Sunday, December 21, 2008

No school left unsold

December 18, 200
Arne Duncan's privatization agenda


Teachers in Chicago are sorry to see that the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Arne Duncan, is getting a promotion. Barack Obama has selected Duncan to be his Education Secretary.

In the past couple years, Duncan has been turning public schools over to private operators--mainly in the form of charter and contract schools--at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst "school reform" ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called "turnarounds"). At the same time, he's eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input.

Charter schools and test-score driven school "choice" have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington, D.C.

To me, the thing that made Duncan's role clear came after three months of organizing at Senn High School, the community school where I teach, against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy.

After an inspiring campaign that involved literally hundreds of people in the biggest education organizing effort in the area in decades, we forced Duncan to come up to our neighborhood to listen to our case for keeping the military out of our school. More than 300 of us--parents, teachers, and community supporters--held a big meeting in a local church and, at the end of the meeting, we asked Duncan to postpone the decision to put the military school at Senn.

Duncan's answer was a classic. He said: "I come from a Quaker family, and I've always been against war. But I'm going to put the Naval Academy in there, because it will give people in the community more choices."

The exchange showed that when push came to shove, Duncan was always a loyal henchman of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's political machine--albeit with a style that made it seem like he was listening. He's just the kind of person who will look at you with a straight face and tell you that, as a person with a pacifist background, he supports a military school.

Never mind that the community was fighting as hard as it could against this backroom deal between Daley and the Department of Defense--according to Duncan, the Naval Academy would give the community "more choices." Indeed, CPS has more military high schools than any other school district in the U.S.

Despite all this, Duncan is being portrayed in the national media as a school administrator who had a "good" relationship with the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU).

The truth is quite different. Duncan pursued anti-labor policies by pushing nonunion charter and contract schools. He also imposed test-oriented, competitive schemes that force schools to close if they can't raise test scores above a certain level.

Yet he failed to implement the kinds of changes that really would improve student performance--such as smaller class sizes and expanded facilities to end overcrowding. Instead, special education teachers were laid off and budgets squeezed.

Moreover, Duncan has done nothing to address racial segregation in our schools--which is so bad that a 2003 Harvard University study found that CPS is "only a few percentage points from an experience of total apartheid for Black students." Rather than try to remedy this shameful situation, Duncan requested the removal of the federal judicial consent decree that mandates the meager efforts CPS has undertaken to improve the racial balance of our schools.

CTU members in the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) will use their December 17 press conference to set the record straight.

Duncan is getting ready to take his methods to the national level. Teachers, students, parents and communities everywhere will have to be prepared for a new round of attacks on public education under the banner of "reform."

Jesse Sharkey is a teacher in Chicago.

Within an individual’s biography and within a society’s history, the social task of reason is to formulate choices, to enlarge the scope of human decisions in the making of history (C.Wright Mills 1959).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Culver: Budget cuts to include employee layoffs, furloughs

Gov. Chet Culver announced an across-the-board budget cut today and said education and Medicaid won't escape unscathed.

Culver announced a 1.5 percent across-the board reduction in an attempt to deal with the state’s declining revenues.

The governor said staff reductions and employee furloughs are likely, which will be determined by each department. “It’s going to be painful,” he said.

The cuts announced today amount to $91.4 million and will have an effect on services, Culver acknowledged. In addition, Culver ordered a transfer of $10 million of unused money into the general budget. Most of that transfer money will come from an underground storage tank account, which is used to investigate and clean up any past petroleum contamination from underground storage tanks.

A week ago, Culver announced $40 million in cuts, largely through a hiring freeze and limiting out-of-state travel. In addition, Culver said he will ask the Legislature to withdraw plans for a $37 million new office building.

Combined with cuts announced Dec. 9, the total is $178.4 million in reduced expenses in the current budget year that ends June 30.

“We are in the midst of an economic challenge that is historic in its scope,” Culver said at a meeting with reporters at the Capitol.

The cuts mean $54.3 million less for education and $20.5 million less for health and human services in the current budget year that ends June 30. Those are the two biggest areas of the state’s budget and ones that both Democrats and Republicans have long tried to avoid cuts.

Iowa will have $99.5 million less in revenue for the current budget year, which ends in June, than was projected two months ago, the three-member Revenue Estimating Conference said last week.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist or suggest to Iowans that their state government is in financial trouble,” Culver said, noting the state has more than $620 million in reserves.

Culver said that he’s not interested in tax increases to help balance the budget. That includes an idea he proposed for the 2008 legislative session to end a tax loophole known as combined reporting.

Iowa currently uses separate entity filing, which allows large retailers and other corporations to legally avoid paying some taxes by setting up subsidiaries in other states. Closing the combined reporting loophole would save the state an estimated $100 million but has long been considered an additional tax on businesses. Increased taxes is not the answer, Culver said.

“We’re not just trying to balance the budget. We’re trying to do it in a responsible way that will not deepen the recession we’re in,” Culver said.

Rep. Scott Raecker of Urbandale, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, praised the action Culver announced today as well as his words against increased taxes and changes to combined reporting.

“I think the governor has taken a good but unfortunate first step,” Raecker said. “In order to meet the requirement of the state law for a balanced budget, this is the type of action that was going to need to be taken.”

Iowa’s $6.1 billion budget faces a $616.4 million shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1, according to estimates released this week by State Auditor David Vaudt. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates are even larger, releasing estimates this week that show a $779 million gap between revenue and spending.

Those estimates, combined with national economic troubles and declining state revenue estimates, means upcoming budget troubles will extend much further than the current fiscal year, Culver said.

And, for that reason, Culver said he will resist using any of the state’s $150 million economic emergency funds in the current 2009 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“Every economic indicator suggests that ’10 is going to be a lot tougher than ‘09 and that ’11 could be worse,” Culver said. “So we have to be very prudent about the steps that we take and, as painful as this is for everybody who is going to be impacted, it’s the right thing to do.”

ISEA Hotline 12/18/2008


Today, the ISEA released the following statement by ISEA President Chris Bern in response to Governor Chet Culver's budget cuts:

"We are surprised by Governor Culver's announcement today of the 1 1/2 percent across-the-board budget cuts. Across-the-board budget cuts impact all programs equally and don't take into account priorities that are important to keep the state moving forward.

Our members, who are also members of the communities suffering in these tough economic times, appreciate the difficult economic choices that have to be made. But our members also understand that cutting all education expenditures so drastically actually hurts the economies in every community in the state. Our best investment right now is in our schools with community colleges offering job retraining programs, preschools giving low income children a head start, and our public school system working to keep our students competitive in the 21st century.

Perhaps even more troubling to our members is the fact that the Governor has continued to say that education and the students in this state are a priority, yet almost 60 percent of the across-the-board budget cuts the Governor announced today affect education spending. Our professional educators have worked for decades to reach 25th in the nation in average salary and we were on a path to reaching that goal. In a simple across-the-board slice of the pen, the Governor has short-changed Iowa's school children and relegated us to more years of fighting for what we are worth."

It is now more important than ever that you participate in the Legislative Conference and Lobby Day. For up-to-date information during the legislative session go to the At the Capitol tab at


The ISEA Legislative Conference will be held Janaury 9-10 at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines. Sessions will include information on issues and lobbying strategies. Reservations must be received by Friday, December 19, 2008. Please coordinate reservations through your UniServ office.


Join us for ISEA Lobby Day 2009 on Wednesday, February 18, at 10 a.m. in the Wallace Auditorium at the State Capitol. This is a great opportunity for you to discuss the issues facing education and our profession. Lunch will be provided and all legislators will be invited. RSVP to Joann Randall no later than Friday, February 13. Phone 800-445-9358, 515-471-8003, or e-mail


Join us for ISEA Community College Lobby Day 2009 on Wednesday, February 11, at 10 a.m. in the Jesse Parker Building -- Grant Room, 520 E. 12th Street in Des Moines. RSVP to Joann Rand a ll no later than February 6. All names of attendees must be given to Joann at that time in order for ID badges to be printed. Phone 800-445-9358 or e-mail Parking is limited so please carpool.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Let's Hope that Practitioners are Still at the Table

Washington -- President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan to serve as education secretary, people with knowledge of the decision said Monday.

Obama planned to announce his choice Tuesday morning, according to two people with knowledge of his decision.

Duncan has run the country's third-biggest school district for the past seven years. He has focused on improving struggling schools, closing those that fail. Obama highlighted this work by choosing a turnaround story for Duncan — Dodge Renaissance Academy, a school Duncan closed and then reopened — for the announcement.

The two had visited the school together three years ago, although they share more than an interest in education: Duncan has played pickup basketball with Obama since the 1990s. In fact, Duncan co-captained the Harvard basketball team and played professionally in Australia before he had a career in education.

Duncan ran an education nonprofit on Chicago's South Side before working in Chicago Public Schools under former chief Paul Vallas, now the schools chief in New Orleans.

Obama's choice has been anticipated, and argued about, by education groups anxious to see what Obama will do to fix the country's ailing schools.

Obama managed throughout his campaign to avoid taking sides in the contentious debate between reform advocates and teachers' unions over the direction of education and the fate of President Bush's No Child Left Behind accountability law.

The selection of Duncan may satisfy both factions. Reform advocates wanted a big-city school superintendent who, like Duncan, has sought accountability for schools and teachers. And teachers' unions, an influential segment of the party base, wanted an advocate for their
members; they have said they believe Duncan is willing to work with them.

"Arne Duncan actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way," Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, told The Associated Press earlier this month.

Duncan deliberately straddled the factions earlier this year when he signed competing manifestos from each side of the debate.

In the education debate, the competing sides break down over the degree to which teachers and schools should be held accountable for how kids are learning, and the role test scores should play in making that determination.

At the heart of the dispute: No Child Left Behind, the law that has grown as unpopular as George W. Bush, the lame-duck president who championed it.

The reform group agrees with the law's general principle of penalties for schools if test scores fail to improve, although nearly everyone agrees the law has problems that need fixing.

The union coalition says test scores aren't the only measure, and that factors far beyond the classroom affect how well kids learn.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Uncertainty on Obama education plans

Views on teacher tenure, unions' power, No Child Left Behind Act unknown

WASHINGTON - As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to announce his choice for education secretary, there is mystery not only about the person he will choose, but also about the approach to overhauling the nation’s schools that his selection will reflect.

Despite an 18-month campaign for president and many debates, there remains uncertainty about what Mr. Obama believes is the best way to improve education.

Will he side with those who want to abolish teacher tenure and otherwise curb the power of teachers’ unions? Or with those who want to rewrite the main federal law on elementary and secondary education, the No Child Left Behind Act, and who say the best strategy is to help teachers become more qualified? The debate has sometimes been nasty.

“People are saying things now that they may regret saying in a couple of months,” said Jack Jennings, a Democrat who is president and chief executive of the Center on Education Policy in Washington. “Unfortunately, they’re all friends of mine, which makes it awkward.”

Some of the toughest criticism has been aimed at the person Mr. Obama appointed to lead his education policy working group, the most important education post of the transition: Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University.

Dr. Darling-Hammond is liked by the teachers’ unions, and partly for that reason has been portrayed as an enemy of school reform by detractors. These have included people who have urged Mr. Obama to appoint Joel I. Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, or Michelle Rhee, the schools chancellor in Washington, as education secretary. Both of them have clashed with teachers’ unions.

Reformers vs. establishment
Editorials and opinion articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times have described the debate as pitting education reformers against those representing the educational establishment or the status quo. But who the reformers are depends on who is talking.

Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, used different terms in discussing the debate.

Dr. Fuller said it pitted “professionalization advocates such as Darling-Hammond,” who believe the policy emphasis should be on raising student achievement by helping teachers improve their instruction, against “efficiency hawks like Klein and Rhee.” The efficiency hawks, he said, emphasize standardized testing, cracking down on poor school management and purging bad teachers.

“It’s tough love without any love,” he said.

Teach for America criticized
Dr. Darling-Hammond has become a controversial figure partly because of her longtime criticism of Teach for America, the nonprofit group that recruits college graduates to teach for two years in hard-to-staff schools. She says the group loses too many recruits at the end of their two-year commitments, just when they are learning to teach.

Teach for America has no official preference for or opposition to any candidate, said Kevin Huffman, a spokesman for the group.

But an organization called Leadership for Educational Equity, which was founded to help former members of the Teach for America corps become involved in politics, has photographs of Dr. Darling-Hammond, Mr. Obama and Mr. Klein alongside an article on its Web site with the headline, “Education Secretary Fight Could Affect Teach for America’s Mission.”

The article notes that Dr. Darling-Hammond “has long been a vocal critic of Teach For America,” and it urges the group’s alumni to make their views on the candidates known.

Mr. Obama has given no hint of his own leanings.

Longtime friend may have edge
Arne Duncan, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, may have an edge. Mr. Duncan is a longtime friend of the president-elect and has closed failing schools and improved achievement without alienating the teachers’ union. The superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Michael Bennet, who has enacted a plan to reward effective teachers with higher pay, has also attracted the transition team’s interest.

Mr. Klein and Ms. Rhee, as well as former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and several current and former governors, have also been considered, a member of the transition team said. Mr. Powell has said publicly that he is not interested.

One former Teach for America official who has been outspoken is Whitney Tilson, a New York mutual fund manager.

In a recent blog entry, Mr. Tilson said of Dr. Darling-Hammond, “She’s influential, clever and (while she does her best to hide it) an enemy of genuine reform.”

Mr. Tilson is on the board of Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee based in New York.

'Wish list'
The group sent the Obama transition team a 43-page memorandum shortly after the election with policy advice and a “wish list” of candidates for secretary that included Mr. Duncan; Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America; and Jon Schnur, who started a nonprofit group, New Leaders for New Schools, that trains principals for urban schools, said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform.

Mr. Williams said his group also liked Mr. Klein and Ms. Rhee. “We’d be thrilled,” he said, “if either one were named secretary.”

The two national teachers unions have also been active. The National Education Association has not formally endorsed anyone but has discussed candidates with the Obama transition team, indicating some candidates who would have the union’s support, said John Wilson, the executive director.

The American Federation of Teachers presented the Obama team with written evaluations of a string of candidates without endorsing any of them, said Randi Weingarten, the union’s president. “We have no candidate in the race,” Ms. Weingarten said.

But last week she publicly praised Mr. Duncan in an interview with The Associated Press. “Arne Duncan,” she said, “actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way.”

This article, "Uncertainty on Obama Education Plans," first appeared in The New York Times.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Culver announces cuts, says his salary might be next

from the December 9, 2008 Des Moines Register

EDITORIAL NOTE: It appears that the current round of cuts will leave education untouched. We are assured from our friends--Governor Culver, Senator Gronstal & Speaker Murphy--that education remains a top-priority. This promise to Iowa's students and schools by the policy makers that we elected will hold our schools harmless.

Iowa will cut $77 million from its budget by freezing most new hiring, halting out-of-state travel, reducing purchases and by making cuts to the state’s public universities, Gov. Chet Culver announced today.

Included in the total is the indefinite delay of construction of a new $37 million state office building to replace the Wallace Building. Culver said he will ask the Legislature to retract the appropriation during its session that begins Jan. 12.

Culver also said he would be willing to take a pay cut, specifically if other state employees face the same action. He noted that he vetoed a legislative proposal earlier this year that would have given him a nearly $12,600 raise to his current $130,000 annual salary.

“I’m prepared to take a step if I need to sacrifice along with other state employees in the future and that might be necessary,” Culver said today at the Iowa Taxpayers Association annual meeting in West Des Moines.

The nearly $7 million cuts to state universities amounts to roughly 1 percent of the state’s allocations. Regents will have to make decisions about what is cut, Culver said.

More cuts might be on the way, he added. Much of that depends upon budget estimates to be established Friday by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference.

The state was expected to end its budget year with $85 million in its general fund, but budget officials' calculations show the state will have only about $5 million when the fiscal year ends June 30.

Here's the breakdown of budget cuts that the governor's office released in a statement today:

• Freeze personnel vacancies and new temporary positions, unless approved by Department of Management (DOM), and reduce the amount of overtime.
SAVINGS: $12.6 million

• Freeze out-of-state travel, unless approved by DOM, and reduce in-state travel.
SAVINGS: $1.5 million

• Reduce equipment purchases, service contracts and office supplies.
SAVINGS: $5 million

• Cuts in spending by the Regents Institutions, Judicial Branch, and Legislature.
SAVINGS: $8.9 million

• Transfers made to General Fund since the last Revenue Estimating Conference meeting.
SAVINGS: $12 million

• Request the legislature to de-appropriate funding for a new state office building.
SAVINGS: $37 million

TOTAL: $77 million

In total, the cuts amount to roughly ½ a percent of the state’s $6.1 billion budget.

“It’s nice that the executive branch acknowledged the fiscal crisis we have at stand and, more importantly, we appreciate there are steps being put in place,” said Ed Wallace, president of the taxpayers association.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anxiety rises as IPERS falls 19%

from the December 5, 2008 Des Moines Register

EDITORIAL NOTE: Brad Hudson, our representative to the IPERs Board, briefed us at the December 5-6 ISEA Executive Board meeting. Mr. Hudson shared some more specific information with us. For more insider information on the health of IPERs, please email Tom McLaughlin who will share more specific information on the health of IPERs with LCEA members.

Iowa's largest public employee pension fund has lost more than $4 billion in the stock market's meltdown, and taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook if Wall Street does not recover, state officials said Thursday.

The Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System - with more than 312,000 members - has seen the market value of its investments drop since July 1 from $22.3 billion to an estimated $18 billion. That is a decline of 19.3 percent.

Karl Koch, IPERS's chief investment officer, warned the pension system's board Thursday that he expects "substantial future declines" once the fund factors in its losses in difficult-to-value investments in real estate and privately held stocks.

The fund's overall losses could reach 25 percent, he estimated.

"There is nowhere to hide," Koch said. "It seems like every portfolio is getting hurt."

IPERS was established in 1953. It covers current and former employees and retirees of state government, cities, counties, public schools and other agencies.

The pension fund has lost money only four years since 1981. Over the 28-year period, it has posted an average annual gain of 11.1 percent on its investments.

The current losses are significant because Iowa taxpayers "absolutely" could be responsible over the long term if the stock market does not recover because IPERS's benefits are guaranteed by law, said State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. He serves on the pension fund's board of directors.

IPERS's pensions are an important part of Iowa's economy, paying out slightly more than $1 billion a year in pension checks to retired government employees.

Of Iowa's 3 million population, IPERS members account for one of every 10 residents.

Fitzgerald said he remains optimistic about IPERS because the pension fund is well-managed with diversified investments. He said he sees no imminent crisis for taxpayers.

"I look at these results knowing that we are facing the worst times since the Great Depression," Fitzgerald said.

"There is no guarantee that things can't get worse. But where we are right now I think we are holding on very well."

David Creighton, a West Des Moines businessman who chairs the IPERS board, acknowledged that these are difficult economic times, but he said there is no reason to panic.

"Let's make sure that we remind ourselves that we are long-term investors" having a 40-year horizon, Creighton said.

About 87,000 people receive IPERS monthly pension payments. All will continue to receive those benefits, and there are no plans to reduce payments, said Donna Mueller, chief executive officer of IPERS.

The retirement system has stockpiled a cash reserve of about $200 million in response to the market crisis. That will provide plenty of money to pay obligations, officials said.

Iowa's retirement system is among many pension and institutional funds nationally that have been rocked by plunging markets.

The Kansas Public Employee Retirement System this week estimated its losses at 26.8 percent so far in 2008. Harvard University's endowment has reported investment losses of about 22 percent between July and October. New Jersey's pension fund has lost more than $23 billion this year, dropping to $57.8 billion, according to news reports.

IPERS was already facing a long-term shortfall of almost $2.7 billion at the end of June, according to an actuarial report submitted Thursday by a consultant.

Pension consultant Patrice Beckham told IPERS officials the shortfall could increase significantly because of declining investment returns this year.

Long-term funding of the pension system could be affected, meaning higher contributions from employees and their employers, she warned.

"More than ever, future investment return is critical," Beckham said.

The Iowa Legislature two years ago approved changes aimed at helping to fix IPERS's long-term financial issues by gradually increasing contribution rates from 9.45 percent of an employee's wages to 11.45 percent over a four-year period that started July 1, 2007.

Sixty percent of the contributions are made by government employers, with 40 percent by workers.

Starting July 1, 2011, the Iowa retirement system will review contribution rates annually and make adjustments as necessary based on an actuarial valuation. Rates can change no more than one-half of 1 percentage point annually for each membership class.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Works4Me: Tips for Teachers by Teachers

Teacher and Substitute Responsibilities
From Beverley Fifer (, a principal in Virginia:

"As a principal, I ask teachers who are taking extended leave to provide thorough plans for only the first two weeks of their absence. In my school district, our long-term or extended leave substitute educators must assume all of the duties of the teacher for whom they are substituting. These duties include bus duty, conferences, PTA, and other responsibilities. These substitute educators also receive pay commensurate with first year teacher salaries, so I expect them to do the planning after the first two weeks.

The teachers' plans for the first week should be very detailed, containing not only the curriculum planning, but also notes about the children, typical behavior expectations, and teaching and learning styles. The second week plan should account for the material to be covered, resources used, assignments, etc. For the remainder of their extended leave, I ask teachers to provide an outline of work to be covered and the anticipated pacing. Often students need additional remediation; or, if students have a good grasp of the material, they may only need to review the concepts.

I require my teachers to do the planning prior to their absence, but in the case where an emergency has arisen, my teachers may submit plans daily after they leave. Therefore, there may be some differences in the actual pacing; however, if there are vast differences, I ask the sub to talk with me and the teacher to discuss alternatives to the outline."

Professional Discussions
From Fran Lo (

"I find Classroom 2.0 to be very practical, interesting and helpful. I use the groups to be part of discussions about matters that interest me. For example, in one group I've asked how teachers in secondary schools who have used Smartboards/LCDs like them. Secondary teachers use them differently than elementary teachers, and classroom needs are different. This website has provided a way to share ideas with teachers who share the same interests and concerns."

Question of the Week: Multiple December Holidays
From the Works4Me Worker Bees:

"December is full of holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and others. How do you teach about these multiple holidays? How do you inclusively celebrate the season, and what are your favorite holiday projects to do with your students?"
Send Us Your Answer
View Replies & Post Your Tip

Writing Tablet
Heard Last Week in the Works4Me Lounge:

"I am thinking about getting a writing tablet that can relay what I am writing to a computer and then project it onto a screen via an LCD projector. I want to be able to wander around the classroom as I go through the explanation of the material. I teach pre-calculus, trigonometry and calculus, so I need one that allows the symbols and graphs to be displayed. Does anyone have an idea of which tablet would be best to use?"
Comment on this tip
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Previous Newsletters
Catch up on the ones you missed.

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Browse hundreds of tips we've gathered over the years.

Works4Me Lounge
Meet other teachers and share classroom tips on our online discussion board

Send Us Your Tips
We couldn't do it without you!

DISCLAIMER Works4Me is a vehicle for instructional staff to share their ideas with other instructional staff. As such, it does not constitute an endorsement of any particular curriculum or teaching method by the Lewis Central Education Association, the Iowa State Education Association or the National Education Association or any of its affiliates.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Works4Me: Tips for Teachers by Teachers

Token Behavior
From Gayla Morstorf (, a first grade teacher at Geronimo Road School in Lawton, Oklahoma:

"I reward good classroom behavior by giving my students ten small tokens on Mondays. They keep the tokens in baggies until Friday when they can trade them in for prizes. They can earn more tokens for good behavior, but they can also lose tokens for unfavorable behavior throughout the week. My rule is they need to have the same amount I gave them on Monday in order to trade. Students work hard to practice the desired behaviors and learn about consequences when they make bad choices. If someone takes another student's tokens, they give up all of their tokens and give them to that person!"

CVC Story
From Betty Klein (, a first grade teacher at Cleveland School in Lawton, Oklahoma:

"This may seem like a silly tip, but it sure helped my talkative first graders understand the reading skill CVCe. When my students could not grasp it in adult terms, I told my students the following story. CVC and the vowel talked quietly making the short vowel sound. Then along came the vowel’s friend silent e and stood at the end. Although he didn't talk, he made a funny face that caused the vowel in the middle to talk loudly (the long vowel sound), which got him in trouble. The children all started laughing because they could identify with getting in trouble for talking or making someone get in trouble for talking. The skill CVC and CVCe are no longer a problem for them. This story helped my students sound out new words with these vowel patterns."

Question of the Week: Extended Leave
From the Works4Me Worker Bees:

"Sometimes teachers are forced to take extended leave for medical or personal reasons. How do you plan for this extended leave? You must plan for weeks at a time while you are still teaching and holding down a regular schedule. How do you fit time in for planning ahead and make these plans meaningful?"

Send Us Your Answer
View Replies & Post Your Tip

Social Networking
Heard Last Week in the Works4Me Lounge:

"Forget MySpace and Facebook -- lots of teachers are now networking with each other on educator-specific social networking sites like Classroom 2.0 or
NextGen Teachers. Have you joined any social networks specifically set up for teachers? What are the benefits?"

Comment on This Tip
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Submit a Tip
We couldn't do it without you! Click here to submit a tip. Please contribute your own brief, practical, broadly applicable classroom tip to Works4Me. When submitting a tip, please include your full name, school, specific assignment (grade/subject), city and state. This newsletter is only as good as the tips we receive, so send your ideas today.

Previous Newsletters
Catch up on the ones you missed.

Tips Library
Browse hundreds of tips we've gathered over the years.

Works4Me Lounge
Meet other teachers and share classroom tips on our online discussion board

Send Us Your Tips
We couldn't do it without you!

DISCLAIMER Works4Me is a vehicle for instructional staff to share their ideas with other instructional staff. As such, it does not constitute an endorsement of any particular curriculum or teaching method by the Lewis Central Education Association, the Iowa State Education Association or the National Education Association or any of its affiliates.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reading First Impact Study Final Report

Reading First Impact Study Final Report

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 created the Reading First program to help ensure that all students can read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. The law required an independent, rigorous evaluation of the program. The Reading First Impact Study Final Report provides an update of previously released impact findings on student reading comprehension and classroom reading instruction using an additional year of data (2006-07). In addition, the report includes information on the impact of the program on first grade students’ decoding skill in 2006-07 as well as an examination of the relationship between classroom instruction and student reading comprehension.

The results indicate that Reading First produced statistically significant positive impacts on multiple reading practices promoted by the program, such as the amount of instructional time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction and professional development in scientifically based reading instruction. Reading First did not produce a statistically significant impact on student reading comprehension test scores in grades one, two or three. However, there was a positive and statistically significant impact on first grade students’ decoding skills in spring 2007.

PDF File View, download, and print the full report as a PDF file (1.8 MB)
PDF File View, download, and print the Executive Summary as a PDF file (710 KB)
PDF File View, download, and print the body of the report as PDF file (1 MB)
PDF File View, download, and print appendices A-F as a PDF file (994 KB)
PDF File View, download, and print Appendix G through the exhibits as a PDF file (343 KB)

ISEA SuperRep--December/January 2009 Issue

In an effort to cut costs and lighten the load on our environment, the ISEA is now sending the SuperRep out via your e-mail. If you would still like to receive the SuperRep via snail mail, please send Cheri Swanson your address and she will place you on a permanent mailing list to receive the publication in the mail. We will still have the same handy PDF flyers available on our Web site. We encourage you to forward this publication to ISEA members in your building and your local or you can continue to print a hard copy of our flyers and post them in your building or put them directly in mailboxes. Either way, we're still getting you the same member information only now we're saving money and helping the environment, too!

ISEA is holding its annual Legislative Conference January 9-10. Don't miss this event which provides an overview of legislative issues and lobbying strategies for the 2009 legislative session. The ISEA fully funds members of the Building Support for Public Education Standing Committee. There is a $65 registration fee per member to help cover the cost of hotel and meals for all others who wish to attend. The registration is halved ($32.50) if no sleeping room is requested. Reservations must be received by Friday, December 19, 2008--after that date, rooms are subject to availability. Go to to download a registration form.

The ISEA will once again host a statewide education Lobby Day, Wednesday, February 18, 2009, at the Jesse M. Parker Building, 510 12th Street, Des Moines. An introduction and orientation will begin at 10 a.m., then at 11:45 we'll proceed to the Capitol for lunch and meetings with legislators.

Join the ISEA's Rapid Response Team and be a part of the front lines of communicating our positions to decision makers throughout the year. Once you complete the Rapid Response Team agreement, your contact information will be entered into our special database for timely notifications and quick action. Join this important part of shaping your profession and let your voice be heard!

ISEA members interested in becoming State Delegates to the 2009 NEA Representative Assembly to be held July 1 - 6 in San Diego, CA, will find nomination forms in the October/November ISEA Communique. Nomination forms can also be downloaded from the Leader Toolkit area of the ISEA Web site. Just go to the members-only area at and log in. Voting for this year's delegates will take place via our members-only Web site beginning in mid-February, but paper ballots will also be distributed upon request. Watch for more details as they become available. ISEA provides up to $1,300 for each State Delegate. Reimbursement is made within 30 business days of receipt of a voucher following the Assembly. ISEA-funded delegates shall receive payment for actual expenses not to exceed the budgeted amount.

The ISEA is offering $1,000 scholarships to help sons or daughters of Association members who want to become teachers. The deadline for applications is January 15. To download guidelines and an application form, visit the ISEA Web site.

Custodians are invited to participate in the inaugural National C.L.E.A.N. Awards Program--recognizing the contributions that custodians make to public health in their schools, communities, and their profession. Completed application packages must be postmarked on or before December 10, 2008. Contact Jennie Young or call 202-822-7481 for more information.

How does your newsletter measure up with others published in the state? Does it merit special recognition? There's only one way to find out--enter the annual ISEA Newsletter Recognition Program! Click here to download a registration form to enter.

The Iowa Department of Education has an agreement with the Ministry of Education in the Republic of China (Taiwan) that offers experienced and newly licensed Iowa elementary teachers the opportunity to teach in Taiwanese schools for one academic year. Participants work with local Taiwanese teachers to develop curriculum and teach English to elementary students. Recent participants have found the experience extremely fulfilling and worthwhile. The application and a frequently asked questions document are available at the DE Web site. Applications must be postmarked by April 24, 2009. Contact Brianne Munoz at 515-725-2067 or for additional information.

In 2009, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will write legislation to update and extend federal child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Summer Food Service Program. In preparation for this effort, Senator Harkin seeks the advice and expertise of those who interact with federal school nutrition programs every day. Please send your ideas to Derek Miller on the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry by e-mail at or by mail in care of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry at 328A Russell Office Building, Washington, DC, 20510.

The Iowa College Aid Commission provides applications and criteria for teacher loan forgiveness. Three of the loan forgiveness programs are listed below. The Web site is Teacher Shortage: maximum award is $6,420. Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness: maximum award $5,000. Teachers may qualify for up to $17,500 if they meet the criteria for Federal Loan Forgiveness and teach in the area of math or science. Federal Perkins Loan Program: Some teachers may be eligible for Perkins Loan cancellation for full-time teaching at a low-income school or in certain subject areas.

The ISEA is committed to helping local associations be the best they can be, which is why we offer our unique Five Star Local Recognition Program. Local associations submitting a Five Star Local Program application form will be eligible to win a $100 gift certificate to the ISEA Store. Applications are available at

Applications for the student member to the State Board of Education will be available on the Iowa Department of Education's Web site within a few weeks. The term of the student member starts May 1, 2009, and ends April 30, 2010. The Board meets at least nine times during that term, with most meetings taking place in the Grimes State Office Building in Des Moines. Besides being a full-time, regularly enrolled, tenth- or eleventh-grade student in a public high school, the student must meet these requirements: has a GPA of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale) or 3.75 (5.0 scale); has attended his/her present high school at least the past two consecutive semesters (or the equivalent thereof); demonstrates participation in extracurricular and community activities, as well as an interest in serving on the board. More information is available at

Give a gift that educates, informs, and entertains--at a great price! For a limited time, order a year-long subscription to Instructor, Woman's Day, Parents, Better Homes and Gardens, or more than 45 other titles and pay only $10 or less! Plus save 75 percent on The Economist, 80 percent on Smithsonian, 93 percent on Newsweek, and up to 85 percent on more than 1,000 magazines with your NEA Member discount. Treat yourself, your family members, and friends! Visit or call 1-800-YOUR MAG to place your order!

NEA members can register anytime during the month of December 2008 in the Free Giveaways area of the NEA Member Benefits Web site for a chance to win one of three $100 Best Buy Gift Cards! Extra buying power could come in handy during the post-holiday season! Giveaway entry begins at 12:00 a.m., ET, December 1, 2008, and ends at 11:59:59 p.m., ET, December 31, 2008. No purchase necessary to enter.

Access, the ISEA's discount provider, offers savings at hundreds of online stores for everything from clothing and books to furniture and vacations--all available with the click of a mouse. Avoid crowded malls and long lines and take advantage of easy discount shopping online. (Available to ISEA members only.)

The ISEA sponsors a number of awards to honor members and others who work to make a difference for public education and applying for our awards is easy! Download an informational flyer and an application form.

Friday, November 21, 2008

ESEA & NCLB Post Election 2008 News for Teachers to Use

Visit the NEA ESEA/NCLB Query Master to check out the most current discussion and research about this impactful legislation on our schools.

Read more about ESEA/NCLB at the national level
  • How will the financial crisis affect local education budgets?
  • Report questions spending of federal teacher quality funds
  • ED report finds Reading First does not improve comprehension
  • Darling-Hammond heads education policy team for Obama transition
  • CEP holds 2 more forums on federal role in education
  • ED issues more details on Title I regulations
  • No Child…' play shows struggles by students, staff to meet NCLB goals
Read more about ESEA/NCLB in the states
  • Some WV schools ask for time out on NCLB
  • NC raises standards; more schools miss AYP targets
  • Voice from the classroom:Michigan City, Indiana
How will the financial crisis affect local education budgets?

The deepening financial crisis on Wall Street is already starting to play out at the school district level. School superintendents across the country say the struggling economy is threatening to reverse progress they have made in closing historic achievement gaps. Districts are facing budget cutbacks now -- and the outlook for next fall is certainly dim.

A study by the American Association of School Administrators finds superintendents already have begun instituting belt-tightening measures in response to shrinking budgets. Nearly half of those surveyed are reducing hiring and cutting back on supplies, while 20 percent already have laid off staff. Another 31 percent are considering layoffs as well as other measures.

So what happens if/when the next Congress passes a stimulus bill? How is education likely to fare? If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd have their way, education will definitely get a boost.

The new stimulus bill unveiled this week is a $100 billion package that includes $2.5 billion for school construction repairs, as well as $600 million for youth training and dislocated workers, $200 million for the Community Services Block Grant, and $36 million for homeless education. Job training funds would provide 160,000 dislocated workers and youth with education, training, counseling, and job search assistance.

It also includes other funding important to NEA: $37.8 billion to reduce the states' share of Medicaid costs by increasing the federal share by 8 percent. That directly helps reduce the strain on states' budgets from increasing Medicaid costs.

Unfortunately, opposition by President Bush and Senate Republican leaders prevented consideration by this week's lame duck session of Congress, so that means any stimulus bill will not be acted on until President-elect Barack Obama takes office. At that point, the stimulus package would likely be even larger.

A footnote: The House in September passed a smaller package of $63 billion which included $3 billion for school construction.

Report questions spending of federal teacher quality funds

Under NCLB, the federal government spends some $3 billion each year on Title II teacher quality programs under NCLB, but a report released this week concludes that no one really knows if the funds are making a difference.

The program generally "is not especially aligned with leading-edge [teacher-quality] efforts, and it's the federal government's big entry in this sweepstakes," says Andrew Rotherham, the co-director of Education Sector who authored the report. He argues that Congress and the Obama administration have a chance to reshape federal policy to better support leading-edge human capital reforms in education.

"…public school systems continue to approach the teacher workforce as they did a generation ago," he writes. "Teachers enjoy little opportunity for professional growth or advancement without leaving the classroom, creating a disincentive for those who want to take on additional skills and responsibilities. And there is little sensitivity to teacher talent or effectiveness: From recruitment and training to compensation, low-performers and high-fliers are treated much the same, and poor and minority students are less likely to get the most effective teachers. While American society and what's expected of public schools has changed a great deal, our approaches to human capital in education have not."

Title II is the federal government's second-largest K-12 investment, after the Title I grants for disadvantaged students.

Rothertham also recently offered advice to President-elect Obama -- Education needs to be on the to-do list -- as part of NPR's "Dear President-Elect" series.

NEA notes that Title II also funds class size reduction programs. NEA is advocating that the ESEA reauthorization include a separate funding stream for class size reduction efforts, and that it also provide increased investments for high quality mentoring programs for new teachers and job-related professional development for all teachers.

We would oppose any provisions that require the use of student test scores in determining teacher compensation.

ED report finds Reading First does not improve comprehension

A new Department of Education report on Reading First finds that students enrolled in the $6 billion program on average made no more progress in reading comprehension than their peers in first, second, and third grade outside the program.

This congressionally mandated report, a follow-up to April's interim study, presents an additional year of data (from 2006-07) on student reading comprehension and classroom instruction in 248 schools (125 Reading First schools and 123 non-Reading First schools) and information on the impact of the program on first-grade students' decoding skills. While the report found no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension, the program did have a significant impact on students' decoding skills, one of the basic components for reading.

"It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of department's research branch, who is quoted in a Washington Post article. "I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension."

While the report is somewhat more positive than a much-criticized interim version of the findings, it is not expected to sway Congress, where two panels have recommended eliminating funding for the program.

Darling-Hammond heads education policy team for Obama transition

Some good news for the education community: Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond -- highly regarded for her work on school reform, teaching quality, and educational equity -- is heading up President-elect Barack Obama's transition team at the Education Department. She is expected to make policy recommendations to the new administration on a host of issues, including ESEA/NCLB reauthorization. Education Week's K-12 blog, among others, reports the news.

Curious about what Darling-Hammond has said about NCLB? You can check out her May 2007 article in The Nation as well as her testimony to Congress (September 2007).

The other members of Obama's transition education team are:

Joan Baratz-Snowden, former Director of Educational Issues for the AFT;
Maria Blanco, Executive Director of The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley;
Juliet Garcia, President of the University of Texas at Brownsville;
Eugene Garcia, Vice President for Education Partnerships, Arizona State University;
Goodwin Liu, co-director of the same Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity;
Ann O'Leary, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Executive Director of the newly founded Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security (CHEFS) located at University of California-Berkeley School of Law;
John Polidori, Director of Legislation & Political Organizing for the Delaware State Education Association;
Jonathan Schnur, founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Leaders for New Schools; and
Jon Weintraub, director of the Office of Policy Analysis for the Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

CEP holds 2 more forums on federal role in education

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has held two more forums on rethinking the federal role in education. One of the topics addressed at yesterday's event was the federal role in standards-based reform.

Dr. Brian Stecher and Dr. Laura Hamilton, both with the RAND Corporation, say research shows that the effectiveness of standard-based reform is inconsistent, particularly given the difficulty in determining the validity of test scores. They said that when a punishment or reward is attached to a specific outcome, such as meeting AYP, the behavior of teachers does change. They also recommended that "Accountability should include non-test outcome measures, including a blended indicator system (some outcomes measured annually and some less frequently, and some outcomes measured at the student level and others measured at the classroom or district level)."

The November 20 forum also included a presentation on educational assessments by Dr. W. James Popham. The November 19 forum highlighted the work of Dr. Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Research Project and Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan of Columbia University. The Weiss paper addressed the federal role in out of school learning, while Kagan's paper focused on early childhood education.

The papers from all of the forums eventually will be posted on the CEP Web site.

ED issues more details on Title I regulations

On November 13, ED hosted a Technical Review National Teleconference to discuss the Title I regulations announced on October 28, 2008. The PowerPoint used is available on the ED's Web site.

'No Child…' play shows struggles by students, staff to meet NCLB goals

A former New York City visiting artist working in a tough school in the Bronx has written a play called "No Child…" that has won the hearts of educators and others. Nilaja Sun, who wrote and performed her award-winning one-woman show, says the play is based on her own experiences as a drama teacher. She plays 16 distinctive characters -- students, teachers, administrators, and a visiting teaching artist very much like herself -- and through them tells a story that we know only too well about the foibles and pitfalls of NCLB.

She created the play as a snapshot from the trenches -- "something entertaining and provocative that'll get people talking about the state of our public schools."

If you've seen or heard about the off-Broadway hit, you may be happy to hear that it has been licensed to run in eight places around the country next year. If you haven't heard about Sun's successful run in New York, Boston, and other places, listen to the recent NPR piece where she discusses the inspiration behind the project.

Some WV schools ask for time out on NCLB

The superintendent of Marion County, West Virginia, has asked federal education officials for a year's reprieve from federal accountability standards while students and teachers adjust to a new and more rigorous standardized test and curriculum. And the Charleston Daily Mail reports Superintendent James Phares is urging his counterparts across the state to make the same request.

Phares says counties should have a year or two to adjust to a new statewide test of student achievement, the WESTEST 2 so that schools do not end up getting penalized for raising standards.

NC raises standards; more schools miss AYP targets

Members of North Carolina's State Board of Education say they fully expected more schools would miss performance targets under NCLB when they decided to raise standards for the state's students. And that's exactly what happened. Nearly half of North Carolina's students failed both the reading and math exams they took last spring, and more schools and districts are facing sanctions because of poor performance. But Gov. Mike Easley and state officials are praising the higher standards and largely ignoring the fact that many students failed to meet them. The News & Observer sums it up succinctly: Push for higher levels stings.

According to NEA's latest analysis of state AYP data, more schools in 35 states failed AYP this year.

Voice from the classroom: Michigan City, Indiana

"I am a Title I assistant in an elementary school. I assist in giving NWEA testing to special needs children. (NWEA tests are computerized tests that assess language, reading, and math skills of students in grades three to five.) My observation is that it truly frustrates these children who can't even read the test questions but who are so brilliant in other ways. Please stop standardized testing with these children and test them in other ways, if necessary!"

Robin Endris, Paraeducator
Michigan City, Indiana

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

The $6 billion funding for the federal Reading First program has helped more students “crack the code” to identify letters and words, but it has not had an impact on reading comprehension among 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in participating schools, according to one of the largest and most rigorous studies ever undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education.

While more time is spent on reading instruction and professional development in schools that received Reading First grants than in comparison schools, students in participating schools are no more likely to become proficient readers, even after several years with the extended instruction, the study found.

Among both the Reading First and comparison groups, reading achievement was low, with fewer than half of 1st graders, and fewer than 40 percent of 2nd and 3rd graders showing grade-level proficiency in their understanding of what they read. On a basic decoding test, however, 1st graders in Reading First schools scored significantly better than their peers in the comparison schools.

The final report of the Reading First Impact Study, released today by the Institute of Education Sciences, is part of the $40 million evaluation process for the program, which was rolled out in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Advocates for the program will be pleased that it’s shown a positive correlation on [improved] decoding skills ... the focus of the program,” said Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the outgoing director of the institute, the Education Department’s research arm. “I don’t think anyone should be celebrating the fact that the federal government invested $6 billion in a reading program that has shown no effects on reading comprehension.”

The study compares Reading First schools with similar schools in the same districts that are not part of the program to determine the effect of the additional funding on reading instruction, students’ reading proficiency, and the relationship between reading instruction and students’ comprehension.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were given a reading-comprehension test four times between fall 2004 and spring 2007. The students attended nearly 250 schools in 17 districts and a statewide jurisdiction, none of which is identified in the report. Half the schools were taking part in the Reading First program and were compared with similar schools within their districts.

The study was also based on extensive classroom observations to identify the instructional practices in both types of schools, as well as surveys of teachers, principals, and reading coaches.
Different Approaches

Some federal officials chose to highlight the positive aspects in the report, while acknowledging the lack of improvement in reading comprehension.

“Reading First helps our most vulnerable students learn the fundamental elements of reading while helping teachers improve instruction,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement. “Instead of reversing the progress we have made by cutting funding, we must enhance Reading First and help more students benefit from research-based instruction.”

An interim report on the findings, released in May, drew scathing criticism from supporters of the program, who suggested the design of the study was flawed because it did not consider the likelihood that Reading First principles and practices had spread to schools outside the program. ("Reading First Doesn't Help Pupils 'Get it'," May 7, 2008.)

Other studies have found that a significant proportion of schools serving struggling students have incorporated explicit instruction in the basic reading skills that have been found to be essential in learning to read—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—and are the foundations of the Reading First program.

But Mr. Whitehurst dismissed those claims yesterday, saying that although there may be some “bleed over” into non-Reading First schools, the classroom observations and survey data show that the schools are not so similar.

“The schools were not doing the same thing,” he said. “There were differences in professional development, there were differences in their use of reading coaches, ... and there were significant differences in classroom practices.”

The program came under scrutiny for management problems at the Education Department during implementation, and later lost nearly 62 percent of its $1 billion annual allocation in the fiscal 2008 federal budget. Two congressional panels have recommended that funding be eliminated altogether in the fiscal 2009 budget, which has yet to be finalized in Congress.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Works4Me Ideas and Tips for Teachers by Teachers

Balanced Behavior

From Pam Carroll (, a third grade teacher at Marvin Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

"I use a balance scale, along with the small blocks that come with our math kit, to reinforce positive group behavior. When students receive a compliment from another teacher or when I see them following directions, I give them a positive block on the left side of the balance scale. When students misbehave as a group, I drop a negative block on the right side of the balance scale. When the positive side touches the table, we have a Positive Party. Recently my students voted to have a Teddy Bear party. I was surprised that the boys voted for this type of party but it was a hit! To make sure this party was not a distraction to the curriculum, I had the students read to their bear during reading, make flash cards for their bear during math, and write a letter to their bear during writing. When the negative side hits the tabletop, we just empty the bucket and start again. It does not take the students long to see that when they misbehave, it takes longer to make the bucket drop the positive side all the way down to the tabletop."

Relating to the Text
From Kyla Ward (

"Sometimes small connections can make a world of difference in gaining students' interest. If it's a literature text with older language, try using a modern song that expresses the same sentiment as a pre-reading journal topic. If it's grammar, replace the sample sentences from the book with sentences that use the students' names; they love to hear about themselves! Sometimes I even make references to college football games in the sentences. Use anything to get their attention and keep interest while developing a skill. They may not care about a sentence about John Doe going to the movies, but watch how they perk up to see their names, school activities, etc."

Recommended Read
From (

"I recommend the book Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I checked this book out from the town library this summer as a fast read because it was on the bestseller list. I couldn't help thinking about some of my former fifth grade students as I read this book. This is certainly a book that most classroom teachers can relate to. Many of us have had students like the ones in this book, which makes it seem very real."

Question of the Week: Block Scheduling?
From the Works4Me Worker Bees:

"Block schedules versus timed periods. Which do you prefer and why? How do you make your school’s prescribed schedule work for you?"

Send Us Your Answer
View Replies & Post Your Tip

Exiting Students
Heard Last Week in the Works4Me Lounge:

"Prior to school starting, my colleagues informed me that I was getting the worst of the fourth grade students. Since school began, I have had six students withdraw from my classroom to go to another. The students tell their parents they simply want another teacher. Parents think their child is gifted when he/she is not, or parents want more attention given to their child. I have at least six challenging students with ADHD in my class. I need helpful insight as to how to deal with the difficult parents that I have learned will lie to get their children what they want. I am not getting help from the administration or staff at my school. I am a new teacher and am the first African American general education teacher this elementary school has had since its opening in 1990. Any suggestions or insight would be greatly appreciated."

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DISCLAIMER Works4Me is a vehicle for instructional staff to share their ideas with other instructional staff. As such, it does not constitute an endorsement of any particular curriculum or teaching method by the Lewis Central Education Association, the Iowa State Education Association or the National Education Association or any of its affiliates.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tell Congress: Help Struggling Families

The Senate will return to Washington, DC on November 17 for a short "lame duck" session. It is critical that the Senate use this opportunity to pass an economic recovery bill that helps families in need. Across the nation, people are losing their homes, and finding it increasingly harder to buy even basic necessities such as food and fuel. At the same time, a majority of states are facing significant budget deficits and will likely cut funding for education, health care, and other priorities.

The votes of 60 Senators will be needed to prevent millions of people from losing their jobs, exhausting unemployment benefits, going without food, and becoming homeless.

Call your Senators TODAY!!. You can call toll-free at 800-473-6711 to be connected to the Capitol Switchboard. Ask to speak to one of your Senators. (Don't know their names? Find out at Relay the message below. Then call back and ask to speak to your state's other Senator.

  • I'm a constituent and an educator, and I want Senator ___ to know that our state desperately needs an economic recovery package that includes help for people being hurt now.
  • People are struggling. In schools, we are seeing record numbers of homeless students and students poor enough to qualify for free school meals.
  • We need unemployment benefits and food stamps for struggling families.
  • We also need investments in school construction to create immediate jobs and help boost our local economy.
  • And, we need state aid to prevent health care and other cuts.
  • This is not the time for partisanship or for further delays. We need your vote now for recovery that works - for our people and for the economy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NEA, ISEA & LCEA Impact Election 2008

Obama wins and so does public education!

The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is historic. Americans, young and old, have shared heartfelt accounts of the significance of this election in their lives. Volunteering to canvass neighborhoods in battleground states, making telephone calls to fellow Association members, talking about the importance of electing pro-public education candidates nationally and locally, and discussing pocketbook issues with family members and friends-NEA members across the country can be proud of theirpivotal role in helping to elect a president who has said that education means "more to our economic future than anything."

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined thousands of joyous Americans in Grant Park on election night to hear Barack Obama claim a victory that he said belongs to the countless men and women who still hope and believe in the promise of America's greatness. "This is a major victory for students and educators, and NEA's 3.2 million members and their families should be proud of the role they played in this historic election," Van Roekel said. "This is an incredible opportunity to begin to correct the failed education policies of the Bush administration and prepare our students to compete in a 21st century economy. It's a new chapter in American history and an exciting and unprecedented time for educating the next generation of American leaders," he said.

Public education victories across the country

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel (last row) joins HSTA members in supporting Obama. The president-elect was born in Hawaii
NEA leaders are calling November 4, 2008, a "great day for public education in America." In addition to President-elect Obama, NEA members worked to get out the vote in support of issues that help to advance public education and help working class Americans. NEA recommended candidates across the country for Senate, House and gubernatorial races. As a bipartisan organization, NEA was pleased to help return members from both sides of the aisle to Congress and help elect new 'friends of education' to public office. The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, NEA's political action committee, contributed human and financial resources to elect United States senators in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado. The Association's strength also was evident in the election of pro-public education governors in North Carolina and Missouri. As lieutenant governor, Bev Perdue made education a priority and she promises to do the same as North Carolina's next governor. Democrat Jay Nixon won his bid for governor of Missouri. Nixon opposes school vouchers and his plan for public education in the "Show Me" state includes recruiting more talented teachers.

In addition to celebrating the election of pro-public education candidates, NEA members are savoring victories in several critical ballot initiatives. For example, NEA worked on measures dealing with unions and worker issues in Colorado, Oregon, and South Dakota. In Colorado, it was a triple threat with Constitutional Amendments 47, 49, and 54. These deceptive measures would threaten jobs and paychecks and silence the voices of workers and their families. Protect Colorado's Future, a nonprofit coalition of local businesses, unions, progressive groups, faith-based organizations, and community allies, successfully fought two of the three amendment battles. Amendment 54, which narrowly missed defeat, is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds. NEA provided financial and human resources to defeat these deceptive amendments in Colorado.

The outlook for education under President-elect Obama looks positive

NEA members across the country volunteered and worked hard to help ensure the election of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president because they believed he would be a strong supporter of public education. As a candidate, Sen. Obama addressed the Representative Assembly in 2007 and 2008, promising to partner with NEA to advance public education. He is committed to engaging educators and seeking their input when critical decisions are made relative to education. He promised to work to repeal GPO/WEP and protect Social Security. Obama applauded NEA's Great Public Schools 2020 report released earlier this year, saying that the report provides "a roadmap for all who care deeply about the future of our children." He has indicated that he is willing to consider a different role for the federal government in education as a starting point for a discussion on education reform.

And while it's still too early to tell exactly how the new president will approach the all important task of education reform, it seems certain that he will advance an education agenda that moves beyond party and ideology to focus on what will make the most difference in the lives of America's children and students. His plan for education calls for:
  • giving every child a world class education from the day they're born until the day they graduate from college;
  • investing in early childhood education because children in these programs are more likely to do better academically, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job and earn more in that job;
  • putting a college degree within reach of anyone who wants one by providing a $4,000 tax credit to any middle class student who's willing to serve his or her community or country
It is certain that NCLB will be reformed under the Obama administration and more importantly, we know that his administration will not focus on identifying "failing schools"; it will no longer focus on teaching children to fill in bubbles on a standardized test; and it will not starve schools of the resources they need to help students succeed.

  • advocate for assessments that can improve achievement by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem solving that children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy;
  • push for the appropriation of funding promised for NCLB, and give states the resources they need;
  • honor IDEA's commitment to fully fund special education;
  • support innovative models in the public school system; and
  • expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits.
"Got Tuition?" campaign to continue

Youth voters flocked to the polls in record numbers on Election Day and played a key role in President-elect Obama's victory. Young Americans worked tirelessly to elect a president who offered hope and the promise of change. And if you're wondering how we're going to keep those young voters engaged or how we're going to maintain that energy and enthusiasm, NEA has the answer - college affordability and "Got Tuition?". The "Got Tuition?" campaign galvanized young voters to text, blog, film, and rally in ever growing numbers and plans are to continue to organize and mobilize young people on campuses and in communities around college affordability and other issues of concern to them. The key to success is to keep the momentum going, just as Whitney Ripley did. Ripley, a "Got Tuition?" team member, took advantage of the euphoric moment on election night to urge Congressional leaders, including Education Committee chair George Miller (D-CA) and Democratic Chief Deputy Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to keep the issue on the front burner when Congress reconvenes. Check out the photos on the "Got Tuition?" Web site, and make sure the "Got Tuition?" campaign visits your college campus or one near you.

NEA organized for victory and change

The 3.2 million members of NEA live in every precinct, county, congressional district, and state. This year, the Association spearheaded an unprecedented effort to mobilize its members and their families to elect friends of public education at the national, state, and local levels. NEA started preparing for the 2008 election right after the 2006 midterm elections and for more than a year, NEA organized members throughout the country, educating them about the importance of supporting candidates and issues that advance public education and help working families.

Jennifer Tacconi, a high school history and government teacher and member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, is just one example of an NEA member who sacrificed and helped to ensure that the power of the education vote is recognized and respected. Tacconi finished her master's degree in political science by attending the Democratic National Convention - and then volunteered to hit the streets to get Obama elected. Tacconi, along with about 400 other students, arrived in Denver the week prior to the convention for a rigorous academic experience. She attended lectures and discussions nonstop for the first week prior to the convention. During the week of the convention itself, she did assigned field work.

But Tacconi's story didn't end there. When she returned from the convention, Tacconi was inspired to continue her involvement. Despite a full-time job teaching 9th and 11th grade students, a part-time job as a bartender, and the responsibilities of being a single mother, Tacconi volunteered to work for the Obama campaign. She went door-to-door in Greensburg canvassing for Obama, often taking along her 11-year-old son Sage. Their participation continued through Election Day.

In addition to other class work focusing on the election, Tacconi held a non-partisan debate watch party after school for her 9th and 11th grade students. "I had a turnout of 40 students, and it was a rewarding experience for me and a great opportunity to emphasize the importance for them of always keeping informed on the issues," Tacconi said. Despite working two jobs and raising a child on her own, Tacconi doesn't see herself as special. "It's just what teachers should do. By participating ourselves, teachers can demonstrate how important and how rewarding it can be to be involved in a cause that you believe in and are passionate about. Students seem too often to believe that the political process has no direct influence on their lives. Being involved and informed gives them a different perspective."

PSEA member Monica Mixon is another example of how NEA members helped to raise the profile and affect of the education vote.

No one has to remind Mixon, who works as an education support professional, that time is precious. Modestly and quietly, she'll admit that she spent some long days as a volunteer to make sure candidate, now president-elect, Barack Obama got his chance to make a difference on America's political landscape. During the weeks leading up to the election, every day after school Monday through Thursday, Mixon left her job with the Lower Merion School District and took a bus to the train. She then took a train to Center City Philadelphia where she caught a suburban train to NEA's Mideast Regional Office. She took a cab from the train station to the regional office where she worked the phone banks calling members until 8:00 p.m., when she followed the same routine for the long return trip home. "I was accepted into the NEA ESP Leaders of Tomorrow program, and one of our classes focused on politics and how it affects ESPs and their professions," Mixon said. "I thought it was very crucial that I spend my time on those phone lines to make sure that educators were thinking about how this election affects them. I explained to cafeteria workers and ESPs that they are educators and their participation in the election was important."

Mixon said she also volunteered because she wanted to try something new. "At the NEA training, they told us that leadership involves doing something that you don't always know how to do," she said. "I got a chance to speak with people about why this election mattered to them. With my NEA training, I was able to really explain the issues and why ESPs are so important in the political process. When you're calling members from PSEA, they think you're a teacher, but I think it's important that ESPs also are talking to other members about why it's important to get the right people into office. I believe that you really have nothing to say if you don't vote. If you really believe in something and care about your job, you need to step up to the plate and speak up for those who support education. I really care about my job and my colleagues, so I will step up and volunteer for pro-public education candidates. Any time you can give is important," Mixon said.

No time to rest

NEA members across the country can be proud of the impressive list of wins they helped to make possible in the 2008 election; but Association leaders and NEA Campaigns and Elections staff are already looking forward to 2009 and 2010 when there will be key races for governorships and the U.S. Senate. NEA was actively engaged with its members in targeted races throughout the country in the 2008 election cycle, including work in 15 presidential battleground states, 11 Senate races, 54 congressional races, four gubernatorial races, and 20 ballot measures. The Association distributed more than 21.3 million pieces of mail; sent 4.5 million emails in battleground states, and made more than 2.1 million phone calls. NEA played a crucial role in educating and engaging millions of people from working class families about important issues in the 2008 election. And even as victories are enjoyed and the celebrations continue, work is already underway to make sure that NEA members are ‘fired up and ready to go' in 2009 and 2010. Stay tuned… to learn how you can be a part of this work moving forward.

Inauguration 2009

Not many details are available yet for the inauguration of the nation's 44th president, Barack Obama, but it is certain that the historic event will take place on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 on the West Front of the United States Capitol. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced the theme of the 56th Presidential Inauguration, "A New Birth of Freedom", this past week. Tickets to the inaugural ceremonies will be provided free of charge and distributed by Members of the 111th Congress. If you're interested in attending, contact your member of Congress or U.S. Senator to request tickets. It's worth noting that hotels in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas are already completely booked. It is anticipated that the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be unlike any in history, with events that allow large numbers of Americans to participate. Smaller celebrations in communities across the country for those who can't come to Washington also are being considered. Currently, NEA leaders are trying to determine the Association's inaugural plans, but you can visit for accurate and up-to-date information on the 2009 Inaugural.