Education News Roundup for November 30

Education News Roundup for November 30 2011_"Fractal Blues" by Fábio Pinheiro/flickr

"Fractal Blues" by Fábio Pinheiro/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

In case you didn’t read about the Utah college graduation rate audit yesterday, you can read about it today. (PDH)
and (OSE)
and (Clipper)
and (CVD)
and (KTVX)
and (KSTU)
and (KCPW)
or a copy of the audit

Fractal fans can join ENR in congratulating Skyline High’s Caleb Stanford who tied for first place nationally in the first round of the Mandelbrot Competition. (SLT)

There are already 608 bill files open for the 2012 general session of the Legislature, but most of them are protected. (UPD)

“In short, Utah is failing inside a failing national education system.” – Sen. Stuart C. Reid.

Education governance fans can read up on the papers scheduled to be delivered tomorrow at the Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century conference sponsored by Fordham and the Center for American Progress.

Number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches is up 3 million over three years. (NYT)
and (Bloomberg)
and (CSM)
and (Reuters)
or a copy of the report

Some schools are even setting up food pantries. (Billings Gazette)

Anybody still taking history or economics courses in school? Anyone? (Ed Week)



Audit: Utah graduation rates barely 50 percent

Utah students and veterans experience emotional roller coaster during visit to Pearl Harbor

Skyline student No.1 in math contest

‘Eagle Eyes’ allow severely disabled to use computers

Disability doesn’t slow Bonneville’s piano wizard

Teen injured in fall from railing at Copper Hills High School

Midvale students still without water after 1 week due to contamination Students, faculty are forced to have food and water brought in

Students challenged to solve a problem in their community


Utah budget

‘Secret’ Bills Flourishing on Utah’s Capitol Hill

Centering priorities & resources on children

Understanding statistics

Osmond helps educators

‘Broader, bolder’ strategy to ending poverty’s influence on education

New Study on Hispanic Achievement Paints Stark Picture

Six More States Sign On to Help Craft New Science Standards

Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability

Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century

Let’s update tax policy to help rebuild schools

Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10


Line Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools

School food pantries shine light on overlooked population: needy teenagers

Experts Say Social Sciences Are ‘Left Behind’

Role of education called key in Nevada’s economic recovery

National Report Praises School-Choice System for New York City Students

Abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work, say UGA researchers

Suspended Wayne Hills football players appeal Board of Education’s decision in court

Sam Brownback tweeter: I’m being bullied


Audit: Utah graduation rates barely 50 percent

A new state audit shows that nearly half the students attending four of Utah’s public universities don’t graduate within six years.
The Legislative Auditor says in a report released Tuesday the University of Utah’s 58 percent graduation rate ranks third from last among 22 similar schools nationwide. It is also the third lowest in the Pac-12 conference.
The audit says Utah State University’s graduation rate of 55 percent is similar to other universities with high research activity but a noncompetitive admissions process.
The audit says Weber State University and Southern Utah University both have graduation rates of 43 percent.
Recommendations to boost rates from auditors include additional fees for exceeding the required credit hours for graduation and better preparing students for college before they get there. (PDH) (OSE) (Clipper) (CVD) (KTVX) (KSTU) (KCPW)

A copy of the audit

Utah students and veterans experience emotional roller coaster during visit to Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — More than 28,000 veterans of the Pacific are buried at Punchbowl Cemetery, a memorial in an old volcanic crater.
A lot of them died on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It’s a place about sacrifice and memories.
For the past few days, nearly 100 Utah students and two men in their 90s have been on an emotional roller coaster in Hawaii. Thanks to money raised by the students, together they’re reliving the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that took place 70 years ago next week.
The marching band from Timpview High School in Provo came to the Punchbowl Cemetery to pay their respects to thousands of veterans who are buried there. (DN)

Skyline student No.1 in math contest

Caleb Stanford, a senior a Skyline High School in the Granite School District, tied for first place nationally in the first round of the Mandelbrot Competition. Other Skyline students who placed in the competition include junior Ryan Lam and sophomore Wyatt Mackey. The competition is named for Benoit Mandelbrot, a mathematician who developed the field of fractal geometry, which seeks to quantify objects with irregular contours. (SLT)

‘Eagle Eyes’ allow severely disabled to use computers

SALT LAKE CITY — Kids and adults with certain severe disabilities can feel trapped in their bodies and unable to communicate. But, advanced computer technology is opening up a new world for disabled students in the Canyons School District.
It’s true that computers open up a world of creativity and accessibility for all of us. But, for those who cannot use their hands or even words – the severely disabled – their eyes are the key to unlocking their future.
7-year-old Angel Danis is eager to play and learn on her computer at the Jordan Valley School. The special electrodes of the Eagle Eyes system placed around her eyes let her do that by measuring the muscle movements in her eyes.
When the lights are dimmed, Angel controls the cursor on screen, and starts to paint. (KSL)

Disability doesn’t slow Bonneville’s piano wizard

OGDEN — When he was in the fourth grade, Landon Weeks wanted to take piano lessons. A private piano teacher decided to give him a three-month trial.
Because Landon has only three fingers on each hand and no elbows that bend, his teacher knew it might pose a challenge, but she was willing to take the risk.
“She was a concert pianist until a tragic accident left her with the ability to just use two of her fingers on one arm,” said Lanette Weeks, Landon’s mother.
“When we approached her with the idea of teaching Landon, she agreed to a three-month trial saying, ‘If I can play with two fingers, he can play with three.’ (OSE)

Teen injured in fall from railing at Copper Hills High School

A Copper Hills Student who fell from a stair railing was reported to be in serious condition Tuesday night.
Andrew Pritchett, a sophomore fell from about 20 feet to the first floor, while playing around with some friends on the second floor of the high school. He was flown to Intermountain Medical Center, where he was being treated for head injuries.
West Jordan police responded to the fall at the school on 5445 New Bingham Highway, about 3:15 p.m.
Detectives determine the incident was an accident. (SLT) (DN) (KTVX) (KSL) (KSTU)

Midvale students still without water after 1 week due to contamination Students, faculty are forced to have food and water brought in

MIDVALE — Some students at Midvale Middle School are tired of eating pizza for lunch every day, but it’s not like they have much of a choice.
“I got an automated call on Tuesday (last week) saying that they were handing out water bottles to the kids and that there was a problem with the water,” said Stacey Kratz, mother of an eighth-grade student.
Until the problem is cleared up at the school, 7852 S. Pioneer Street (310 West), workers can’t cook lunch in the cafeteria and children can’t use the drinking fountains or wash their hands.
But some parents didn’t quite know the extent of the problem. “As a parent, I would just like to be a little more informed as far as what exactly is going on,” said Sheila Armstrong, a member of the PTA board at Midvale Middle School. (DN) (KSL)

Students challenged to solve a problem in their community

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation invites sixth, seventh and eight graders to enter its annual awards program. The program challenges students to work in teams with an adult coach to identify a problem in their community and use the scientific method to devise a solution. The winning team receives a $25,000 grant. Entry guidelines and other components, due by Feb. 6, are online at (SLT)


Utah budget
(St. George) Spectrum editorial

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget gave lawmakers an early Christmas present Monday when it announced revenue projections for 2012. Members of the Utah House and Senate instantly found about $400 million in their stockings.
Based on the projection, the state will have about $128 million in one-time revenue and about $280 million in new ongoing revenue at its disposal in the next year. And the trend for 2013 looks even better.
That’s good news for a state that has weathered the economic storm far better than most but that still has had to face some large snowdrifts – unemployment and slow job growth – on the way to recovery. In fact, the projection is about double this year’s surplus.
With such a good present going into January’s legislative session, now lawmakers have to make their Santa-like list, check it twice and make good decisions about how to use that money as wisely as possible.
While lawmakers have myriad ways they could spend the money, the money really should go to one of three gifts to be placed under the tree.
The first is to pump more money into education. Good arguments can be made for spending the funds on public education as well as higher education.

‘Secret’ Bills Flourishing on Utah’s Capitol Hill Utah Policy Daily commentary by columnist Bob Bernick

What would you think of a public body that professed to be open and transparent, but in its early work product kept 60 percent of what it is doing secret?
Welcome to the Utah Legislature.
Every bill that is introduced, debated and passed is done so in the public view. Almost all (except for a few emergency-type issues) have at least one public hearing in either the House or Senate. Most often have two hearings.
But the 104 part-time Utah lawmakers have a rule that allows each member to list his or her bill-drafting efforts as “protected.”
Which really means secret.

You see, this particular group of 104 legislators are a hard-working, inventive, lot. Maybe it was the Tea Party influence – too much government, too much regulation – of the 2010 elections.
Maybe these men and women just have a lot of ideas to improve Utah state government.
But, Fellows told an open GOP House caucus, as of Nov. 16 there were 608 bill draft requests.
That’s a record number, with just over two months before the opening of a general session, he added. (More about what that means later in this story.)
However, with that number of official bill requests in hand, all one has to do is go online to the Utah Legislature’s web site and count the public bill fills already opened. Subtract the two numbers, and you get the number of “secret” bill files being worked on.
And, to the interest of some, the numbers are: 608 bill files open. 247 public bills listed on the web site. Or 361 “secret” bill files opened as of Nov. 16.
The percentages? Forty percent of the bills are public, 60 percent are secret.

Centering priorities & resources on children Commentary by Sen. Stuart C. Reid

The American form of capitalism is the greatest economic system the world has ever known. It advances freedom like no other economic system has in the history of humanity. It has produced the highest standard of living known to mankind. The wealth-engine of America has helped improve the economic conditions of nations around the world. The more nations who adopt the American economic way, the more freedoms they will enjoy, with expanding opportunities for their people.
On the other hand, American capitalism is based on economic competition. With all competition, there are winners and losers. Too often economic competition creates losers of children.
Children are vulnerable and cannot compete. They depend on adults to compete for them and often the adults fail them. Frequently, this failure is intergenerational, subjecting children, who later become adults, to a continual cycle of poverty, ignorance and abuse, making them forever economically disadvantaged.
With this in mind, Utah policymakers should shift priorities, efforts and resources to the children in three areas where government is already involved. These three areas are welfare, education and abuse prevention. Adults within these areas capture too much of government attention and resources, leaving consideration for the children secondary.

In the Utah education system there is far too much focus and debate about what is best for adults and not enough on what is best for children. While adults bicker, Utah children’s education achievement has declined to 41st in the nation, at the same time America’s education achievements, measured internationally, has fallen to 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. In short, Utah is failing inside a failing national education system.
With these results, no one can argue that Utah’s education policies and priorities are adequately focused on children. If Utah wants continual prosperity, its education policy priorities and resources need to better support the education interests and success of its children.

Understanding statistics
(Provo) Daily Herald letter from James M. Harris

Much ado about nothing! Once again we see what happens when politicians and business leaders make decisions regarding education because of an inadequate understanding of simple statistics.
Your front-page article presents the information that, “In 2011, nearly 30 percent of Utah County students are not reading at grade level,”‘ and it is presented as a “Literary Crisis.” Instead of commiserating this fact, we should be celebrating it. If nearly 30 percent are below grade level, then over 70 percent are at or above grade level.
“Grade level” is not a magical point that all students should reach. Rather, “grade level” is a national average. Students have all different levels of potential, and it is ridiculous to suggest that average achievement should be the goal for everyone

Osmond helps educators
Deseret News letter from Judy Mahoskey

As the legislative season approaches, educators tremble with worry. What will they try to do to us next? In recent years, we’ve stuffed more and more children into classrooms, slashed supply budgets and all but eliminated opportunities for professional development.
Salaries, retirement benefits and health insurance benefits have all been reduced. There have been efforts to disenfranchise teachers while asking more and more of them, and while one hand starves the system, another is busily grading it. Amidst all of this cacophony appears a moment of sanity: Sen. Aaron Osmond actually engages educators in a discussion of issues affecting them. And he listens — attentively. One small step for a man; a giant leap for legislative protocol.

‘Broader, bolder’ strategy to ending poverty’s influence on education Washington Post commentary by Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew professor of education at New York University

While it might seem encouraging for education and civil rights leaders to assert that poverty isn’t an obstacle to higher student achievement, the evidence does not support such claims. Over 50 years, numerous studies have documented how poverty and related social conditions — such as lack of access to health care, early childhood education and stable housing — affect child development and student achievement.
The research never suggests that poor children are incapable of learning or that poverty itself should be regarded as a learning disability. Rather, research suggests that poor children encounter obstacles that often adversely affect their development and learning outcomes.
To ignore this reality and make bold assertions that all children can achieve while doing nothing to address the outside-of-school challenges they face is neither fair nor a sound basis for developing public policy, as I wrote in a recent issue of the Phi Delta Kappan Magazine.

New Study on Hispanic Achievement Paints Stark Picture Education Week commentary by columnist Lesli Maxwell

A brand-new study examining the nation’s fastest-growing population of students—Hispanics—is out today, and the findings are pretty bleak.
The Council of the Great City Schools has just published “Today’s Promise, Tomorrow’s Future: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Hispanics in Urban Schools,” which takes a close look at how Hispanic students in urban school systems are faring compared with their white peers nationally.

A copy of the study

Six More States Sign On to Help Craft New Science Standards Education Week commentary by columnist Erik Robelen

It looks like they’re going to need a bigger table, and some extra chairs, to write those new science standards.
If you thought 20 states was an awful lot to play a “lead” role in crafting the standards, brace yourself. Today, we learned that six more are joining in the fun: Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon, according to an announcement from Achieve, the Washington-based group facilitating the effort.

Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability Education Sector commentary

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act ushered in a new era of accountability in American education: for the first time, schools were held responsible for improving student achievement across all demographic groups.
Yet there has always been a concern about holding only the schools themselves accountable for student success — especially given the profound impact of poverty on student achievement.
Instead of putting the entire achievement burden on schools, what would it look like to hold a whole community responsible for long-range student outcomes? How can accountability for youth development, health, and safety — as well as for academic achievement — be shared by non-profits, public non-school agencies, foundations, cities, corporations, and others?
In Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability, authors Kelly Bathgate, Richard Lee Colvin, and Elena Silva look at communities that are working to create these shared accountability systems. In particular, the authors highlight the work of the Strive Partnership of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky.

Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century Fordham Institute/Center for American Progress conference Papers by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Michael J. Petrilli, Cynthia Brown, Michelle Davis, Marguerite Roza, Steven F. Wilson, Jeffrey Henig, Frederick M. Hess, Olivia M. Meeks, Kathryn McDermott, Kenneth K. Wong, Sir Michael Barber, Michael Mintrom, Richard Walley, Barry G. Rabe, Paul T. Hill, Kenneth J. Meier

School reforms abound today, yet even the boldest and most imaginative among them have produced—at best—marginal gains in student achievement. What America needs in the twenty-first century is a far more profound version of education reform. Instead of shoveling yet more policies, programs, and practices into our current system, we must deepen our understanding of the obstacles to reform that are posed by existing structures, governance arrangements, and power relationships. Yet few education reformers—or public officials—have been willing to delve into this touchy territory.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Center for American Progress have teamed up to tackle these tough issues and ask how our mostly nineteenth-century system of K-12 governance might be modernized and made more receptive to the innumerable changes that have occurred—and need to occur—in the education realm. We have commissioned fifteen first-rate analysts to probe the structural impediments to school reform and to offer provocative alternatives.

Let’s update tax policy to help rebuild schools Politico op-ed by SEN. JIM WEBB & SEN. MARK WARNER & REP. ERIC CANTOR & BOB MCDONNELL & GEORGE ALLEN & TIM KAINE

America’s economic recovery continues to pose tough challenges. Our citizens need good jobs, and our students need the skills to compete for those jobs in the years ahead. During a time of economic uncertainty, we need to work together on creative ideas that confront these challenges in an innovative manner. With divided government in Washington, we need solutions that both parties can support. Here’s one:
Republicans and Democrats agreed in 1986 on a private capital approach to modernize America’s oldest buildings. Congress authorized a federal rehabilitation tax credit, worth up to 20 percent of construction costs, for rehabilitating historic buildings. This policy has proved successful, except in one crucial category — older school buildings.
Because of a limitation on using the tax credits for tax-exempt property, public schools cannot generally benefit from this. In addition, an Internal Revenue Service rule, known as “prior use,” generally prohibits private investors from earning this credit if they renovate an older school into a more modern public educational facility.
This means that if a local school building is turned into a luxury condo, developers are eligible for federal tax credits. But if private interests invest to modernize an old school, the IRS says these tax credits are not available.

Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10 National Center for Education Statistics analysis

This report provides national estimates about student enrollment in distance education courses in public school districts. The estimates presented in this report are based on a district survey about distance education courses offered by the district or by any of the schools in the district during the 12-month 2009–10 school year. For this survey, distance education courses were defined as courses offered to elementary and secondary school students regularly enrolled in the district that meet all of the following criteria: (1) are credit granting; (2) are technology delivered; and (3) have the instructor in a different location than the students and/or have course content developed in, or delivered from, a different location than that of the students.


Line Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools New York Times

Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program.
The number of students receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million last school year from 18 million in 2006-7, a 17 percent increase, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the meals program. Eleven states, including Florida, Nevada, New Jersey and Tennessee, had four-year increases of 25 percent or more, huge shifts in a vast program long characterized by incremental growth.
The Agriculture Department has not yet released data for September and October.
“These are very large increases and a direct reflection of the hardships American families are facing,” said Benjamin Senauer, a University of Minnesota economist who studies the meals program, adding that the surge had happened so quickly “that people like myself who do research are struggling to keep up with it.” (Bloomberg) (CSM) (Reuters)

A copy of the report

School food pantries shine light on overlooked population: needy teenagers Billings (MT) Gazette

For Sue Stahley, the food pantry now running at West High is a game changer.
“It’s very hard to focus and stay alert and stay on top of your homework if you’re hungry,” she said.
The food pantry potentially can change that. It’s part of a new program, aided by the Salvation Army, that aims to feed hungry and disadvantaged teenagers over the weekends and holidays.
Senior High’s pantry was set up Tuesday afternoon. West High’s pantry has been running for about three weeks. The goal is to get food pantries set up in all of SD2’s high schools and middle schools.

Experts Say Social Sciences Are ‘Left Behind’
Education Week

Washington – As the majority of states implement common-core content standards, experts at the National Research Council argue that the focus on mathematics and language arts leaves out the social and economic studies that can help students connect content to their daily lives.
Researchers at an NRC forum on social sciences in Washington this month suggested that the expansion of testing in math and reading under the No Child Left Behind Act has led to a piecemeal approach to social and behavioral science subjects in the states. While all but four states have adopted the common-core standards in mathematics and language arts and the NRC has proposed a full set of voluntary national science standards, social and behavioral sciences have failed to gain a significant presence in either set of standards, despite protests last year from the field.
“No Child Left Behind frankly left us behind, and the common core gave us a footnote,” said S.G. Grant, the education dean at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y.

Role of education called key in Nevada’s economic recovery Las Vegas Review-Journal

Education is the key to fixing Nevada’s economy.
That was the consensus Tuesday at a town hall meeting featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a host of state and local education leaders.
“Jobs are going to go to where the knowledge workers are,” Duncan told a crowd of about 500 at the College of Southern Nevada. (Sun)

National Report Praises School-Choice System for New York City Students New York Times

New York has the most effective school-choice system of any of the nation’s largest school districts, allowing students and parents the most freedom and providing them with the most relevant information on educational performance, according to a new Brookings Institution report scheduled for publication online Wednesday.
But even New York got a B under the report’s A-to-F grading system, with Brookings saying the city provided the least useful online information for comparing schools and giving it low scores in several other categories.
The Chicago public school district, which has the nation’s third-largest student population, after New York and Los Angeles, ranked second in choice, with a B. Los Angeles was 21st, with a C, and the Orange County district in Florida, which includes Orlando, came in last, with the report’s lone D.
Brookings, which has advocated expanded choices for students, rated districts in 13 categories, including availability of charter, magnet and affordable private schools; policies on virtual education; and “restructuring or closing unpopular schools.” Grover Whitehurst, a senior fellow at Brookings who developed the index, said districts were allowed to “put their best foot forward” and be judged on a particular aspect of their system — in New York, for example, officials showcased the process for assigning students to high schools.

A copy of the report

Abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work, say UGA researchers Athens (GA) Banner-Herald

When it comes to reducing teen pregnancy and birth rates, abstinence-only sex education just doesn’t work, according to University of Georgia researchers.
States that mandate abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states that have more comprehensive programs that also teach other ways to prevent pregnancy, according to Kathrin Stanger-Hall and David Hall.
“This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior. It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries,” said David Hall, a genetics professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Stanger-Hall’s husband.

Suspended Wayne Hills football players appeal Board of Education’s decision in court
(Newark) Star-Ledger

A Superior Court judge will meet Wednesday morning with lawyers for the nine Wayne Hills High School football players suspended from the team for their part in an incident that occurred last month, resulting in assault charges.
The players were suspended Friday by the Wayne Board of Education and have appealed their status, filing two separate lawsuits.
One was filed late Monday with the state commissioner of education, while an order of show cause was filed today in Superior Court in Passaic County.
The suspension stems from an Oct. 29 incident in which the nine players — wide receiver Andrew Monaghan and eight others who are minors — were charged with aggravated assault after the beating of two students from crosstown Wayne Valley High School. One of the students was left unconscious and lying in a roadway.

Sam Brownback tweeter: I’m being bullied Politico

Emma Sullivan, the student who received national attention for writing a disparaging tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, told POLITICO that she is being bullied by other students at her school because of the incident.
“It is just bullying, and I’m trying not to take it to heart because that’s what they want me to do,” she said Tuesday. “I’m getting a lot of negative attention locally, and that’s a lot to deal with. The students at my high school are being really bad about the situation – it just sucks that they don’t support me at all in any of this.”
The bullying, much of which is taking place on Twitter, is part of the reason that Sullivan was staying home from school on Tuesday. “They’ve been sending me tweets, calling me an attention whore, saying this is all about fame and that I don’t deserve to be getting any of these interviews,” she said.

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