TEACHING MATTERS - April 18, 2013


April 18, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Lee High School


Mantras Turn Around Texas School: "No Excuses. Never Give Up."

Three years ago, Lee High School in Houston, Texas was under-performing and in danger of closing. Changing course, Lee's leadership adopted an "Apollo 20" program and financed reforms through a School Improvement Grant (SIG) from ED. Now this large urban school is a model for turnaround success, reducing their student dropout rate by more than half, from 14% to 6%. Find out why students say they are "setting higher goals" for themselves. Watch their video to discover what it took to turn around this large high school (6:49 minutes). Read about 13 states recently awarded SIG funds from ED. 


Extending the Reach of Great Teachers -- Within Budget!

Public Impact produced this video that introduces scheduling models that schools can use to pay teachers up to 40 percent more, within budget.

still from Public Impact video

The video argues that excellent teachers close achievement gaps and provides strategies to reach more students with them. Watch the video (4:06 minutes).

Clip of Arne Duncan talking about Native Amercians and English language learners


Supporting Native American Students

In this video, Secretary Duncan describes how schools serving Native American students identified as English Language Learners can utilize the Department's Title III funding to support the study of Native American languages. The key, according to Duncan, is to ensure that the primary outcome is improving English proficiency. Watch the video to learn more.


Teacher Edu-tunity!

Hope Street Group is accepting applications for their new Kentucky State Teacher Fellowship. The Kentucky Fellowship will work to transform the teaching profession and improve outcomes for children in the Bluegrass State. Teachers will earn a stipend and receive additional leadership training in policy, decision-making, media appearances, writing, and recruitment. These teachers will have opportunities to represent their peers with policymakers and influence discussions. Applications are being accepted until Wednesday, May 8. Learn more. 

Kentucky poster

Green Ribbon Schools

Watch Live Announcement of Award Winners

At 10:30 EDT on Earth Day (April 22), ED will broadcast the announcement of the 2013 U.S. Department of Education-Green Ribbon Schools Award winners live on its USTREAM channel. At the same time, ED will post all nomination packages and release a highlights document. The cohort being honored will include the first District Sustainability Award winners. Learn more. Watch the announcement.

Celebrate Environmental Education Week 

Educators and students can celebrate National Environmental Education Week, which will spotlight ways technology can enhance environmental learning. Watch Arne's public service announcement. Read more.

Quote to Note


"People are living in fear. Fear of what? I'm afraid of kids not learning... The key is to make sure the tests reflect what we think kids should be learning."

(CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich, during a panel discussion on the Hill during the release Remodeling Literacy Learning, hosted by the National Center for Literacy Education April 3. Minnich was responding to a question by Gary Ratner, of Citizens for Effective Schools, about the use of testing and test scores.)

Common Core Connections

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS (CCSS) AND THE BRAIN. From 3:30-4:30 (EDT) on Tuesday, April 23, the Learning Enhancement Corporation will offer a free webinar about the connections between the CCSS and brain research. The webinar is part of their Neuroscience in Education series. Noting that the CCSS "will actually require significant instructional shifts, due to the higher levels of rigor they reflect," the presenters seek to help guide educators' approach to support higher levels of cognitive interaction and mastery across disciplines. Learn more.

Early Learning Stats

Nationwide, fewer than 3 in 10 four-year olds today are enrolled in high-quality preschool programs.

On average, children from low-income families start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in language development and pre-reading skills.

(Arne Duncan's April 15 remarks at the Delaware Early Childhood Council's launch of Delaware's New Early Childhood Strategic Plan. Read the speech. Read about ED's plans to launch a new Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.)

the New Math

girl raising her hand


Get RESPECT Updates

Sign up to get updates on the RESPECT Project and learn about opportunities for educators to lead the transformation of their profession. Stay tuned for an update next week!


Did You Know?

The President is requesting $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of $3.1 billion -- or 4.5% -- over the Fiscal Year 2013 pre-sequester level. 

"We must continue to build on the reforms already transforming classrooms across the country," Secretary Duncan said. "Strategic investments in our educational system will not only provide more opportunities for millions of Americans, but they will also strengthen our nation's workforce." Read more.

question mark

Resources from the School Turnaround Learning Community

NEBRASKA SCHOOL OFFICIALS CREDIT SIG. Despite attending a school where 90% of the 300 students live in poverty and where students move in and out of the district at triple the state rate, students at Walthill Public Schools are beating the odds -- with help from the federal government. Read about how the district dramatically improved reading scores in this story from the Lincoln Journal Star (Reist).

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

RECOGNIZING HIGH FLYERS. Nominations are open through July 1 for the Secretary of Transportation’s Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) Award, recognizing innovative scientific and engineering concepts by high school, college, and graduate students that will have a significant impact on the future of aviation or aerospace. Learn more.

FOR YOUNG ARTISTS. The American Academy of Pediatrics hosts an annual children's art contest for grades 3-12 (categories broken up into 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). First and second place winners in each category can win $500 or $250, respectively, with a matching amount for their school. First place winners in each category will be flown to the annual conference in Orlando, FL for the awards presentation. This year's theme is "A World Free from Tobacco and Secondhand Smoke." Learn more.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• POETRY KICK. Literature teachers have long known that "April is the cruelest month." During National Poetry Month, other educators may want to consider using poetry to hook students who may be otherwise apathetic about school. To this end, the Poetry Foundation has a number of resources. There's a terrific piece by Caroline Kennedy on why she learns poems by heart, as well as a teachers' guide and Common Core learning poems.

• TEACHER QUALITY, INTERNATIONALLY SPEAKING. Read about the recent international exchange of ideas between the U.S. and China on improving teacher quality and educational opportunity for all students.

• ECONOMIC LITERACY. On April 24, in a live webcast at 11:00 a.m. EDT, the National Assessment Governing Board will release the results of a new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report on economics. The report will explore how twelfth-grade students’ economic literacy has progressed during a period of global financial change and how well students know and apply the concepts of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and international trade in real world contexts. Learn more.

• NATIONAL PARK WEEK - APRIL 20-28. Did you know that each year in April, America celebrates National Park Week to learn and give back in the Nation’s nearly 400 National Parks coast-to-coast? National Park Week is a chance for educators to get active and experience the powerful content knowledge, values, and skills embodied by our Nation’s remarkable cultural, natural, and recreational heritage — all for FREE! Read the ED blog.

open book

Recommended Reading

• WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT TEACHING TEACHERS. This interesting piece by Alison Hilsabeck, dean of the National College of Education at National Louis University in Chicago, Ill., provides links to current research on preparing teachers for the classroom. Read the article.

If you have comments or questions about Teaching Matters, please send an email to ED's Teacher Liaison: Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov

teachers speaking with Arne Duncan

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. "I am an irreplaceable teacher." (Elementary Teacher, Memphis, Tenn.)

 4. "What really pushed me out of the classroom was the apathy and being in a place where I was not valued. I went looking for that somewhere else." (Teacher, Durham, N.H.)

3. "The teaching profession should be exclusive." (Teacher, Clarksdale, Miss.)

2. "A reorganized classroom begins and ends with teaching and learning." (Education Professor, Univ. of N.H.)

1. "Please think of our future generations while making these decisions [about cutting education funding]. Educators have enough problems to deal without having to dig deeper into their personal accounts to educate our children." (Elizabeth, on the blog)