The Teachers Edition

May 29, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

a learner is art exhibit

Students from the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools (Los Angeles, Calif.) and the Elevated Thought Foundation (Lawrence, Mass.) collaborated to open ED's current student art exhibit, featuring 63 works on the themes of learning, symbolic portraiture, knowledge, and art and technology.


Students Give ED Insights into Learning

What does it mean to be a learner? 

Recently student groups from both coasts explored this question and shared their answers with the Department of Education through art, conversation and poetry. More than a dozen students  traveled to Washington, D.C. to open the Department’s current student art exhibit. Several participated in a panel  discussion on the power of education and  the importance of having their voices heard. Learn more. Download pictures.

Elana Simon

After surviving a bout with a rare liver cancer at age 12, Elana Simon, now 18, teamed up with one of the surgeons who treated her, set up shop in a medical lab, and  collected much-needed data about the rare illness she'd endured. 

Students Show Off STEM Talents at the White House

President Obama hosted the 2014 White House Science Fair this week and celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. 

This year’s fair included a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work.  

The President also announced, as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired and supported to excel in these subjects. Features of Educate to Innovate include:

• A new $35 million teacher training initiative with a focus on STEM teacher preparation, in support of the President’s goal to train 100,000 excellent STEM teachers;

•  An expansion of STEM AmeriCorps to provide STEM learning opportunities for 18,000 low-income students this summer;

•  A national STEM mentoring effort kicking off in seven cities.

Learn more. Meet the student exhibitors.

Did you know?

Buyer Beware: All Career-Training Programs are NOT Alike

Attending a two-year for-profit college costs a student four times as much as attending a community college.

Students at for-profit colleges represent only about 13 percent of the total higher education population, but about 31 percent of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults. 

Of the for-profit gainful employment programs analyzed by ED, the majority—72 percent—produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts. Learn more.

the new math

Poor Kids Experience Uneven Access to Great Teaching

  In high-poverty schools, 27 percent of classes are taught by out-of-field teachers compared with only 14 percent in low-poverty schools.
•  In high-minority schools, 22 percent of teachers have three or fewer years of experience, compared with only 13 percent in low-minority schools.

According to The Common Core Is an Opportunity for Education Equity (published by the Center for American Progress), students of color and low-income students are more likely to be taught by inexperienced and out-of-field teachers.


WHEN TEACHERS HAVE THE FLOOR. Eva Boster, a Teacher Ambassador for Tennessee's Department of Education, has been traversing her state for the last six months, talking with teachers about their successes and challenges. In this blog article, she discusses what she has learned, including teachers' ideas about the state's teacher evaluation system and what teachers need from their principals. Learn more

TIME TO THINK. In this Washington Post article, Jay Mathews examines a promising effort to improve education: more time for teachers. He cites recently released research from the National Center on Time and Learning, which found that in 17 high-performing and rapidly improving schools, additional time is used for teachers “researching and planning lessons and sharing advice about how to improve results,” not for classroom instruction. Mathews points out that schools using extended time effectively regularly make room for embedded professional learning so that administrators and teachers design “professional development sessions that are highly connected to school-based instructional goals.” Read the article.

P Chat

Principal Chat

NOMINATE YOUR STUDENTS FOR KUDOS FROM THE PRES. Since 1983, the President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP) has bestowed individual recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence. 

School principals determine the number of qualifying students based on selection criteria and verify orders for awards. There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria. Students receive a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President and the Secretary. Last year, nearly three million elementary, middle, and high school students from over 30,000 schools were recognized under PEAP.

CHARTER SCHOOL SCHOOLS CAN'T CHECK CIVIL RIGHTS AT THE DOOR. ED's Office for Civil Rights released new guidance confirming that federal civil rights laws that apply to traditional public schools apply equally to public charter schools.  

The guidance highlights critical issues in charter schools, including the schools’ obligation to avoid discrimination in admissions practices and the administration of discipline; to provide a free, appropriate public education for students with disabilities; and to take affirmative steps to assist English learners. The guidance includes references to publications regarding additional civil rights principles that are equally applicable to charter schools. 

Maya Angelou quote


Remembering America's "Phenomenal Woman"

Celebrated poet and author Maya Angelou has long been a favorite of the teachers at ED. To honor her contributions to literature, education, and combating poverty, racism and ignorance, we've included some resources for teaching about the woman and her work, including a link to one of our favorite poems, "Phenomenal Woman."

• provides biographical detail about Angelou and resources for classroom activities for grades 7-12. Check our their strategies to help students to analyze the speaker’s feelings and meaning through a well-known Maya Angelou poem.

• offers lesson ideas to help students think, analyze and act in the classroom and community. This page uses Maya Angelou’s history and writing to get students to examine their own lives and communities and to consider ways they can improve their interaction. The plans not only build students' appreciation for the literary elements at play in her work, but they examine the effects of Angelou's words on society.

• offers questions and answer keys to make for quick and easy lesson plans on Maya Angelou. This link includes a brief biography, a poem, discussion or short answer questions, and multiple choice questions. 

 Educational Leadership published an interview with Angelou discussing resilience in education. Read the interview (Azzam).

•  ASCD's Whole Child blog posted a reflection on Angelou's recent inspirational speech at their annual conference.  Read the blog.

"Teachers are the heart of schooling. We all must do more to support them."

(Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning, during the release of the Center's report, Time for Teachers: Leveraging Expanded Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers.)

Quote to Note

Peace Corps patch


Ready to Broaden Your Students' Worldview?

The Peace Corps World Wise Schools program lets educators connect their classrooms with current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers through the Correspondence Match and Speakers Match programs. Educators can sign up to join the more than 3,000 educators who already bring the world into their classrooms through these programs.

TAF and PAF Fellowships

TONI HULL (2012 Classroom Fellow) penned this nifty Homeroom story about how to stop the summer slide, "The Softer Side of Summer Learning." The blog draws on research about soft skills that employers seek and offers ways that parents and schools can nurture these during the long summer break. 

JILL LEVINE (2013 Principal Fellow) crafted this account of her journey to transform a school in crisis – with failing test scores, a dilapidated building, and low enrollment – into a museum magnet school. Read her story (Homeroom). 

students who created IDEA project for History Day


Special Education is 

Not a Place

Check out the website created by students as part of their entry in the National History Day competition, drawing on this year's theme, "Rights and Responsibilities." Their site is called Special Education is Not a Place: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

Lily Clausen, Chloe Marsh, and Isabel Frye, 7th grade students at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, wanted others to know how the IDEA law has "changed the lives of countless children in the United States." Read their blog (Homeroom).

the Connected Educator

Digital Tools Teachers Want

The Gates Foundation recently released a report that answers this question:

What do teachers really want and need from digital instruction tools? 

Conclusions are drawn from a survey and interviews with more than 3,100 teachers and 1,250 students across the country. The report contains insights into how teachers are using technology and where product and accessibility gaps exist. It also aggregates and amplifies the voices of teachers and students in order to improve the digital content and tools that are available. 

Read the report, Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• TEACHER BURNOUT: SIGNS & SOLUTIONS. High school English teacher Nick Provenzano has published a smart piece about four warning signs that indicate a teacher may be burning out and advises educators to distinguish burnout from being dog tired at the end of the school year. Read his article (Edutopia). Educators who find themselves exhibiting the warning signs might want to check out Ben Johnson's article about how to take proactive measures to avoid burning out--if it's not too late!

 WHEN SOMETHING GOES RIGHT. Not only are high school graduation rates at an all-time high, but for the first time in history, the public can trust the math. Learn why in this opinion piece by former President of the Center on Education Policy, Jack Jennings (Huffington Post).

• FREE PHYSICAL FITNESS RESOURCES. May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Help kids lead a healthy lifestyle with resources from Let's Move!, the Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and more in the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE).

• CULTURE BEATS STRATEGY. Learning Forward's Stephanie Hirsh argues that while having a plan to execute a strategy is important, nothing is as vital as cultivating a culture of continuous improvement. Read her article (Learning First Alliance).

• GOVERNORS PUSH BACK ON THE PUSHBACK. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, five Republican former governors "who supported the Common Core from its creation during the Bush administration said Wednesday that disinformation from conservatives threatened to highjack the higher standards for what students should be able to accomplish in each grade." Read the story (Schoof).

• CREATING "A COURSE FOR LIFE."  In this Edutopia article, Jennifer Bernstein provides a lesson idea that has students creating a curriculum vitae as a way to self reflect and prepare them for the dreaded college-admissions essays.

Emerging Research

Why Rural Education Matters

The 2013-14 report analyzing the conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states raises concerns about states that have fallen behind. Many have not provided adequate funding or implemented policies that place a high priority on improving rural and small-town schools. At the top of the list of states needing more attention: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Arizona. Download the report, which reviews data gleaned from the U.S. Census Bureau.

CTQ Report

Recommended Reading

WHAT THE TEACHERS SAY ABOUT QUALITY PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. CTQ has released a Teacher Solutions report offering the perspectives of teachers in seven countries about the professional learning systems they experience. The report points to differences among the countries and provides interesting analysis and recommendations. Download the report. 

OPPOSING THE COMMON CORE IS A LOSING ISSUE, EVEN IN REPUBLICAN PRIMARIES. Michael Brinkman takes a broad look at rising opposition to the Common Core State Standards and analyzes how the anti-Core narrative is playing out in elections. He writes, "This narrative is misleading. In fact, the GOP primary results from throughout this month showed, if anything, that opposing Common Core is not a ticket to office for a right-flank challenge to an incumbent, and the efficacy of attempts to take out Republicans from the right is vastly overrated. By the same token, there is mounting evidence that sitting Republicans who support Common Core will continue to be supported by their conservative base." Read the article (Town Hall).

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

school visit

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "My university counseled me not to do my student teaching in a high-needs school and placed me in a much easier environment. This was easier at the time, but more difficult later because I was unprepared for my first job in a challenging urban school." (Teacher, Chicago, Ill.) 

4. "I am seeing my teachers grow into great teachers... I am seeing my strongest teachers grow into exceptional teachers." (Principal, Denver, Colo.)

3. "The idea of teacher leadership is magic... the support our teachers get is now coming from the teacher leaders." (Teacher, Colo.)

2. "Because I teach a specialty course--music--[during my student teaching,] my mentor could never get time off to observe me in the classroom. So I got no feedback at all during the semester." (Teacher, Henderson, Colo.)

1. "Teacher engagement is not an event." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)