculum continues in other states, educators in California are hopeful that they are the start to change (Simón, 

screen time

Parents and Kids, Both Plugged In 

It turns out that it's not only your students who spend much of their time on screens. In a new report, “The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens” that examined the screen time for children ages 8-18, as well as their parents, researchers found people with children spend, on average, over 9 hours per day in front of a screen. Another takeaway of the report is how parents perceive social media's effect on children -- does it help, hurt or make no difference? The report helps us understand what's going on because screen time isn't going away (Nadworny, NPR Education). 

Social Justice

Realizing Social Justice is the Heart of Education

The teaching profession requires more than lesson planning and skill-building, great teachers must build relationships, know the school community, and have a mindset for reflection. Steven LaFemina reflects on how he realized much later than he should have, that as a teacher he needed to know his students and their community. He offers a few suggestions for helping teachers come to this understanding sooner and admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, but hopes to work with organizations and peers to support fellow educators (

I Do, We Do, You Do

teaching Channel video

In this video from The Teaching Channel, Lindsay Young shares how she scaffolds instruction to support all students. By using a gradual release of responsibility, Ms. Young sets students up for success. 

Her strategies work in her own classroom of special education and ELL students as well as other classrooms. 

Preparing Students for Higher Standards

What will it take for our schools to support all learners to meet higher standards that prepare them for success in our rapidly changing world? According to a new report by New Leaders—Ambitious Leadership: How Principals Lead Schools to College and Career Readinesswell-prepared, well-supported principals are key. The report shares findings from a study of principals at 10 schools that have made notable progress in helping students meet new college- and career-ready standards. Based on these findings, the report provides recommendations for principals and principal supervisors and is accompanied by six case studies of ambitious leadership in action, an appendix of useful resources, and a policy brief for state and federal officials

students read at lunchtime

Missouri’s First School for Students with Learning Disabilities 

Teacher Chris Holmes of St. Louis, MO., knows what it’s like to work with autistic kids: he has an autistic son. That's why he jumped at the chance to teach at Miriam Academy, a new high school just for kids with learning disabilities. Differences from traditional schools include flexible seating, the absence of clanging bells, social skill development, and an inclusive atmosphere. “Once you take care of the social-emotional aspect of what’s bothering the child, then you can teach,” Holmes said (Taketa, Fletes (photos), St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Training the Brain Helps People with Dyslexia 

Researchers at the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University say training the brain can help people with dyslexia learn to read better. Director Guinevere Eden believes the brain wasn't designed to read. Everyone has to train their brain to do this. "As everyone learns to read, those B's and D's and P's and Q's sort themselves out. For people with dyslexia, it might just take a little bit longer," she says (Emanuel, NPR).  

weather satellite

Teachers Develop Satellite Curriculum

When the weather changes, these students will know all about it. That’s because their teachers, Craig Phillips and Brian Witthun of Jack Young Middle Schools (Baraboo, Wis.), have been teaching them with a curriculum about satellites and the GOES-R weather satellite in particular. Phillips and Witthun were selected as two of six teachers nationwide to learn about the satellite from engineers and satellite designers and develop curriculum to teach and share with other educators. The program is driven by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (Prinsen, WiscNews).

Teachers Advocate for Improved Teacher Prep

24 Indiana teachers working with Teach Plus are ready to share what a year of research has discovered in what is lacking in teacher preparation and what can improve it. Indiana is one of many states dealing with teacher turnover and shortages in certain subject areas/grades. The Teach Plus teachers are sharing their findings with policy makers and many of the recommendations can be utilized in other states (Cavazos, Chalkbeat).  

    Listen Up: Battling Feelings of Isolation

    Whether you believe that teaching is a lonely profession or not, teaching is exhausting and even the strongest teachers can use a pick me up. In this TED Talk playlist hear individuals provide a reminder that when loneliness starts to sink in, there are people that want to pick you up with laughter, the absurd, and maybe even a love letter or two. As teachers prepare for winter break, find time to give these stories a listen ( 

    Resources to Use

    • ExploraVision Competition. Teach younger students the engineering process and help older students prepare for college with ExploraVision. Teachers who coach an ExploraVision team can  incorporate the competition into their science curriculum. Learn about the rules and rewards. Get started now for project entry deadline February 6, 2017.
    • Cultural Exchange. Tune in to your local PBS on Friday, December 16 at 9:00 pm EST for Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba, in which the world-famous violinist performs with the Chamber Orchestra of Havana. ED's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Television Access grant designated accessible media company, Bridge Multimedia, to provide video description for the program. Bridge brought special attention to the Social Studies aspect of the content, highlighting that cultures are dynamic, as demonstrated through their literature, art, and music.
    • Seeking Input. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) released the first full draft of the ISTE Standards for Teachers for public comment. Share your perspective by completing the 15-minute individual survey and sharing it with your networks or host a feedback forum using an ISTE-provided toolkit. Public comment period closes at the end of February 2017.  

    What We Heard from Educators This Week

    listening to teachers

    5. “I go to school every day looking forward to what the kids are going to teach me.” Teacher, Kansas

    4. “Special education gives me no excuses: I have to focus on the child.” Teacher, Virginia

    3. Special education provides students with disabilities the individualized resources and supports they need to be successful throughout their education and beyond. Teacher, Michigan

    2. “ALL students are capable of learning and every child deserves access to quality education.” Teacher, Utah

    1. “Special education ensures that all students have light bulb moments.” Teacher, New York