The Teachers Edition

May 15, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Tom Dooley scene

Gaby Moran, South Iredell High; Dalton Hart, North Iredell High; and Nick Osborne, South Iredell High, perform a scene from “Tom Dooley.”


Students School ED 

on N.C. Arts, Culture and Nerve

Six months after the government shutdown forced a stop to their art exhibit opening at the ED headquarters, a delegation of nearly 100 student artists, teachers, school administrators and parents from the Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina arrived at ED to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of students in the visual arts, music, theater and dance.

Student musicians opened the show with a performance of the bluegrass piece "Step It Up and Go." The group included musicians from four different schools, with the youngest, a fiddler, in the fourth grade and the eldest, a bass player, in the 11th grade. The musicians helped to transition into the theater performance of selections from Tom Dooley, the long-lasting tragic love story of a man from Statesville. The program ended with a performance by the Iredell-Statesville Cloggers, who danced to "Old Joe Clark."

student art exhibit

With their performances and 40 pieces of visual art, the students in this district gave evidence of the positive influence arts in schools can have. Learn more. Check out photos from the day. Find out more about the Race to the Top-District and I3 grants that help support Iredell-Statesville's work.

Joelle Michaud (front), president of Art Education DC, speaks with a young artist about her work.

Teacher Leadership Model Standards


Teacher Leadership

Now that teacher leadership has reemerged in discussions about strengthening the teaching profession and improving student learning, it is a good time to dust off the 2008 Teacher Leader Model Standards adopted by a number of organizations, including the two leading teachers unions. 

The standards, which call for a paradigm shift, describe seven domains of teacher leadership and drill down on each. More important, the standards answer pressing questions of the day like: What does the term "teacher leadership" mean (and how is it different from other school leadership roles)? How can teacher leadership build the capacity of principals? What is the connection between teacher leadership and student learning? What cultural and organizational changes will schools need to enhance teacher leadership and support learning in the 21st century?

Download the report

Hope Street Fellows

(Left to right) Wendy Lane of the Hope Street Group with her fellows Courtney Fox, Greg Mullenholz, Tammie Schrader and Doug Hodum.


Leading from the Classroom

Four of Hope Street Group’s National Teacher Fellows visited the Department last week to discussion their recent work in teacher leadership. 

Doug Hodum, a biology teacher in Farmington, Maine established a district-based working group that made recommendations on the development of the state’s nascent teacher evaluation system. His work involves bringing everyone to the table that had a stake in the decision. “Teachers are being heard and are involved in significant policy decisions that affect their practice,” Hodum told ED.

Courtney Fox, Delaware’s 2008 Teacher of the Year, has brought teachers together with partners from around the state to develop specific recommendations for community partners, policymakers, and district and school leaders concerning what teachers need from them in order to implement the Common Core State Standards. Download their Executive Summary.

Learn more about the Fellows' work on teacher leadership, including the efforts of two Teaching Ambassador Fellows, Greg Mullenholz (2011-2012) and Tammie Schrader (2008-2009).

Power Point


Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges

Bellwether has released Genuine Progress, Great Challenges: A Decade of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms, a report that documents how the teacher quality movement took hold and propelled policy changes in dozens of states. The report also highlights key findings, best practices and case studies from a decade's worth of research and action. And it details the work that lies ahead. The Joyce Foundation has released a companion slide presentation that makes the case in 27 frames.

blue bow tie


Wrapping up the Week

Last week teachers across the country received cards, bagels and sweet tweets as tokens of appreciation from folks who thanked them for their relentless, incredible work. At ED, we also served up some snacks, but mostly we focused our energy on trying to understand their complex practice.

thank a teacher

Check out our highlights from the weekReview the Storify and timeline from #ThankATeacher. Peruse photos from the day ED staff shadowed teachers and pics from breakfast at Marie Reed Elementary School (Washington, D.C.).

Read a report about Waterford, Wisc. teacher Frank Korb's experience at the White House social. After the event, the Waterford High School teacher, still reeling from the excitement of the day described the day as, “Aww, it was so incredibly — holy mackerel" (BullockRacine Journal Times).

Read about ED Office of Innovation and Improvement's Brittany Beth's experience observing tadpoles with elementary students and how other OII staff are connecting their observations in schools to their work at ED.

Below left, students from West Muskingum High School (Zanesville, Ohio) thank their teachers.

thank a teacher images

Schools worth watching


Celebrating the Whole Child

Washington Montessori recently celebrated being awarded ASCD's Vision in Action Award for their commitment to meeting the social, physical, academic and emotional needs of every child. The award is given to the school that has the best sustainable system to support the whole child, keeping students healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported.

Zandra Solomon, a parent whose child attends the school, described what Washington Montessori has done this way: “One of the first things I noticed about this school is there is love in the building.” she said. Solomon indicated that at first she hesitated enrolling her daughter and was thinking of home schooling, but now her daughter is doing great and they love the school.

Learn more. Watch a video news clip.

Making Assessments Matter

The Northwest Evaluation Association released a report from public opinion research that gives insight into what teachers, students and administrators believe about assessment. A key finding of the research is that assessments must be student-focused and used to improve teaching and learning. Other findings: 

• Students perceive that classroom tests are more relevant to their learning than state accountability tests.  

• The average amount of time teachers spend providing each student with feedback on a test is three minutes.

• 81% of students think student test scores reflect how well teachers teach.

• 50% of teachers say they could not be good teachers without tests.

Read the report.

P Chat

Principal Chat

NOMINATE A TECH SAVVY SUP. Is your superintendent leading the charge in your district to convert to digital learning? If so, nominate them to attend the first ever Connected Superintendents' Summit in Washington D.C., October 7, 2014. If selected, the super sup gets a chance to share promising practices with other leaders and the Department. Get the nomination form.

GETTING STUDENTS BACK ON TRACK. Georgia’s Performance Learning Centers and their educators have an innovative approach to dropout prevention as they increase college and career readiness and graduation rates. Performance Learning Centers are designed to help students who are far behind accumulate credits quickly so they can graduate. As one official put it, “If you don’t have great instruction, you don’t have great schools, but we’ve got to deal with the personal and non-instructional side, too.” 

"I feel torn about teacher leadership. Too often leading means leaving."

South Carolina Teacher of the Year Darlene Simpson Sutton at a meeting at the U.S. Department of Education April 30.

Quote to Note

Lightbulb Moments


Light Bulb Moments

In this short  inspirational video New York teachers Rochelle Jensen (above) and Marguerite Izzo recount an exciting moment when the students in their class "got it" and the light bulb turned on.

TAF News

SHAKERA WALKER (2011 Washington Fellow) found herself on Sara Mead's recently publish list of the 9 People Who Will Shape Education in the Next Ten Years (EdWeek).

Common Core Connections

TALKING BACK. While empathizing with Louis C.K.'s frustration over his child's homework, New York teacher Sasha Growick "respectfully disagrees" with the comedian over the value of the Common Core. Read her blog (TNTP).

HARDLY WORKING. National PTA President Otha Thornton weighs in on the Common Core State Standards, as a retired army officer and a parent. Thornton writes that data from last year serve as "clear proof that whatever 'standards' were in place before Common Core were not working." Read her column (Fox News).

PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE CROSSHAIRS. The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report about propaganda efforts attacking the Common Core. According to the report, an organized campaign is "threatening to derail this ambitious effort to lift student achievement and, more fundamentally, to undermine the very idea of public education." Read the report, Public Schools in the Crosshairs.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

ACCESS FEDERAL STUDENT AID HISTORY ONLINE. An enhanced feature on allows recipients to directly access their federal student aid history.

The enhancement is the second step of a multi-phase project to develop a single point of entry for students accessing federal student aid information, applying for federal aid, repaying student loans, and navigating the college decision-making process. The web site, including this new feature, is completely accessible on tablets and smartphones.




Equity Guidance

EQUAL ACCESS (REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS). Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced updated guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children—no matter their background—equal access to an education.

In 2011, the Departments of Justice and Education issued guidance to help schools understand their responsibilities following the Supreme Court's decision in Plyler v. Doe and other federal civil rights laws that provide all children with equal access to an education regardless of their or their parents' immigration status. Now the departments have issued important updates to that guidance, including examples of permissible enrollment practices, and the types of information that may not be used as a basis for denying a student entrance to school. Learn more. Read about the Dear Colleague" letter explaining how civil rights laws apply to charter schools

RACIALLY DIVERSE SCHOOLS. In a “Dear Colleague” letter, officials at the Departments of  Education and Justice said that elementary and secondary schools and universities can use “legally permissible methods” when trying to create racially diverse schools. Learn more (Layton, Washington Post).

AP Graphic


Students Step up to Challenging Courses

States are better preparing more students for college or other advanced training after high school by promoting challenging college and career preparation, such as the Advanced Placement (AP) program. 

Over the past decade nationally, the number of high school graduates who took AP courses nearly doubled, according to the College Board. During that period, the number of students achieving qualifying scores on the exams grew faster than the number of students who did not. The College Board offers 34 different AP classes. Find out how Kentucky students are taking more AP classes and posting more qualifying scores on the exams here.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• TALENT IS OVERRATED. Interesting blog by teacher Sarah Brown Wessling, who makes an argument that instead of focusing on the innate qualities of a teacher (talent), it's precision of practice--"an ongoing commitment to details of a craft"--that really matters. Read her article and check out her video discussion with other National Teachers of the Year about how teachers continue to get better  (Teaching Channel).

GET A FREE ON-TRACK CHECKUP. Does your student need additional support and learning resources to achieve College and Career Ready Standards? Visit Raise the Bar's website for a short assessment that helps you to identify what your child knows in reading and math. This checkup pairs students with personalized, free resources. Every 20 students from a school who have completed either a reading or math checkup will receive $250 to go to a school fund of your choice. 

• NOT ONE FOR THE FRIDGE. According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, the performance of America’s twelfth-grade students in reading and mathematics has not changed since 2009. “Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite growth in student achievement over time in elementary school and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years,” Secretary Duncan noted in a statement. Diane Sawyer reported on ABC News that this report card is probably not one we will want to hang on the refrigerator.

• MODEL STUDENTS. In April, the Department of State hosted 21 middle and high schools from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for the Global Classrooms DC Model United Nations conference. Read about their experience. Learn more about the Global Classrooms Model UN, which cultivates literacy, life skills and the attitudes necessary for active citizenship.

• SUMMER LEARNING PROGRAM GOES NATIONWIDE. BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and YMCA of the USA are partnering to expand summer learning programs to eight sites across the nation this summer, with a  goal of service in 48 cities by 2016. The Power Scholars Academy is a free, full-day program that combines small-group, rigorous academic instruction with fun, hands-on enrichment activities, field trips and service projects. Learn more.

• HOW STATES ARE EVALUATING TEACHERS. States and districts are tackling teacher evaluations in a variety of ways and implementation could look very different across the board, a new Center for American Progress report says. Kaitlin Pennington looks at the options districts are using and what happens when districts refuse to report plans for teacher-evaluation alignment and implementation. Read the report.

• MACHINES ARE NOT TEACHERS. NOT HARDLY. Writing teachers will especially appreciate “Writing Instructor, Skeptical of Automated Grading, Pits Machine v. Machine” by Steve Kolowich. He describes the perils of having writing evaluated by "essay-grading automatons." Namely, “They cannot read meaning, and they cannot check facts. More to the point, they cannot tell gibberish from lucid writing." Kolowich offers an example of a very bad sentence that passes one computerized grading system: "Privateness has not been and undoubtedly never will be lauded, precarious, and decent. Humankind will always subjugate privateness."  Read his article (Chronicle of Higher Education).

Emerging Research

Educator’s Guide for Teaching English Learners 

We have better, stronger evidence about teaching academic content to English learners than we did a decade ago. That’s the conclusion of a new guide for educators from ED's What Works Clearinghouse. The guide — Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School – recommends four practices for instructing English learners and provides advice on how to carry out the practices, including sample lessons. The guide is geared to a wide spectrum of educators who are not necessarily specialists in instructing English learners: classroom teachers, content-area teachers, special education teachers, administrators, para-educators, and instructional coaches. Learn more and download other guides.

Time for Learning Report cover

Recommended Reading

• TIME FOR TEACHERS. The National Center on Time & Learning has published a report examining the use of extended time to enhance learning at 17 high-performing and rapidly improving schools across the country. Time for Teachers: Leveraging Expanded Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers describes how adding learning time per year for students in academic classes and in enrichment activities has been used to boost achievement and provide a well-rounded education.

The report also explores ways an expanded schedule creates opportunities for schools to invest in six teacher development practices: collaborative lesson planning, embedded professional development, summer training, data analysis, individualized coaching, and peer observation. Read the report

• ENGAGING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Kristy Cooper has written a great piece of research describing successful practices in engaging with students behaviorally, cognitively, and emotionally, “Eliciting Engagement in the High School Classroom: A Mixed-Methods Examination of Teaching Practices.” The article is well worth reading. Download the abstract. Read the article (American Educational Research Journal).

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


Top 5 Teacher Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on her work in a high-needs urban school: "I've never been a teacher under the same conditions that my teachers are in now." (Principal, Washington, D.C.)

4. "Effective feedback isn’t about evaluation, it’s about coaching and practice related to one’s goals." (Principal, Calif.)

3. Describing her teacher preparation experience: "We were told that a good lesson plan solves everything. I learned very quickly that this isn't true." (Teacher, Chicago, Ill.)

2. “I have a masters and 15 years of experience. I’m on my parents’ car insurance and don’t have money at the end of the month to buy groceries. If I had kids, I don’t know what I would do.” (Teacher, Vicksburg, Miss.)

1. On the need to listen to practitioners: “I want to feel like I have a voice.” (Teacher, Miss.)