Teaching Matters -- December 19, 2012


December 19, 2012  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

This is the final edition of Teaching Matters in 2012. We look forward to serving educators in 2013!


message for Sandy Hook Elementary School

Right Now, Every Town is Newtown

As details emerged about the tragedy at Newtown Conn., teachers and staff at the Department mourned the loss of precious children and the dedicated educators who did everything they could to keep them safe. And we are not alone. View video messages about the tragedy from Arne Duncan and President Obama, or review some of the resources and articles below. Read the article about the Secretary's trip. In EdWeek, Nirvi Shah describes how the events in Connecticut have affected schools across the country.

· Helping Youth and Children Recover from Traumatic Events is a compilation of resources from the Department of Education, other federal agencies, and counseling experts in the field.

· Schools and districts that review safety procedures may find this to be a helpful resource: Creating and Updating School Emergency Management Plans.

· On the American Federation of Teachers' Share My Lesson site, find links that help children cope with traumatic events.

· Teacher Kylene Beers offers a perspective on the job of being a teacher after tragedy strikes in this inspiring blog article, On Monday.

Teaching Ambassador Fellows have been hosting conversations about the future of teaching and school leadership with educators across the country. For the last two weeks, the Fellows have been touring the Southwest, holding more than 23 events in urban areas, small towns, and on Native American reservations.

Border States Talk Education with TAFs

teacher conversation in the Southwest
National Conversation about Teaching

A team of five Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAFs) from the U.S. Department of Education recently toured schools in Arizona and New Mexico and held conversations with educators and other stakeholders to learn more about their successes and challenges. Kareen Borders attributed the tour’s success to the variety of schools they visited and the number of stakeholders with whom they communicated. From Native American schools, urban areas, and border towns, "People were so hungry to be heard," she said

Throughout their tour, the Fellows spoke with teachers, parents, principals, paraprofessionals such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers, and board members who want to be part of the transformation of teaching and leading in America's schools. "They kept saying, 'We're here and we are ready,'" Borders explained. View a short video reaction from the principal of one school they visited. 

Struggling Schools Making Gains

Despite the difficulties that can cause a school to be identified as "under performing" or "in need of improvement," a number of School Improvement Grant awardees are making significant progress. Read about schools in Ohio and Washington that are implementing school turnaround models and making great gains. 

"light a candle for peace, light a candle for love"

"Light a candle for peace, light a candle for love," students at on United Nations Day celebrate their individual cultures.

International School in Georgia Provides Refuge

Three fifth grade students fron Tanzania, Myanmar, and Iran are profiled in this inspirational CNN video. They now attend International Community School in Decatur, Ga., a school that has become a refuge for students fleeing violence or seeking better lives in the U.S. At the International School, they learn without being separated from their other American classmates. The K-5 school serves 270 students from more than 30 countries.

Office for Civil Rights

Did You Know?

Over the last four years (FY 2009–12), OCR has received 28,971 complaints—more than in any previous four-year period in its history, and representing a 24 percent increase over the previous four-year period. Over half of them addressed disability issues, about a quarter pertained to Title VI concerns, and the remaining addressed sex and age discrimination, 14 percent and 6 percent respectively.

The mission of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is to "ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights." Read OCR's 2009-2012 report Helping to Ensure Equal Access to Education.

question mark

"Steal These Tools"

Achieve the Core

A wonderful cache of free professional development modules for the Common Core State Standards can be found at achievethecore.org. Resources include PowerPoint presentations (with and without notes), facilitator's guides, hands-on activities, and videos. There are also research studies, articles, and testimonials from teachers. 

probability earnings with and without college

Tools for Students


A CASE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION. From the ED.gov blog, this article outlines benefits of students continuing their education after high school. Let students read the fact sheet.


YOUNG ARTISTS NEEDED. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with other federal agencies, is seeking applications from after-school and out-of-school programs for the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. Twelve applicants will receive $10,000. The deadline for applications is February 4, 2013.  

STUFF FROM THE SMITHSONIAN. Digital badges for students offer an interdisciplinary experience for students. A Preview of Resources provides teachers with fresh materials for the classroom through a webinar Monday, Jan. 7 from 4:00-4:50 PM EST. On Thursday, Jan. 10, teachers can participate in three 50-minute live sessions with Smithsonian experts about teaching the Presidential Inauguration at 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM EST.

Duncan Tours NY Schools Affected by Sandy

Secretary Duncan toured schools in Staten Island, N.Y. last week to see and hear about the experiences of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. NY1 reported, "Student after student after student broke down in tears while telling Education Secretary Arne Duncan their stories of what happened during Hurricane Sandy and how their lives have been since." During his visit, Arne quietly asked questions, listened, and pledged support. Duncan said, “This is not a time, quite frankly, when I’m focused on exams. It's about, how can we help kids — their physical, their emotional, their psychological needs?”

Arne Duncan with school children affected by Sandy

The Cost of Testing

The New Math

If states eliminated all testing expenses, could they dramatically increase teachers' salaries or lower student-teacher ratios? Not according to a Brown Center report. Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution has analyzed the data and found, "[I]f states were to eliminate testing entirely, the $1.7 billion saved could only increase teacher salaries by one percent or decrease pupil-teacher ratios by 0.1 students." Read his article posted Dec. 13 on Huffington Post.

sticky note

Teachers' Notes

NEWS FLASH. A new study shows that absenteeism in schools leads to lower test scores-- research that any teacher could have concluded on their own. Read the EdWeek story about the NAEP data. 

CLASSIC READS. United Kingdom English teacher Sally Law shares 10 classic novels and plays she loves to teach. One new favorite on the list is Athol Fugard's Tsotsi. Read her recommendations from the Guardian's Teacher Network Blog.

  • CORE PRINCIPLES FOR PRINCIPALS. Learning Forward recently published a brief about the principal's critical role in implementing the Common Core State Standrads, Meet the Promise of Content Standards: The Principal. The briefing, taken from interaction with a number of principals, focuses on five essential principal practices associated with increasing student achievement.
  • LINKS FOR LESSONS. Teachers can find links to free materials that are linked to current and historical events in our nation's calendar at the top of ED's Strengthening Teachers page. The page offers free resources for a number of subject areas and age groups from governmental agencies. The links are posted approximately two weeks before they might be used in the classroom. Coming for January: the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan.1, 1863), the birth of Mickey Mouse (Jan. 13, 1930), the first insulin injection (Jan. 23, 1922), and more. Get updates from Twitter when the content changes.
  • WINTER PLANNING FOR THE SPRING SCHOOL GARDEN. EdWeb.net is offering a free webinar for educators on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 at 4pm ET. The speakers will provide advice for working on your budget and funding; lining up volunteers for spring work days; and ordering seeds and starts. They also offer pointers on mapping out the schedule if many classes are sharing one space; setting up a credit line at the local nursery; making sure the administration's interests are represented in the design; and getting students involved in their school garden right away. Register here for the webinar.
  • SUPPORTING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS. The American Institutes for Research have produced a Pocket Guide for states that have received waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The guide includes policies and practices that improve instruction for English Language Learners. 
  • SCHOOL CHOICE. The Brookings Institution released its Education Choice and Competition Index. The index grades more than 100 cities and large suburbs on the policies governing choice and availability of education options, including magnet schools, charters and virtual education.
  • EVALUATING SPECIAL EDUCATORS. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) recently released a report about how to evaluate special education teachers. The CEC  recommends that special education teachers should  be evaluated and students' academic performance should be part of a teacher's evaluation. Read the CEC's position on teacher evaluation. Read an EdWeek article about the CEC position paper (Heitin).

States Set to Take on Teacher Prep

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced this week that the education chiefs of 25 states have agreed to make changes to improve teacher preparation programs. Plans include implementing a rigorous, performance-based system for evaluating pre-service teachers. Peruse the report, Our Responsibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession. Read the EdWeek article to see if your state has made the promise (Sawchuck).

open book

Recommended Reading

  • TRADE UP. Read this CNN blog written by Boston teacher and math coach Aadina Balti, who says she would trade tenure for better teaching.
  • FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. This report, published by Public Agenda, profiles high poverty schools in Ohio that have achieved academic success. Key attributes and practices of teachers and principals in successful schools of high poverty are included. The report also profiles nine specific schools, two of which are Blue Ribbon Schools.   

Top 5 Teacher Quotes


Wisdom from educators heard by ED


5. “We can’t sustain the changes we need if our teachers just think we are looking over their shoulders.” (Principal, Blue Ribbon School)


4. There is no other profession, career, or job that did not first require a teacher." (Science Specialist, Chandler, Ariz.)

TAF roundtable in the Southwest

3. "Turn to page 15 in the RESPECT document. We LIKE this. We like this a lot. My nephew is a welder and did an apprenticeship and a residency and is now a welder. Why don't we do this with teaching? Just because someone has a teaching degree doesn't mean that they are a master teacher. It's so much more than that. We need a paradigm shift. We have to change the perception of the state (about teaching.)" (Teacher, Ariz.)

2. “The day of principals being in their offices is over. We need to be out there, standing shoulder to shoulder with teachers to get this done.” (Principal, Fairfield, Conn.)

1. "Common Core is a game changer." (Teacher, Phoenix, Ariz.)