THE TEACHERS EDITION -- March 27, 2014

The Teachers Edition

March 27, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

still from the character video

"Everybody is a star. They just need to learn how to shine," Gabriel Angelo tells viewers. 


Character Counts

Check out this eight-minute "cloud film" that offers a fresh approach to the science of character and the role character plays in academic achievement, success and happiness. The video was released on Character Day, March 20.

Drawing on the recent work of Carol Dweck and Paul Tough, among others, the teachable video offers both inspiration and specific strategies learners can use to develop their character in meaningful ways. The narrator invites students to identify their strengths and to focus their energy on maximizing them to improve themselves and their community. "Character strengths can be learned, practiced and cultivated," she says. Watch the video produced by Let It Ripple, Mobile Films for Global Change.

Inspire the Next Poet Laureate


Inspire the Next Poet Laureate

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets throughout the country join to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events. Here are some helpful links.

 Edutopia offers a number of resources, including perspectives on how to teach poetry, classroom activities, and inspirational videos. 

• At the American Academy of Poets, educators can sign up to get a free poster and check out other resources celebrating the event, including 30 ways to celebrate poetry.

The National Poetry Foundation houses many helpful tools online, including Poetry Magazine, monthly podcasts (try "Without the Blues There Would Be No Jazz"), poetry tours of cities, information about how your class can participate in the national poetry contest, Poetry Out Loud, and a browser to search poets and poetry by genre.  

The Library of Congress offers Poetry 180, a poem a day for American high school students. 


Troubling Disparities Persist

• Access to preschoolAbout 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is usually part time. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.

• Access to college counselors: one in five high schools lacks a school counselor; in Florida and Minnesota, more than two in five students do not have access to this important resource.

the New Math

Access to advanced coursework: less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English language learner students (65%) also have less access to the full range of courses.

• Suspension of preschool children: Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once.

From the first comprehensive look at civil rights data in nearly 15 years, released last week by ED's Office for Civil Rights. The data released include information from all 97,000 of the nation's public schools and its 16,500 school districts—representing 49 million students. Learn more. Dig into the details of the report. Snapshots for these data collection topics are also available: discipline, restraint & seclusion; teacher equity; college and career readiness; early learning

Listen to a March 21 discussion of "zero tolerance" policies among Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Tisha Edwards, Baltimore City Schools interim chief executive officer, and Robert Runcie, Broward County Public Schools superintendent. They weigh in on the effects of zero-tolerance punishment for non- violent behavior, racial disparities in school discipline, and creating a positive school climate on Jane Williams's program “Bloomberg EDU."

Common Core Connections

AT-A-GLANCE SUMMARIES OF SIX ASSESSMENT CONSORTIA. The K-12 Center at ETS provides quick summaries of the six Common Core assessment consortia, including the two Comprehensive Assessment Consortia, two Alternate Assessment Consortia, and two English Language Proficiency Assessment Consortia.

WHY THE STANDARDS WORK. Washington Teacher of the Year and English learner specialist Katie Brown writes that she likes the Common Core standards precisely because they do not tell her what or how to teach. "I determine that in my classroom as my 80,000 teaching colleagues in Washington state do in theirs." Instead, says Brown, "The standards have finally caught up with what many of us have been trying to do for a long time: moving away from rote memorization and isolated skills and returning to creativity and in-depth learning." Read more (Seattle Times). 

WHAT'S THE USE? In this blog article, Char Shryock, director of curriculum for Bay Village (Ohio) City, writes about the purpose of testing. "We need to remember," writes Shryock, "that assessments are really just tools for collecting evidence. Once we determine the best tool, we can then focus on what lessons or units we will need to put in place to help our students get to the point that they can show us the evidence we are looking for." Read more.

KHAN ACADEMY GOES CORE. Benjamin Herold reports that the Khan Academy's free website has released resources aligned to the Common Core math standards. Learn more (EdWeek).


The Power of Teacher Leadership and Hybrid Roles 

REASONS TO HOPE. Arkansas teacher Justin Minkel offers thoughts on the Teach to Lead (T2L) initiative and reasons teachers should be encouraged by Duncan's T2L announcement at the Teaching and Learning Conference earlier this month. "If you want to know what someone truly believes, don't listen to what they say," Minkel advises. "Look at their actions." Read more (EdWeek). 

Individuals and organizations can sign up through the NBPTS to get information and participate in the T2L initiative. 

IF YOU INVOLVE THEM, TEACHERS WILL UNDERSTAND. High school Spanish teacher and teacher-in-residence Chris Polous advises states and districts about the importance of involving educators in improvements to education rather than asking them to implement changes. Read his blog (Great Teachers and Leaders at AIR).

HOW TO TEACH 800 MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. Former teacher and current education writer Christina Quattrocchi describes a strategy used by Romain Bertrand to "keep the best teaching talent closest to the classroom." Bertrand serves a hybrid role at Ranson IB Middle School (Charlotte, N.C.), alternating between coaching and instructing students. Read her report (edSurge).

letters to ED


"I teach because I care"

We recently received this message from a teacher who was able to take advantage of loan forgiveness. 

"Please pass this along to whom it may concern or apply to. I do not have a question...but rather a need to thank the department of education for their generosity. 

"I recently applied for the teacher loan forgiveness program and on Monday found out that all of my loans...$15,000+ were forgiven. It was a tremendous blessing to say the least. My wife and I are both teachers and love what we do. However, with two small children we have difficulties making ends meet. We know full well that teaching is not a lucrative profession...which I think there is something wrong with...but we do it still because we believe in the value of an education. 

"For us this program has saved us a lot of money in the years to come and I/we are extremely grateful for it. I felt I needed to say thank you to those who have provided this blessing. I teach because I care and I know I can make a huge difference in our children...our future. I thank you for what you do on your end and pray that you will continue to support education and the teachers who struggle every day to positively influence our youth."

Find out more about loan forgiveness for teachers. 


Making the Transition 

to Project Based Learning

Teachers may be interested in this article that profiles how teachers at Sammamish High School (Wash.) bring real-world problems into the classroom to maximize students' interest. Teachers and administrators have collaborated and redesigned 30 courses to create engaging and relevant projects that prepare students for college and careers. “Turning the school inside out,” is how Suzanne Reeve, a Sammamish High teacher leader, describes their work.

Schools Worth Watching

Screen shot from video

Ms. Langlois dissects vocabulary with her class after her students have finished their lesson unit to extend their understanding of complex text.


Extending Understanding and Vocabulary Development

In this Teaching Channel video, teacher Katie Langlois from Morey Middle School (Denver, Colo.) demonstrates the benefits of doing vocabulary development after completing various activities around a complex text to make sure English language learners have crafted workable definitions of key terms. 

When Langlois teaches 7th grade language arts, she links vocabulary lessons thematically to what students are reading. In this lesson, the vocabulary comes from the Gettysburg Address, and students work in groups to unveil clues that build vocabulary their skills. Watch the video.

P Chat

Principal Chat

DEVELOPING EVERY TEACHER. America Achieves and New Leaders have issued materials that help principals with their most important role: developing and supporting teachers in their schools. 

Check out a series of videos that feature principals who ensure that their teachers routinely reflect on their practice, receive meaningful feedback, and connect student learning to their own practices. There is also a policy recommendation for school leaders seeking to support principals in this work.

A GOOD TURNAROUND PRINCIPAL IS HARD TO FIND. Lesli Maxwell reports about a growing shortage of principals to lead under-performing schools and ED's admission that it "may not have zeroed in enough on the school leadership piece of the turnaround puzzle." Read more (EdWeek).

WEBINAR: WHEN OLDER KIDS CAN'T READ. A free webinar will delve into new research about literacy, including comprehension instruction that enables poor readers to delve into high-quality texts. The webinar features leading literacy expert, Dr. Louisa Moats, and it will take place on Thursday, April 3 from 11:00 a.m .- 12:00 p.m. ET/8:00-9:00 a.m. PT. Get more information and register.

"Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning."

(National Board Certified Teacher Kim Manning Ursetta during a panel discussion with other teachers and Arne Duncan at the inaugural Teaching and Learning Conference earlier this month. Ursetta was describing her experience that kids learn by doing rather than by listening to a lecture. )

Quote to Note

EMILY DAVIS (Washington Fellow 2013) and JOSH KLARIS (Principal-in-Residence 2013) held discussions with teachers and principals in Reading, Mass. about the teaching profession, the RESPECT initiative, and their views about progress being made in their state and district. Learn more

TAF News

orchestra class and teacher

(Left: Leo Park challenges his students at Northside Preparatory High School to use music to improve the community.)


Making Music Matter

In a time when economic hardship has caused schools to sacrifice arts funding, the story of a music teacher and his students is music to our ears. 

Leo Park teaches at Northside College Preparatory High School (Chicago, Ill.), where he has not only grown the school's orchestra program from 30 students to 150 (and expanded it to include four levels of orchestra), but he has also created a culture of citizen musicianship.

Inspired by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's (CSO) Citizen Musician Initiative, Mr. Park started the Northside chapter of the Tri M Music Honor Society, a group that challenges academically strong students to conduct a service-learning project by creating and sharing art to improve the community. 

Not only does Park expect his students to use their art to benefit others, he lives by example, working to start a non-profit organization, Chi-City Makers. This organization's mission is to support music educators by sustaining and enhancing musical experiences and explorations for Chicago youth. Read the CSO article on Park in honor of Music in Our Schools Month. Check out lesson plans recommended by the NEA for Music in Our Schools Month.



In the Weeds

RACE TO THE TOP REPORT CARDS. On the fourth anniversary of Race to the Top (RTT), ED released report cards for the 12 states that won grants in the first two phases of the competition. Educators can download an overview and peruse detailed reports by state. Learn more. Read Five Ways Race to the Top Supports Teachers and Students

The Center for American Progress released a report analyzing state progress from Race to the Top, which reached three conclusions:

1. Many of the lowest-performing schools in RTT states have achieved impressive results in a short period of time. 

2. Four RTT states are at or near full implementation of their educator evaluation systems, and all other states are in the process of implementing their systems. Implementing new, more rigorous educator evaluation systems is technical and arduous work. It is a time-consuming effort that requires significant collaboration from state and district leaders, school administrators, and teachers. It is noteworthy that six states have evaluation systems in full implementation at the four-year mark.

3. All RTT states have adopted college- and career-ready standards and are making progress toward implementation of assessments aligned with those standards. 

BETTER EDUCATOR PREP. The New America Foundation has released a report about what federal policy can do to promote better preparation for teachers and school leaders. The report examines problems with states' oversight of preparation programs, stating, "A majority of states have shown little commitment to raising the quality of educator preparation through policy or practice. Some have even disregarded their own rules to allow programs of inadequate quality to continue to prepare educators." Read the report.

Read about a new Maryland professional development program and certification has current and aspiring teachers learning to integrate lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) into their elementary school classrooms. Check out how Delaware is making big changes in teacher preparation to raise the bar for the profession and prepare new educators with more hands-on experiences and coaching 

Dr. Biden with teachers in Scranton

Dr. Biden dropped by John G. Whittier Elementary School (Scranton, Penn.) to talk with teachers.

First Listener

Dr. Jill Biden has been visiting with schools around the country to talk with teachers about their experiences. When not working in an official capacity as Second Lady of the United States, Biden teaches English at a local community college in Virginia. 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

TEACHING CULTURAL RELEVANCE DURING TEACHER PREP. In this blog, Marvin Lynn makes the case that "culturally relevant pedagogy and multicultural education must be more than a feel-good or obligatory addition to teacher preparation." Instead, cultural competence should be woven throughout pre-service teacher preparation. Lynn argues that edTPA, a Stanford developed performance-based assessment for new teachers, can be part of the solution. Learn why (Diverse Issues in Higher Education).  

• SWEET INSPIRATION. Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching Erin Dukeshire describes how she came to study and love science and explains how her current work inspires a new generation of girls to share her passion. Read her blog

IS SINGLE SEX SCHOOLING EFFECTIVE? In this article, Christine Gross-Loh explores the challenges of conducting research on single-sex schooling, despite having a long history in American education. Read more (Atlantic).

 FREE E-BOOK FOR TEACHERS. The National Writing Project (NWP) released a free eBook entitled Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Edited and curated by a group of NWP educators, this eBook focuses on in-school work and draws examples of practice from the NWP's "Digital Is" site

• SCHOOL: THE HEART OF A COMMUNITY. Teresa Watanabe reports on a private-public partnership that boosts academic achievement by supporting students and their families with comprehensive supports, including job training, health services, after-school tutoring and other services. Led by the Youth Privacy Institute and supported by a $30 million ED Promise Neighborhood grant, the comprehensive program at the Hollywood (Calif.) FamilySource Center seeks to close both the opportunity gap that so often leads to an achievement gap. Learn more (LA Times). 

Blue Ribbon bus in Mass.


That's A Wrap!

Talk about your bragging rights. The folks in Worcester, Mass. are so proud of their hometown school being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School that they have wrapped a city WRTA bus in recognition. Now everyone can celebrate with Worcester Technical High School while sitting at red lights. 

open book

Recommended Reading

TROOPS TO TEACHERS. Check out this interesting profile of Jorge Pulleiro, a Spanish teacher at Wood River Middle School (Hailey, Idaho) who served his country for six years in the U.S. Army before becoming a teacher in 2005. “In the Army, I had to be a flexible and imaginative leader with positive and often urgent, effective reaction to the unexpected," Pulleiro explained. No wonder he's developed into an award-winning teacher. Read his story

VETS MAKE THE GRADE. The Student Veterans of America have released a report indicating that more than half of veterans who sought a higher education from 2002 through 2013 under the GI Bill have completed their schooling. Learn more (Zoroya, USA Today).

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

University of Maryland Baltimore

(Arne Duncan and David Johns visit the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus.)

Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. We need "opportunities for extended periods of time for folks to work together face to face…with some online p.d. that was extended over time, with opportunities to network beyond that. That's very, very powerful stuff." (Teacher, Alaska)

4. Referring to educators staying with the Common Core despite uneven implementation: "When we are teaching children about perseverance, tenacity, and grit, we as educators need to have perseverance, tenacity, and grit." (Principal, Washington, D.C.)

3. "National Board Certification brings respect to a profession that's in serious need of respect." (Principal, Ga.)

2. "Common Core isn't like a box that you deliver. It's rich and complex." (Teacher, Wis.)

1. Explaining why her students' skills in math improved dramatically after her fifth-grade class formed a trashcan band: "Music is math in motion." (Teacher, Tenn.)