Education News Roundup for January 9, 2012

Two girls doing math in class_Math Partner Games/merktoast/CC/flickr

Math Partner Games/merktoast/CC/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

BYU’s David Wiley is now a senior fellow with Digital Promise, “a congressionally authorized center devoted to developing technologies that improve teaching and learning.” (SLT)

There’s lots of coverage of the LEGO robotics competitions. (SLT)
and (PDH)
and (SGS)
and (Chrony)
and (KCSG)

Ed Week and CNN take an early look at ESEA reauthorization. (Ed Week)
and (CNN)

Is 65 percent no solution after all? (Columbus, GA, paper)

This is a math worksheet? Yikes: “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?” (Atlanta J-C)



BYU scholar is a leader in advancing education technology He’s a senior fellow of a center authorized by Congress to spur digital innovation in schools.

Utah Legislature could reduce school class sizes

Nurse shortage in Utah schools

Utahns’ brains meet bricks in LEGO robot competition Kids put their devices to the test in missions focused on food safety

Family Arts: Why children should be exposed to the arts

Trinity Lutheran educator named Administrator of the Year

3 Cedar High School musicians chosen for All-State Jazz Band

Mount Logan students get party for not being tardy

Students invited to create art for 2012 bird fest exhibit, 2013 promos

Westlake Council PTA names Reflections winners

Utah Grizzlies player speaks to elementary school kids about achieving goals


Investing in kids
Smaller classes worth cost

What’s wrong with Utah’s education?

Someone else’s problem; my solution

Suing for education dollars?

A guest blogger warns about imitating Korea’s education model

School Safety 101: 4 questions every parent should ask their child’s school

Class-size blather

Buying an education

Bingham High needs heat

Walking to school in the dark

NCLB Lessons
It Is Time for Washington to Get Out of the Way

The Legacy of No Child Left Behind

Justices Decline Appeals on Special Education, Title IX

Mandated community service: Risks and potential


Literacy Wins, History Loses in Federal Budget Foreign-language, civics, economics aid also scrapped

Private Sector Gets Job Skills; Public Gets Bill

Class dissection: ‘Lesson study’ aims to improve teaching A Japanese strategy for helping teachers improve their craft is catching on in Chicago.

Brewer wants to revamp public education funding, expand private school options

Ga. looking at repealing education spending law

Norcross parents upset by slavery in school math worksheet


BYU scholar is a leader in advancing education technology He’s a senior fellow of a center authorized by Congress to spur digital innovation in schools.

When David Wiley sees something broken, he wants to fix it, especially if it has to do with access to education. With emerging technology that can transform the way instructional content is delivered, the Brigham Young University scholar contends that now is the time to reform a system bogged down by proprietary concerns.
“As educators we don’t care about property rights. We want outcomes,” said Wiley, associate professor of instructional psychology and technology. “The Internet presents an opportunity to share information like never before. I am driven by a passion and a feeling of responsibility to increase access to education for everyone.”
Now he has a new platform for that pursuit, as a senior fellow with Digital Promise, a congressionally authorized center devoted to developing technologies that improve teaching and learning. He starts his work Monday with the Washington-based nonprofit, which is funded by education-oriented foundations and the U.S. Department of Education. (SLT)

Utah Legislature could reduce school class sizes

While class sizes in kindergarten through third grade in both Cache Valley school districts are either lower or similar to the state median, local parents and educators alike have argued over time that Utah’s large classes hinder learning.
A proposed bill at the upcoming legislative session by a Utah lawmaker is aimed at fixing that: In Senate Bill 31, planned to run at the session, Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, proposes to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grades.

And although a change would be welcomed, officials in local districts are wondering what the financial obligations may be. (LHJ)

Nurse shortage in Utah schools

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – School nurses are an important role for student learning, but here in Utah statistics show there is only one nurse for every 3,637 students. For some students the school nurse may be the only health professional that some unisured or underinsured students see. (KTVX)

Utahns’ brains meet bricks in LEGO robot competition Kids put their devices to the test in missions focused on food safety

LEGOs, robots and comestibles met Saturday as kids age 9 to 14, urged on by cheering crowds, put their mechanical creations to the test in a series of “missions,” such as moving LEGO bacteria across a large tabletop to a LEGO sink.
The Food Factor bouts engaged 1,500 kids on 150 teams in a project that started about three months ago to teach them about food safety — and about how to work together in an atmosphere of friendly competition and gracious professionalism.
In the competition pit at the McGillis School in Salt Lake City, one of seven locations around the state that hosted the first of two qualifying contests in Utah FIRST LEGO League (FIRST means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), eight boys who made up the Mini-Figure Mayhem team were pleased by their robot’s good showing, even though it stalled when trying to use its forklift to move a truck to what seemed to be a little loading dock. (SLT) (PDH) (SGS) (Chrony) (KCSG)

Family Arts: Why children should be exposed to the arts

MIDVALE — At 7:45 a.m. on a chilly December morning, a truck with “Utah Symphony” plastered on the side pulled up to the back of Hillcrest High School in Midvale.
Within a few minutes, the timpani were set up at the back of the stage in the auditorium and a harp, wrapped up in two or three layers, was wheeled in. A symphony staffer walked between chairs, clutching a map and muttering while he rearranged things to fit the orchestra’s organization. High school stage crew members helped bring in music stands and chairs and adjusted the curtains and stage backdrop.
The first musician arrived at 8:45 a.m. — a percussionist. If a school participating in the outreach program is within a 15-mile radius of Abravanel Hall, the musicians drive themselves. Staffers were placing signs throughout the school to help new musicians navigate the unconventional venue. More musicians came in, pulling off layers of clothing and putting pieces of instruments together. (DN)

Trinity Lutheran educator named Administrator of the Year

ST. GEORGE – After spending the past 14 years helping improve Trinity Lutheran School in St. George, Principal Duane Nyen was recently named Administrator of the Year at the Rocky Mountain District Professional Workers Conference.
Trinity Lutheran, a small private school of about 40 students, has expanded to preschool through eighth grade under Nyen’s watch, and the school has earned national accreditation each year.
The longtime administrator is also one of the teachers, and parents said they have been impressed with his ability to handle both duties well. (SGS)

3 Cedar High School musicians chosen for All-State Jazz Band

CEDAR CITY — The Utah Music Education Association has selected three students from Cedar High School’s jazz band as members of this year’s All-State Jazz Band.
For the first time ever, multiple students from a single Southern Utah high school have been chosen to participate in the band, which will per­form at next month’s UMEA conference in St. George, said UMEA Vice President Curtis McKendrik. (SGS)

Mount Logan students get party for not being tardy

Nearly half of all Mount Logan Middle School students gathered in the school’s auditorium Friday for the second annual “No Tardy Party” to celebrate their own discipline and punctuality.
Through a drawing of names some students even had the chance to play the school’s version of “Minute to Win It.”
Principal Mike Monson said the activity was part of the school’s efforts to teach life skills. (LHJ)

Students invited to create art for 2012 bird fest exhibit, 2013 promos

FARMINGTON — The black-crowned night heron will be the spotlight bird for the 2013 Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, and students from grades K-12 are invited to create a picture of the bird as part of Davis County’s annual student art contest.
All artwork will be displayed for public viewing as part of the festival held May 17-21, at the Legacy Events Center, said Davis County Community and Economic Development Specialist Neka Roundy. (OSE)

Westlake Council PTA names Reflections winners

In a celebration of artistic achievement, 31 students received awards of excellence at the Westlake Council PTA Reflections awards night Thursday in the Westlake High School auditorium. (PDH)

Utah Grizzlies player speaks to elementary school kids about achieving goals

Utah Grizzlies Community Relations director Derek Stell, left, and Grizzlies player Matt Reber, right, chat with first-grader Alexandra Galvez about obtaining her goal to become a schoolteacher while visiting Foxboro Elementary in North Salt Lake on Friday. (DN)


Investing in kids
Smaller classes worth cost
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Sen. Karen Morgan deserves more than a pat on the head for her dogged effort to convince her colleagues to allocate money to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.
Morgan, a Democrat from Cottonwood Heights, has tried before, and will try again this year, by sponsoring legislation aimed at helping Utah’s young children get the early academic boost provided by smaller classes.
She is up against tough opposition in the form of Sen. Howard Stephenson, who keeps beating the old anti-public education drum no matter what his constituents say about how they want their education dollars spent.

What’s wrong with Utah’s education?
Deseret News commentary by columnist John Florez

What’s wrong with education? One hundred and four legislators who make a plethora of policy changes each year. That’s what’s wrong.
Mark Bouchard, a member of Prosperity 2020, a statewide movement of Utah’s business leaders to improve our education system, hit the nail on the head, “Every session, bills seek to manage curricula, terms of employment, commissioner selection, software purchases, even the contents of vending machines. A private business subjected to this kind of pressure would be ‘doomed to failure.'”
Yet legislators keep piling on more laws with cosmetic fixes that only create chaos and are more costly and ineffective. They don’t take the time to understand how the world has changed and how our educational system must be renewed to respond to today’s digital world. They are the problem.

Someone else’s problem; my solution
Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore

John Florez writes in the DNews this weekend that the problems with education are all because the Legislature has 104 members who vote about what education policy should be. He’s onto something with that, but unfortunately offers no solutions in his piece. Happily, I’ve written about the solution before. Recently.
So, this post will be about Florez’s problem, take a look at why this problem exists, and touch on my previously recommended solutions at the end, which are the only solutions that will work.

Suing for education dollars?
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran a story about lawsuits in several states designed to force legislatures to spend more on education. Here’s the first part of the story:
“School districts and their supporters around the country have launched a wave of lawsuits asking courts to order more spending on public education, contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more-rigorous educational standards.
About half of the school districts in Texas have sued the state since the legislature cut more than $5 billion from school budgets last year, citing fiscal pressures. School-funding suits also are pending in California, Florida and Kansas, among other states. The suits generally claim schools lack the resources to provide the level of education required.

A guest blogger warns about imitating Korea’s education model Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

I’d like to welcome another guest blogger today (and I’d love to welcome more — contact me at
Here’s how Doug Livingston describes himself: “With the endorsement of an exceptionally tolerant wife, Doug Livingston left a productive career as a designer in the composites industry, completed graduate school, and become a teacher. He teaches pre-engineering courses (Physics, Electronics, and Drafting) at a local high school and enjoys every minute of being in the classroom.
Doug has sent me several very insightful emails, and I’m delighted that he’s agreed to blog.

School Safety 101: 4 questions every parent should ask their child’s school KSL commentary by Guy Bliesner, a longtime educator

SALT LAKE CITY — The Institute of Education Sciences puts the number of public school students at over 48 million nationally. The Utah State Office of Education has the number of K12 students in the state at more than 550,000 in nearly 1,100 schools. Given the numbers, the chance of some kind of an emergency happening somewhere at a school in Utah goes from likelihood to a near certainty.
The high profile nature of recent school violence incidents in such places as Nickel Mines, Pa., Paducah, Ky., and of course Columbine, Colo., has understandably given rise to concern for parents. The reality is that violence is just one of the concerns for parents and school officials. Much more likely are such things as severe weather, power loss, gas leaks and a large number of other man-made and natural events that can affect your school. The recent high winds in Davis County are a prime example. Had this happened during the school day, students and schools would have been strongly impacted.
The question now becomes, “What should parents do? ” The answer is, talk with your school. The answers to the following four questions are the minimum information that every parent should have.

Class-size blather
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Tom Hagen

All this talk about reducing class sizes in Utah is well-intentioned blather. I can’t imagine the Utah Legislature voting enough additional money to reduce class sizes to a point where it will make a major difference. At least not in the foreseeable future. It is focusing on process instead of results.
But children are suffering now. Two out of three fourth-graders don’t read or compute at grade level. And that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It also affects their classmates, as they increasingly fall behind and become a drag on the whole classroom.
What the Legislature can do now is say that no child graduates from the third grade without their reading and math skills being at grade level. Then fund the necessary tutors and summer programs to bring them up to speed.

Buying an education
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Ali Argyle

All my life I have been told to never go into debt. I understood that and decided early on I would do anything I could to avoid it.
Now that I am a senior at Bingham High School, I am starting to realize how much my education is really going to cost. With divorced parents and a very tight income, it is not going to be easy to pay for everything.
I have been working since the day I turned 16. I save all of the money I can. With the help of my mom and grandparents, I know that I won’t have to pay for everything myself. My grades and ACT exam scores will allow me to receive some scholarships, but will it all be enough? I doubt it, but I have to find a way to get an education.

Bingham High needs heat
Deseret News letter from Brianna Wright

Have you ever had to concentrate on taking a high school chemistry exam in a 59 degree classroom? Well with the first six units of chemistry class this year at Bingham High School, I’ve had to struggle to ignore the temperature and remember how to write the empirical formula. Some days, my teacher’s notes won’t erase off the white board clearly because they have frozen to the board.
For the past two-and-a-half years of my high school career, unacceptable temperatures have been a major issue with all the classrooms. And it doesn’t just bother some students and teachers, but everyone can feel the effects, all year round.
The lack of temperate learning environment is seriously affecting the quality of our education

Walking to school in the dark
Deseret News letter from Angela Roundy

Students walk to school in Midvale Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. My high school student and middle school student went to school in the dark this morning. In fact, they have been going in the dark since about the middle of December and will continue to go in the dark until about the middle of January.
Why does this matter? Because the opponents of daylight saving time seem to believe that eliminating it will magically stop kids from going to school in the dark. Whether you love or hate daylight saving time, eliminating it does nothing to solve the problem many individuals and politicians keep pointing to as the reason it is bad.

NCLB Lessons
It Is Time for Washington to Get Out of the Way Education Week op-ed by Lamar Alexander, senior U.S. senator from Tennessee

A decade ago, Republicans and Democrats in Congress and a Republican president enacted a plan to improve our nation’s schools. Their noble goal gave us No Child Left Behind.
Unfortunately, this plan inserted too many Washington rules and regulations into matters that should have been left to communities, parents, and classroom teachers. The goal was laudable enough: All 50 million students in nearly 100,000 public schools would be proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Such ambition is characteristic of Americans, who assert that all men are created equal and that anything is possible, but it proved unrealistic. Recent estimates show that at least half of the nation’s schools will be labeled as “failing” the Washington-defined “adequate yearly progress” standards this year. In addition, the well-intentioned requirement that 3.2 million teachers meet a Washington definition of “highly qualified” has proved, once again, the inadequacy of a one-size-fits-all approach in a society as large and complex as ours.

The Legacy of No Child Left Behind
National Journal commentary by Fawn Johnson, Patrick Riccards, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Lisa Guisbond, Steve Peha, Kevin Welner, Andrew J. Rotherham, and Renee Moore

No Child Left Behind–the landmark, standards-setting elementary and secondary education law–is 10 years old this week. Born of unlikely alliances between conservatives like President George W. Bush and liberals like the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., No Child Left Behind changed the country’s education landscape. For the first time, all public schools were required to report publicly on their students’ annual progress in reading and math. Schools were required to break down their data by race, gender, and socio-economic status, which meant that they couldn’t use average scores to hide their failing students behind the more accomplished kids.
The law’s historical significance is beyond doubt. Its success is another story entirely. In a National Journal feature story published in December, I wrote about the law’s (many) weaknesses and (fewer) strengths. I surveyed key players who drafted, executed, and now operate under the law, asking where it worked and where it didn’t.
Here is the bottom line from my research: The one undisputed success of No Child Left Behind is its spotlight on student achievement. The intense focus on students’ reading and math proficiency within different subgroups is the game-changer that will endure into the next chapter of education policy. There are some clear failures–the law’s teacher effectiveness and school choice provisions are duds. The achievement gap between well-off white children and poorer minorities still exists, although all students are performing better than they did 20 years ago. The law did not achieve its defining goal–accountability–but it spurred states and school boards to rethink how they assess and run their education systems.
What is the legacy of No Child Left Behind? Is there positive value in the most problematic portions of the law, like accountability or teacher credentialing? Are there negatives associated with its most successful parts, like reports on student achievement and disaggregated data? What do we know now that we didn’t know ten years ago? How will No Child Left Behind influence the K-12 debate in the future?

Justices Decline Appeals on Special Education, Title IX Education Week commentary by columnist Mark Walsh

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear appeals in cases involving special education and Title IX.
In one case, the justices declined to hear the appeal of a school district that was ordered to provide compensatory tutoring because it failed to identify a student’s disability.
In the other case, the high court refused to hear the appeal of a group that challenges the U.S. Department of Education’s test for compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs.

Mandated community service: Risks and potential Washington Post commentary by Alfie Kohn, the author of 12 books about education and human behavior, including the newly published “Feel-Bad Education . . . And Other Contrarian Essays on Children & Schooling”

Q) We are facing a proposal to require community service for all high school students. I am very concerned about the mixed message this will send to our students about freely giving of themselves in service to others. What are your thoughts on community service as a requirement for graduation?
A) I roll my eyes a bit when those up above reach for coercion to improve those down below: We’ll just mandate community service (or character education, or tougher graduation requirements, or whatever) and watch students improve. But while a service requirement hardly guarantees any benefits — which are contingent, among other things, on the extent to which your staff and the students themselves take the activities seriously — neither does it preclude such benefits. Much depends on how (and by whom) the activities are designed.


Literacy Wins, History Loses in Federal Budget Foreign-language, civics, economics aid also scrapped Education Week

The budget compromise recently hammered out in Washington breathes new life into a major literacy initiative at the U.S. Department of Education, but wipes out federal aid for some other department programs targeting aspects of the curriculum, including instruction in American history and foreign languages.
Congress restored the moribund Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, which seeks to promote literacy from birth to the end of high school, as part of an omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2012 that President Barack Obama signed into law late last month. The literacy program, which only recently got off the ground, received no federal aid last fiscal year, but in a quirk of the budget process, money from the year before that is fueling $180 million in grants was awarded to six states in September. (CNN)

Private Sector Gets Job Skills; Public Gets Bill New York Times

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Some of Caterpillar’s newest factory workers are training inside a former carpet warehouse here in the heart of tobacco country. In classrooms, they click through online tutorials and study blueprints emblazoned with the company’s logo. And on a mock factory floor, they learn to use wrenches, hoses and power tools that they will need to build axles for large mining trucks.
The primary beneficiary is undoubtedly Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment with rising profits that has a new plant about 10 miles away in Winston-Salem.
Yet North Carolina is picking up much of the cost. It is paying about $1 million to help nearly 400 workers acquire these skills, and a community college has committed to develop a custom curriculum that Caterpillar has valued at about $4.3 million.
Caterpillar is one of dozens of companies, many with growing profits and large cash reserves, that have come to expect such largess from states in return for creating jobs. The labor market is finally starting to show some signs of improvement, with the government reporting on Friday that employers created 200,000 jobs in December.
Although the sums spent on training are usually small compared with the tax breaks and other credits doled out by states, some critics question the tactic.
“The question is, why shouldn’t the company pay for this training?” asked Ross Eisenbrey, the vice president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “It’s for their benefit.”

Class dissection: ‘Lesson study’ aims to improve teaching A Japanese strategy for helping teachers improve their craft is catching on in Chicago.

In the sunlit library at Jorge Prieto Elementary on Chicago’s’ northwest side, an experiment is underway.
A provisional classroom has been set up. A white board sits at the front of the room, and 20 eighth graders are seated at library tables. Math teacher Michael Hock is giving a lesson about the distributive property.
Scattered throughout the room are some 30 other teachers. They aren’t wearing lab coats—but they might as well be. They clutch clipboards and carefully monitor kids’ reactions to the teacher’s explanations, peering over students’ shoulders as they write answers.
“What is the area of the garden?” Hock asks students as he points to an illustration on the white board. “Nestor, I haven’t heard from you today.”
Nestor answers the question, and the 30 adults, including visiting teachers from Japan, scribble notes.
The exercise is called “lesson study.” It’s a professional development strategy used extensively in Japan that essentially dissects a teacher’s lesson and the way it’s delivered.
Here’s how it works: teachers come up with a detailed lesson plan and explain ahead of time to colleagues the goals of the lesson. Then, one teacher tries the lesson out on a group of students, while dozens of other teachers watch what happens. Finally, the observers offer feedback and ideas for improvement.

Brewer wants to revamp public education funding, expand private school options Capitol Media Services via (Tempe, AZ) East Valley Tribune

Gov. Jan Brewer will propose a major revamp of how the state funds schools, a move that could make more cash available for private and parochial schools.
In a speech Friday, Brewer boasted of Arizona being a leader in “school choice,” with parents given options beyond traditional public schools. That includes not only a large system of privately run charter schools, which also are public schools, but also state tax credits to help students attend private and parochial schools.
But, Brewer told the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the current funding system has not kept pace, with public schools getting a fixed amount of money for each student enrolled. A similar system exists for state aid to universities and community colleges.
“Whether it’s K-12, community college or university classrooms, we can no longer afford to reward institutions for merely finding students to occupy desks for part of the day or part of the year,” she said. “Instead, we must invest our resources to fund the schools and support the teachers who deliver the results for our children, no matter the educational setting.”
And Brewer stressed that her commitment to fund education is linked to “a setting of parents’ choosing.”

Ga. looking at repealing education spending law Associated Press via Columbus (GA) Ledger Enquirer

TUCKER, Ga. — Georgia is considering throwing out a law requiring 65 percent of education funding be spent in public school classrooms, part of an effort to overhaul how the state funds K-12 education.
A state commission voted Wednesday to draw up legislation repealing the unpopular rule, which critics say hasn’t improved student achievement and hamstrings cash-strapped schools. The move is part of an overall push to give the state’s 180 school districts more flexibility in how they spend state funding, which has seen massive cuts in the past few years.
Georgia lawmakers passed the so-called 65 percent solution in 2006 during a national push to make sure schools were spending taxpayer dollars in the classroom – not the principal’s office – to help boost student performance. Georgia and Texas were the only states to formally adopt the rule last decade. It has since been overturned by state lawmakers in Texas.
“It certainly sounded like a very good idea, but it turned out based upon statistical data, it doesn’t have relevance to academic performance,” said state Senate education committee chairman Fran Millar, a Republican from Atlanta who sponsored the legislation creating the 65 percent law. “At the end of the day, academically, it didn’t make any sense.”

Norcross parents upset by slavery in school math worksheet Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gwinnett County parents and activists have blasted the school district’s response following reports that students at a Norcross elementary school received a math worksheet that used examples of slavery in word problems.
School district officials said the principal at Beaver Ridge Elementary School will personally work with teachers to come up with more appropriate lessons and will offer more opportunities for staff development following the uproar created by the worksheet that included questions such as the following: “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” and “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”
That didn’t go far enough for some parents at the school, where a majority of the students are minorities. They called for an apology and diversity training for the teachers and district officials.

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