21 Reasons to Teach -- TEACHERS EDITION -- April 2, 2015

The Teachers Edition

April 2, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

teacher working with elementary student

Reason #3: "To live with a DEEP SENSE OF PURPOSE." Alma Suney Park teaches sixth grade at Eastside College Preparatory School, East Palo Alto, Calif.


Time to Quit Your Job and Teach

Educators already know the payoffs for teaching, but reading this gem by Katrina Fried will be downright cathartic for most (Huffington Post). Plus, the next time a relative or friend questions your choice to be an educator, ask them if their vocation comes with these benefits.

Some of our favorites: "To help the underdog" and "To be THE OBJECT OF THE CUTEST COMPARISON you've ever heard."


Pinehurst Personalizes Learning 

They've always been smart, but children began to really take ownership of what they learn at Pinehurst Elementary School (Charleston, S.C.) when the school became a Personalized Learning School this year. Watch the video as third grade student TyReeq Wilson testifies, "This school is actually the best school I've ever went to."

The recipient of two federal grants -- Race to the Top District and Teacher Incentive Fund -- the school is a diverse place with a large Hispanic population, and it is helped by a full time translator and parent advocate. 

Pinehurst Elementary

Teach to Lead update

O, Canada!

Leading and Learning 

in the Global Sphere

How can high-performing and rapidly improving education systems teach us about ways to elevate and enhance the teaching profession? 

In this reflective blog by ED’s Director of International Affairs, Maureen McLaughlin explores what attendees planned to focus on at the 2015 International Summit on the Teaching Profession. This year, six teachers who attended the Teach to Lead summits including Natalie McCutchen (Kentucky), Mark Sass (Denver, Colo.), Jennifer Aponte (Boston, Mass.), Pam Reilly (Illinois), Joe Fatheree (Effingham, Ill.), Wendy Bandi (Fall River, Mass.) and Philadelphia principal Sharif El-Mekki (Principal Ambassador Fellow), were invited to accompany Secretary Duncan and McLaughlin on the trip to Banff, Canada where the summit was held. 

Learn more about this important global forum that is tackling what’s next for teacher leadership, one of the highlights of this year’s summit. Read an article about the teachers attending the summit and what they expected to learn from Canada’s fast-improving and high-performing school systems (iSchool Guide).   

Valeria Brown

Editor's note: The following is part of a series reporting on excellent African American educators. Educators were selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.


Celebrating African American Educators

Valeria Brown is a Teacher on Assignment working on professional development for Seminole County Public Schools in Sanford, Florida, where she also teaches middle school Language Arts. She was named SCPS Teacher of the Year in 2013.

What is the one thing you most celebrate about your students?

I celebrated my students’ voices. Each human being has something significant to contribute to the world. As a middle school teacher, I wanted my students to find their voice early and share it with the world.

In what ways do you encourage parents, family members, and other caring adults to support the learning and development of African American students?

I am the founder of the Diversity in Education Initiative for my school district. Our goals are to recruit and retain teachers of color and close the achievement gap for the students of color. We are deeply committed to the success of all students and believe that if educators work together, we will get the job done.   

Read Valeria’s blog for the Center for Teaching Quality.


Hope Street Fellows Deadline Extended

Hope Street Group (HSG) is looking for great teachers all across the country to be Teacher Fellows. HSG Fellows collaborate with state and national leaders, as well as their colleagues, to develop strategic, practical solutions that address public policy challenges related to education. Check out the application and find out more.


•North Carolina: April 10, 2015; National Teacher Fellowship: April 17, 2015; Kentucky: April 17, 2015; Hawaii: May 1, 2015.

Title II policy brief


Crafting a More Useful Title II

Most educators don't know that Title II-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides states with funds for training, hiring, and retaining skilled educators -- much less that the funds are distributed by formula based on enrollment (20%) and the number of students below poverty line (80%). Why would they, right?

A new report by the Education Policy Center at the American Institutes of Research argues that Title II, Part A deserves a serious look. In fact, because it provides important funding for schools to develop teachers and leaders, it needs a serious overhaul.  

The authors of Title II, Part A: Don’t Scrap It, Don’t Dilute It, Fix It ask educators and leaders to “redefine professional development and re-engineer Title II-A to focus strictly on continuous performance improvement—of people and organizations—while keeping implementation flexible. A new Title II-A would make certain that state, district, and school leaders have the capacity required to manage professional development activities and resources more effectively to achieve Title II’s vital student achievement goals.”


Nominate and Recognize your Students

Last year, nearly three million students from over 30,000 schools were recognized by the President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP). There were 1.7 million students honored for educational excellence and 1.1 million cited for outstanding educational achievement. 

This blog tells educators four great reasons to nominate students from their schools for the awards. Since 1983, PEAP has honored graduating elementary, middle and high school students for their achievement and hard work. Learn more

Did you know?


Teachers Are Not

Abandoning their Profession

There is no systemic evidence that all the best teachers are leaving. In fact the opposite appears to be true. 

Read more about teacher retention and retirement rates in the commentary by Luke Kohlmoos (Real Clear Education).


Teachers’ Effectiveness Gets Better With Age

Several new studies suggest the average teacher's ability to influence student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer. A similar finding in more than one research study dispels the myth that after the first three years in the classroom teachers hit a plateau.

In one study (Papay and Kraft, Brown University) researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement continued well beyond the three- to five-year mark, and improvements were seen in both reading and math teachers, but were stronger in mathematics. 

In another study (Ladd and Sorenson, Duke University) the researchers found that, on average, teachers continued to improve their effectiveness in boosting academic outcomes for at least 12 years. These studies align with growing research that shows high quality professional development and coaching will help teachers grow (Sawchuk, EdWeek).

Signing  Day


Signing Day Celebrates Seniors' Success

On May 1, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative is celebrating its one-year anniversary. To support the President’s North Star Goal of the U.S. having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, the Reach Higher team invites educators to celebrate the students in their local community with a Signing Day celebration in May.

Check out the Signing Day Toolkit filled with resources and examples of how to celebrate the accomplishments of high school seniors in your community. Mayors, principals, high school faculty members, community organizers, and anyone who wants to see students succeed is encouraged to get involved. If you would like to invite a member of the administration to your Signing Day event, submit the Signing Day speaker request form to www.reachhigher.gov.

P Chat

Principal Chat

RAMPING UP PD. How well does your professional development system align with Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning? Take the test and learn more about how the Standards Assessment Inventory 2 can evaluate your data and help with a plan of action. Systems can leverage data from the assessment to guide the planning, facilitation, implementation, and evaluation of professional learning to maximize its impact and investment.

SUMMER EATING. Get great resources, technical guidance, and best practices that can make a Summer Meals Program successful from USDA’s webinar.

SAFETY BY DESIGN. Learn how to make your school safer when building, renovating or improving in this one-hour Safe Schools by Design webinar. The webinar will provide participants with an overview of important safety and security features to consider for school buildings and grounds. 

Common Core Connections

CORE VIDEOS. Want to see examples of Common Core-aligned instruction in a real classroom? The Teaching the Core Video Library is a growing collection of more than 60 video lessons featuring real teachers and students. Each video has been annotated by teacher reviewers to call out a teacher action, student behavior or lesson element that supports Common Core learning. Each lesson also includes a complete set of lesson materials, examples of student work and interviews with the teacher featured in the video. Sign up here.

YESTERDAY’S GONE. In her blog, Angelle Lailhengue remembers the old days of teaching to tired bubble tests (New Orleans Times-Picayune). Now, as an instructional coach (Lacoste Elementary School, Chalmette, La.), she helps teachers prepare lessons on critical thinking, text analysis and problem solving – skills she knows will prepare students for college and careers, as well as the skills they need to pass this year’s assessment.

RUNNING FOR OFFICE. Find out how presidential candidates (and educators!) can refute the ten spurious claims being made about the Common Core in this interesting blog by Tim Shanahan (Education Gadfly).

MASS APPEAL. Twenty-three Massachusetts Teaching Policy Fellows at the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education released a report recommending statewide adoption of the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessment. Find out why 351 teachers in 74 districts say the PARCC is best.

WORTH THE EFFORT. There’s a struggle going on about teaching to higher standards, but it’s worth it, according to Doull Elementary School (Denver, Colo.) teacher Kyle Schwartz. Read more (Washington Post). 


"A lot of my friends' parents, instead of talking to their kids about the birds and the bees, they're telling them about how to go out and come back alive."

(Student from Cesar Chavez Parkside High School who visited the U.S. Department of Education March 17 to present her senior policy project about police brutality.)

Quote to Note

the New Math


Improvement Narrows Gap

Graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students in the nation. 

(Read more from National Center for Education Statistics.)



Dear Teachers Everywhere,

Former fourth grade teacher and current parent Jen Hatmaker penned this entertaining and insightful open letter to teachers everywhere. It begins, "I’ve calculated your earnings by adding your classroom hours, pre- and post-school hours, conferences and phone calls, weekend work, after-hours grading, professional development requirements, lesson planning, team meetings, extracurricular clubs and teams, parent correspondence, district level seminars, and material preparation, and I believe you make approximately 19 cents an hour."


As a parent, Hatmaker offers encouragement to teachers when she writes, "That high standard you set for our kids? We freaking love it. Thank you. Thank you for insisting on kindness and respect, excellence and persistence." Read the rest of the letter. Learn about the Teacher Salary Project.



Good Stuff for Eduwonks

In this Q & A, Arne Duncan takes a pointed look at what’s right and what’s not right with education since he’s been at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education. Topics include ESEA reauthorization, rising graduation rates among “traditionally overlooked populations,” and NCLB waiver renewals. Duncan also discussed the pushback against standardized testing and school turnarounds (Klein, EdWeek).

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• GET SCHOOLED. This guide to promote college access and completion can help teachers, counselors and other stakeholders develop a communication plan to encourage a culture of academic excellence, schedule events to highlight college access and completion and more. Let Graduate! A Community Guide to College Access and Completion help your high school students be prepared to succeed.

• WIDENING THE NET FOR GIFTED STUDENTS. Students often discover a safe space in their school's gifted resource room. But how can schools identify gifted and talented students who may go unnoticed because they are African American, Latino or low-income students? This blog explores a new way to determine who is gifted and provide them with the right resources (Fishman-Weaver, American Journal of Education).

CONSTRUCTIVE PUSHBACK. Upset with an award-winning teacher who encouraged her students not to pursue the teaching profession, Future Educators Association Executive Director and former teacher Dan Brown pushed back. He penned an amazing blog arguing that it’s time for teachers to stand up for their profession (Real Clear Education). "The teaching profession is not all roses and sunshine," Brown writes, "but let’s create a more perfect union, not stand back and declare failure. Kids need models, not martyrs in their classrooms."

• THE ART OF EVALUATION. In this compelling article, a music teacher who was formerly evaluated as highly effective--but downgraded when lumped with English teachers down the hall--advocates in this piece for evaluations like ones in Tennessee and Washington, D.C. There, non-tested subjects, like the arts, are evaluated using student portfolios.  

HERDING CATS: A 21ST CENTURY SKILL. The ability to move a diverse group forward is just one of the new skills needed by workers in the global economy, according to David Brooks in a New York Times column. It takes a while before these new skills are defined and recognized, but others include making nonhuman things intuitive to humans, the ability to simultaneously hold two opposed ideas in mind and more.

 EVALUATING TEXT COMPLEXITY CAN BE MORE COMPLEX THAN EDUCATORS THINK. Some texts with minimalist information have the same Lexile measure as those with complex sentences and multisyllabic words. Author/consultant Stephanie Harvey cautions that to understand either one, students need to “slow down, consider what they know, ask questions, annotate, synthesize, think inferentially, and reread for clarification.” Read a summary of her work (Marshall Memo).

• BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND. Backwards planning helps math teacher John Troutman McCrann (Harvest Collegiate High School, New York City, N.Y.) develop effective teaching strategies. It fits right into implementing higher standards, he says. Read more (EdWeek).

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


Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. "You don't need to hold me accountable. I go and do my dream job every day." (Principal, Pa.)

4. "Teacher leadership builds teacher efficacy." (Teacher, Florida)

3. "We need to be the quality control guardians of our own profession." (Teacher, Nebraska)

2. “I feel like educators are first responders.” (Teacher, Albuquerque. N.M.)

1. "Teacher leadership is contagious." (Teacher, Mass.)