TEACHING MATTERS -- 18 July 2013

Teaching Matters banner

July 18, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

Michelle Kwan and children at Let's Read, Let's Move

Michelle Kwan and children during Let's Read, Let's Move kickoff event July 10.


Kwan, Kass, and Kline Wow Kids (and Vice Versa)

Last week Arne Duncan and ED kicked off the 2013 summer season of Let's Read, Let's Move featuring three guests, world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan, White House Chef Sam Kass, and Minnesota Congressman John Kline. During the event, the guests read aloud Picky Peggy and Can I Play Too?, answered questions, and played games with children like “Shopping Cart Nutrition Race” and “Make a Salad Relay.” Among the children's questions were, "Does the President eat candy?" and "Do you like spinach?"  Watch a video of highlights. Read the blog. Check out the photos.


RESPECT in States 


TENNESSEE PAY PLAN REWARDS GREAT TEACHING. Tennessee has adopted a new teacher-pay system that differentiates teacher pay not only based on years of experience and advanced degrees, but based on how much their students are learning. Read the story, including teachers' mixed reviews of the system, in EdWeek (Sawchuck and Heitin).


SC GOV. LISTENS TO TEACHERS. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has “met with several dozen teachers from across South Carolina to get their input on education funding reform,” saying that she “appreciates teachers’ candor during Thursday’s closed-door meeting.” Read the story (AP).

NEW YORK OFFERS $60,000 TO STRONG TEACHERS WHO MENTOR OTHERS. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is offering strong math and science teachers an opportunity to apply for a Master Teacher Program. The state will enlist teachers from four regions in the fall to mentor early career educators. Under the program, the selected participants will receive $15,000 a year for four years. Read about it in the Poughkeepsie Journal.


Study Links School Choice to Reduced Crime

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) at the Institute of Education Sciences reviewed Better Schools, Less Crime?, a report indicating a correlation between school choice and crime reduction in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. The study examined the effect of school choice on the criminal activity, academic achievement, and high school graduation of more than 2,000 male middle and high school students in the Charlotte–Mecklenburg school district. The study's author found that the introduction of school choice resulted in better outcomes related to criminal activity, but not academics, for middle and high school males who were at high risk for committing a future crime. The WWC rating indicates that the study meets evidence standards without reservations. Download the review.

Teach Plus Policy Fellows

Teach Plus Policy Fellows meet with Arne Duncan and ED officials.


Assessing the Assessments

Teachers from Teach Plus from around the country met with Arne Duncan and officials at ED to brief them about what they are learning through their research tool, Assessment Advisor. The teachers recommended that schools use a balance of both summative and formative assessments to gauge student learning. "There is a place for both formative and summative assessments in the classroom," said Shelli Shadday, who teaches in Chicago. "It's not a matter of 'either/or." The teachers advised that assessments can work well in schools where teachers share in the decision-making about which tests to use and how to utilize them. This creates a "cohesive testing environment and school ownership" of assessment, according to Andrew Vega, who teaches in Roxbury, Mass. Read a related Boston Globe article (Rocheleau).

Common Core Connections

PARCC ASSESSMENTS MAKING THE GRADE. ED recently released a Race to the Top Technical Review to chart the progress made by the state consortia that received Race to the Top Assessment grant funds. The technical reviewers praised the assessment development of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Highlights:

  • Many of the reviewers found that the items and text passages they saw were generally high quality and aligned to the content standards they were intended to measure.
  • Several reviewers reported that the consortium is using evidence-centered design with fidelity.
  • Multiple reviewers found that test design, items, and scoring rubrics appear likely to provide clear, valid information for students, including students scoring well or poorly. The consortium will need to confirm through research that the test can differentiate well.
  • Reviewers recommended that the consortium ensure that rapid acceleration in item development, which is necessary to meet the consortium’s item development goals, does not lower item quality.

WHAT THE SUP'S SAY. In its first survey of superintendents, the Gallup-Education Week survey found that 58% of respondents believe that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education in their communities and 75% say the shared standards will provide more consistency in educational quality from district to district and state to state.

EVEN DIVIDE ON TESTING FLEXIBILITY. According to an EdWeek article (Klein), states are almost evenly divided on whether they will take ED up on the "offer of extra time to begin using new teacher-evaluation systems to decide which educators to hire, fire, or promote." Read the article.

CCSS AND SPECIAL ED. In a recent op-ed, Math Content Coach and Teaching Ambassador Fellow alum Greg Mullenholz (2011-2012) reflects on the line that he had witnessed in his school between students in mainstream and self-contained special education classes and how that division affected behavior referrals and a stark difference in expectations. With the adoption of CCSS, Mr. Mullenholz suggests that there is no better time to consider the need for inclusion in our schools. He rejects the claim that CCSS is a one-size fits all approach to education that won't work for our special education students, suggesting instead that the learning progressions in CCSS assist teachers in identifying and supporting students' needs. “The CCSS in the hands of an effective educator will prepare our students for college and career.” Read the article


Connecting All Schools to High Speed Internet

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?” –President Obama, June 6, 2013

In this "Ask Arne" video, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown questions Arne about the challenge of connecting all schools to broadband and the President's plan to make it happen called "ConnectED." Read the blog and watch the video.


Ask Arne video about ConnectED

Quote to Note


"Every success story is a village story."

(Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown during one of his final briefings at ED, a conversation about his book The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle.)


Did You Know?

At its annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) adopted several resolutions pertaining to education, including those that support:

• PRESCHOOL and infant programs paid for by revenues generated by a tax increase in the per-pack price of cigarettes.

• COMMON CORE:  full implementation of Common Core State Standards without delay.

• ESEA REAUTHORIZATION PRIORITIES that include states designing accountability systems that collect and report school and district performance data based on student growth in achievement and developing intervention plans for the lowest-performing schools. 

question mark

final TAF briefing with Arne Duncan
TAF News Teaching Ambassador Fellowship


This week ED said goodbye to the 2012-2013 cohort of full time teaching fellows, Cindy Apalinski, Jen Bado-Aleman, Kareen Borders, Dan Brown, and Marciano Gutierrez. Cindy, Jen, Kareen and Marciano are all returning to their classrooms, while Lisa Clarke will stay on at ED for one more year and Dan Brown will serve in a leadership role in an education organization. Before leaving, the Fellows briefed Arne Duncan on the year, including highlights and lessons learned. The Secretary thanked them for their service and for the profound effect they have had on shaping ED policy this year. A new class of Fellows will be sworn in during the first part of August.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• HIGH FLYERS. Nearly three million students from over 30,000 schools have been recognized by the 2013 President's Education Awards Program. Learn more.

MALALA DAY. In her first high-level public appearance since she was targeted and shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' right to an education, 16 year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai addressed the United Nations Youth Assembly. Malala Day isn't her day, she emphatically states, but rather the day of "every woman, every boy, and every girl who has raised their voice for their rights." With support from A World at School initiative, the President of the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Special Envoy on Global Education convened this assembly on July 12 (declared Malala Day), during which 500 young leaders from around the world met to accelerate the goal of getting all children, especially girls, in school and learning by 2015.  Watch Malala's inspiring speech.

• NEW EMERGENCY PLANNING GUIDES AVAILABLE. The White House released guides for developing high-quality emergency operations plans for schools, institutions of higher education (IHEs) and houses of worship. The guides are customized to each type of community, incorporate lessons learned from recent incidents, and respond to the needs and concerns voiced by stakeholders following the recent shootings in Newtown and Oak Creek and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. Download the guides to K-12 Emergency Operations Plans and Institutions of Higher Education.

MADE A DIFFERENCE TODAY? ED recently asked teachers on Twitter and Facebook: How do you know that you've made a difference in the lives of your students? Read some of the rewarding moments shared by teachers.

DISRUPTING THE PINK AISLES. "Little girls are more than just princesses" is the mantra of this GoldieBlox video that makes the case for setting up girls to engage in STEM-focused play. Watch these little powerhouses sing and innovate as they shatter the traditional idea of what girls are supposed to like.

INVESTING IN LEADERSHIP. Josh Klaris, ED's Principal-in-Residence for 2013-2014, recently accompanied Arne to the NAESP conference where he connected with principals. Read about Josh's take-aways on the ED blog.


Work for the Government and Avoid the Gridlock!

Students who are interested in internships with the federal government can gain hands-on experience learning about how federal agencies operate, without going to Washington. D.C. ED is teaming up with the Department of State’s Virtual Student Foreign Service to harness technology and to engage students who are interested in careers in postsecondary education though a virtual e-Internship program. The program, housed in the Department of State, matches student interns with federal agencies to complete projects virtually from college and university campuses in the United States and throughout the world. Learn more.

Virtual Internships logo and art

open book

Recommended Reading

EVERYONE AT THE TABLE: Engaging Teachers in Evaluation Reform. This book (written by Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt, Allison Rizollolo, Sabrina Laine, and Will Friedman) serves as a how-to-guide for all aspects of bringing teachers into conversations about teacher evaluation in a systematic way and what to do once you have them there.

• SUMMER MELT. Not an ice cream story, "summer melt" is a term educators use to describe a struggle for many students of poverty who plan to attend college in the fall but who don't make it there. Often the students come from families who have little experience with all of the preparation that needs to be done even after they have been accepted by a school -- taking placement tests, finding housing, applying for financial aid, submitting immunization records, paying tuition and fees, and so forth. Nationally about 10 to 20 percent of college eligible students melt away, and the problem In the Southwest district (Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico) is even worse: as many as 44 percent of students may melt away. Learn more.

• IMPROVING TEACHERS' CAPACITY WITH DATA. In the Shanker Blog, Matt Di Carlo discusses the work of John Tyler, including his recent analysis of teachers' use of online data in a mid-sized urban district between 2008 and 2010. The data published in Education Finance and Policy looks at teachers' reasons for why they don't spend much time reviewing data. The feedback is helpful to teacher leaders who are interested in improving teachers' use of data to inform their instruction and helping schools provide the supports teachers need. Specifically, teachers "expressed concern that the Benchmark tests lacked some validity because they often tested material the teachers had yet to cover in class." Other impediments included a lack of instructional time to act on information, frustration with the lack of time to re-teach topics and concepts to students that had been identified as in need of re-teaching, lack of training in how to use the data effectively and efficiently, and lack of time for Dashboard-related data analysis.

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

 5. "Every teacher wants to be a great teacher. No one wants to waste their time." (Teacher, Texas)

4. "Too many folks have not read the [Common Core State] Standards. It's not enough to read about them. You have to read the Standards." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

Maryland teachers discuss policy at ED

3. "A lot of administrators went out of teaching because they weren't really good at it." (Principal, Orange County, Calif.)

2. "Common Core is like an amalgamation of every good teaching practice that's out there." (Teacher, Memphis, Tenn.)

1. “Passion alone doesn’t pay the bills. Single teachers [can be] living in poverty.” (Principal, Whiteriver, Ariz.)