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Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education hosted a Google+ Hangout—“Celebrating African American Teachers in the Classroom”—at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The panel, moderated by NBC News’ Tamron Hall, comprised of African American educators from across the country, discussed the rewards of the teaching profession, the critical role of good teachers, and the challenges they face in preparing students for college and careers.
The panel consisted of the Department’s Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement; David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; Jemal Graham, a 7th-grade math teacher at Eagle Academy for Young Men in Queens, N.Y.; Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, Howard University, Department of Education and Wesley Baker, a middle-school social studies teacher at KIPP Truth Academy in Dallas, Texas.
The discussion was the first of several events to be hosted by the Department to celebrate the country’s more than five million teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10).
Each teacher brought a passion and wealth of knowledge to the discussion that reminds all of us of the important role that educators play in our lives. From one topic to the next, each gave heartfelt feedback of what was working and what they found most challenging. What struck me the most, was that regardless of their location or district each teacher was able to find common ground with the other. This was not just a calling for them, this was their profession and they studied it and practiced it the same way a lawyer prepares for a case – with diligence and unwavering attention. The panel discussion was a rare opportunity for a diverse assembly of educators to come together to exchange their ideas.
Secretary Duncan and President Obama have recognized the need for a more diverse teaching force. Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are African American or Hispanic, but less than 15 percent of teachers are Black or Latino, and less than 2 percent of our nation’s teachers are African American males. Early in Duncan’s term as Secretary of Education, he made the call for more African American men to pick up the chalk and teach. Read more about the Teach.gov initiative (now Teach.org).
Watch yesterday’s Google+ Hangout:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron French is deputy press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education
Great teaching can change a child’s life. That kind of teaching is a remarkable combination of things: art, science, inspiration, talent, gift, and — always — incredibly hard work. It requires relationship building, subject expertise and a deep understanding of the craft. Our celebrated athletes and performers have nothing on our best teachers.
But, in honoring teachers, I think Teacher Appreciation Week needs an update. Don’t get me wrong — teachers have earned every bagel breakfast, celebratory bulletin board, gift card and thank-you note. Given the importance of their work and the challenges they face, teachers absolutely deserve every form of appreciation their communities can muster.
But we need to do something a bit more substantive and lasting than the bagel breakfast, too.
Complex as teaching has been over the years, it’s more so now — in part because of reforms my administration has promoted. The reasons for these changes are clear. Despite many pockets of excellence, we’re not where we need to be as a nation. The president has challenged us to regain our place as world leader in college completion, but today we rank 14th. A child growing up in poverty has less than a 1-in-10 chance of earning a college diploma.
To change the odds, we have joined with states and communities to work for major reforms in which teachers are vital actors. The biggest are new college- and career-ready standards that 46 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to adopt. These higher standards require a dramatic rethinking of teachers’ daily practice: working toward standards tied to literature and problem-solving; using data to inform and adapt instruction. It’s hard work — but done well, our children will have a better shot at a solid, middle-class life.
The teachers I talk to don’t question the need for broad change. They are enthusiastic about instruction that emphasizes depth rather than coverage, worthy literature to read and real-world problems to solve. They passionately want to be part of helping more students get prepared for college and career. But many have told me that the pace of change is causing real anxiety.
I’ve heard repeatedly that, given the newness of the college- and career-ready standards, teachers really want to see what they’re aiming for. They want models of excellence that they can study. And it all feels like the change is happening at once. It’s impossible not to be touched by the strength of their feelings — their desire to get it right, and for many, the worry that they won’t.
There’s no question in my mind that raising the bar for our students is necessary and that America’s educators are up to it. But I want to call on the other adults in the system to redouble their efforts to support our teachers through this change.
I’ll start with my own team at the Department of Education. We are listening carefully to teachers and other experts as we walk through this transition, and working hard to figure out how to make it as smooth as it can possibly be for teachers and for their students. And I pledge to redouble our own efforts to work with states, districts and schools to help connect educators who can offer a vision of outstanding teaching under these new standards.
But I also want to call on policy makers, district leaders and principals to find ways to help ease these transitions to higher standards. What does that mean?
- Find opportunities for teachers to lead this work. There is far too much talent and expertise in our teaching force that is hidden in isolated classrooms and not reaching as far as it can to bring the system forward. Teachers and leaders must work together to create opportunities for teacher leadership, including shared responsibility, and that means developing school-level structures for teachers to activate their talents. This may mean reducing teaching loads to create “hybrid” roles for teachers in which they both teach and lead.
- Find, make visible and celebrate examples of making this transition well.Teachers often tell me they’re looking for examples of how to do this right. Let’s spotlight teachers and schools that are leading the way.
- Use your bully pulpit — and share that spotlight with a teacher. Whether you are a principal, superintendent, elected leader, parent or play some other role, you have a voice. Learn about this transition, and use your voice to help make this transition a good experience for teachers, students, and families. Especially important is educating families about what to expect and why it matters. Invite a teacher to help you tell the story and answer questions.
- Be an active, bold part of improving pre-service training and professional development, and make sure that all stages of a teacher’s education reflect the new instructional world they will inhabit. Teachers deserve a continuum of professional growth; that means designing career lattices so that teaching offers a career’s worth of dynamic opportunities for impacting students.
- Read and take ideas from the RESPECT Blueprint, a plan released last month containing a vision for an elevated teaching profession. The blueprint reflects a vision shaped by more than a year’s worth of intimate discussions the department convened with some 6,000 teachers about transforming their profession. Teaching is the nation’s most important work, and it’s time for concrete steps that treat it that way — RESPECT offers a blueprint to do that.
Don’t get me wrong — teachers deserve a week of celebration with plenty of baked goods. But I hear, often, that this is a time that teachers want some extra support. They deserve real, meaningful help — not just this week, but all year long.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
This article originally appeared in SmartBlogs on Education.
Although Teacher Appreciation Week begins today, officials at the Department of Education started celebrating early by honoring the five experienced teachers who were inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame last Friday.
The teachers were invited to the Department of Education to talk about their practice and to discuss education policy with a number of senior-level officials. From the beginning of the conversation, however, the teachers wowed us by their passion for their students and their subjects—and by their humility.
- Beth Vernon, a science teacher from Missouri, described herself as someone who figured out early on that she had to make a classroom that she wanted to sit in. Vernon has created a CD compilation of songs about science to engage her students called Beth Vernon’s Rock Collection. Still, Vernon described herself as the winner of “the most surprised” teacher to be honored at the Hall of Fame and discussing policy at ED.
- Darryl Johnson, a language arts teacher also from Missouri, described his path to teaching as an unlikely one. The youngest of three boys, he was the first person in his family to attend college, and even when he did his student teaching, he wasn’t sure this was the profession for him. What changed Johnson’s path was observing how his lesson on the story “No News from Auschwitz (Rosenthal)” affected a student in the back row of his class. When he realized the effect he could have on individual students, he was all in. Since then, Johnson was selected as a Missouri State Teacher of the Year (2007), and he has earned and renewed his National Board Certification.
- Martha McLeod, “born and raised on a cattle ranch in Texas,” says it is important for her to help “kids in poverty” to connect what they learn in her 5th grade science class to the rest of the world. Her school recycling program has won numerous awards, but she admits that she doesn’t run the program for the accolades. “I want my kids to know that we are not a throw-away society,” she explained.
- As a rural student living in Northern Maryland, Rebecca Gault was homeschooled in grades 6-12. Lessons from her mother were so organized that got a notecard of objectives every week, telling what she should do and what she should learn. On Fridays, she took the tests in every subject. From her mother, Gault says she learned the tremendous importance of getting an education. “She told me, education should be something you would die for,” she said.
- Deborah Cornelison describes her high school science class in Oklahoma as a STEM classroom before teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was cool. Not only has she been lauded for exceptional, experiential teaching, but Cornelison has been involved in creating authentic professional learning for science teachers. Of the Teacher Hall of Fame award, she said, “I especially value this honor because it values career teachers.”
Those participating in a conversation with these honorees couldn’t have agreed with Cornelison more.
Laurie Calvert is the Department of Education’s Teacher Liaison. Prior to this, she taught for 14 years in Asheville, N.C.
So many of America’s teachers are amazing. Each day, they take on the extraordinary responsibility and highly complex work of moving all students forward. As I visit schools across the country and talk with teachers at the U.S. Department of Education, they astound me continually with what they accomplish every day. Not only are teachers some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know, but they do work that few of us could accomplish on our best days.
During Teacher Appreciation Week, the people who value teachers often take time to send them a note of thanks or a token of appreciation. This is appropriate. The least we can do once a year is to push “pause” on our lives and thank them in the short term. However, what our teachers really need—and deserve—is our ongoing commitment to work with them to transform America’s schools. They need us to acknowledge them as professionals who are doing our nation’s most important work. We can begin this work by making it a priority to listen to and to celebrate teachers.
Here are some ways we plan to listen to and to celebrate teachers at the Department of Education this week.
Listening. On Monday, May 6, we will host a Google hangout celebrating African-American educators around the country, broadcasting from the campus of Howard University. You can view the conversation – “Celebrating African-American Teachers in our Classrooms” – live at 4 pm Eastern or check out the archived version of the Hangout afterwards at our YouTube site. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter at #AfAmTeachers. On Wednesday and Friday, our Teaching Ambassador Fellows will host roundtable discussions with teachers of children with exceptionalities and teachers of English language learners. We want to know from them what is working in their schools, what is not working, and how we can better support them.
Celebrating. Every day this week I will be making phone calls to great teachers who are leading change from their classrooms. We will also be celebrating teachers on Twitter; please be part of that by using the hashtag #thankateacher. On Wednesday I will drop by a local Teacher Appreciation Breakfast to thank teachers for making tremendous progress closing gaps and raising achievement in their school. We are also hosting a reception at the Department for the more than 400 current and former teachers who work at the Department of Education, and talking about how we can better make use of their experiences to improve our work.
Walking in Teachers’ Shoes. One of my favorite activities all year long is our ED Goes Back to School Day, taking place this year on Thursday, May 9. More than 65 of my senior staff and regional officers will shadow a teacher for a day or half-day, witnessing firsthand how demanding and rewarding it can be to juggle reforms, pedagogy, and practice. After the shadowing, the teachers and staff will meet with me back at ED to talk about their experiences and share lessons learned. Last year our staff benefitted tremendously from the experience, talking about what they saw for months afterward and connecting their experiences with their daily work here.
I encourage everyone to take time this week to not only take a more active role honoring teachers, but to listen to them actively and to celebrate their great work. I hope this week will be your chance to ask a teacher, How can I support you in America’s most important work, all year long?
Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education
Education researchers play an invaluable role in formulating policy, from preschool to grad school, Secretary Arne Duncan told the attendees of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in San Francisco this week where he laid out a vision for where assessment is going, and engaged researchers on the role they play in improving education. “You are the experts. You are the independent truth-tellers,” he said.
Duncan’s speech to AERA examined the major issues facing students, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders in today’s education environment. Duncan noted that the role of the independent expert is not at odds with asking hard questions about the practical implications of research, as well as assisting practitioners to improve education outcomes. “Rigor is necessary but not sufficient. Relevance matters,” Duncan said.
In an effort to make education research more relevant, Duncan challenged the research community to consider two items:
- To do a more complete job of asking comparative questions in research and evaluation.
- To remain open to findings that contradict or compel a rethinking of the conventional wisdom.
Secretary Duncan also addressed standardized assessments, saying they are still a needed tool for transparency and accountability. “We should never, ever return to the days of concealing achievement gaps with school averages, no-stakes tests, and low standards,” he said. “A new generation of high-quality assessments must be a cornerstone of America regaining its educational leadership. And researchers, with rigor and relevance, must help lead forth that effort.”
Read the full text of Duncan’s speech: Choosing the Right Battles: Remarks and a Conversation.
With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and a civic obligation – to strengthen their pathways to success. To prepare for their return home and their transition back to civilian life, the Obama Administration sought – early on– to bring diverse government partners to the table, calling for an interagency planning effort to support Service members’ career readiness.
In response to President Obama’s call to action for a career-ready military in August 2011, the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force was launched, under the leadership of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. This interagency effort has brought together a collaboration of federal agencies – including Education, the Small Business Administration, Labor, Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as our military services and National Guard and Reserves – as partners, working together on the first major redesign of the military’s Transition Assistance Program in over twenty years to develop a comprehensive, outcome-based re-entry program now called Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS).
Each of the partner federal agencies is contributing leadership and resources to activate the implementation of Transition GPS, in accordance with the VOW to Hire Heroes Act signed into law November 21, 2011. Key to this work has been the development of a core 3-day curriculum, career readiness standards, three optional tracks for transition (Higher Education, Technical Training, and Entrepreneurship), as well as options for learning in brick-and-mortar classrooms and online. Throughout their participation, Service members will receive individualized counseling and support in the preparation of a transition plan. The program also provides Service members who are exiting active duty with an education transcript, resume, access to labor market information, employment and housing opportunities, benefits information, mentoring resources, and other support services.
Based on lessons learned from as early as 1991 when Congress mandated that a Transition Assistance Plan be enacted, this redesign is guided by the view that preparation for the transition from military to civilian life should begin upon entry to boot camp. Transition GPS is the way forward, ensuring that our separating military men and women prepare for educational advancement and career opportunities throughout their lives. With the availability of military training, courses, and online certificate and degree opportunities, Service members will design an individual education and career plan to guide their future, both during and after their term of duty.
Today, many colleges and universities provide academic credit for individual courses, full programs of study and prior learning acquired on ships, during combat and at base locations worldwide. In the next few years, Transition GPS will provide the pathways for veterans re-entering their communities with career-ready education and training for success in the workforce. Some will exit having earned their high school diplomas, GEDs, and/or their associates’, bachelors’ or masters’ degrees. Others will seamlessly continue their education or training following their military careers in quality, affordable educational programs, taking advantage of internships or apprenticeships to be fully ready for their chosen careers.
Federal agency partners working with Military and Veterans Service Organizations have committed to maximizing resources, aligning benefits for Service members, and reducing duplication and system inefficiencies to best facilitate Service members’ transition to civilian life. More than 60 percent of jobs will require some postsecondary education or training: we want all of our veterans to take advantage of the variety of benefits available to them, so that they can choose an educational program with good job prospects that will serve them well.
Our collective goal – aspiring for every veteran to have a seamless pathway to pursuing future employment opportunities with career-ready knowledge and skills for success – is ambitious, but Transition GPS is a key component in strengthening that journey. Whether a veteran needs financial planning, an educational program like Troops to Teachers, help on campus from an experienced counselor, claims assistance, disability or other medical services from the VA, guidance on accessing federal student aid or navigating college and university opportunities, or help from the SBA to set up a small business, we stand at an extraordinary moment in time to welcome our men and women home and serve them and their families better than we’ve ever done in the past to prepare them for bright and prosperous futures.
Rosye Cloud is the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families at the White House. Martha Kanter is the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
Writing is an important part of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts, but what about students learning to employ the digital tools so natural to them outside the classroom to express themselves in school? The challenges to “going digital” with writing instruction range from choosing the best methods to employ the latest technological tools to accessing quality in-service and joining communities of practice to staying current with the changing definition of a “literate” citizenry.
Fortunately, there is Digital Is — a forum for teachers to share and engage with other educators in the field of digital writing — to meet these challenges. Developed by the National Writing Project, a venerable source of professional development, curricular and instructional resources, research findings, and best practices based on experiences of K-16 educators, this free Web portal is serving thousands of educators, writers, and K-12 learners.
In “Writing and Learning in a Digital Age — Digital Is,” the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Margarita Melendez conveys the multiple facets of this unique resource that is supported by funding from the Department of Education. Readers of the feature will also learn about two other OII-supported National Writing Project efforts that are providing teaching modules connected to the Common Core and a professional development program focused on rural school districts. Read the full piece: Writing and Learning in a Digital Age – Digital Is.
Inside a classroom at Chantry Elementary School in the small town of Malvern, Iowa, four 1st grade students are gathered around a table facing Becky Curtis. She is teaching them to read.
It appears to be a traditional reading intervention class. However, they are not alone.
A state away in Omaha, Neb., Mrs. Patty Smith is observing the small group via WebEx software and a webcam on an open laptop sitting on a table behind the students. Occasionally Mrs. Smith speaks with Ms. Curtis through a small listening device. The technology is allowing Mrs. Smith to communicate, see and hear the students’ responses and their teacher’s instruction.
They are part of Project READERS, a large-scale distance coaching study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). UNL is using technology to connect trained coaches with more than 200 teachers in over 40 rural schools in eight states, where reading-support experts would not be available otherwise.
Ms. Curtis is a special education teacher who volunteered for the professional development project to improve her skills and serve as a reading intervention specialist.
As they begin to read a story together, the students are hanging on their teacher’s every word, using their fingers to point and decode letters, repeating words, blending sounds, and improving their phonemic awareness.
Ms. Curtis is working with precision, making sure her pupils can hear patterns and the rhythm of stressed and unstressed pieces of compound words. They identify and repeat the smallest units of sound.
When incorrect, the students and Ms. Curtis repeat and persist until the sounds are exactly right.
This rural education R&D, using a high-speed broadband connection, appears less intrusive than traditional coaching with an additional teacher physically in the classroom. At no point is Ms. Curtis competing for her students’ attention.
UNL is investigating the effects of distance coaching using technology on rural teachers’ knowledge, practice and student outcomes. Early elementary school teachers also learn and apply methods for collecting and using data to make instructional decisions.
The large-scale study is part of work conducted at UNL’s National Center for Research on Rural Education (R2Ed), which is funded by a five-year grant from the Institute for Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.
Near the end of class, Ms. Curtis bursts into laughter, unable to contain the private conversation she is having with Mrs. Smith about her students and their responses to her instruction.
The children immediately log-in, asking “What did she say? What did she say?” With a smile on her face, Ms. Curtis removes her hand from her mouth to tell her students, “She said I was awesome you guys!”
There are high-fives all around as Ms. Curtis tells her students how well they were reading. Before class ends, Ms. Curtis unplugs her ear-bud from the laptop and asks the students to turn to face Mrs. Smith for a quick debrief conversation.
Their time is up and class ends for the day. As the children run from the room, it is obvious their secret is out.
From Omaha to Malvern they’re all learning together.
John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education
If you are a high school senior who has yet to decide where you’re going to college this fall, you are most likely not alone. May 1st marks the National College Decision Day where the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities require students to notify them of their decision to attend.
As you navigate the college decision process, the U.S. Department of Education provides tools for you and your family to make it easy to compare important information such as college costs, average student loan debt, and graduation rates across different institutions.
If you are a student or the parent of a college-bound teen struggling with this decision, here are a few tools that can help:
The College Scorecard includes essential information about a particular college’s cost, its graduation rates and the average amount its students borrow, all in an easy-to-read format. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose one that is well-suited to your individual needs.
The Net Price Calculator Center provides an easy tool to explore the net price of any given college- that is, the price after subtracting the scholarships and grants you are likely to receive. Then, you can easily compare estimated net prices across the institutions that you are considering.
Many colleges and universities have adapted a Shopping Sheet which will be included in your financial aid package. The Shopping Sheet provides personalized information on financial aid and net costs as well as general information on institutional outcomes- all in a standardized format. This tool provides an easy way to make clear comparisons among financial aid offers that you may receive.
College Navigator is an interactive website that allows you to explore and compare features of different institutions, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, campus crime statistics and more.
Now that you have the resources and the tools to pick the right college, you can let out a sigh of relief and show your campus pride with that coveted university sweatshirt. Congratulations!
Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
Everyone wants healthy school environments, but limited funding, space and time can challenge robust plans. The Healthy Schools Campaign has helped some Chicago schools build innovative partnerships and strong parental support to work around those issues, and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, got a taste of the results during a recent visit to Chicago’s Nathanael Greene Elementary School.
During her visit, the Surgeon General chopped fresh salad greens with Greene 5th graders and volunteers, dug-in with 2nd graders planting some of those same vegetables, and teamed-up with students jump-roping and other rainy-day recess activities in the school’s limited indoor space.
“As America’s doctor, I can tell you that what you’re doing here is special,” said Dr. Benjamin to parents representing Greene and other Chicago schools of Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables – formed by HSC in 2006 to combat growing health disparities in Chicago.
Parents told the Surgeon General about after school classes like Zumba and healthy cooking they’ve helped implement in their schools. Many also helped their schools begin to serve nutritious breakfasts – now a standard throughout Chicago Public Schools.
“These activities make a difference for kids. We helped to make them happen,” said parent Jose Hernandez of Calmeca Academy Elementary School.
Local community and government leaders joined Benjamin for a lunch made of locally grown and sustainable items. The meal was developed and cooked by CPS high school chefs as part of a recent Cooking up Change competition.
“Three years ago, we began working with the district to challenge schools across the city to make changes to nutrition education, physical activity and other areas to meet the high standards of the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge,” said Rochelle Davis, founder and executive director of HSC, which recently exceeded its initial goal of helping more than 100 Chicago schools to receive HUSSC certification. HUSSC is promoted through First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign against childhood obesity.
Healthy schools are a cornerstone of the National Prevention Strategy (NPS) to improve Americans’ health and quality of life. Benjamin leads the NPS charge that incorporates the work of 17 federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, which last week announced the 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees that are helping to create healthy and sustainable learning environments.
Julie Ewart is the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Department of Education
America’s teachers earn our respect every day, doing some of this country’s toughest and most important work. Over the years, the demands on teachers have grown as standards rose and student needs multiplied. However, the teaching profession has not evolved to meet those growing demands.
Two years ago, active classroom teachers working temporarily at the U.S. Department of Education launched a national dialogue with their classroom colleagues to talk openly and honestly about the challenges and aspirations of America’s teachers.
Nearly 6,000 teachers from across the country weighed in through more than 360 roundtable discussions, online feedback and even social media. They talked about training, mentoring, evaluation, support and how they use time both in and out of the classroom. They discussed technology, school leadership and culture, the role of testing and the importance of a well-rounded curriculum. And they talked about the critical need to provide teachers with autonomy and the trust to do their job.
Today, the Department of Education released the result of this unprecedented national dialogue in a bold and visionary blueprint for reforming the teaching profession. Among other things, it calls for salaries to be competitive with professions like architecture, medicine and law, more support for novice teachers and more career opportunities for veterans.
The blueprint is called RESPECT – an acronym that stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching, and in conjunction with the launch the Department has re-launched our educator homepage to include new information about the RESPECT initiative, including:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
In a decentralized educational system like ours, transforming the teaching profession will only succeed if it is led by educators at the local level and fully embraced by parents, students and community leaders. The RESPECT vision challenges all Americans to honor and value the men and women at the front of the classroom doing the hard work every day to ensure that our future is secure.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
Teachers in this great country have long yearned for the opportunity to shape their own profession. Our forces have, as of late, been too often divided and unable to conquer. Now, for the first time in recent memory . . . a movement has emerged that offers precisely what is needed—teacher voice.
As a committed elementary PE teacher and concerned parent of school-aged children, a three-time National Board Certified Teacher, and a 2012 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education, my involvement with this movement has become a near obsession.
This week, the Obama Administration released the Blueprint for RESPECT, a plan for transforming teaching and leading. Specifically, it includes information about the process used to craft the vision, the research reviewed, and about a description of specific policies and programs that the Department intends to use to support educators. It also includes President Obama’s budget request for $5 billion to support RESPECT. Now that the RESPECT Blueprint is being released, there is much for teachers to be excited about.
For one, teachers love the possibility that they may be paid what they are worth. Despite public perceptions that teaching is a cushy job with summers off, I can personally assure you that the “many-teachers-work-two-jobs” rhetoric is grounded in reality. Another exciting improvement that RESPECT addresses is establishing career ladders that allow people to stay in the classroom without necessarily migrating to an administrative office. Perhaps now that ambitious teacher down the hall who’s been inspiring kids for years can be given the hybrid leadership role that allows her classroom gifts to remain on display while aspirations toward advancement are simultaneously satisfied. Some forward-thinking school districts are already doing this. Why doesn’t everyone?
As a physical education instructor, I can tell you that bringing teacher preparation programs into focus is equally as exciting. For too long the ranks of my coworkers have been populated with professional coaches looking for something to do in between games and practices. A serious effort toward cleaning up teacher prep programs, as discussed in the Blueprint for RESPECT, could mean more disciples of “The New PE” with roots in Naperville, Ill. And maybe more schools like Red Hawk Elementary, in Erie, Colo., would pop up, where movement has been seamlessly woven into the very fabric of this high-achieving school.
But perhaps more significant than all of these factors, the creation of the Blueprint for RESPECT has shown that teacher voice can and should be given a seat at the table.
As the document states–and to which I can personally attest–this entire project has come from engaging over 5,700 educators in 360 different discussions across the country. My own experiences vary as widely as a small roundtable in a humid Richmond high school library, to facilitating a conversation with a couple of hundred representatives from National Blue Ribbon Schools.
This document has taken on many forms prior to its most current status. It has been rewritten, revamped, retooled and refashioned, with each new iteration grounded heavily in teacher sentiment.
It is still unknown whether Congress will fund RESPECT, or even some part of it, but the fact that this movement, led by teachers, has made its way to the Oval Office, underscores the fact that much like doctors, lawyers, architects and other highly respected professionals, we teachers have been given a chance to help shape our own profession. Let’s seize it!
Visit www.ed.gov/teaching for more information on RESPECT.
Mike Humphreys is a 2012-2013 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches physical education in Arlington, Va.
Twelve years ago, Zillah High School in Washington state had no engineering classes. The science curriculum was lagging behind, and students had to go off campus to take technology classes.
Jeff Charbonneau, who returned to his hometown 11 years ago to teach at Zillah High, was determined to change that. And he did. Science enrollment is way up. Kids are graduating with college-level science credits. The school expects to have to hire more teachers now to meet the demand.
And today, President Obama honored Jeff as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year.
Jeff teaches chemistry, physics, and engineering, and works to create accessible, interactive lessons that help convince kids that the science classes most students consider hardest are worth diving in to, not running away from. But President Obama said that it’s not just his work in the classroom that distinguishes Jeff.
“He started an outdoors club,” President Obama said. “He brought his passion to the drama program. He’s even helping out other schools.” Because of Jeff, hundreds of students all over Washington are now participating in high-skills robotics competitions and gaining valuable engineering experience.
“There’s nothing that Jeff will not try to give his students the best education in every respect,” President Obama said.
President Obama said that what’s true for Jeff is also true for the other state Teachers of the Year, who stood behind President Obama at today’s event.
They understand that their job is more than teaching subjects like reading or chemistry. They’re not just filling blackboards with numbers and diagrams. In classrooms across America, they’re teaching things like character and compassion and resilience and imagination. They’re filling young minds with virtues and values, and teaching our kids how to cooperate and overcome obstacles.
President Obama thanked Jeff and his fellow educators for their hard work and commitment to America’s young people.
What you do matters. It’s critical to our success as a country, but most importantly, it’s critical to those kids themselves. I cannot think of something more important than reaching that child who maybe came in uninspired, and suddenly, you’ve inspired them.
“Teaching is a profession and it should be treated like one,” President Obama said.
Educators like Jeff and everyone up here today, they represent the very best of America — committed professionals who give themselves fully to the growth and development of our kids. And with them at the front of the classroom and leading our schools, I am absolutely confident that our children are going to be prepared to meet the tests of our time and the tests of the future.Megan Slack is deputy director of digital content for the White House Office of Digital Strategy
Think back to that moment when you decided to pursue your dream. Who influenced your decision? A mentor? A parent? Or maybe a friend? For many people, their moment was sparked by an educator.
Earlier this month, the Department of Education (ED) welcomed four individuals to participate in an ‘ED Youth Voices’ panel discussion that introduced students, teachers, and communities to the policies and programs that the four youth credit with helping them succeed.
Let us introduce you to these inspiring individuals:
Meet Linda Moktoi. As a current senior at Trinity Washington University, Moktoi is proud to say she’ll be achieving her dream of graduating college in just a few short weeks. “I chose to pursue knowledge over ignorance,” she said. Moktoi did so with the financial support provided by Pell Grants from ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Moktoi’s grace, confidence, and determination shined through and will no doubt lead her to succeeding her next dream of becoming a news broadcaster.
Meet Nicholas Robinson. An enthusiastic junior at Potomac High School (Oxon Hill, Md.), spoke of how the early awareness college prep program GEAR UP, changed his “mind & heart” in 8th grade about whether to go to college. “Before I got involved in GEAR UP, I didn’t think I was going to college, but they were always asking me what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be.” That extra support and guidance has helped Nicholas stay on track to graduate and focus on his future goals.
Meet Scott Wilbur. As a current teacher and former student that struggled with learning disabilities, Wilbur shed light on how programs funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) helped him as a student and continues to help him serve others with disabilities as a teacher at the Pulley Career Center in Alexandria, Va. “IDEA provided me with access to support, helped me graduate college,” Wilbur said. Each year the IDEA Act helps thousands of students with disabilities receive support to assure success in the classroom and that they have the tools needed for employment and independent living in the future.
Meet Carl Mitchell. Carl is just one of the many students that have benefited from the recent changes at Frederick Douglass High School spurred in part by an ED School Improvement Grant (SIG) which has helped turnaround their school and provide a better learning environment for students. Mitchell, a bright college bound senior who also doubles as the school mascot (Go Mighty Ducks!), attested to the sense of community that is fostered at Frederick Douglass. When asked what motivates him, he responded by saying “It’s not just about getting the degree for me, it’s for all the people that helped me. I owe them and don’t want to let them down.” An aspiring graphic designer, Mitchell will be the first in his family to attend college. His support team, including his principal, teachers, and peers joined him at ED as he proudly represented the Douglass community.
Linda, Nicholas, Scott, and Carl are just four of the millions of students and educators that are able to achieve their dreams with the help of great educators and federal programs from the Department of Education. Little do these individuals know though, that by sharing their story they are following in the footsteps of those who inspired them, and are inspiring us.
Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
Our next ED Youth Voices Policy Briefing Session will include students reforming education at the local level: teacher evaluations, DREAM act, school safety and more. Watch the session live on June 27th from 10-11:30am at edstream.ed.gov.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off Earth Day today by announcing the 64, 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and 14 District Sustainability Awardees during a visit to Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Joined by Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, Acting Administrator of the EPA Bob Persiacepe, and eager early learners, Duncan praised the selected schools and districts and reminded the classroom that: “Healthy, safe, educationally adequate facilities; wellness practices like outdoors physical activity and good nutrition; and environmental education are part of a vital cradle to career pipeline.”
From 29 states and the District of Columbia, this year’s honorees provide concrete examples of how all schools can reduce costs and environmental impact, promote better health and wellness; and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. Among the honored schools, 54 are public, including seven charter, five magnet and four career and technical schools, and ten are private schools. More than fifty percent of the awardees serve disadvantaged populations.
In both new and aged facilities, these schools and districts are making school environments healthier, reducing waste, and saving millions of dollars in utility costs. Students are learning outdoors, staying physically active, and preparing and consuming nutritious food to fuel their well-rounded learning. Echoing his recent Video PSA, Secretary Duncan said that “environmental education provides a natural link to the careers of the future and to environment, technology and natural resource majors, which require creative thinking, problem solving and a strong foundation in STEM subjects.”
These schools and districts provide examples of how to excel in all of three award Pillars – whatever a school or district’s resources. In fact, the selected districts are saving millions of dollars as a result of their greening efforts. Read all about their exemplary, yet replicable, practices here. Then, your school can draw on the same free tools these honorees use through the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Strides Resources and Webinar Series.
With the help of these tools, next fall you may even be eligible to apply to your state for its nomination to ED! For next year, ED will provide 2013-2014 criteria to states in July. State education agencies are encouraged to indicate their intent to nominate next spring by August 1, 2013 and schools and districts to contact their state agencies for more information on applications.
Watch the announcement of the 2013 Green Ribbon Schools here.
Kyle Flood is a confidential assistant in the Office of the General Counsel and social media manager for the ED Green Team.
As I listened to the group of students across the table, I wondered about how they did it? How did these students- from the south side of Chicago- overcome the obstacles that continually stand in the way for many of our kids who are all too often on the wrong side of the achievement gap? What happened that helped these kids academically achieve and change the trajectory of their lives? Wanting to hear more about their past, but not wanting to invade their privacy, I asked, “How many of you will be among the first in your family to go to college?” Five students raised their hands. I followed up, “How many of you went to preschool or Head Start?” All five hands remained in the air.
Reams of data point to the positive impact of early education on the lives of students who hail from tenuous circumstances, and the Chicago Longitudinal Study shows that every dollar invested in early education has a substantial return on investment. The data is important, but what is more important is the very real impact that early education has had on the lives of some of our most vulnerable students, including those kids from Chicago.
I am keenly aware of the difference that early education can make in a child’s life, because it made a world of difference in my own. As the son of a father who dropped out of the eighth grade in Oaxaca, Mexico, and of a mother who could only read at the 3rd grade level, I did not have the best odds at achieving academic success.
Other than an old family King James Bible, there were no books in my house. There were no puzzles, or activities to teach shapes, colors, or numbers. I, like many students in neighborhoods similar to my own, was at a disadvantaged starting place in the game of life. I, however, was fortunate in that I was enrolled in Head Start, an early education program that aims to improve education, health, nutrition and parent involvement for low-income children and their families. In Head Start, I was taught the foundations which better prepared me for the start of my educational journey. As opposed to entering kindergarten behind, I went in with knowledge and competencies that allowed me to participate in class and feel confident in my abilities. The Head Start program helped me have a fair shot at learning, and ultimately a fair shot at life.
As a teacher of high school students who have been removed from other institutions and who have been identified as potential dropouts, I often wonder about the educational journey of my kids. The vast majority of my students come to class with significant academic deficiencies. My school has been identified as a model for helping these students overcome barriers to academic success, but does so with a significant amount of resources to help these students with academic, physical, mental, and emotional issues. Being familiar with their backgrounds, I know that most of my kids started off far behind many of their peers at the traditional school sites. I cannot help but wonder what would have been if my students had been part of a quality, early education program that perhaps could have given them the head start they needed.
As we transition to more rigorous standards and assessments, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Achievement of these standards will help our kids compete in the flat world, but if we do not make a concerted effort to help all kids start out with the same basic competencies through high-caliber, early education programs, we may perpetuate the achievement gap we seek to eliminate. The five students that I met from Chicago transcended the achievement gap and overcame challenges, due to the support of family, teachers, strong-willed determination, and quite possibly, the impact of early education.
Marciano Gutierrez is a 2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, on loan from Alta Vista High School in Mountain View, Calif.
Today GLSEN hosts its national Day of Silence-a day where students throughout the country take a vow of silence to call attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. I want to encourage all of us NOT to be silent on an important issue: the need to address and eliminate bullying and harassment in our schools.
No student should ever feel unsafe in school. If students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. And if left unaddressed, bullying and harassment can rapidly escalate into even more serious abuse.
I want to remind students, parents, and administrators of the power of supportive clubs, like the Gay Straight Alliances or GSAs, to foster safe school environments. The Department of Education has provided guidance to schools on their obligations under federal laws to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs, including GSAs, as well to address bullying and harassment and gender-based violence.
Let’s work together to end bullying and harassment in schools.
Please visit StopBullying.gov and find additional resources from the Department of Education below–including school obligations under federal law:
- Equal access to extracurricular clubs
- Bullying and harassment
- Gender-based violence
- Sexual violence on college campuses
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
— President Barack Obama, December 16, 2012
In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school, President Obama has called for a collaborative effort to keep our children safe at home, at school, and in the community. The National PTA and U.S. Department of Education have joined together to support schools and communities as we work towards this goal.
To kick off this joint effort, National PTA President Betsy Landers recently joined Secretary Arne Duncan for a town hall meeting to discuss school safety at Loch Raven High School in Baltimore, Md. The event included an open conversation with students, parents, teachers, and community members about school safety in the community. Over 350 community members attended the town hall to voice concerns and share ideas on how we can work together to create a safer learning environment. Watch the video archive of the event here.
Conversations as important as this one must continue long after everyone leaves the town hall. Here are a few good resources that may be helpful to you as we work to improve school and community safety:
U.S. Department of Education –
- Reducing School and Community Violence: Now is the Time
- Resources for Schools to Prepare for and Recover from Crisis
- Helping Youth and Children Recover From Traumatic Events
The National PTA –
- A comprehensive, step-by-step program leader’s planning guide; (en Español)
- A take-home safety tip sheet – (en Español)
- Six activity lesson plans (children in K-5 and their families):
- “Look-a-likes” – poison prevention (en Español)
- “Cycling skills clinic” – bike safety (en Español)
- “Get low and go” – fire, burns and scalds prevention (en Español
- “Fire escape map” – fire, burns and scalds prevention (en Español)
- “Safety sleuths” – playground safety (en Español)
- “The ultimate playground” – playground safety contest (en Español)
Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
This op-ed appeared in the Apr. 19, edition of the Washington Post.
President Obama put forward a plan last week to make access to high-quality early learning a reality for every 4-year-old in America by making full-day preschool available to families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Parents, teachers and principals nationwide agree that we need to do more to ensure that children from disadvantaged families begin kindergarten at the same educational starting line as do children from better-off families. The president’s plan includes a cost-sharing arrangement with states, with the entire federal investment of $75 billion covered by a new cigarette tax, and with incentives for states to make programs available for even more middle-class families.
Members of Congress have asked me: How do we know early learning works? What about its lasting impact?
Let’s examine the record.
At an elementary school I recently visited in Bladensburg, teachers told me how much better-prepared students are for the classroom if they’ve been to preschool. “It makes a huge difference,” said one 21-year teacher.
Research backs her up. Studies consistently demonstrate that high-quality early education gives children the foundation they need to succeed. No study is perfect, but the cumulative evidence that high-quality preschool works is overwhelming. Consider a study of 4-year-olds in Tulsa who attended Oklahoma’s high-quality universal preschool program, with small class sizes and well-trained teachers — features that are components of the president’s proposal. They started kindergarten seven months ahead in literacy skills and four months ahead in math skills. Likewise, children who attended Boston’s high-quality preschool program gained seven months in literacy and math. Studies of preschoolers in New Jersey showed substantial gains in literacy and math. These consistent gains are critical steps toward long-term success in school.
Skeptics of early learning say these programs “don’t work” because some studies have failed to find major effects in later grades — the so-called “fade out.” But that’s not quite right.
The most rigorous research that can be compared with what we are proposing — high-quality, full-day preschool — shows crucial benefits in high school graduation rates, employment and avoidance of criminal behavior. Although the best scientific evidence for the long-term effects of early education comes from studies of multiyear programs dating to the 1960s and 1970s, a recent study of New Jersey students who received one year of high-quality public preschool found that by fifth grade, they were less likely to be held back or placed in special education. The few more recent long-term assessments of public preschool consistently indicate similar benefits, including increased graduation rates and reduced arrest rates.
High-quality preschool appears to propel better outcomes by enhancing non-cognitive skills such as persistence, self-control and emotion regulation — skills that depend on early brain development and social experiences and contribute to long-term academic outcomes and career success.
The study often cited by skeptics — the Head Start Impact Study — isn’t a great comparison to the president’s proposal. It examined the effect of offering access to Head Start, not the effect of participation (nearly 20 percent of the 4-year-olds in the Head Start group never attended). The president’s proposal would require higher qualifications for staff than was the case in this study, and this administration has begun putting in place needed quality-control improvements to Head Start.
Preschool works. But is it worth the cost?
Studies of the savings from high-quality early learning demonstrate that the answer is yes. Graduates of such programs are less likely to commit crimes or rely on food stamps and cash assistance; they have greater lifetime earnings, creating increased tax revenue. Although the range of savings varies across studies, the studies consistently find robust returns to taxpayers.
Can we replicate what works? We can, and we must. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, high-quality preschool must become the norm. The moral case is compelling, too. As President Obama has said, every child should have the opportunity, through hard work, to join the middle class. Children shouldn’t be denied equal educational opportunity at the starting line.
The countries we compete with economically are well ahead of us in preschool opportunity. We rank 28th in the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in early learning in surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and 25th in public funding for early learning. Fortunately, we have great examples to learn from: Oklahoma, Georgia, New Jersey and Boston all have excellent preschool programs.
Making quality early-learning opportunities a norm for every 4-year-old will take more than money. It will take a new commitment to recruiting and keeping excellent staff, and tackling many of the other challenges in our K-12 system. That’s why we propose to invest an additional $750 million to support innovation and preschool capacity-building in states. To make a critical difference for all children, high-quality early learning must be followed by rich educational opportunities and robust learning experiences at every stage of the journey to college and careers.
The evidence is clear. We need to stop asking whether early learning works — and start asking whether we have the national will to make it a reality for the children who need it most.
Source information about studies mentioned in this column has been posted at www.ed.gov/early-learning/research.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
Did you know that each year in April, America celebrates National Park Week, a chance to hike, learn, share, and give back in the Nation’s nearly 400 National Parks coast-to-coast? National Park Week is a chance for educators to get active and experience the powerful content knowledge, values, and skills embodied by our Nation’s remarkable cultural, natural, and recreational heritage — all for FREE!
This year’s National Park Week runs from April 20th to April 28th, with free admission to all national parks from Monday, April 22nd, to Friday, April 26th. There is a lot for school communities to discover about National Parks. For instance, Did Your Know…?
…That, over 250 teachers participate in a summer professional development experience called Teacher Ranger Teacher each year with the National Park Service? Teachers learn about park educational programs and resources while experiencing ranger talks, interpretive hikes, or monitoring wildlife in National Park Units.
…That, parks across the country will offer kid-friendly programs on National Junior Ranger Day – Saturday, April 20th. Last year, more than 800,000 children became Junior Rangers! In addition, the “Songs for Junior Rangers” CD has been awarded the Gold Seal from the Parent’s Choice Foundation in Spring 2013. The set includes a 20-page illustrated booklet of lyrics and photos, and a poster map.
…That many National Parks provide outstanding views of the night sky, and are a great place to be acquainted with our galactic neighborhood and look beyond our planet? The National Park Service has developed a Junior Ranger Night Explorer program, encouraging young park visitors to explore the dark side of their national parks.
…That Research Learning Centers (RLCs) provide the opportunity for educators to bring real-world, place-based science to students in accordance with state education standards? RLCs can help create an engaging and relevant experience for your students. In 2012, the RLCs partnered with over 200 K-12 schools and other educational organizations.
…That Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms, connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers to these special places all across America. Within the communities of Hands on the Land sites, public, non-profit, and private partners customize hands-on experiences using local natural, historical, and archaeological settings to bring classroom learning to life.
… That the National Park Service (NPS) is engaging in “Biodiversity Discovery,” a variety of efforts, such as bioblitzes, in which members of the public, including scientists, students, and visitors work together to discover living organisms in the parks.
Find a list of ranger-led programs and plan your adventures here. You can also use the website to share your park experiences and photos and help support parks. Whether you are a teacher searching for classroom materials or a student doing research or service learning, find your local National Park here