TEACHING MATTERS -- September 5, 2013

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September 5, 2013  |  Sign up to receive Teaching Matters

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Top 9 Things Every College Freshman Needs To Know

Arne Duncan posted this list on BuzzFeed, and it is getting some attention. Warning: It's funny, but the tips read a little like something your parents (or a government official) would say.


ED Seeks Equitable Distribution of Teachers

Until Congress acts to reauthorize NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education has offered states a two-year extension of their NCLB waivers. To qualify, they must reaffirm their commitment to college- and career-ready standards and evaluations and to implementing differentiated accountability systems that focus on closing achievement gaps. They must also make progress on teacher distribution so that by October 2015, they use teacher-evaluation data to ensure that the poorest students are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers. Schools must also improve how they use Title II funds for professional development in order to effectively help teachers to prepare students for college and careers. Learn more. Read the letter for chief state school officers.


ED Bus Tour Heads to Southwest

For live, up-to-the-minute updates from the road, follow the “Strong Start, Bright Future” tour on Twitter using the hashtag #edtour13, or see the department’s bus tour page. To receive media advisories, press releases, notifications about postings to the blog, and other special updates during the tour, subscribe to the department’s Strong Start, Bright Future e-mail updates. Read the media advisory. Read about the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Back-to-School Texas Tour.

WOLF Archery

Students line up for archery class, one of the many outdoor activities included in the program at Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility in Springfield, Mo.


Inside Out

Imagine a school that allows students to canoe down a river, hold a bird of prey, and rappel down a cliff wall, among numerous other fun and exciting outdoor activities, for an entire school year. This one-of-a-kind opportunity is available through the W.O.L.F. (Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility) program, the product of a successful public-private partnership between Springfield, Mo. public schools, Bass Pro Shops, and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum. And the best part about it is it’s free.

The yearlong school is open to 46 fifth-graders (23 boys and 23 girls) who are chosen from throughout the district by lottery. They come from an economically and culturally diverse population of students and include children from rural, urban, Title I, and high-need schools. It is not a gifted program and there are no academic requirements for acceptance. Check out their Facebook page. Learn more.


CAEP Finalizes Standards

Last week the Board of Directors of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) adopted the next generation of accreditation standards for educator preparation. The standards seek to ensure that accredited providers of teacher preparation programs are classroom-ready and demonstrably raise learning for all students. Now that the standards have been adopted formally, CAEP members are developing guidance for providers of educator preparation.

The Income-Education Link

“It’s not the case that the education that children from low-income families are getting is worse than it was 40 years ago, it’s rather that the skills that are needed to earn a decent living have changed.”

(University economist Richard Marnane in Sarah Garland's informative piece in the Hechinger Report, Growing income achievement gap overshadows race. Garland's article examines the complex relationship between social class and educational achievement.)

Quote to Note

Common Core Connections

LITERACY. Check out the Implementing Common Core Standards for Literacy multimedia post on the VIVA Teachers Blog.

NOT ABOUT "SUMMERS OFF." Seventh grade language arts teacher Katelyn Stukenberg (Charlotte, N.C.) redefines summer break and uses her time to advocate for the Common Core, teacher leadership, and her students. Read her Eduwonk blog.


Did You Know?

ED's Institute of Education's What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) offers back-to-school teaching tips. Learn how WWC practice guides turn research into action steps to try in your classroom, compare research on interventions using Find What Works, visit Doing What Works for tips on tough behavioral issues, and meet WWC literacy expert Tim Shanahan.

question mark

Teachers' Salaries--the New Math

From an AP article in the NYTimes covering highlights of national education statistics recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

students releasing ducks in wetland

Students at Purdy Elementary, in Fort Atkinson School District, release the ducklings hatched in the school courtyard at their constructed boardwalk and wetland.


Green with Benefits

What started out as a rewards program for schools who are thinking and "doing green" has unfolded into layers of unintended positive benefits for the schools and communities involved. Sue Swenson, deputy assistant secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at ED, reflects on how students with special needs benefit specifically at some of the innovative Green Ribbon School (ED-GRS) honorees in the Midwest. She points out that ED-GRS is about facilities; considerations in facilities naturally lends itself to accessibility, "whether that means level access for a wheelchair, or natural daylight for students who are hyper-aware of the 'buzz' made by fluorescent lights."  She also highlights Westlawn Elementary School in Cedarburg, where she spoke with one special education teacher who "brought stressed kids from Milwaukee’s inner-city into the woods for a hike and saw their fear and worry melt away as their outdoor competence grew." Read the ED blog


What Does it Take to Teach

On September 6, at 8:00 pm ET, tune in to CBS to watch Teach, a new documentary from Academy Award director Davis Guggenheim that attempts to answer the question, "What does it take to be a teacher?" Watch the trailer. Sign up to be a teach ambassador to help recruit the next generation of teachers. Check out the TEACH campaign.

still from Analysis video


Analysis: Learning to Think

Teaching students how to think and analyze are important goals of today's teacher in every grade and every subject. In this Teaching Channel video, see how one high school English teacher uses a two-day lesson about advertising to get students to analyze texts and develop critical ways of thinking. Check out the Teaching Channel's new "Ask the Experts" feature. During September on the site, members of the two Common Core consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) will come together to answer educators' questions about the Common Core.

Teachers' Notes

• ATTENDANCE AWARENESS MONTH. September is Attendance Awareness Month and your school can get involved! Attendance Works, a nonprofit promoting the importance of attendance in student learning, has a Community Action Map where you can post what your school is doing and learn from others as well!

sticky notepad

• PROMISING PRACTICES. Looking for examples of professional development that work? Education Resource Strategies highlights four case studies of promising practices in professional growth and support that have raised outcomes for students. Each case study includes the mission, particular approach, program costs, lessons learned, and next steps. Case studies include Achievement First, Duval County Public Schools/Agile Mind, Orchard Gardens Pilot School/Teach Plus, and Aspire Public Schools

COLLECTIVE POWER. Read this inspiring Eduwonk blog about how parents in Baltimore came together to demand action and won.

• PAYING IT FORWARD. In this Huffington Post blog, Lydia Dobyns suggests that the best way that educators can pay it forward and help those students who "don't fit easily into the categories we've created" and shut down, is by modeling a passion for learning.

• WHAT FAMILIES SAY. Two reports have been released by the National Center for Education Statistics based on the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012. One report - Early Childhood Program Participation - presents findings on children’s participation in relative care, non-relative care, and center-based care arrangements, as well as parents' reasons for choosing care, the most important factors when choosing a care arrangement, and parents’ participation in various learning activities with their children. The other report - Parent and Family Engagement in Education - considers students in public schools, private schools, and home schools and looks at various aspects of parent involvement in education, such as help with homework, family activities, and parent involvement at school.


Duty Calls

As many teachers have done, Jon Alfuth, in his second year of teaching, simply accepted the conditions dictated to him regarding how he teaches, what he teaches, and when, as "unchangeable reality." He felt constrained and struggled to improve his practice. But then he met another teacher who changed his understanding of "what it means to be a truly transformational educator." In this blog, Alfuth argues that "each and every educator should consider it their duty not only to teach their children but to advocate for changes to the system so we can do our best for our students each and every day."


Cutting School

The American Association of School Administrators released a survey about the effects of sequestration on districts and schools. The data, from 541 respondents from 48 states, suggests that districts are dealing with the cuts by slicing professional development (59 percent of districts), eliminating personnel (53 percent), increasing class size (48 percent), and deferring technology purchases (46 percent). Read the EDWeek blog.

open book

Recommended Reading

• REDUCING THE "GUESSWORK." In the NYTimes, Gina Kolata profiles the changing nature of education research in Guesses and Hype Give Way to Data in Study of Education. She highlights studies conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences that have enlightened the field about what works and what doesn't. For example, "[O]ne conclusion from the new research is that the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as profoundly as teachers themselves."

• Growing Schools: A teacher and librarian from Petaluna, Calif. brought us Librarians as Professional Developers (Edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro and Violet H. Harada). We like this book because at a time when rapidly evolving technology has compelled us to rethink many approaches to teaching and learning, this book calls on the field of School Librarianship to rethink the role of the School Librarian to include that of Professional Developer. This artfully constructed collection of essays walks the reader through what it takes to begin thinking beyond traditional and contemporary roles of the school librarian as book keeper and media specialist. The writers offer school librarians a primer on how to assume a role of professional developer instead

If you have questions or comments about Teaching Matters, please contact ED's Teacher Liaison at Laurie.Calvert@ed.gov.

student profile

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from Educators Heard by ED

5. Advice to a parent dealing with bullying by taking her child out of school: "I tell many parents who consider taking their children out of schools, bullying exists everywhere. It exists within public school districts, private schools, and even online (cyber-bullying). The answer is not to pull your child out of the school district, but to hold the district more accountable." (Tracy on the blog)

4. “We have to engage in the honest conversations about the impact poverty has on our children and build systems that help us take care of our students’ needs.” (Teacher, S.D.)

3. “Teachers cannot work any harder than they already are.” (Principal, Millville, N.J.)

2. "Before [the Common Core] the concept of increased rigor was so abstract. Now teachers are figuring out what those deeper levels of knowledge look like." (Teacher, Pa.)

1. "Federal funding of education needs to be used like a Tomahawk Missile--it needs to zero in on the failed communities around the failed schools because there are no local government entities to depend on." (James, on the blog)