Department Awards $30 Million in Grants to Support Teacher and Principal Development

(Sept. 18, 2013) U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced nearly $30 million for six grant awards to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals.

The national non-profits funded under the Supporting Effective Educators Development (SEED) program, will enhance preparation of pre-service teachers, provide professional development to in-service teachers and leaders, and disseminate best practices, ultimately serving approximately 27,000 teachers and principals, reaching a significant number of students across all 50 states.

“Effective teachers and principals play a central role in improving student achievement and producing better outcomes for children,” Secretary Duncan said. “These grants provide resources to support teachers and school leaders and develop the next generation of world-class educators.”

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KIPP Impact Study Relevant to Its OII-Supported Efforts in Network Growth and Leadership

A recent study of middle-school students attending KIPP charter schools compared their performance in four core academic subjects over a three-year period and found that they gained between 11 and 14 additional months of learning over students in comparable traditional public schools. The study, “KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes,” was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (Mathematica), using multiple research strategies, including a rigorous, random-assignment methodology that compared students admitted to KIPP schools through its lottery system with students who applied to KIPP but were not admitted.

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Leading in a Diverse Workplace: ED Staff Learn How From Award-Winning Teachers

“In an increasingly diverse world, it is important for teachers to have the skills to reach every student in the classroom and close the achievement gap,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, at the Department of Education to help lead a conversation about diversity. The Department invited Costello, along with the 2012 Teaching Tolerance Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching Awardees, who were in D.C. to receive their awards. They engaged employees in an extended conversation on diversity, helping employees to understand their effective classroom practices and to translate their experiences and insights into lessons about leading, whether in classrooms, schools, or federal agencies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a storied “nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” For 20 years, Teaching Tolerance has worked to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable experiences for the nation’s children. “This awards program recognizes teachers who excel at teaching students from diverse backgrounds in a way that promotes student achievement,” said Costello. The five awardees are:

Lhisa R. Almashy
Park Vista High School
Lake Worth, Fla.

Anna E. Baldwin
Arlee High School
Arlee, Mont.

Darnell Fine
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Middle School
Atlanta, Ga.

Robert P. Sautter
Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School
San Francisco, Calif.

Laurence Tan
122nd Street Elementary School
Los Angeles, Calif.

Putting terms like “tolerance” and “diversity” into action

Costello acknowledged that it is very difficult to say what “tolerance,” defined as culturally responsive teaching and curriculum by the Teaching Tolerance project, looks like. Out of this difficulty grew the teaching awards program. The four teachers who led the conversation gave the audience powerful examples of teachers who turn differences to an advantage for learning. One said teaching is beyond a job—it is not something you do but rather something you live. To be successful at it you have to know your constituents as individuals, build connections with their families, and come to know the neighborhoods where they live.

Describing the value of knowing students’ families, another of the teachers posited that, in addition to learning so much every day from his students about how to teach them well, this learning is multiplied 10-fold when he has a relationship with their parents. His effort to accomplish that is a model with a high bar: He calls every family before the start of the school year to invite them to school to talk about how they can work together; he tries to connect with them every day; he calls their homes; and he makes home visits to families who want him to come. His purpose is centered by this challenge: Be a road block to our students’ learning in our school, or help them get on board. He is now a trainer for “educators of equity” at his school, which means, for example, that he helps to raise awareness among the staff about what white privilege means.

Taking that goal as a cue, another of the teachers defined “diversity” as defining identities in relation to a dominant culture and giving integrity to difference in order to equalize it. As an example, he asked “What is ‘intelligence'”? and pointed out that standardized testing privileges certain populations over others. Under that parameter, someone who is intelligent could be defined as not so. This led to the question of what diversity contributes to integrity, probably the highest value in any workplace. The answer: Meet people where they are, recognize each person comes to the table with something different, and raise people’s consciousness about the different people at the table.

Tomorrow’s great teachers are in today’s classrooms

The conversation turned to the key issues of teacher education and attracting potentially great teachers to the profession. All of the teachers agreed with Costello’s summary of the discussion: To create the next generation of great teachers requires that the current generation of students have great experiences in school now—exactly like these award-winning teachers ensure their students will have every day in their classrooms.

ED staff who participated in the discussion took with them valuable lessons for paying attention to both the gifts and needs their colleagues bring every day to the workplace.

To read more about the individual awardees and see videos of them in their classrooms, click here.

Nonpublic School Leaders Attend Annual Forum

On September 27th, the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) hosted the 8th Annual Private School Leadership Conference at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year, the invitation-only event brings together 100 of the nation’s top private and home school educational leaders from across the country. We also welcomed representatives from state education agencies who are responsible for administering federal education programs on behalf of private school students. The conference provides a forum to address Department of Education programs and initiatives, listen to the concerns of the nonpublic school community, highlight innovative practices, and facilitate discourse between the Department and nonpublic school leaders.

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