Education News Roundup for June 10

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Today’s Top Picks:
It’s fairly quiet on the education front locally.
Lincoln Fillmore asks if it’s wise for charter schools to spend money on marketing and grant writers.
California decides to join the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium as a “governing member.” This is the same consortium that Utah belongs to.
Nationally, the discussion is about a new study on the benefits of preschool.
http://bit.ly/lKaklo (Chicago Tribune)
and http://bit.ly/mtOstY (AP via Ed Week)
With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy: “You might be in trouble your school board if … you start a FaceBook page that starts off like a Jeff Foxworthy joke only about people who go to your high school instead of rednecks.”
http://bit.ly/jIhW6o (News & Tribune)
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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH
Utahns can take redistricting into their own hands
Website: Residents can propose boundaries for state offices.
Cache Valley students participate in USU chemistry internship program
Minority students feel welcome at Lone Peak
Prison graduation a hope-filled day for inmates seeking new start
Canyons District awards more than 1,300 advanced diplomas
Payson bagpipe band director takes a break after 14 years
Former Wilson teacher appealing sex abuse sentence
Open High School wins tech award
Teens, adults team up in writing program
Free athletic camps for kids in Ogden
OPINION & COMMENTARY
People with disabilities get slammed
Is it worth it to spend money to make money?
Common standards and teaching to the test – continued
The new drug
California Takes Sides in Assessment Development Work
Eavesdrop as Teachers Score AP Essays
Listen to Ravitch, Alter talk past each other
A New Way Forward for U.S. High Schools
Three ways U.S. high schools are failing their students
Education Is Not a Consumer Product
NATION
Study: Preschool boosts low-income students
Chicago research confirms early education benefits, but budget woes put programs in jeopardy
Want Better Math Teachers? Then Train Them Better
Douglas County schools revamp teacher pay, may ask for tax hike
Lawyer and Teacher
News Corp plans education acquisitions
Virtually free speech: Facebook page gets Jeffersonville High School students in trouble
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UTAH NEWS
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Utahns can take redistricting into their own hands
Website: Residents can propose boundaries for state offices.
Utahns now can sketch their own proposed boundaries for congressional seats, legislative districts and Utah School Board positions, thanks to an online mapping tool on the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee website that leaders describe as among the first for states.
“It is new and unusual,” John Cannon, managing policy analyst for the committee, said. “We are aware of some cities and counties that have done that before, and we have looked at their sites as we designed ours. But we haven’t seen other states do it. We may be one of a few, or just one alone.”
The website is RedistrictUtah.com. Those interested in drawing maps must register online.
Cache Valley students participate in USU chemistry internship program
Cache Valley high school students had a chance to explore science outside of a textbook-and-classroom environment this week. And no explosions were recorded at any of the labs.
Six valley students from InTech Collegiate, Logan and Mountain Crest high schools were chosen to be a part of the Utah State University’s chemistry and biochemistry high school summer internship program.
Minority students feel welcome at Lone Peak
HIGHLAND — During the 2010-2011 school year Lone Peak High School had more than 2,000 students in its student body. Of this large student body, only 97 students were members of a minority group, including Hispanic or Latino, Pacific Islander, Black, American Indian and Asian. Rhonda Bromley, Alpine School District spokeswoman, explained how the school district receives this information.
“When parents register their students, they are the ones that declare this information,” she said.
Christian Lopez, a recent graduate of Lone Peak, realizes that he was a unique member of the student body but never felt like he was discriminated against or singled out because of his Chilean heritage.
“It is not a very diverse student body,” he said. “The 4 percent really stands out in the hallways but everyone meshes well. It’s a great school and I loved it.”
Prison graduation a hope-filled day for inmates seeking new start
UTAH STATE PRISON — High school graduation always centers on talk of the future, but Thursday’s commencement ceremony for the South Park Academy had a bit more emphasis on hope for better lives ahead.
That’s because the graduates dressed in blue and yellow caps and gowns wore prison jumpsuits beneath them. A total of 378 men and women currently incarcerated at the Utah State Prison in Draper accepted their adult high school diplomas. It was the largest single group of graduates South Park Academy, which is operated by Canyons School District, has seen.
Canyons District awards more than 1,300 advanced diplomas
SANDY — Sixty percent of the seniors graduating from the Canyons School District this week will receive an enhanced diploma.
The district will designate 1,356 graduates as career- or college-ready, with “advanced” or “honors” diplomas. To qualify, students completed two years of foreign language; did additional science, math and English courses beyond state mandates; and met benchmark scores on the ACT college-entrance test.
Forty-five percent of those enhanced-diploma students earned the higher-standard honors diploma.
Payson bagpipe band director takes a break after 14 years
The Payson High School Pipe Band is nearing 40 years since its conception. In the 1970s Jerry Chatwin founded the pipe band, and it wasn’t until 14 years ago that Kerri Welton took the lead. Now, after more than a decade as the director of Payson High’s pipe band, Welton is turning in her pipes.
Former Wilson teacher appealing sex abuse sentence
A former Wilson Elementary School teacher is hoping the Utah Supreme Court will reverse a lower judge’s ruling that sent the man to prison for sexually abusing one his students in the early 1990s.
Alan R. Willey, 56, was sentenced in 2007 to up to 15 years behind bars after being convicted of child sex abuse. He appealed the case on grounds that he received inadequate legal counsel during trial.
According to court documents, Willey says his defense attorneys failed to call an expert witness on human memory to the stand. Willey claims such a witness could have countered the state’s argument that the victim had a lucid recollection of what happened to him in Willey’s classroom more than a decade ago. Prosecutors alleged Willey rubbed a fourth grade student’s bare chest and fondled his genitals on multiple occasions.
The case originally ended in a hung jury in November 2006. At a second trial, however, the state expanded its investigation and called additional witnesses who testified that their teacher touched the boy’s chest.
Willey was convicted on seven first-degree felony counts and has now sent the matter to the Utah Supreme Court for review of judicial proceedings.
Open High School wins tech award
The Open High School of Utah, a full-service virtual high school, was named the eSchool of the Month by eSchoolNews magazine. The award is based on how well schools integrate technology into their overall school model, including use of technology each day in administration and instruction; students and staff all incorporating technology; teacher training in technology; using technology to gather data and then using the data to inform instruction.
http://bit.ly/iwiPou (eSchool News)
Teens, adults team up in writing program
The Salt Lake Community Writing Center and the Salt Lake City Library will offer a writing program for at-risk teens beginning in August. The program pairs high school juniors (ages 16 and 17) with adult mentors who use writing in their careers. Teens and mentors meet weekly for nine months to work on creative, professional and academic writing skills. Deadline to apply as a mentor or a mentee is June 30 at http://bit.ly/abfcWb.
Free athletic camps for kids in Ogden
Ogden City School District is hosting three free athletic camps for students this summer at Mound Fort Junior High School: a football camp for boys in seventh-ninth grades; a basketball camp for girls and boys in third-sixth and seventh-ninth grades. Campers will learn the fundamentals of their sport, get a T-shirt, balls and other prizes. For more information, visit the Ogden School District website at www.ogdensd.org.
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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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People with disabilities get slammed
Salt Lake Tribune commentary by columnist Paul Rolly
I wrote in Wednesday’s column about a legislative gaffe that forced Utah’s School for the Deaf and Blind students to miss four days of school because a $700,000 planned appropriation never showed up.
Here’s another example of that vulnerable population being shortchanged by officials because of benign neglect.
The state has a nearly $1 million trust fund fueled over several decades by donations made to the blind community. It is administered by the State Office of Education, but by law it is turned over to the State Treasurer’s office for investment purposes.
The fund itself remains intact, but the interest it earns each year is given through grants to nonprofit organizations that serve the blind community.
So how much interest has that $1 million earned for the benefit of the blind community? About $7,000 last year and slightly more than that the year before. That equates to a yield of 7/10 of 1 percent.
Is it worth it to spend money to make money?
Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore
I work with a school that wonders if they should invest in an enrollment and marketing specialist. Enrollment has been lower than they want for a few years in a row. Marketing the school is of course one of the jobs of the school administration, but with compliance, behavior, discipline, teacher training, and, er, actual instruction, who has time?
If your school isn’t full, and you invested $50,000 in a person whose job it was to build enrollment, could you get the ten to twelve students that justify the expense? Could you get more? What about spending $50,000 on buying and running a bus to the neighborhood way over there? Could you pick up enough students to justify the cost?
What about fundraising? If you invest actual dollars in a grant writer, will they write enough grants to justify their salary?
Common standards and teaching to the test – continued
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell
So, as threatened, I want to continue my discussion of common social studies standards and teaching to the test.
What I found missing from the draft national social studies standards is any serious suggestion of what content students should be expected to master. After the debacle over the national history standards in 1994 this may be a wise choice, but it begs a very important question. What will be on the test? The Department of Education promises — threatens? — to produce national tests. If the standards are a reliable guide, these tests will, like the social studies section of the ACT, attempt to identify students’ ability to interpret texts and data, and not attempt to identify students’ actual knowledge of history, geography, government, or economics (which are, at least in my school, the core social studies courses).
And this void will, unfortunately, make it harder to teach to the test.
The new drug
Deseret News letter from Anna Smith
We often hear about the harmful effects of drugs. When you’re little, you learn about Red Ribbon Week at school, and you have lectures on “just saying no.”
But people should also focus on what’s being called “the new drug.” It physically affects the way a child’s or adolescent’s brain develops, and can cause deficits in judgment and reasoning. It is highly addictive. It is pornography.
California Takes Sides in Assessment Development Work
Education Week commentary by columnist Catherine Gewertz
When a state as big as California makes a major choice about assessment, it’s worth noting. And that is just what happened today: The Golden State chose between the two big consortia of states that are designing tests for the common standards. California’s choice? The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
And here’s the kicker: By choosing to become a “governing member” of SBAC, instead of a “participating member,” California commits to consortium monogamy: it can belong to only one group. So that means it will have to withdraw from the consortium it originally chose, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
About a dozen states were practicing consortium polygamy for a while, waiting to see how the two groups’ plans shaped up before choosing. That list has been whittled down to eight. See two of my previous blog posts (here and here) for earlier shifts in consortium membership.
But California was never one of the dating-around states; it had been going steady exclusively with PARCC (albeit as a participating member, which means it was part of the discussions, but didn’t have decisionmaking power).
Eavesdrop as Teachers Score AP Essays
Education Week commentary by columnist Catherine Gewertz
Ever wonder what goes on in those rooms where teachers gather to score the free-response portions of the AP exams? You can get a limited slice on Twitter.
College Board Vice President Trevor Packer has been tweeting from the AP Readings this week. You can follow along here. More than 11,000 high school and college teachers are holed up in several cities across the country to grade 12 million essays and open-response items.
His tweets don’t reveal as much as we all would like (natch), but there are some interesting tidbits in there.
Listen to Ravitch, Alter talk past each other
Education News Colorado commentary by columnist Alan Gottlieb
It’s billed as a debate, but the 35-minute session featuring Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Alter Wednesday on a local talk show was more two people filibustering than anything resembling a true give-and-take. Host David Sirota didn’t pretend to be a disinterested third party, coming down, as one would expect, firmly on Ravitch’s side.
Still, having the two on his program was a coup of sorts. The dust-up between them began when Ravitch wrote an op-ed last week in the New York Times, in which she questioned the “miracle” mythology around certain schools, including Denver’s Bruce Randolph. Alter, a long-time Newsweek correspondent who now writes for Bloomberg News, penned a column accusing Ravitch of attempting to derail current reforms. He called her “the education world’s very own Whittaker Chambers, the famous communist turned strident anti-communist of the 1940s.”
A New Way Forward for U.S. High Schools
Three ways U.S. high schools are failing their students
U.S.News & World Report op-ed by Jeff Livingston, senior vice president, McGraw-Hill Education Applied College and Career Readiness Learning Solutions Center
As the school year begins to wind down and high school graduation ceremonies loom, educators and parents alike must take a hard look at whether our nation’s 17- and 18-year-olds are truly prepared for college or their careers. Have we set them up for success or failure?
While it’s easy to get swept up in the celebratory period of proms, college acceptance letters, senior trips, and caps and gowns, we must acknowledge the sober realities that lie before us. Nearly one quarter of students drop out of high school each year, and of those who attend college, 25 percent drop out before the end of their first semester—principally, because they’re ill prepared for the academic, financial, and emotional rigors of higher education.
Our high school seniors, on the brink of adulthood, are about to enter the real world in which a highly competitive, deadline-driven global economy requires their talent and skills and their ability to think critically, work collaboratively, and be accountable. America’s economic livelihood depends on it.
Education Is Not a Consumer Product
Huffington Post commentary by Steve Nelson, head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan
Harmony Schools: sounds lovely enough, evoking thoughts of children singing or institutions seeking to bring peace to the world. As reported in the New York Times on Monday, June 6, this iteration of “harmony” may be an entirely different story.
Harmony Schools are the marketing moniker for a charter chain in Texas backed by the Cosmos Foundation. The group now runs 33 charter schools, gobbling up $100 million in tax dollars per year. The Times report revealed an alarming connection to a Turkish preacher named Fethullah Gulen, who is the acknowledged spiritual leader of a worldwide, supposedly moderate, Islamic network.
Among the concerns reported by The Times is the disproportionate employment of Turkish expats on the faculty, and the questionable awarding of millions in construction contracts to Turkish-owned or controlled companies.
This, my friends, is what we asked for. Perhaps the politicians and corporate-funded lobbyists who promulgate school choice and the charter movement didn’t have exactly this in mind.
I’m less concerned about the employment of expats and non-competitive contracts than I am about the rapid disintegration of the public education system. Fueled by this generation’s inexplicable adoration of unregulated or lightly-regulated free markets, education in America is quickly turning into another competitive marketplace, where any idea or product is as good as its branding campaign. No ethical convictions needed. No practices based on the best interests of children are required.
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NATIONAL NEWS
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Study: Preschool boosts low-income students
Chicago research confirms early education benefits, but budget woes put programs in jeopardy
Chicago Tribune
A new study revealing the lasting impact of a solid preschool education — especially in disadvantaged communities — was  released Thursday, just as Illinois’ governor considers a state budget plan that slashes funding to early childhood programs.
While many findings over the years have touted the benefits of starting kids early on the path to education, a study conducted inside Chicago Public Schools and published online by the journal Science shows attending preschool can yield payoffs into adulthood.
The report shows that children who attended an established preschool program in Chicago completed high school at higher rates, stayed out of jail, were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and improved their living standards as adults.
http://bit.ly/mtOstY (AP via Ed Week)
Want Better Math Teachers? Then Train Them Better
ScienceDaily
It’s time for the United States to consider establishing higher standards for math teachers if the nation is going to break its “vicious cycle” of mediocrity, a Michigan State University education scholar argues in Science magazine.
As American students continue to be outpaced in mathematics by pupils in countries such as Russia and Taiwan, William Schmidt recommends adopting more rigorous, demanding and internationally benchmarked teacher-preparation standards for math teachers.
“Our research shows that current teacher-preparation programs for middle-school math instructors in the United States do not produce teachers with an internationally competitive level of mathematics knowledge,” said Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor and co-director of MSU’s Education Policy Center.
Douglas County schools revamp teacher pay, may ask for tax hike
Denver Post
The Douglas County School District is overhauling its performance-pay plan for teachers and might ask voters in November to approve a tax increase to fund it.
The new system would be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.
District spokesman Randy Barber said the plan would rate teachers in three areas: teaching skills that students will need in the new high-tech workforce; how their students fare on statewide and other tests; and principal evaluations.
Evaluations also would include teacher ratings by parents and students, as well as how effective teachers are in meeting curriculum goals set each year.
Teachers with top scores would get the largest raises.
Lawyer and Teacher
Harvard EdCast
Martha Minow, Ed.M.’76, dean of the Harvard Law School, shares her thoughts on the convergence of education and law, her most recent book, In Brown’s Wake, and teaching a young Barack Obama.
News Corp plans education acquisitions
Financial Times
Joel Klein, the head of News Corp’s new education division, has drawn up plans for “significant” acquisitions in the school data, assessment and interactive content development areas, but ruled out acquiring a traditional publisher.
Five months after he joined Rupert Murdoch’s media group, the former chancellor of New York City’s public school system said he had started due diligence on possible deals to follow the $360m acquisition last year of 90 per cent of Wireless Generation, a US education software company.
“I’d expect in the next (few) months we’d be making some acquisitions,” he told the Financial Times, a day after appointing two executives to bolster News Corp’s push into education. “There’s the willingness to put in significant capital if the numbers make sense.”
Virtually free speech: Facebook page gets Jeffersonville High School students in trouble
(Jeffersonville, IN) News and Tribune
JEFFERSONVILLE — A Facebook page and some T-shirts aimed at getting a laugh got some students at Jeffersonville High School in a bit of trouble Tuesday.
Ben Hooper, a senior at the school, started a page with another student, Brian Fisher, on Facebook called “You Know You Go To Jeff High If …” modeled after comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy routine, “You Might Be a Redneck If …”
Hooper said he thought if he was going to get in trouble for the two-month-old site, it would have happened sooner.
“From the beginning, I thought something might happen,” Hooper said. “That was two months ago. I didn’t think it would happen at the end of the school year.”
Along with the site, they started selling T-shirts with some of their favorite sayings left by students, including “ISAP: I’m Sitting Around Pointlessly” and “Your Janitor Wears Jordans.”

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