THE TEACHERS EDITION -- August 7, 2014

The Teachers Edition

August 7, 2014  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

Kymoni Baker from Cody High School in Detroit

Educators will need tissues nearby as they watch Kymoni Baker describe how a community's school turnaround changed his life. 


"Much Love" in Detroit

If you haven't watched this 2013 video about how two Detroit communities joined with organizations like United Way and Skillman to turn around Osborn and Cody high schools, give yourself a gift and check it out. The tale is told through the voices of two students, Kymoni and Steph'an, and their principals and partners, as they recount what they did to create a home and a family for students living in the "deadliest zip code in the country." Though there is still much work to do, their story demonstrates what is possible and reinforces the message that "success is contagious."

art exhibit at ED

10-year-old art opening speaker Anthony Madorsky signs postcards of his artwork at the Museums: pARTners in Learning art exhibit opening. (ED  photo by Tony Hitchcock)

Education pARTners

ED recently celebrated the grand opening of the Museums: pARTners in Learning student art exhibit at its headquarters in Washington. In their second collaboration, ED and the Association of Art Museum Directors worked for more than a year to present the visual artwork and creative writing from the arts education programs at 16 academic museums. Students, family members, teachers and art museum directors from across the country celebrated the opening of the exhibit of magnificent work by students ages 5–17. Learn more

RESPECT Teaching

Teacher Leadership

NICE JOB. The Tennessee Department of Education will be launching its inaugural 12-member Teacher Advisory Council this year. In this blog, Teacher Ambassador Eva Boster outlines her goals for the year. "My hope is that this council serves as an expert group of educators, representing teachers in each region of the state, giving more teachers a voice at the table." The Teaching Ambassador Fellows at ED wish her "Godspeed!"

NEW TEACHER-LED PD WEBSITE. A new website created by and for teachers,, has been launched with a simple premise in mind: "Schools already have their greatest professional development resource on hand: great teachers who are ready to take on leadership roles, who could lead professional development that is a natural part of everyday school work. Instead of continuing to spend great sums on low-impact professional development, schools must allow these teachers to continue teaching while helping their peers improve." Developed by a team of the Pahara-Aspen Teacher-Leader Fellows, the site offers a number of useful resources for schools, districts and supporting organizations.

TENNESSEE TEACHERS TAKE THE LEAD ON POLICY OVERHAUL. When the Kingsport city school system decided to completely makeover its compensation system to pay teachers, the district superintendent was determined to make the process one driven by the teachers. Read the story about how well the educators pulled it off (Camera, EdWeek).


Do Teachers Take a Lifetime Vow of Poverty?

A report issued late last month by the Center for American Progress finds that it's not just the early-career teachers who "struggle with paltry incomes," but that the low salary base of mid- and late-career teachers is an issue in just about every state. Some findings:

Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than flight attendants. 

Veteran teachers who are family breadwinners often qualify for federally funded benefit programs designed for low-income families. Mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program.

Many teachers work second jobs to supplement their low salaries. In 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such as Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. 

 Learn more. Read the report (Boser & Straus).

San Antonio


What a Difference Early Learning Makes

If you are not yet a believer in the value of early learning programs, check out this video of 4-year-old Mauricio Mora speaking at a recent Promise Zone celebration in San Antonio, Texas, bearing in mind that Mauricio enters kindergarten in the coming school year. 

Now that's ... PROGRESS!

FAST-TRACK PRINCIPAL PREP. Florida used Race to the Top funds to launch two fast-track principal preparation programs that recruit highly effective teachers and train them to become strong school leaders. These teachers are prepared through year-long internships and apprenticeships that allow them to gain practical experience before leading a school. Both programs are extremely selective and rigorous, assuring only the most qualified candidates graduate with a degree and enter the schools that need strong school leadership the most. Learn more. Read an interview with graduate Tauri Elligon.

MODEL SUPPORT IN THE OCEAN STATE. Rhode Island is launching a system to help school support professionals establish specific goals related to student learning and track their progress toward reaching those goals. Support professionals include speech and language pathologists, library media specialists, school nurses, reading specialists, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. The system is called the Rhode Island Model Support Professionals Evaluation and Support System, and it is an extension of the state’s redesigned educator evaluation system. A veteran social worker acknowledged that many support professionals may be fearful of the new evaluation process but said that, “It’s not as scary as people think it is. I find that it really helps to document the importance of our roles in schools.”

P Chat

Principal Chat

ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY REQUIRES GOOD LIBRARIANS. The American Library Association released their Digital Inclusion Survey highlighting the role of librarians in preparing students for the new global marketplace. According to an article in EdWeek, the study finds that whereas "half of libraries increased bandwidth capacity in the last two years, less than two-thirds of rural libraries have access to information technology staff." Read the article (Atkeson).

THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE. Last week the Fordham Institute held a panel discussion on steering great leaders into the principal's officeto highlight the importance of finding the right leaders for one of our nation's most important jobs. Speakers urged districts to do more to find educators who possess the right skills to do this challenging work, and they called on educational leaders to make the job more appealing to candidates. When well-prepared, talented leaders are selected and supported in running schools, they said, teachers and students reach greater levels of success. Download the report Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement and the Lacking Leaders: Infographic.

"LISTEN UP, SPEAK OUT" TOOLKIT. Listening closely to what students say about their school experiences can help educators identify school-related topics and problems and to rethink some policies and practices. The Institute of Education Sciences is offering a toolkit that educators can use to gather and analyze local student voices and use that data to address school-related topics or problems. The kit includes three tools, including surveys, fishbowl activities, and a digital storytelling process in which students produce and analyze videotaped interviews of other students and then host forums with educators to suggest improvements. Learn more. Download the toolkit.

Common Core Connections

Math Facts

WHY MATH DOESN'T ALWAYS ADD UP. As part of NPR's ongoing series of snapshots of how the Common Core State Standards are actually being used in schools, check out Sarah Alvarez's story about how they work in a second grade Michigan math class. Alvarez with a confession, that she has "been intimidated by second grade math," and takes listeners through a brilliant illustration of why, using her daughter Mariana to make her point. Mariana explains, "It's confusing because - for like the addition, I use partial sums and you don't know how to use that." Read the transcript or listen to the story.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CALCULATION AND MATHEMATICS. While you are in a mathematical mood, check out teacher Jon Alfuth's article describing how he redesigned a math course around the Common Core State Standards and what he learned from the process. "Let's be clear; the shift to Common core is hard," writes Alfuth. "In some courses like geometry it turns the entire structure of the way we’ve taught it on its head and requires both kids and teachers to make new connections." Learn what he is doing differently (Bluff City Education).

WHY AMERICANS STINK AT MATH. The teachers at ED are loving this NY Times story by Elizabeth Green about a teacher in Japan, Akihiko Takahashi, whose world was transformed by his mentor's approach to teaching elementary math. Green writes that this experience was a revelation. "Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — [mentor] Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves.... It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun." Read the whole article to learn about how Takahashi's learning changed the practice of teaching math and how it is influencing emerging pedagogy across many subjects. 

"As a black educator... I have nightmares when I think about what schools might have looked like if the courts hadn't butted into the business of public education. Historically, it has been the courts that have forced lawmakers and citizens to have a brutally honest conversation about race, class and equity in public education...."

(Ama Nyamekye, in her Huffington Post reflection/history lesson about how educators find themselves in 'the Vergara Era.")

Quote to Note

the New Math

Great Aspirations

-- About 95% of students from low-income families wish to pursue some type of postsecondary education, compared to about 87% of all students.

-- Only 59% of students from low-income families immediately enrolled in postsecondary education, compared to 71% of all students.

-- Fewer students from low-income families take a core curriculum, at 69%, compared to 84% of students from high-income families (defined as family income of more than $100,000 a year).

-- Only 20% of students from low-income families met at least three of the four ACT academic benchmarks, compared to 62% of students from high-income families

(From a recent ACT analysis of the college and career readiness of US high school graduates.)

Duncan with Wadley

Wadley and Arne Duncan solve a math problem together during his visit to Haiti. Wadley's story is featured in the film Girls Rising.

Why Educating Girls Matters

Last month, ED screened excerpts from the film Girls Rising at the Department and hosted a panel discussion with leaders working to improve educational opportunities for girls globally. 

Read more about Wadley's story and learn more about the event and international efforts to make sure girls across the world have access to education. (Miller, Homeroom).

TAF and PAF news

RACHEL SKERRITT (Principal Fellow 2013, 2014): Check out this inspiring profile of Ms. Skerritt and Eastern High School, located in Washington, D.C. "I love Principal Skerritt," one of her students says. "She's strict. She's fun."

• CHRIS CANTER (Classroom Fellow 2009) is now the Assistant Principal for International Christian Academy in LaBelle, Fla. (not far from Ft. Myers). He also serves as the Assistant Pastor of International Christian Fellowship United Pentecostal Church, which owns and operates the school.


100 Years Ago

The teachers at ED are chuckling about this list of rules for teachers sent to us by a former teacher in Georgia. Most of us have violated all of these rules, with the exception of rule 7, which several have not done. Others have a made a real mockery of rule 8.

Rules for Teachers



Good Stuff for Eduwonks 

KEEP FAMILIES IN THE LOOP ON STUDENT DATA COLLECTION.  ED recently released guidance to schools and districts on how to keep parents and students better informed about what student data is collected and how it is used. Learn more. Check out the new website

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• HOLY TOLEDO! Teachers interested in preparing students for the careers of today and tomorrow may want to check out this entertaining White House blog chronicling a day in the life of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Arne Duncan. They visited Toledo, Ohio, last week to see first-hand model programs and partnerships that are equipping Americans with the knowledge, skills and industry-relevant education they need to get on the pathway to a successful career.

• "MY TOP ADVISORS." Arne Duncan penned this piece about what he has learned recently in conversations with teachers and principals. 

  KIDS COUNT. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its 2014 Kids Count Data Book, which assesses child well-being nationally and across the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Using an index of 16 indicators, the 2014 report ranks states on overall child well-being and in four domains: (1) economic, (2) education, (3) health, and (4) family and community. For 2014, the three highest-ranked states for child well-being were Massachusetts, Vermont, and Iowa. The three lowest-ranked were Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi

• MORE THAN MEDICINE. A new study suggests that laughter may be the newest way to meet academic standards. Humor builds social/emotional relationships that can serve as motivation for improved learning, and it can positively affect the learning environment. No kidding. Learn more (Chalkbeat Tennessee). 

• FIELDING A FULL TEAM: PLANNING COMMON CORE LESSONS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS (ELLs). The Teaching Channel and the NEA have teamed up to provide resources for teachers planning Common Core lessons for their English Language Learners. Check out the Video Playlist for Collaborating to Plan Common Core Lessons for ELLs and a video of 2nd grade students asking and answering questions about soil, a lesson taught by Maricela Rodriguez at Amanecer Primary Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Their goal? Get everyone on the educational field.

• TRANSFORMATIONAL TEACHING. Edutopia'Todd Finley examines four practices of transformational teachers in this thought-provoking post. For one, Finley points out that great teachers don't rescue their students from struggling in class, even when this struggle takes more class time. "[W]hen the learning process is frictionless, retention is less likely," writes Finley. "Struggle actually saves re-teaching time in the long run and is the best way for new dendrites to grow." Read more.

• EASING INTO YOUR SCHOOL GROOVE. Transformational Leadership Coach Elena Aguilar offers returning teachers practical strategies to help them transition into the school after summer. They are all helpful, but we like tip #2: Make it Fun. Aguilar suggests, "Whatever you do, during the first week you identify as your first work week, make it as fun as possible. If you're doing unit planning or curriculum development, try doing it in a café, or a park, or somewhere that has perks like good coffee and snacks, fresh air, or amusing distractions. Also, try to do some of the more fun back-to-school tasks first--shopping for bulletin board materials, compiling poems for community building lessons, creating new posters for your classroom, and so on. Do the easier things that remind you of how much you love teaching." Read more (Edutopia).

Emerging Research

WHAT WORKS IN MATH. The What Works Clearinghouse launched What Works in Math, a new central location at that connects educators with the best information on effective math programs, products, practices, and policies. It also released a quick review on Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence.

FOURTH GRADERS CAPABLE OF TAKING COMPUTER TESTS. As the majority of states are preparing for new state tests, Liana Heitin (EdWeek) reports about a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that indicates fourth grade students are ready for computer-based writing tests.The study also suggests ways that schools can make computer based exams more accessible. Learn more

open book

Recommended Reading

BUILDING A BETTER TEACHER (Elizabeth Green). ED's Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Brad Jupp, recommends this book that addresses ways to improve the teaching of teaching. He is in good company, as a number of positive reviews for the book have been seen in print recently. NYTimes columnist Joe Nocera says the book ought to make the New York Times best-seller list. Read his column.

• WHY TEACHERS LIE. In this interesting piece in the Atlantic, teacher Ben Orlin shares how he and his colleagues often exaggerate when describing classroom successes. It's not all bad, he says, but "sometimes, the classrooms we describe bear little resemblance to the classrooms where we actually teach, and that gap serves no one." Read his refreshing reflection on the importance of keeping it real. 

• A MINORITY WITHIN A MINORITY. Check out this insightful interview between two African American educators about the challenge of recruiting black male teachers to work in Boston Public Schools. The conversation features Travis Bristol, who was a former high school English teacher in New York City public schools and teacher educator for secondary English with the Boston Teacher Residency program, and Hayden Frederick-Clarke, a teacher in Charlestown, Mass. Bristol argues that what is happening in Boston serves as a microcosm of the profession writ large. His take on why black male teachers are leaving THE profession? "They are disappearing because of the working conditions. They are teaching in the most challenging schools." Read or listen to the story

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

Dwight Davis, Washington D.C.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "My [high school] adviser is the reason I decided to teach. She is the teacher I want to be." (Future Teacher, Neb.)

4. "Urban work is not sexy. I am in the business of saving lives." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

3. "It is extremely difficult to work at a high-poverty school. You work 70-80 hours a week." (Teacher, Washington, D.C.)

2. “In my room, we are constantly smiling and laughing and (the students) can tell I love my job.” (Calculus Teacher, Ruskin, Fla.)

1. "I am able to succeed at my [high-needs] school because I am given time during the work day to get my job done. Our principal has seen to that." (Teacher, Philadelphia, Pa.)