THE TEACHERS EDITION -- September 4, 2014

The Teachers Edition

September 4, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Teacher sharing how she works smarter

In this video teachers share strategies to eliminate activities that eat their time and streamline others so they work smarter. Here Lisa Carruthers suggests ways to save time grading papers.


Working Smarter, Not Harder

The teachers at ED like the practical tips offered in "15 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder this Year." It is written by third grade teacher Genia Connell, who begins with a hook every teacher in America can relate to: "According to my payroll voucher, I work 31.65 hours a week. If that’s the case, my husband must wonder what I’m doing at school the other 18 hours." In both written and video formats, Connell and other teachers offer advice to educators who need more time. 

still from NY video


What's in a Number?

Check out this animated video that explains how New York State calculates student growth based on state tests. It's complicated because students vary in their living circumstances and they come to school with disparate knowledge and skills. The video takes a complex subject and breaks it down without treating viewers as either policy wonks or ed newbies. 

cover of The Teacher Leadership Competencies


Framing Teacher Leadership

The Teacher Leadership Initiative recently published a beginning vision for Teacher Leadership Competencies to frame teacher leadership tools that teachers can use as a resource for identification, reflection, guidance and inspiration. 

Their model combines three different spheres of teacher leadership--instructional leadership, policy leadership, and association leadership--and provides a way to think about the skills, knowledge and traits needed for each. 

The Teacher Leadership Initiative is an effort of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Education Association, and Center for Teaching QualityDownload the Teacher Leadership Competencies.

Schools Worth Watching


Normal Park Museum Magnet School

Edutopia recently profiled a school led by ED Principal Ambassador Fellow Jill Levine. Normal Park Museum Magnet School delivers a unique education by partnering with area museums on their two campuses that serve grades K-8. Every week students go to one of seven area museums that bring their lessons alive for students. Teachers plan interesting lessons with museum staff, and students are given museum passes that allow them entry for free even when school is out. And every nine weeks, the whole school turns into a museum of its own. No wonder this school was named as the top magnet school in the nation in 2005 by Magnet Schools of America. Learn more.

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Leadership in Action

HOPE STREET KENTUCKY. An independent evaluation conducted by Policy Studies Associates, Inc. determined that the first year of the Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program provided teachers with “a diverse, unique and transferable set of tools, training and resources” and that Kentucky education leaders “valued the data reported to them and acknowledged the important role Hope Street Group played and can play to support teachers’ participation in the policy process.”  

COMMIT TO LEAD. ED has been working with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to convene Teach to Lead, a new initiative aimed at expanding opportunities for teacher leadership to advance student learning. 

If you missed the announcement launching Commit to Lead, take a minute to check out how you can become part of the teacher leadership movement. Teachers can join the new online community to share ideas for teacher leadership and collaborate to bring them to life. They can also vote on each other's ideas, read inspiring stories and check out resources.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Check out the teacher leadership stories of Courtney Fox, Jennie Magiera, Heather Buskirk and Todd Wirt that were recently posted on the Teach to Lead siteSee more.

  • Courtney Fox worked with teachers and other partners to develop recommendations for teachers to successfully implement the Common Core in Delaware. 
  • Jennie Magiera led a community of teachers to explore the use of iPads in schools and develop plans and supports for teachers to teach effectively with the devices. 
  • Heather Buskirk founded a STEM-based school centering on project-based learning in rural New York.
  • Todd Wirt created a Wake County (N.C.) Teacher Leader Corps of 700 teacher leaders that provides them with structured opportunities to hone their leadership skills to build the capacity of the district’s teachers to use technology effectively. 


Back to School

The federal government’s web portal has a Back to School landing page with resources and tips to help students, parents, and educators prepare for the new school year.

From the FREE registry, check out  7 Ways to Help Kids Transition Back to the Classroom.

As the school year gets underway, a blog post provides parents and families “tips to bear in mind” for developing a strong relationship with their child’s teacher.

Back to School with the What Works Clearinghouse,” a feature of ED's Institute of Education Sciences, shares “tips on a variety of WWC products” with educators. The Census Bureau’s latest “Facts for Features” edition presents statistics associated with the return to classrooms by students and teachers.

Similarly, the National Center for Education Statistics provides Back to School statistics.

Did you know?

Asking for Help

Did you know that the way students ask (or don't ask) for help in school provides educators with important clues to their proficiency, engagement, beliefs about independence and their fears of what others will think?

Learn more in this EdWeek article by Sarah Sparks, who examines the latest research on the topic. 

Letters to ED


A Special Educator's Special Brand of Education

Recently, Arne Duncan received this letter from a parent who is grateful for what teacher Peter Mundt has done for her son, who has autism. The letter is worth sharing because it speaks to the value of inclusWe are grateful to parent Gina McClellan for letting us share her letter to Arne here, because it speaks to the value of inclusive classrooms and it reflects the important work of educators who do so much more for special education children than checking the boxes on an IEP.

Dear Mr. Duncan,

Our 7-year old son Drew is a first grader at Hatherly School in Scituate, Massachusetts. He is in the substantially separate classroom called the Primary Learning Center but is integrated throughout the day with the 1st grade. Drew has autism.  

Several weeks ago Drew brought two copies of a song he composed at home to school. He said to his Special Education teacher Meaghan Baird that he had a song for Mr. Mundt, the music teacher. So together they gave the piece to him.  

The very next week, Mr. Mundt put Drew's song to music. Drew sang it for the class and the class sang it with Drew….I am speechless.  

This is the best form of inclusion and teaching that I have ever seen!  Mr. Mundt went above and beyond, he took Drew's Farm Song and validated him.

This inspired Drew and gave him the confidence to sing it in front of his peers. In the video clip, Drew is bursting with pride when he hears his peers singing and we are so thankful for great teachers like Peter Mundt.

I had to share with you this special story because teachers and schools, like Hatherly School should be commended for its efforts for making each student apart of the community.  


Gina McClellan

 Watch the video of Drew's class singing his song. 

Common Core Connections

"The Good in Standardized Testing"

Lelac Almagor has penned a thoughtful piece reflecting on why one of her students, "a quiet, diligent, well-behaved girl who turned in all her assignments" and made great grades, scored in the 17th percentile on a standardized test.She uses the experience to frame an analysis of the theoretical benefits and obstacles to using standardized tests well, and makes a case for the new tests coming out of the two Common Core assessment consortia.

Read the article.

"Let’s not forget testing is as old as schooling itself. But for too long now we’ve allowed fear and political agendas to twist the conversation into something nefarious and even evil. By 'taking a deep breath' as Duncan has done and using the next year to improve the quality of the assessments, we can make 'test' just another four-letter word again. And we can provide teachers and parents with a helpful tool in preparing children for a lifetime of success."

Sydney Morris and Evan Stone in their editorial, "How Duncan's teacher reprieve aids students, Common Core, tests" (Hechinger). Morris and Stone are former elementary school teachers and co-founders of Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher-led organization that works to elevate the voices of educators in education policymaking.

Quote to Note

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Teachers' Notes

• 12 WAYS TO IDENTIFY A GOOD SCHOOL. Jay Mathews has updated a blog from 14 years ago. It still serves as a great primer for parents shopping for good schools and a reminder of what success still looks like. Read his column (Washington Post).

• TEACHERS' VOICES FROM FERGUSON. In this Teaching Channel blog, teachers respond to the tragic shooting of Michael Brown and offer advice about how to create a positive school climate in the midst of heartbreak and anger. 

• DUNCAN'S BACK-TO-SCHOOL CONVERSATION WITH TEACHERS. Educators interested in viewing Arne Duncan's remarks on testing and his discussion with a panel of educators and the teacher audience at Jefferson Academy (Washington, D.C.) can download the full YouTube video. The discussion with educators touched on a number of topics on teachers' minds in addition to testing. 

• HANGING IN THERE WITH CHALLENGING STUDENTS. This free archived webinar from ASCD features Jeffrey Benson, author of the ASCD book Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us Most, offering content about what educators can do now for a challenging student in their school. He also explains how to enrich a team's capacity to hang in with many students. Learn more. Check out Six Tips for Growing Closer to Your Most Challenging Students by Dr. Allen Mendler (ASCD).

• ADAPTIVE TEACHER LEADERSHIP. Interesting blog by Nicole Gillespie on the shift that is taking place in teacher leadership that enables teachers to stay in their classrooms to lead. Read her article (Huffington Post).

Emerging Research


ACT'S latest analysis of the college and career readiness of US high school graduates is now available. Key national findings: 

  • Students who took ACT's recommended core curriculum-four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies-were far more likely to meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in each of the four subject areas.

  • Among 2013 ACT-tested graduates, 87% aspired to higher education, but only 69% actually enrolled in a postsecondary institution in fall 2013. That gap represents more than 300,000 students who fell short of their aspirations.

  • Several states saw improved ACT Composite scores this year. Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming saw the average ACT Composite score improved by 0.2 to 0.3 points. These five states, among others, administer the ACT to all students. Their improved scores are consistent with previous ACT data: gains in achievement are common in states that create an educational culture focused on college and career readiness.

View key findings for your state.

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Recommended Reading

REFORMERS VS. TEACHERS? NOT SO MUCHIn his interview on the Young Education Professionals blog, Teach Plus leader Michael Savoy talks about the value of teacher leadership and pushes back on the idea that educational reform is something that is done to teachers.  "As with most social issues, the loudest voices are the ones heard the most," Savoy says. "But there is typically always a middle ground that gets drowned out by the noise. My tough-love feedback for both is to not-so-narrowly define who you are. The narrative assumes that teachers don’t want to reform and reformers aren’t teachers. If change is to be made, we all have to take on both reformer and teacher characteristics. That’s where the middle is. It starts with everyone suspending the notion that they alone have all the answers."

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

Brick Church College Prep

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "We teachers are a profession. We are becoming much more involved in driving the profession." (Teacher, Texas)

4. "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.)

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

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

1. "It is really nice to have someone come in and witness what it's like in the trenches. ...Every one of my kids has different needs." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)