Education News Roundup for September 13

Education News Roundup for September 13_"School Bus" by Rosa Say

"School Bus" by Rosa Say

Today’s Top Picks:

What does the online education bill mean for the release time program and public schools?
http://bit.ly/pnrmDs (SLT)

Sen. Urquhart considers boosting requirements for college entrance.
http://bit.ly/oAfBxP (SGS)

Utah Foundation says that underfunded schools are threatening state’s quality of life.
http://bit.ly/p8dEXB (SLT)
or a copy of the report
http://www.utahfoundation.org/img/pdfs/rr703.pdf

Canyons District reaches a deal with its teachers.
http://bit.ly/o64oiC (SLT)

New Ogden District superintendent jumps on personnel changes.
http://bit.ly/q3tLK3 (OSE)

Congratulations to Iron District’s Jim Johnson, Utah’s new superintendent of the year.
http://bit.ly/r4cAqA (SLT)

Provo Herald turns its editorial attention to the Mountain View-Timpview football game.
http://bit.ly/qB6XaC

National poverty rate jumps to 1 in 6. It’s more than 1 in 5 for children under 18.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html
and http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/poverty_rate_income/
and http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63384.html
or a copy of the report
http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

Wall Street Journal looks at merit pay.
http://on.wsj.com/oMLbA5

ENR trusts Otto Mann (http://www.thesimpsons.com/#/characters) was not behind the wheel of this bus.
http://bit.ly/otamfV

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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH

New law raises questions about school funding, seminary
Education: Parents question why schools count religion training.

Urquhart: Colleges need better prepared students

Democrats propose plan to improve Utah schools

Underfunded Utah schools threaten quality of life
Best in class: Utah Foundation reports calls for greater investments in education, jobs and affordable housing.

Canyons reaches deal with teachers union
Contracts: Educators give up one previously negotiated policy

New district superintendent shakes up staff at Ogden schools

New Ogden superintendent gains state approval
Education: State board required by law to OK requests.

Iron County educator is superintendent of the year
Education: Jim Johnson wins top honor after 36 years in schools.

All for one and one for all: When mainstreaming isn’t working

A different kind of learning model: Grouping kids to succeed
Some argue that kids are better off if kept within age group

Teachers help fourth-graders understand environment by exploring it

9/11 commemorated at Fiddler’s, CHS

UEA officials show support for Ogden, Weber districts’ teachers

What’s in your child’s lunchbox?

CDC: Utah schools can do more to encourage healthy behavior

Jordan School District employee faces extortion charges

Bus hits pole in school parking lot

Enjoy breakfast, help classrooms

OPINION & COMMENTARY

Mountain View beat Timpview

‘SpongeBob” is nothing compared with bad Boomer cartoons

Teacher aides needed

Don’t settle for less

‘Redshirting’ kindergarteners getting out of hand

International Test Scores, Irrelevant Policies
Misleading rhetoric overlooks poverty’s impact

Obama to Make Sales Pitch for School Facilities Program

Math Groups Team Up to Offer Common-Standards Help

We need more charter schools

The Intersection of Technology and Test Scores

Taking Failing Schools to Court

Can you name successful parent coup?

NATION

U.S. Poverty Rate, 1 in 6, at Highest Level in Years

Teachers Are Put to the Test
More States Tie Tenure, Bonuses to New Formulas for Measuring Test Scores

In Suburb, Battle Goes Public on Bullying of Gay Students

Arizona teacher accent scrutiny halted to avoid lawsuit

Panel: Strict school discipline should be scrapped

Ruling: Recalculate court costs for cheerleader

Few states examine test erasures

Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected

Graphing calculators face new competition

Magic Johnson forms partnership with schools firm

Miniskirt ban at San Jose school also applies to cheerleader uniforms

Jet-powered school bus hits full throttle at 320 mph

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UTAH NEWS
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New law raises questions about school funding, seminary
Education: Parents question why schools count religion training.

Some Utahns are questioning why school districts continue to receive money for the time students spend in seminary, saying it’s causing problems for families hoping to enroll their kids in new online classes.
The State Office of Education, however, says districts are merely following the law, a point discussed with district superintendents Monday.
The issue has arisen as school districts work to help implement a law passed this year. Under that law, students in grades 9-12 are allowed to enroll in up to two online classes offered by school districts and charter schools other than their own. But they can’t add the online classes to an already full schedule — meaning some students must drop a class to take another one online.
Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, said some students went to their counselors expecting to take an online course without dropping any classes because they will be gone one period a day at seminary and believed that meant their schedules weren’t full. But some students were told they would still have to drop a class because schools may technically count seminary toward enrollment, Clark said.
http://bit.ly/pnrmDs (SLT)

Urquhart: Colleges need better prepared students

ST. GEORGE — Utah Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is considering a plan that would set academic requirements for graduating high school stu­dents in order to earn college admission.
While some state schools al­ready have admissions require­ments, most — including Dixie State College — have an open enrollment system where anyone is allowed to register for classes. As a result, many students come into school un­prepared, end up needing remedial classes to catch up, and for the most part end of dropping out before they finish, Urquhart said.
“This is a huge cost to taxpayers right now,” Urquhart said, pointing out that nearly two­thirds of Utah’s college students fail to graduate. “I’d like to see if we can put that burden on them a little earlier, where they have to show they’re prepared.”
http://bit.ly/oAfBxP (SGS)

Democrats propose plan to improve Utah schools

SALT LAKE CITY — Legislative Democrats are unveiling a plan to improve Utah’s schools that will include a mix of funding commitments and diverse curriculum opportunities.
Democratic Sen. Karen Morgan of Cottonwood Heights says it is unacceptable that Utah schools are 30th nationally in student achievement when the state is often ranked at the top of lists for business.
Democrats will release their Best Schools Initiative during a news conference Tuesday.
http://bit.ly/oOVnTs (OSE)

http://bit.ly/p9jCp9 (PDH)

http://bit.ly/pjxRz1 (KSTU)

Underfunded Utah schools threaten quality of life
Best in class: Utah Foundation reports calls for greater investments in education, jobs and affordable housing.

The single most important thing Utah’s leaders can do to improve the state’s quality of life is boost public education, residents say in a new report.
The Utah Foundation and Intermountain Healthcare have compiled what they plan as a biennial survey about Utah’s quality of life. The first Utah Foundation Quality of Life Index stands at 77.2 out of a possible 100, according to 671 adults surveyed this year.
Community leaders should focus on improving five factors: the availability of good jobs, public education, living costs, affordable housing and acceptance of difference, the Utah Foundation concluded. These ranked high in importance but below average in quality.
http://bit.ly/p8dEXB (SLT)

A copy of the report
http://www.utahfoundation.org/img/pdfs/rr703.pdf

Canyons reaches deal with teachers union
Contracts: Educators give up one previously negotiated policy

After a bumpy start to negotiations in May between Canyons School District and the Canyons Education Association (CEA), the two sides have reached an agreement for the 2011-12 school year. And it includes a one-time, 3.5 percent bonus for classroom teachers.
“Over the whole negotiations process, we had some really tense moments,” said CEA president Ross Rogers. “But we’ve started to have some really good relationships with [district officials], and better communication on all subjects. We are in a better place than where we started.”
In May, two days before beginning annual negotiations with CEA, Canyons pulled three of its 25 negotiated policies off the table. In a letter to the teachers’ association, superintendent David Doty said those three policies — dealing with student discipline, school advisory councils and the district advisory council — may “henceforth be unilaterally revised by the Board of Education.”
And he suggested the board could decide not to negotiate other policies in the future.
http://bit.ly/o64oiC (SLT)

New district superintendent shakes up staff at Ogden schools

OGDEN — Moving vans pulled up to Ogden schools to cart away office contents of top administrators who had introduced themselves to students just weeks earlier at start-of-school assemblies.
New Ogden School District Superintendent Brad C. Smith on Monday sent out a memo outlining the immediate reassignment of three principals, three assistant principals, a coordinator and an instructional coach.
The changes involve all of the district’s mainstream high schools and all of its junior high schools, as well as one undisclosed elementary school.
Smith was unavailable for comment.
According to the memo, effective immediately:
http://bit.ly/q3tLK3 (OSE)

New Ogden superintendent gains state approval
Education: State board required by law to OK requests.

The state school board has voted in favor of granting the Ogden School Board’s request to hire one of its former members as superintendent.
Under state law, local school boards must ask the state Board of Education for a waiver to appoint superintendents who lack administrative licenses. The Ogden board sent such a request to the state school board Aug. 29 after appointing Ogden board member Brad Smith, an attorney, as superintendent. Smith was appointed after superintendent Noel Zabriskie announced his resignation for family reasons.
The state school board approved the request Friday, making just one small change. Instead of voting to “approve” the request, state board member Kim Burningham asked that the wording be changed so the board could “grant” the request. The board agreed.
http://bit.ly/p1mWyM (SLT)

Iron County educator is superintendent of the year
Education: Jim Johnson wins top honor after 36 years in schools.

Iron County School District superintendent Jim Johnson has been named 2011 Utah Superintendent of the Year.
The Utah School Superintendents Association named Johnson as the award recipient Monday. Johnson has been an educator for 36 years, serving as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent.
Under his leadership, Iron County schools became some of the first to use underground energy technology, in which underground pipes — located at a depth where it’s about room temperature — send cooler air into schools when it’s hot outside and warmer air in when it’s cold.
http://bit.ly/r4cAqA (SLT)

All for one and one for all: When mainstreaming isn’t working

TAYLORSVILLE — Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Stacy Jones starts counting down backwards as she stands in front of her sixth grade math students who just came in from recess on a recent September morning. The students immediately sit down and get out slips of paper to work silently on the math problems on the board. Jones first has them do the assignment by themselves, then they correct it together. The children work in groups and then Jones pulls a few struggling students up front to help them. She tells one higher-achieving group in the back to do a little more work during certain portions of the day.
By knowing which students are struggling and which ones already have the concepts down, Jones is able to pull out particular students to give them extra help or extra assignments. And it’s working. Two years ago, only 17 percent of Jones’ sixth-graders passed the state math test. Last year 70 percent of her class passed. She attributes much of her success to trying to teach students more at their own pace.
This may not seem like that novel an idea — even one-room classrooms back in the 1800s had to teach differently for every student. But over the last 10 years, with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, there has been more focus on the basics, whole classroom instruction and helping the lowest performers in the class catch up, said Terra Tarango, vice president of content development and marketing for the Staff Development for Educators, based in New Hampshire and one of the national leading providers of professional development for teachers and administrators across the country.
http://bit.ly/mVXcWm (DN)

A different kind of learning model: Grouping kids to succeed
Some argue that kids are better off if kept within age group

SALT LAKE CITY — Walking down the halls of the K-8 school, you can hear students reciting in sync.
“Insolently. Insolently. Insolently,” one advanced class at Reid School recites as fast as they can as their teacher points to the word during a language arts class. Another group on the other side of the school is learning how to write the letter “r.”
“Pull, push, curve, ‘r,’” the fifteen students in the class repeat out loud as they watch their teacher model the writing on the board. They all shout at her when she writes the lowercase letter too tall or writes it backward.
While most of the students in the latter class at Salt Lake’s Reid School are five, the advanced class has students who would traditionally be in fifth to eighth grade — and they are learning at a college level.
http://bit.ly/ob4Q9q (DN)

Teachers help fourth-graders understand environment by exploring it

Roughly 200 elementary schoolchildren skipped school Monday for water bugs, soils, plants and wildlife in Logan Canyon.
But not to worry – it wasn’t a mass strike: The fourth-graders from Heritage, Lincoln and North Park elementary schools were on a field trip with the USU College of Natural Resources to study science firsthand.
USU Water Quality Extension began its two-weeks-long journey of hands-on learning about the environment with fourth-graders from around Cache Valley, a method that was proved effective after knowledge assessments last year.
http://bit.ly/qtkCAM (LHJ)

9/11 commemorated at Fiddler’s, CHS

CEDAR CITY – Students at Fiddler’s Canyon Elementary and Cedar High School did what most students do when gathering at their respective locations for assemblies by chattering, participating in gentle horse play and peer banter. But the instant the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were mentioned, there was nothing but reverent silence.
The programs at both schools were age appropriate and featured patriotic musical numbers and guest speakers that advocated service to others, support of United States troops and the courage to choose good over evil. What set the commemoration ceremonies apart was the video presentation of the World Trade Centers under attack at the high school and the United States flag raising by three Utah National Guardsmen at the elementary.
http://bit.ly/qZ8T0y (SGS)

UEA officials show support for Ogden, Weber districts’ teachers

OGDEN — It has been six years since the Utah Education Association Road Trip has made its way to Ogden, so UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh had much to discuss Monday while visiting several schools in both Ogden and Weber school districts.
Gallagher-Fishbaugh and other UEA officials visited Lakeview, Farr West and Sandridge schools in Weber district and Ben Lomond High and James Madison Elementary schools in Ogden district.
They ended the day with a family night for teachers and their families at Ogden’s Dinosaur Park.
http://bit.ly/qOWSI6 (OSE)

What’s in your child’s lunchbox?

The kids don’t like school lunch. You can make it cheaper. You want your kids to eat unprocessed food.
Whatever your reason for sending a home lunch to school, you don’t have to get stuck in a PB&J/bag of chips/cookie rut. There are ways to pack a healthy and creative lunch from home — and keep the food safe, too.
http://bit.ly/o9AScI (OSE)

CDC: Utah schools can do more to encourage healthy behavior

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data that shows Utah schools are not doing all they can to educate children about good nutrition and asthma management.
The School Health Profiles report is done every two years, according to the Utah Department of Health; it is intended to provide an idea of how well education is looking at policies related to HIV and AIDS, tobacco use, asthma management and nutrition.
Utah schools are excelling at educating students on tobacco cessation; more than three-fourths of Utah students who were caught smoking cigarettes had to participate in some sort of educational program on tobacco cessation, compared to 26 percent nationally.
http://bit.ly/nMWGsk (PDH)

Jordan School District employee faces extortion charges

WEST JORDAN — A Jordan School District employee accused of using her position to extort money from a woman who feared her children would be deported has been charged.
Sonia Orozco, 50, was charged in 3rd District Court with theft by extortion, a second-degree felony.
A woman, who is only identified as L.D. in court documents, contacted Orozco about her two minor children who were placed into juvenile detention, according to court documents.
“The defendant told L.D. that she could help prevent them from being deported if she paid her $2,000 for each child,” according to charging documents.
After L.D. gave Orozco $4,000 in cash, she requested an additional $1,000 for “paperwork,” court records state, and later another $1,500 for an “evaluation.” She later asked L.D. for another $800 for visas. L.D. ended up paying a total of $7,300.
http://bit.ly/ozuHOj (DN)

Bus hits pole in school parking lot

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of middle school students is shaken up but OK after a school bus crashed into a pole.
As many as 60 students from Albion Middle School were on board when the bus hit the pole, knocking it over and breaking the bus’s windshield in the parking lot of Butler Middle School at 7530 S. 2700 East.
There is no official word on what caused the crash, but it appears the driver was following another bus and didn’t see the pole or was distracted.
http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=17210780

Enjoy breakfast, help classrooms

ST. GEORGE – Washington County School District Foundation and the St. George Lions Club present a Roundup Rodeo Breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Elks Field, 300 E. 100 South, next to the Dixie Sunbowl
http://bit.ly/oY8hOk (SGS)

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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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Mountain View beat Timpview
(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

The truth is that Mountain View High School’s varsity football team beat rival Timpview Friday night at its home field in Orem. Too bad the final score does not reflect that. In the record book, credit for the win goes to perennial powerhouse Timpview, 27-25.
But there should be a giant asterisk. The final play of the game brought one of the worst miscarriages of justice on a local football field in recent memory. With Mountain View ahead and no time left on the clock, officials reversed the obvious and awarded an unearned touchdown to Timpview.
The outcome of a single high school football game is really not very important in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a fascinating case study in ethics and sportsmanship nonetheless. It’s a good reminder about the way high school athletics generally should be approached: It should be all in fun.
http://bit.ly/qB6XaC

‘SpongeBob” is nothing compared with bad Boomer cartoons
Salt Lake Tribune commentary by columnist Robert Kirby

As if the fear of another terrorist strike wasn’t enough, America now has to worry about being attacked by SpongeBob SquarePants.
If you’re unfamiliar with “SpongeBob,” it’s a frenetic cartoon featuring a talking undersea sponge that wears, well, square pants. Here’s the thing: It reportedly causes problems with the attention span in 4-year-old children.
Writing in the journal Pediatrics, Dimitri Christakis says a study conducted on 60 randomly selected 4-year-olds revealed just a few minutes of “SpongeBob” had the same effect on the children’s brains as three shots of tequila.
Note: The tequila part was a mistake. I meant to say that it had the same cognitive effect on children as professional boxing.
http://bit.ly/n6FHZS

Teacher aides needed
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Danna Palmer Walsh

As a retired public school educator, I thank you for the editorial “Utah salaries: By any measure, teachers underpaid” (Our View, Sept. 6), which suggested that we need to compare working conditions for teachers, and hence learning conditions for students, from state to state across the Intermountain Region.
One issue missed was the use of teacher aides in schools in the region.
Few traditional Utah public schools can afford specialists or classroom instructional aides to assist “regular ed” teachers and students in the core curriculum, such as math or language arts. Specialists for music, art, physical education, computer science or science are even fewer.
This lack of assistance requires many more preparation hours for Utah teachers than in other states. It also means fewer minutes of daily student interaction with a capable adult mentor.
http://bit.ly/mP1ucC

Don’t settle for less
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Jennifer Correa

I am a kindergarten teacher in Alpine with 31 students. Four of my students have special needs. One-fourth have not been to preschool. They all need my help.
This is my third year in a row teaching 5- and 6-year-olds with a class between 28-32. I love my job. I love the students. I spend countless outside hours preparing curriculum.
I am 100 percent dedicated, but I am not a miracle worker. With classes this large, I cannot give the individual instruction my students deserve; this is a great concern.
http://bit.ly/p7lQUJ

‘Redshirting’ kindergarteners getting out of hand
USA Today editorial

If the kindergarteners at your local elementary school are looking older than the ones in your class picture from a generation or two ago, it’s probably not an illusion.
More states now require children to turn 5 before they enroll in kindergarten. And more parents are voluntarily delaying their kids’ entry into kindergarten — a step sometimes called “redshirting,” after the college athletes who practice in red shirts but do not compete in games as freshmen, giving them an extra year of eligibility. Theoretically, the redshirted child gains by being the oldest rather than the youngest in the class. Not only might he or she be better prepared for classwork, being older might also make the child more confident or likely to be a leader.
In the early 1990s, about 9% of kindergarteners were redshirted, according to data from the National Household Education Survey. Today, the percentage is double that — and the trend isn’t necessarily a healthy one.
http://usat.ly/qb58J5

International Test Scores, Irrelevant Policies
Misleading rhetoric overlooks poverty’s impact
Education Week op-ed by Iris C. Rotberg, research professor of education policy at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Perhaps no research finding has influenced education policy more, or been subject to greater misinterpretation, than our ranking on international mathematics and science tests.
Previous critiques of international comparisons have focused largely on flaws in sampling and the limitations of test scores as a measure of the quality of a nation’s education system. These problems are still relevant. Equally important, however, are the conclusions drawn from the comparisons, even assuming their technical validity.
For decades, our rhetoric and education policies have been based on the premise that the ranking of U.S. students on international tests will lead to a decline in our nation’s economic competitiveness and a shortage of American scientists and engineers.
It is ironic, then, that given the rhetoric and policies surrounding international test-score comparisons—much of it unsupported by evidence—little attention is paid to two of the most powerful findings of these comparisons: the strong negative effects on student performance of both family poverty and concentrations of poverty in schools.
Instead, we draw conclusions from the international studies that are not supported either by the findings of these studies or by research more generally.
http://bit.ly/pU7fQW

Obama to Make Sales Pitch for School Facilities Program
Education Week commentary by columnist Alyson Klein

President Barack Obama officially released his jobs plan on Monday. And his first stop in selling the nearly $450 billion to jump-start the economy? A visit scheduled today at the Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School in Columbus, Ohio, to push one piece of the jobs plan: $25 billion aimed at revamping school facilities, plus another $5 billion for retooling community colleges
The jobs plan is pretty broad, and there are lots of pieces that the administration could be highlighting the day after the big reveal. But, apparently, somebody thinks money for fixing-up schools will pack a political punch. Also, interestingly, the visit is to the home state of U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the Speaker of the House.
Of course, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan brushed off the idea that the choice of the Buckeye State was political.
http://bit.ly/q575hn

Math Groups Team Up to Offer Common-Standards Help
Education Week commentary by columnist Catherine Gewertz

Those of you who feel a yawning gap between the common-core standards and your readiness to teach them might be interested in another update. Major mathematics education organizations have teamed up with common-core folks to form a group that will offer help to educators in making the transition to common standards.
Announced last week, the Mathematics Common Core Coalition (catchy name, right?) is composed of the bigger alphabet-soup groups: the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), the NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics), the AMTE (Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators), and the ASSM (Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics). (Try reciting that backwards. Sorry; I just suggested that to uncross my eyes.)
The Council of Chief State School Officers, a membership group that represents state superintendents of education, and which was a driving force behind the common standards, is also involved. So are both of the state consortia that have federal funding to design assessments for the new standards. Remember them? They are the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
http://bit.ly/n8qnE9

We need more charter schools
CNN op-ed by Craig R. Barrett, Former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corporation

To compete in the twenty-first century, individuals and countries will have to add value in the workplace to command a high standard of living and be competitive in the global marketplace. Education is the key to adding value. The United States recognizes that its K-12 education is not doing the job. You need good teachers with content expertise, high expectations, and feedback systems to help struggling students and teachers. These three requirements are difficult to implement in a massive public education system designed more for working adults than for learning students.
We need to follow the lead of other countries and recruit teachers from the top of universities’ graduating classes. We might start by converting all schools of education to programs like UTeach in Texas, a program designed to turn content experts into teachers, letting potential teachers study subject matter they will be teaching rather than the mind numbing theory of how to teach.
The United States needs to open its eyes in regard to expectation levels in our K-12 system.
http://bit.ly/rc1io5

The Intersection of Technology and Test Scores
Huffington Post commentary by John Merrow, author, “The Influence of Teachers”

“In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores” blared the headline in New York Times on September 4th. The paper’s editors decided that the top-of-the-fold story on Page 1 also warranted two full pages inside, plus four color photos and a graph. That’s a huge part of the news hole on any day, but particularly on Sunday, when circulation is at its highest.
The long piece is worth reading, but at the end of the day what stood out for me was what the article failed to take note of: the unimaginative uses of the technology, essentially digital versions of routine stuff: One teacher gave a true-false quiz but handed out wireless clickers for students to record their answers. In other classes, kids were playing a math game (“Alien Addition”) and an interactive spelling game, while other students were videotaping a skit that they could as easily have simply performed for the class.
In none of the examples presented were teachers using the technology to burst the boundaries of their classroom to connect with students in other cities, or even elsewhere in their district. None were using the Internet to do original research.
http://huff.to/ruagbn

Taking Failing Schools to Court
Education Next commentary by Mark Osmond, a law student at the University of Michigan

Closing the academic achievement gap between white students and disadvantaged minorities has been repeatedly called the “civil rights issue of our time.” Yet unlike the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, in which the judiciary was at the forefront of the fight against inequality, the courts’ role in today’s education reform movement has been quite limited. But a class-action lawsuit out of California, which has pitted the American Civil Liberties Union against the Los Angeles teachers’ union, could inspire a new wave of litigation to improve this country’s troubled schools.
Failing schools may not only diminish the life prospects of young people, but also violate their constitutional rights. While the U.S. Supreme Court has held that education is not a “fundamental interest” under the federal constitution, most state constitutions promise children access to an adequate education. And these constitutional provisions – which most courts interpret as creating a right to instruction that equips students to compete in the global economy – could provide a means for families in substandard schools to demand reform.
http://educationnext.org/taking-failing-schools-to-court/

Can you name successful parent coup?
Washington Post commentary by columnist Jay Mathews

Joseph Hawkins, senior study director at the Rockville.-based research group Westat, read my recent attack on the Parent Trigger Law in California and issued a challenge:
“If we put 10 hot-shot education reporters together in a room and asked this question I think the answer would be zero: ‘In the past 10 years of school reform, can you list any schools where a parent revolution took place?’”
Hawkins said he is talking about a successful parent rebellion– “meaning that the parents were fed up with low performance and they literally took over the school and improved it—demanded that it become better.”
He said “I don’t think such parent ‘revolutions’ ever take place at all. We probably could find some schools where a group of fed-up parents started their own charter, but I’m talking about something totally different. I’m pretty sure that both us have been in those low performing schools where many parents when quizzed in depth about their school confessed their frustrations. But mounting a coup d’état? Out of the question.”
http://wapo.st/qEhuYO

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NATIONAL NEWS
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U.S. Poverty Rate, 1 in 6, at Highest Level in Years
New York Times

WASHINGTON — The portion of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest level since 1993, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, fresh evidence that the sluggish economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens.
And in new evidence of economic distress among the middle class, real median household incomes declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, to $49,400.
An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch at the Census Bureau. That represented 15.1 percent of the country.
The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for a family of four.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html

http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/poverty_rate_income/

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63384.html

A copy of the report
http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

Teachers Are Put to the Test
More States Tie Tenure, Bonuses to New Formulas for Measuring Test Scores
Wall Street Journal

MADISON, Wis.—Teacher evaluations for years were based on brief classroom observations by the principal. But now, prodded by President Barack Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, at least 26 states have agreed to judge teachers based, in part, on results from their students’ performance on standardized tests.
So with millions of teachers back in the classroom, many are finding their careers increasingly hinge on obscure formulas like the one that fills a whiteboard in an economist’s office here.
The metric created by Value-Added Research Center, a nonprofit housed at the University of Wisconsin’s education department, is a new kind of report card that attempts to gauge how much of students’ growth on tests is attributable to the teacher.
http://on.wsj.com/oMLbA5

In Suburb, Battle Goes Public on Bullying of Gay Students
New York Times

ANOKA, Minn. — This sprawling suburban school system, much of it within Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district, is caught in the eye of one of the country’s hottest culture wars — how homosexuality should be discussed in the schools.
After years of harsh conflict between advocates for gay students and Christian conservatives, the issue was already highly charged here. Then in July, six students brought a lawsuit contending that school officials have failed to stop relentless antigay bullying and that a district policy requiring teachers to remain “neutral” on issues of sexual orientation has fostered oppressive silence and a corrosive stigma.
Also this summer, parents and students here learned that the federal Department of Justice was deep into a civil rights investigation into complaints about unchecked harassment of gay students in the district. The inquiry is still under way.
Through it all, conservative Christian groups have demanded that the schools avoid any descriptions of homosexuality or same-sex marriage as normal, warning against any surrender to what they say is the “homosexual agenda” of recruiting youngsters to an “unhealthy and abnormal lifestyle.”
Adding an extra incendiary element, the school district has suffered eight student suicides in the last two years, leading state officials to declare a “suicide contagion.” Whether antigay bullying contributed to any of these deaths is sharply disputed; some friends and teachers say four of the students were struggling with issues of sexual identity.
http://nyti.ms/nIrjaY

Arizona teacher accent scrutiny halted to avoid lawsuit
(Phoenix) Arizona Republic

Facing a possible civil-rights lawsuit, Arizona has struck an agreement with federal officials to stop monitoring classrooms for mispronounced words and poor grammar from teachers of students still learning the English language.
Instead, the task of testing teachers’ fluency in English will fall to school districts and charter schools as part of federal and state legal requirements.
The state’s agreement with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education allows it to avoid further investigation and a possible federal civil-rights lawsuit.
http://bit.ly/rk0jBd

Panel: Strict school discipline should be scrapped
Associated Press via Denver Post

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers and police said Monday that strict disciplinary policies at schools created after the Columbine High School shootings should be scaled back or scrapped and that administrators should have more control over student punishment.
The state laws put in place after high-profile cases of youth violence have tied the hands of school administrators with zero-policy standard, said members of a panel looking at school discipline trends. In turn, the officials are left with no choice but to refer a high number of students to law enforcement for minor offenses that pose no threat to school safety, they said.
“Zero tolerance has outlived its shelf life and is often inappropriately and inconsistently applied,” John Jackson, the police chief for Greenwood Village, wrote in a memo by the panel. He suggested that officials come up with a better definition for what’s considered a “dangerous weapon” on school grounds.
http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_18880456

Ruling: Recalculate court costs for cheerleader
Associated Press via Fox

DALLAS –  An appeals court on Monday ordered a lower court to recalculate how much a former Texas high school cheerleader should pay in legal fees to the school district that punished for refusing to root for an athlete she said raped her.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the lower court erred in finding that one of the four claims of the former cheerleader — a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech — was frivolous. The court said the fees should be recalculated based on the remaining claims it says were rightly called frivolous.
The former cheerleader had been ordered to pay almost $39,000 in court costs to the Silsbee school district.
http://fxn.ws/oWR6Hd

Few states examine test erasures
USA Today

Fewer than half the states routinely analyze suspicious numbers of erasures on standardized school tests, a key method of detecting cheating by teachers or their bosses.
Erasure analysis launched a Georgia investigation that uncovered widespread cheating in Atlanta schools and has triggered probes in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
A survey by USA TODAY of state education agencies found that 20 states and Washington, D.C., did erasure analysis on all pencil-and-paper tests required during the 2010-11 school year under the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
That means nearly 45% of the annual reading and math exams this year were scored without analyzing erasures.
http://usat.ly/oeTxug

Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected
NPR All Things Considered

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, has launched a new program aimed at reducing the digital divide, or the gap between high- and low-income communities in Internet accessibility and digital literacy.
The company says low-income families will now be able to get a fast Internet connection for $9.95 per month; the question now is whether the effort can overcome the many barriers that keep the poor from getting online.
Comcast announced the program, called “Internet Essentials,” at a splashy event in the company’s hometown of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter showed up along with city and state education officials as a sign that this program is aimed at an important problem: improving school performance.
The program will offer a big discount to low-income families, says Comcast Vice President David Cohen. Basic high-speed Internet, which normally would cost around $50 per month, will be available for the $9.95 rate.
To be eligible, families must have a child who qualifies for the free school lunch program — that means an income of less than $25,000 a year for a family of three. Because Internet access doesn’t do much good without a computer, Comcast is also offering coupons that will allow these families to buy a basic PC for $150.
http://n.pr/orFlXO

Graphing calculators face new competition
Washington Post

It was once the go-to gizmo for high school math whizzes who prided themselves on their ability to turn complex equations into artsy graphs on a black-and-green screen.
But 25 years after the introduction of the graphing calculator, some think it’s starting to seem a little too old-school.
“Why should I spend $90 on something so outdated?” asked Eduardo Siguel, a father of two Montgomery County students who says he has been arguing with his kids about buying a graphing calculator. “I want my children to be able to use technology of their generation.”
Dozens of smartphone applications perform the same graphing functions, for the cost of a candy bar.
http://wapo.st/pAkbLk

Magic Johnson forms partnership with schools firm
Associated Press via San Jose (CA) Mercury News

LOS ANGELES — NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson is lending his name and business prowess to for-profit education company EdisonLearning Inc. as it seeks to offer services to school districts in urban areas.
Magic Johnson Enterprises and EdisonLearning announced Monday that the partnership will concentrate on services to help urban school districts boost their performance and reduce dropout rates.
Johnson said in a statement that he hopes to help boost graduation rates and educational achievement in those districts through his participation in the partnership with EdisonLearning. The company seeks contracts with school districts to manage all or part of their operations, including staffing, curriculum development and testing.
http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18878540

Miniskirt ban at San Jose school also applies to cheerleader uniforms
San Jose (CA) Mercury News

Here’s a chant guaranteed to dampen the next pep rally: The new miniskirts for San Jose’s Piedmont Hills High cheerleading squad are too R-I-S-Q-U-E!
Intent on cracking down on miniskirts, the high school’s principal has decided the cheer squad’s new uniforms also have no place in school.
Instead, said Principal Traci Williams, the cheerleaders must cover up with sweats to wear their uniforms during school.
http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18879433

Jet-powered school bus hits full throttle at 320 mph
CBS

There is now a new meaning to the children’s song, “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round and Round.” A school bus in Lincoln, Neb., was built with a 42,000 horsepower engine and can hit a speed of 320 mph in just a few seconds – so you would never be late for school!
While children would never actually ride this school bus, there was nothing stopping CBS affiliate, KOLN/KGIN-TV’s reporter Chad Silber from hopping on for the ride of his life.
http://bit.ly/otamfV

 

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