February 19, 2015 THE TEACHERS EDITION

The Teachers Edition

February 19, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

teacher student and Arne at table

Secretary Arne Duncan visits Clyde C. Miller Career Academy High School, Grandview High School, Ferguson Library, and the Greater St Mark Family Church to hear thoughts from students, educators, and community leaders on race, equity and trust since the death of Michael Brown.


The Great Equalizer

In the wake of tragic events that shook the whole country, Secretary Duncan recently traveled to Ferguson, Mo. to participate in a community discussion designed to break down racial barriers. Students, educators, and administrators gathered to share heart-wrenching stories of fear and uncertainty, but also give inspiring accounts of compassion and a desire to work together for social justice. 

In a recent blog, Duncan reflects on the role that education plays in breaking down barriers: "Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future." 

Read more. Watch the video of Arne's conversations with Ferguson community members. Check out the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, aimed at bridging the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Teach to Lead update

Teacher Leadership Makes Inroads

In this article, EdWeek's Ross Brenneman describes progress being made in the movement to make structural changes in teacher leadership through the Teach to Lead initiative.  

Brenneman quotes Senior Advisor to Arne Duncan, Ruthanne Buck, who says, "[Policy] implementation has been most effective in the places where it has been teacher-driven and teacher-led, collaborative change. And in some places the structure just hasn't existed to allow that collaborative environment."

BIRDS OF A LEADERSHIP FEATHER. Another organization has joined the roster of almost 70 official supporters of the Teach to Lead initiative, the NYC Department of Education


Overhauling NCLB

In his recent weekly address, President Obama laid out his plan to ensure more children graduate from school fully prepared for college, careers, and life. The President wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a law that addresses the overuse of standardized tests, makes a real investment in preschool, and gives every child a fair shot at success. He reminded everyone that, when educating our students -- the future of our nation -- we “should not accept anything less than the best.”

“Some of these changes are hard,” he said. “They’ll require us to demand more of our schools and more of our kids, making sure they put down the video game and iPhones and pick up the books. They’ll require us to demand that Washington treat education reform as the dedicated progress of decades -- something a town with a short attention span doesn’t always do well. But I’m confident we can do this. When it comes to education, we are not a collection of states competing against one another; we are a nation competing against the world. Nothing will determine our success as a nation in the 21st century more than how well we educate our kids.”

Also, the President’s Domestic Policy Council released a report breaking down the harmful effects of legislation being advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would lock-in sequestration funding levels, eliminate accountability for taxpayer dollars, and allow states to shift Title I funding from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts. The President has a different vision to improve schools and help teachers by giving them the resources they need, identifying what works, and fixing what does not work. His budget would invest an additional $2.7 billion in Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs next year (blog post).

philly students connect


More Connected Than Separate

Students from Sannii Crespina-Flores’s classroom in north Philadelphia connect through Skype with kids from New York, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Paris, and Kazakhstan and discover that their worlds are not as different as one might think. In this shot, the students ask: Have you experienced racism? 

Crespina-Flores runs the Do Remember Me Project, featured in the documentary, The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It recently shown at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Did you know?


It Takes Five to Thrive

Research and experience have identified five practices that often yield school improvement:

  • A laser-like focus on what kids need to learn.
  • Collaboration on how to teach the content by unpacking standards, mapping curriculum, designing lessons, and constructing assessments that measure whether students master those lessons.
  • Use of results of formative assessments to see which kids got it and need enrichment and which need additional help.
  • Finding patterns in data and using them to improve instruction (My students haven't learned as many sight words as yours. What do you do that I should try?).
  • Building personal relationships so that students trust teachers and so that parents, teachers, and administrators trust one another.

(Karin Chenoweth, How Do We Get There From Here?, Educational Leadership)

Team Teaching


Dynamic Duo Divide and Conquer

At Oceanside High School (N.Y.), English teacher Erin Gilrein and global studies teacher Jennifer Wolfe collaborate to teach an integrated program, consult the Common Core State Standards, and work together to address similar standards in both lessons. 

Watch them deliver rich, cross-disciplinary lessons. Find all videos in this series and see the lessons unfold.


"Protesting without change is just noise."

(Student in Ferguson, Mo., during a conversation with Secretary Arne Duncan. Watch the video. Read the blog.)

Quote to Note

the New Math



In a typical urban district, ineffective teachers with 20 years of experience earn nearly 60 percent more than highly effective teachers with five years of experience.

Sometimes the way we pay teachers discourages great ones from staying in the profession, without encouraging outstanding young people to consider teaching as a career. This new TNTP paper, Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay, explores how lockstep compensation hurts the best teachers, while providing incentives for ineffective ones to stay. Read a blog by Amanda Kocon, who unpacks the report and shines a light on districts that are building smarter compensation systems.


Improving Learning through Cultural Diversity 

MORE THAN ORAL TRADITIONResources ranging from culturally appropriate curriculum to successful instructional strategies to help teach American Indian and Alaska Native students are in this Center for Standards and Assessment Implementation Resource Library collection.

I GET IT. Getting the text means getting the answers, according to bloggers Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder who have developed text dependent questions (TDQs) for ELLs in the middle grades. Read about the 6th-8th grade example titled "The Evolution of the Grocery Bag" by Henry Petroski that illustrates their point. Using TDQ guidelines from Student Achievement Partners' website Achieve the Core, they describe considerations in creating TDQs for ELLs.

WORTH THE EFFORT. Research shows that studying a subject with a different language has many advantages and students who do tend to be more cognitively advanced and more flexible learners. But getting the right immersion program in place has challenges. Read more from Ernest Kimme

TAF and PAF news

JoLisa Hoover (2014 Classroom Fellow): JoLisa and her fourth graders at River Ridge Elementary School in Leander, Texas were featured in Kid President's new book, Guide to Being Awesome, for their awesome socktober sockfest!

• Jen Bado-Aleman (2012 Washington Fellow) and English resource teacher encouraged seniors to fill out their forms and talk about their college and career aspirations at FAFSA Fill-In Day at Gaithersburg (MD) High School (GHS). Read the blog about the GHS Blue Crew that goes for the green. 

Black History Month


On Racial Equality

During February, The Teachers Edition has featured teaching resources to support this year's African American History Month theme, "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture," which focuses on African Americans who struggled to achieve equality in American society. 

 • Teaching Tolerance has released Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot, a FREE classroom documentary that explores the Selma-to-Montgomery legacy through the activism of students and teachers. The accompanying viewer’s guide encourages students in grades 6-12 to think about voting issues today and to consider what they would march for. Teaching Tolerance has also launched an interactive campaign using the hashtag #imarchfor.  

 • Studying Jackie Robinson's breaking of the racial barrier in professional baseball can lead students to a deeper exploration of racism in the United States. Review the lesson plan offered for teachers from the Library of Congress with primary sources and other research documents.  

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• KEEPING TENURE. MAKING IT MEANINGFUL. Amidst a national tenure debate, E4E teachers have issued insightful recommendations to improve tenure in California and New York. Read their reports.

• WHAT IT'S LIKE TO TAKE A COMMON CORE TEST. Reporter Allie Bidwell (U.S. News & World Report) took a third grade practice PARCC test and found it "kind of difficult." Read her reflection on the newly released test and how the new tests affect teaching. Bidwell says that PARCC officials told her that each test item is reviewed by more than 30 experts, including teachers, and that the consortium has drawn on information from last spring's field test of more than 1 million students.

• AROUND THE WORLD. Preparing young people to be better global citizens is one goal of the World Digital Library (WDL) – a project led by the Library of Congress in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and other libraries, archives, and museums. Learn more about the free Primary Sources from WDL and how educators can incorporate them into their teaching in this webinar February 24. 

• GOOD NEWS. U.S. students are graduating from high school at a record rate. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81% in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new, uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago. For three consecutive years, graduation rates have continued to climb, reflecting continued progress among America’s students. Learn more. View the data.

• FIVE-CENT SOLUTIONS. What simple solutions will help find ways to eliminate wasteful professional development and promote ones that will lead to better classroom performance? Stephanie Hirsh’s blog reflects on the ways that people change behaviors and seeks answers. 

 • HOW CREDS OPEN DOORS. Missouri teacher and top-50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist Jamie Manker blogs about how accolades create the space for conversations about teaching.

Cardozo Student and Arne


Best in Show

Students at Cardozo Education Campus (Washington, DC) are making big gains in attendance, reading proficiency and overall student achievement through efforts of educators, community partners and help from an Investing in Education (i3) grant from ED. Students showed off their projects, including a nationally acclaimed app designed to increase attendance and decrease truancy and dropout rates, when Secretary Duncan visited their school.

Students of Mr. P’s (Aris Pangilinan) Project Lead the Way computer science and software engineering class won the District of Columbia High School Level “BEST IN THE STATE” 2014-2015 Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Learn more. Read the related Washington Post article.

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

two teachers talking

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. On how teachers can convince their principals to listen: "Be the best instructors in your classroom that you can possibly be and that will be the biggest influencer without saying a word." (Principal, Mass.)

4. On the importance of patience in understanding student growth: “I think about Keith’s growth and how slow it was and not necessarily on my timeline, or my school’s timeline, or my state’s timeline, but it surfaced on his timeline. I keep this lesson in mind. He taught me to never give up.” (Teacher, Fla.)

3. "There should be no debate on support. 'Education for all' is an investment. How well we support our students today will directly determine how the United States fares in the future." (Angie on ED blog)

2. "Nobody knows what you [teachers] know about teaching and learning." (Teacher-in-Residence, Colo.)

1. "Students must be our grounding point. We must see our students’ faces. When I get frustrated or when I feel far from my students, I close my eyes and see their faces. These faces help me remember the important work we do and stick to the mission." (Teacher, Fla.)