THE TEACHERS EDITION -- January 8, 2015

The Teachers Edition

January 8, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

still from Selma video


Selma Speech & Essay Contest Opens

Martin Luther King, Jr. used his words to change history, and so can our students. 

The National Liberty Museum’s Selma Speech & Essay Contest offers high school students an opportunity to write and videotape their reading of an original speech about a topic that couldn't be more timely. Students can participate if they are ages 14-18 and enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the U.S. and its territories. 

After viewing the film Selma, contestants respond with an original 500-700 word speech and a videotaped reading of their speech on this topic: What do you think needs to be done today to protect individual freedom and self-determination? What are you doing or will you do to peacefully advance those rights? 

Grand prize: $5,000! Contest timeline: December 25, 2014 - January 30, 2015.

educators in Ohio

Elizabeth Johnson (standing), a teacher at Ironton High School and a member of the Ohio Network of Regional Leaders, works with educators from her school, including (left to right) Lee Anne Mullens, Joe Rowe, Travis Kleinman and Nancy Sutton


Teachers Influence Teachers

Leaders at the Ohio Department of Education have made it a priority to ensure that teachers, coaches, mentors, and curriculum developers have a prominent role in helping the state make its transition to college- and career-ready standards.

Elizabeth Johnson, high school mathematics teacher in Ironton, Ohio, said education reform in her district “used to be a top-down process but now it’s also a bottom-up process.” Learn how they shifted focus (Progress).

Teach to Lead update

Leading from the Classroom

FOLLOW LEADERSHIP STORIES THIS WEEKEND. Follow the action as teachers develop their leadership ideas at the Regional Teacher Leadership Summit taking place this weekend in Denver, Colo., using #TTLSummit and #TeachtoLead. Review the ideas submitted for Denver.

MORE GREAT IDEAS. Check out some of the teacher leadership ideas submitted for the upcoming Teacher Leadership Summit in Boston, Mass. (February 6-8). Read the ideas that are trending on the Teach to Lead winter campaign and submit your own idea (or comment on someone else's).

HOW TEACHERS LEAD. In early December, ASCD convened the second Whole Child Symposium to explore how to support aspiring teacher leaders, especially those who want to stay in the classroom as instructional leaders. Watch the archived video as education leaders, experts, and practitioners define the teacher leader role, analyze its importance to the profession, and describe how administrators and the education system can prepare future teacher leaders for success. 

LEADERSHIP BY OSMOSIS? Read an interesting blog about how teacher leadership is moving from a state of osmosis to a concept with "purpose, planning and intent" (Slade, Huffington Post).

SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS. Four organizations have joined the Teach to Lead initiative, bringing the current team of supporters to 62. They include the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, and Tennessee Department of Education.


State Data Profiles Made Public

Though it's probably not the gift some teachers were looking for, ED published a series of data profiles that show which states and districts are ensuring that poor and minority students get access to as many great teachers as their more advantaged peers.

States had been given the information in November, but now educators can unpack the data for any state. In some cases, the numbers reveal stark contrasts in qualifications of teachers in high-poverty schools compared to lower-poverty schools. (Check out Louisiana and New York, for example.) Learn more (Klein, EdWeek).

Mrs. Flexer is surprised by former students

Teacher Nancy Flexer reacts as former students throw her a surprise party to celebrate how she changed their lives.


Honoring Ms. Flexer

In this poignant video by Soul Pancake, Kid President introduces viewers to footage from a surprise party thrown for teacher Nancy Flexer upon her retirement. The students describe their personal stories of how Ms. Flexer made an immeasurable difference in their lives during her 41 years of teaching first grade at Cole Elementary School (Nashville, Tenn.)

Happy New Year 2015


Educational Predictions and Clichés for 2015

SIX ISSUES TO WATCH. Andy Rotherham (Bellwether) makes interesting educated guesses about where educators can expect change to stick (the cities) and about trending topics in education, including charters, educational technology, the Common Core and teacher prep. Read his blog.

ARNE DUNCAN'S EDU-PREDICTIONS. Alyson Klein briefly shares the Secretary of Education's guestimates about the country's near-term educational successes.

MORE, MORE, MORE. This National Public Radio blog includes prognostications by teachers, policy makers and eduwonks, including predictions about uses of student data, blended learning and competency-based education. 


New Guidance to Ensure Equity

Joint guidance released from ED and the Department of Justice will remind states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law “that all students deserve equal access to a high-quality education regardless of their language background or how well they know English,” said ED Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon.

In addition, the Departments issued other resources including:

  • A fact sheet in English, Spanish, and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
  • A fact sheet in English, Spanish, and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
  • A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by ED’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first in a series of toolkits to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.     


"After a year of thinking, observing teachers, and visiting schools and learning, it is the most important thing I’ve learnedTeachers in high-poverty communities need professional working conditions."

(Los Angeles teacher Ellie Herman in her op-ed in the Washington Post. Read a Brown University study about the impact of a professional environment on a teacher's growth.)

Quote to Note

P Chat

Principal Chat

DISCIPLINE DISPARITIES. Grappling with racial disparities in your school or district when it comes to discipline? Check out a report from Indiana University that offers some solutions: You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Look At: Acknowledging Race in Addressing Racial Discipline Disparities.

A SNEAK PEEK AT LEADERS TO LEARN FROM. Each year, Education Week shines a spotlight on some of the nation’s most outstanding school district leaders in its Leaders To Learn From report. For the 2015 report, they have revealed four honorees from districts in Missouri, Texas and Washington state that have worked to solve some of the most pressing challenges in education, seized on good ideas and implemented them in their school systems. Read a preview about the four leaders.

Common Core Connections

REGISTER TO ACHIEVE THE CORE. Student Achievement Partners has built a site for teachers that allows them to create an account and save their favorite resources for teaching the Common Core State Standards.

Some favorites might include the Academic Word Finder (with its list of the high-value, tier 2 words); Common Core-aligned lessons for popular classroom texts for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-10; and EQuIP Exemplar math units and lessons that are available for all grades.

the New Math


"According to two panels set up to review the standards and two-thirds of the 13,000 comments from teachers and parents, they [the new standards] are worse than incoherent."

From an editorial published in the (Columbia, SCState about current proposals to replace the Common Core Standards with those created by the state. The editorial board writes that the new standards "are a huge step backwards, a dumbing-down of what students are now being taught."

TAF and PAF news

KAREEN BORDERS (2011 Classroom Fellow and 2012 Regional Fellow) has been named to the Board of Directors for the Washington Association for Middle Level Education.

Students' Corner

Tools for Students

THE POWER OF SEVENS. Seven Common Myths about Financial Aid; Seven Common FAFSA Mistakes; and Seven Things You Need to Know Before you Fill out the FAFSA prepare students and families to apply for college and better understand the costs involved, reveal how simple it is to apply for aid, and eliminate the worry by providing the facts (Marini and Callahan, Homeroom).     


Good Stuff for Eduwonks

FUNDING PRIORITIES. Most of the money that filters through ED to states comes from funding streams set by Congress. This includes formula grants to support students whose families have low incomes (Title I), for example. However, there are also discretionary grants that are awarded to states and districts based on their proposals to meet the country's educational objectives. Recently ED published the Department's 15 priorities and related definitions for use in discretionary grant programs.

APPRENTICESHIP GRANTS. The Department of Labor has announced the availability of $100 million in grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries, such as health care, biotechnology, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. Approximately 25 grants, from $2.5 million to $5 million each, will be awarded using funds collected from employers who use H-1B visas to hire foreign workers.

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO LEND YOUR EDUCATOR VOICE TO ED. The Department is accepting applications for the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship and the Principal Ambassador Fellowship through January 20. As part of their work for the Department, Teacher and Principal Ambassadors share insights about how educational policies affect schools and classrooms. Teachers and principals from the following places are especially encouraged to apply: Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Hawaii and the tribal nations since no Fellows have come from these locations yet.

• DOES GOING TO A STUDENT'S BASKETBALL GAME HELP HER DO BETTER IN MATH? Eleanor Chute profiles a Pennsylvania school district that is harnessing positive student-teacher relationships to build students' progress in mathematics. Learn more (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

• IN SUPPORT OF SMALL SCHOOLS. The School of Arts and Sciences (Tallahassee, Florida) illustrates why small schools might be better for students than small classes. Read the story (Jordan, NPR State Watch).

• WHY ROUND-ROBIN READING DOESN'T WORK. This helpful blog explains why the many forms of round-robin reading don't build reading skills and offers 11 more productive alternatives to the unproductive strategy (Finley, Edutopia).

• NOW IS THE TIME for safe and equitable education for all children all over the world. This heartfelt blog reflects on 2014, and the devastating year it has been for children. As a result, world leaders, non-governmental organizations and ED’s Office for Civil Rights are calling for change. Read the blog (Miller, Homeroom).

• 5 POWERFUL QUESTIONS. Veteran teacher Rebecca Alber describes how to ask great questions and give students time to think, reflect, and talk with others. Read the blog (Edutopia).   

Emerging Research


The Rise, Rewards, and Risks of Multi-Rater Teacher Observation Systems

A report by Taylor White on recently conducted teacher evaluation research examines ways state and local policymakers are starting to replace the often-cursory teacher observations of the past with more comprehensive and meaningful practices. 

As new systems emerge, there is mounting evidence that principals alone can't manage the work, that they must "add eyes" to achieve their goals. In response, a number of districts are using multiple raters to observe and judge teacher performance. The report, from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, looks at the design, implementation and challenges of multi-rater systems in 16 districts.

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


New Jersey teacher Peggy Stewart at the Teach to Lead Regional Summit in Louisville, Ky.

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. Reflecting on the importance of clinical experience in strong teacher preparation: "[N]ew teachers have been taught the theory behind teaching and the knowledge, but that is only half of the job. I never had a class on discipline, management, or parents/parent conferences in college." (Special Education Teacher, Texas)

4. “Leaders are successful when they have the opportunity to fail on behalf of students.” (Blue Ribbon School Superintendent, Vt.)

3. On a teacher's "vacation hangover": "You know you're really tired when you're trying to open your classroom door using your car remote!" (Teacher pointing her keys at her classroom door and hitting the button to open her car, Neb.)

2. "If school was from 8-5 (they have SO many vacations), they could have PE everyday, ART everyday, Music/Band everyday, do homework at school so you have help! Family time at home would be just that… FAMILY TIME, allowing for more togetherness!" (Teacher, on the blog)

1. "Today I told the students we would be commencing our research projects that will lead to a three-paragraph project report. One student responded, 'Oh, rapture!'

"Then I asked them where would they look for information. ... My personal favorite was 'Siri.' The world is changing." (Second grade Teacher, N.J.)