The Teachers Edition

July 10, 2014 |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Teachers at lunch with President Obama and Secretary Duncan.

President Barack Obama hosts Education Secretary Arne Duncan and teachers for lunch in the Blue Room of the White House, July 7, 2014, to discuss efforts to ensure that every student is taught by an effective educator. Clockwise from left, the teachers include Justin Minkel (Springdale, Ark.), Leslie Ross (Greensboro, N.C.), Dwight Davis (Washington, D.C.), and LaShawna Coleman (Philadelphia, Pa.). (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). Below, San Jose teacher Marcello Sgambelluri discusses some misconceptions about the teaching profession. "It's important to understand how long it takes for change [in schools] to bring change [in outcomes]," he said.


Department Seeks State Plans to Put Great Teachers in Classrooms Everywhere

On Monday, ED introduced a new initiative to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools, called Excellent Educators for All. President Obama announced the initiative to improve the balance of quality teachers in schools that need them the most at a White House luncheon with Duncan and four teachers. The administration cited research that indicates students' race and family income often predict their access to excellent educators. Low-income students and high-need schools tend to have teachers who have less experience, fewer credentials and who lack a track record of success. For example, black and American Indian students are four times more likely than white students to be in a school with more than 20 percent first-year teachers.

Marcello Sgambelluri

The Excellent Educators for All Initiative contains three components:

• Comprehensive Educator Equity Plans. ED is asking states to analyze their data and consult with teachers, principals, districts, parents and community organizations to create new, comprehensive educator equity plans that put in place locally developed solutions to ensure every student has effective educators.

• An Educator Equity Support Network. The Department is investing $4.2 million to launch a new technical assistance network to support states and districts in developing and implementing their plans to ensure all students have access to great educators. The network will work to develop model plans, share promising practices, provide communities of practice for educators to discuss challenges and share lessons learned with each other, and create a network of support for educators working in high-need schools.

• Educator Equity Profiles. The Department will publish Educator Equity profiles this fall. The profiles will help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students, as well as shine a spotlight on high-need schools that are beating the odds and successfully recruiting and retaining effective educators.

After the announcement, eight teachers and two principals participated in a panel discussion at the Department with Duncan, Wade Henderson, Randi Weingarten and Chris Minnich about educational equity. They discussed what educators need to be effective in high-need schools. Chattanooga Principal Neelie Parker said that her biggest challenge is "finding the workforce to do the work. You need [teachers with] a very different skill set . . . and knowledge about dealing with poverty." Teacher Justin Minkel described the importance of working in a culture that values collaboration, mutual support, and professional autonomy. "Responsibility and delight can coexist," he added, quoting author Philip Pullman.

Learn more. View a White House video of the teachers lunching with the President and Secretary Duncan. View photos from the educator round table. Read Alyson Klein's report (EdWeek).

Learn about how Richmond, Va. is using a Teacher Quality Partnership funded residency program to attract and retain highly qualified teachers in some of the city's most challenging schools in order "to lift up the city from inside the classroom.” According to former teacher of the year, Terry Dozier, who runs this program, the secret to their success: residents "get support while they’re with us, and they keep getting support as teachers” (Reid, Richmond Times-Dispatch).

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Principal Chat

ONLINE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING CHECKLIST. ED's Office of Educational Technology shared a new Online Professional Learning Checklist at a recent ISTE conference. The tool consists of a simple set of questions, based on research, to help educators evaluate the quality of online professional development opportunities.  

INSTRUCTIONAL LEADER OR CEO? According to a story in the Atlantic, a new report by Fordham argues that "the way to attract and hold onto high quality school leaders is to give them more autonomy, administrative support, and a $100,000 raise." Read the article (Urist).

Teach to Lead logo
teach to lead Twitter chat

What Teachers Want

According to an international study released last month, teachers who are included in school decision-making and collaborate at school are more likely to say "teaching is a valued profession in their society." According to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), teachers involved in decision-making and collaborating also have higher levels of job satisfaction and confidence in their ability. Learn more (BarshayHechinger). Read about the report, including a story about the importance of listening to teachers around the world (McLaughlin, Homeroom).

WHAT DUNCAN SAID. In a video played at a Leading Educators conference in New Orleans, Arne Duncan said that too many good teachers are leaving the classroom because their voices are often not heard in issues affecting their practice. "All across the country, we must do a better job of leveraging the teaching talent within our nation's classrooms," Duncan said. "No one wants to stay in a job where they feel unsupported or unable to advance in the profession and still do what they love." Learn more (Dreilinger, Times Picayune). Watch the video

Learn more about the Teach to Lead initiative that Duncan describes in the video.

Did you know?


Educators can have a say in what future competitive grant competitions require by suggesting edits or providing feedback on the draft language in the new list of 15 supplemental priorities.

This list of priorities is similar to a menu of options that can be applied to grants for Improving Early Learning and Development Outcomes (#1); Improving Teacher Effectiveness and Promoting Equal Access to Effective Teachers (#9); Improving the Effectiveness of Principals (#10); Leveraging Technology to Support Instructional Practice and Professional Development (#11); Promoting STEM (#7); Improving School Climate, Behavioral Supports; Correctional Education (#13); and so on. 

Before the list is official, the public can provide input on the language and make suggestions, and ED will review and respond to comments. To review the supplemental priorities and find out how to submit your comments, see the Federal Register notice. The deadline for comments is July 24, 2014.

Common Core Connections

PASSING THE "GOLDILOCKS TEST." According to a recent Gallup poll, about two thirds of district superintendents say the Common Core State Standards will improve education and that they are "just about right" in difficulty for students. Learn more (Heitin, EdWeek). 

A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. Former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. offers his take on what new, more rigorous standards mean for New York. The bottom line? "Common Core adoption means better schools, smarter students and a stronger America." Read the article (NY Post). 

WHAT'S IN IT FOR COLLEGES? This smart piece in the Hechinger Report looks at colleges' delayed response to the Common Core and reports on what the new standards could mean for higher learning. Proponents say that with only a quarter of today's high school students prepared for college in core subjects, what colleges and universities have to gain is plenty. The new standards have the potential to "reduce the frustrating and expensive need to teach students what they already should have learned in elementary, middle, and high school." Read the article (Marcus).

WHAT WORKS IN COMMON CORE ADOPTION? The Center for American Progress released a report analyzing the practices of states that are successfully adopting the Common Core State Standards. Among the "best practices": administering better, fairer, and fewer tests; "phasing in" accountability measures for teachers and students; and ensuring that teachers are engaged in the development of curricula and materials. Read more to learn the other six critical steps that lead to successful adoption (Martin, Marchitello, Lazarín).

Emerging Research

GOOD AT MATH? YOU'RE HIRED! Davidson reports on a new study out of Brookings that found “science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs take more than twice as long to fill as other openings,” and “even more surprising, a high school grad with a STEM background is in higher demand than a college grad without such skills.” Learn more (USA Today). 

Read about another report showing that science and math graduates in the class of 2008 make considerably more money than those in other fields (Flaherty, Sacramento Bee). 

STRATEGIES FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD INSTRUCTION: The What Works Clearinghouse has recently published a number of tested strategies for early childhood instruction, including materials for opening the gateway to math and meeting the needs of special education students. 

"The lack of a clear, high bar for what new teachers should know and be able to do on day one also has lowered expectations and respect for the teaching profession."

FEA Director and teacher Dan Brown in an article about the need to improve teacher preparation. In "Classroom Craft Before Classroom Keys," Brown recounts the "fiasco" of his first year teaching in the Bronx, without the skills to be effective (Real Clear Education).

Quote to Note

the New Math

Off the Beaten Path

Nearly half (49.9 percent) of all school districts in the U.S. are rural. 

(From Why Rural Matters, updated June 2014). According to the report, rural students represent 20.4 percent of the nation's schools, and 26.7 percent of all rural students are minorities. Read about some things ED is doing to support rural education in the Homeroom blog.

Seriously? News No One Can Use

Walking Between Classes ≠ Gym 

Until recently, some schools in Tennessee had been including walking between classes as evidence that they were meeting the requirement that students were getting 90 minutes of physical activity a week during school. Learn more (Bradley, NPR).

Meanwhile, schools in Iowa are using a federal grant to help students in more than 60 school districts get active the more traditional way--through movement and exercise. The three-year, $480,000 grant has helped the Marshalltown district to buy 4,000 pedometers to measure students’ physical activity, as well as implementing “activity teams” at each school, which are “charged with the task of improving the district’s statistics related to childhood obesity.” Learn more (Curtis, Radio Iowa).

from TED Ed video



This nifty animated TEDEd video and the corresponding lesson about the Earth's energy were created by Department of Energy Einstein Fellows Joshua Sneideman and Erin Twamley.


Raising the Bar

Last week, ED announced a significant shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs, to improve the educational outcomes of the nation’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities.  

Until now, the agency’s primary focus was to determine whether states were meeting procedural requirements, such as timeliness for evaluations, due process hearings, and transitioning children into preschool services. While these compliance indicators can be important, under a new Results-Driven Accountability (RDA) framework, the Department will also include educational results and outcomes for students with disabilities in making states’ annual determinations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

One reason for the shift is that although states have made major improvements in compliance over the last several years, educational outcomes for students with disabilities continue to lag. Last year when the Department considered only compliance data in annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year when the agency included data on how students are performing, only 18 states and territories met requirements (graphic).  

As part of the move to RDA, the Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will fund a new, $50 million technical assistance center, the Center on Systemic Improvement.  

Learn more in a blog post, where OSERS Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin calls RDA “a long-overdue raising of the bar for special education.”

Now, that's Progress!


Getting Observation Right

Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system has encouraged principals to have more meaningful conversations with teachers about how they can improve instruction. Find out how principals have worked to improve their ability to give specific, evidence-based, useful feedback. The state has also created short, illustrative videos and 40 interactive online courses to make sure teachers know what is expected of them. One teacher noted the ongoing value of these supports, “Every hour that I spent on the courses, I learned something that I could take back to my classroom and implement.” Learn more  on PROGRESS.

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Teachers' Notes

• AN OPPORTUNITY, NOT AN ATTACK. Los Angeles, Calif., teacher Ron Taw offers an interesting perspective on the recent Vergara decision, including opportunities for strengthening tenure laws. Read his commentary (LA School Report).

• WISE COUNSEL. Alyson Klein (EdWeek) writes about Arne Duncan urging chief state school officers to make use of federal funds to invest in school counselors. Read the story.

• THE WISDOM OF YOUTH. When it comes to solving problems, it turns out that toddlers may be smarter than college students if researchers at UC Berkley and the University of Edinburgh are right. The reason? "Flexible, fluid thinking" leads children to explore the unlikely, while adults look for obvious solutions and stick to them even when they don't work. Learn more (Trudeau, Mind/Shift).

• FREEDOM RIDERS DELIVERY A MOVING HISTORY LESSON. On the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, six of the original Freedom riders joined 49 student activists, civic leaders, and staff from ED to commemorate the event and take their own freedom ride from Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Va. Learn more. Read the story (Newman, Richmond Times-Dispatch).

• SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS. WestEd's Center on School Turnaround has an interesting website called The Journeys Project, which documents what is often missing from school improvement stories—details about early challenges, decisions, actions, and results. As part of a broader approach to instructional reform, some schools have implemented the personalized mastery (also known as competency-based learning) approach as part of their turnaround efforts. Learn about the early challenges facing Carl Sandburg Middle School as it attempted to turnaround personalized learning in a small town in Illinois.

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Recommended Reading

• TOUGH LOVE OR NOT? While many of us got into teaching because we care about students, sometimes we have trouble enforcing rigorous standards of learning and conduct. In "Coach G's Teaching Tips," teaching coach David Ginsburg argues that allowing students to continue self-defeating behaviors isn't a sign of caring and that setting and sticking to limits often shows more love. Read his article (EdWeek).

• TEACHERS ARE NEVER DONE. Missouri Teacher Kathryn Fishman-Weaver penned this piece about the importance of high school teachers and counselors supporting students' transition to college even after they graduate. Her article contains insight into the needs of first-generation students in particular and offers advice about how educators can help them (AJE Forum).

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

Teach to Lead event in Colorado

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "I believe it takes a village to raise our men; I believe that communication between students, parents and teacher are vital for a successful year; we can't make excuses, we must make it happen!" (Teacher, McDonough, Ga.)

4. "Whether or not the professional learning you are getting at your school is collaborative and valuable is largely a function of the principal. So much of what we [teachers] do comes back to the principal." (Teacher, Baltimore County, Md.)

3. "I did close my doors. I did say no to three student teachers because 50% of my evaluation was based on my students' test scores." (Teacher, Fla.)

2. "We need principals who really view their job as [being] the lead learner." (Teacher, Kan.)

1. "I would worry about any initiative that is asking teachers to do it all." (Teacher, Boston, Mass.)