Education News Roundup for January 17, 2012

Graduate wearing cap and gown in front of a university building.

Samford and Becca/Tyrannosaurus Becs/CC/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

Trib does a two-day series on college readiness.
http://bit.ly/zWmREQ (SLT)
and http://bit.ly/x8MJDO (SLT)

Legislators discuss the intersection of school funding and LDS seminary.
http://bit.ly/wDXtuo (SLT)

From the number of legislative stories, ENR guesses the session must be quite near.
http://bit.ly/xcJc8I (UPD on 85 percent of Utahns in favor of education funding)
http://bit.ly/x6F8j8 (DN on funding and charter schools)
http://bit.ly/wdEg4o (KSL ditto of DN)
http://bit.ly/zrxEXm (SGS on Southern Utah’s legislators on funding)
http://bit.ly/z0RWgS (KCPW on district healthcare bids)

Standard looks at Ogden District’s AYP issues.
http://bit.ly/zVgtln (OSE)
and http://bit.ly/y6xuX7 (PDH)
and http://bit.ly/Axm0fu (KTVX)

Will the sour economy result in fewer schools making accreditation?
http://usat.ly/x6rfCL (USAT)

“We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.”
http://wapo.st/ySvaM0 (WaPo)

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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH

Too many Utah college students aren’t ready for rigor
The tens of thousands of students who need remedial work are costly for taxpayers, less likely to graduate.

Facing poor college readiness, Utah eyes reforms
Education » Inadequate college readiness, poor college completion rates fuel reforms from overhauling curriculum to improved testing.

Lawmakers question funding during seminary time
Confusion over new law on online classes prompts discussion.

Poll: 85% of Utahns Say Funding Education is Important

Charter schools, funding education discussed at policy summit

Budget, education to headline upcoming legislative session

Bill Requires School Districts to Seek Bids For Health Coverage

Hoping to avoid closure, Ogden schools use federal grants

Preschool program latest improvement for high-risk Utah school

Education should focus on minority students, value, researcher says

Education access for immigrant children may be targeted again

Middle school students given opportunity to visit high school, decide interests

LEGO robot teams compete for spot in state championship tournament

Davis High School band returning to Rose Parade

Student projects spotlighted at Day of Service fair

Study: some students won’t ask for help

Canyons votes for cooler schools

Family of girl hit in crosswalk files lawsuit

Disabled students raise funds by collecting pop-tops, delivering them to Shriners Hospital

Technology for learning disabled students

Judge Memorial student to present research

Credit unions donate thousands to local classrooms

Woods Cross student wins flag contest

Bird festival seeking students’ artwork

MLK essay contest offered to students

OPINION & COMMENTARY

Bad news piling up
Education ranking declines again

The winners and the losers

Replacing Provo schools chief

Legislative session

The right words

Beehives and buffalo chips

My Goals for Higher Education This Session

UAPCS is growing the charter movement

Does “for profit” mean “anti-education”?

Guest Blogger: What a Romney Presidential Win Means for Utah Education

The value added teacher assessment debate continues

School lunch a great big bunch of baloney

Allergies and schools: What you need know

Fremont High resource class has transportation need

ACT stress

Give us a break

Can a Few Years’ Data Reveal Bad Teachers?

Study on Teacher Value Uses Data From Before Teach-to-Test Era

What Value Did the Chetty Study Add?

Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?

Measuring Up to the Model:
A Ranking of State Charter School Laws

NATION

More schools likely to lose accreditation, experts say

In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise

Science educators take on climate naysayers

Legislative panel advances Wyoming education reform bill

Recession slows growth in public prekindergarten

Court rejects appeals in student speech cases

School voucher law upheld by county judge

Florida education commissioner raises concerns about state comparisons with NAEP test

Teachers Discuss How They Approach MLK Day

Split by Race and Wealth, but Discovering Similarities as They Study Steinbeck

Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ Barred from Arizona Public Schools.

Young U.S. Citizens in Mexico Brave Risks for American Schools

‘Pretend that you are a slave’ assignment angers Melvindale parent

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UTAH NEWS
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Too many Utah college students aren’t ready for rigor
The tens of thousands of students who need remedial work are costly for taxpayers, less likely to graduate.

Logan Clifford loved high school, enjoying a vibrant social life and good grades. But the fun carried a deferred price tag known as remedial math.
“I was a student body officer, and I did a lot of different activities. I wasn’t thinking about my future. I should have had an eye on the next phase of my life,” said the recent Utah State University graduate.
In other words, Clifford should have taken math his senior year, but it isn’t required at Cottonwood High School, where he graduated in 2004, or by the state in general.
Clifford’s story illustrates a pressing crisis: Too many people who go to college are not academically ready, putting a big drag on the higher education system and the state’s economy.
http://bit.ly/zWmREQ (SLT)

Facing poor college readiness, Utah eyes reforms
Education » Inadequate college readiness, poor college completion rates fuel reforms from overhauling curriculum to improved testing.

Orem • Every day that teens walk through the front doors of the Utah County Academy of Sciences, the same image greets them: giant, colorful maps matching photos of the school’s more than 100 seniors with the colleges they plan to attend.
“It’s an encouragement for the kids,” said the charter school’s principal, Clark Baron.
This is a public school, open to any student, that has had enormous success. One-fifth of its students come from low-income families, but last year, 98 percent graduated. Nearly all went to college, most having already earned associate’s degrees in high school. The academy ranks No. 1 in Utah for science achievement on state tests and is tied for the top spot in language arts, out of more than 150 high schools.
State leaders have set a goal of increasing college and career readiness, as well as the percentage of Utahns who get postsecondary degrees or certificates beyond high school, to 66 percent by 2020. But Utah has a way to go, as the results at the Orem charter school are hardly typical.
http://bit.ly/x8MJDO (SLT)

Lawmakers question funding during seminary time
Confusion over new law on online classes prompts discussion.

State leaders clarified confusion over a new law, religious release time and online instruction on Friday — but not before some lawmakers raised questions about why schools continue to get funding for the time students spend in seminary in the first place.
“I think this practice should be done away with,” said Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, of funding schools when students are away for religious release time, “and if anything, I think the education community should just be grateful for the windfall it’s received over the years the practice was put in place.”
The issue came up Friday as lawmakers and education leaders attempted to clarify confusion over a new state law that allows students to take up to two classes online not provided by their home school districts or charter schools. The home districts then must give some of the money they would normally receive — approximately $700 per student per class — to whoever is providing the online class. Also, students can’t add the online classes to an already full schedule, meaning some students must drop a class to take another online.
Here’s where seminary comes in: Last fall, Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, said some students were told by their districts that seminary counted toward full enrollment. That meant students taking seminary as part of a full course load would either have to drop that or another class if they wanted to take a new online course under the law. At that time, the State Office of Education confirmed that the districts were right because under state rule, districts can continue to get money for the time students spend at seminary during the day.
http://bit.ly/wDXtuo (SLT)

Poll: 85% of Utahns Say Funding Education is Important

Legislative Republicans and Democrats are falling all over themselves in the rush to say how much good they will do for public education in the 2012 Legislature.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert isn’t far behind, saying education is his No. 1 issue this election year.
And a new public opinion poll – conducted by Dan Jones & Associates – for last week’s Legislative Summit clearly shows why local politicians are so public-education crazy.
Eighty-five percent of the registered voters polled by Jones say that public education is either somewhat or very important to Utah’s future – with 64 percent saying it is “very important.”
By comparison, 74 percent say economic development is important. Transportation, health care reform and immigration drop away from those two high numbers.
http://bit.ly/xcJc8I (UPD)

Charter schools, funding education discussed at policy summit

SALT LAKE CITY — Exactly which public and higher education issues will rise to the top during the 2012 legislative session remain to be seen after policymakers discussed issues facing the state Tuesday.
Two hundred elected officials, lobbyists, nonprofit leaders and business officials met Friday to weigh in on issues ranging from charter schools to eliminating the state’s caucus system.
While Gov. Gary Herbert touched on his recommendation that the Legislature spend $134 million more for public and higher education, lawmakers focused their comments on allocation.
“We continue to put resources in education — I think we need to define that,” said Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan. “(We should) put resources in where they’ll do the most good. … Watch for that this session.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said lawmakers need to make targeted investments in education, not just dump more money into the system.
http://bit.ly/x6F8j8 (DN)

http://bit.ly/wdEg4o (KSL)

Budget, education to headline upcoming legislative session

ST. GEORGE — Lawmakers from across the state head to Salt Lake City next week for the annual leg­islative session, and for the first time since the onset of the Great Recession, they’ll have more money to work with than the previous year.
The Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning projects a $408 million surplus for the coming 2012-13 fiscal year, which starts in July. While com­paratively small next to a $12.9 billion budget, the new funds represent a positive outlook econom­ically for the state, and with revenues steadily ris­ing, lawmakers can look to some funding increases, rather than cuts, as they prepare the budget.
The problem is that after three straight years of cuts and the growth in costs for items such as edu­cation and health care, those new revenues may not go very far.
http://bit.ly/zrxEXm (SGS)

Bill Requires School Districts to Seek Bids For Health Coverage

Utah school districts may be required to seek competitive bids every three years for medical coverage if the state legislature approves a proposed bill. As KCPW’s Whittney Evans reports, one Republican state lawmaker is trying to save taxpayer dollars by making sure schools are getting the best bang for their buck, but others say the issue is a bit more delicate.
http://bit.ly/z0RWgS (KCPW)

Hoping to avoid closure, Ogden schools use federal grants

OGDEN — Five schools in the Ogden School District are using approximately $7 million in federal grants to help bring them up to a higher level and keep them out of danger of being shut down because of poor performance.
Dee, Madison and Odyssey elementary schools are in the second year of a three-year, $5 million School Improvement Grant. Ogden and Washington high schools are in the first year of a three-year, approximately $2 million similar federal grant to assist struggling schools, said Greg Lewis, the district’s director of Elementary Education and Testing.
Most Ogden District schools last year did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind program. The entire district was placed in a school improvement category by the state because of its AYP scores.
The five schools that got grants qualified because they have struggled to meet AYP for a longer period. Lewis said those schools are not necessarily in danger of being shut down, but it is something the state Legislature can always threaten.
“They could do it to make an example, but the State Office of Education has been very supportive,” Lewis said.
http://bit.ly/zVgtln (OSE)

http://bit.ly/y6xuX7 (PDH)

http://bit.ly/Axm0fu (KTVX)

Preschool program latest improvement for high-risk Utah school

FORT DUCHESNE, Uintah County — Laween Billmire works her way around the small tables in her classroom, checking on her students as they use a crayon to trace the letters that make up their names.
“Very good, Robert,” she tells one boy. “We’ve been working on that ‘b.’ You’ve got it!”
Billmire taught kindergarten at Eagle View Elementary School last year. This year she’s got a class of 20 preschoolers — the first such class at the school that received a three-year, $1.8 million federal grant for a preschool program.
“We see about 90 percent of our students coming in to kindergarten (are) not ready,” said Eagle View Principal Robert Stearmer. “We kept thinking, we’ve got to look at doing something.”
Eagle View was created four years ago, after the Uintah School District was forced by the federal government to restructure Todd Elementary and West Junior High schools following years of poor academic performance. Todd met No Child Left Behind standards sporadically; West never did, Stearmer said.
http://bit.ly/xlNHBt (DN)

http://bit.ly/wECiqf (KSL)

Education should focus on minority students, value, researcher says

SALT LAKE CITY — There is a country where students spend less time in class and rarely have homework or tests. They have hardly any high school dropouts or failing schools, and they have scored at the top of international tests for more than a decade.
Forty years ago, Finland was a poor country. As leaders worked to rebuild it, they envisioned a brighter future in technology and as such, developed a blue print for a better educated work force.
They set a tough national curriculum, required master’s degrees for all teachers and provided up to three teachers per classroom. Finland spends $3000 less per student than the U.S. education system, and publicly funds education all the way through college, including graduate school.
Though the country’s needs differ greatly from the U.S., one U. of U. researcher believes that Utah can take a lesson from Finland by placing a higher value on education, particularly that of minority students.
http://bit.ly/ArKNM9 (KSL)

Education access for immigrant children may be targeted again

SALT LAKE CITY — Absent comprehensive federal immigration reform in 2012, advocates for immigrants are bracing for another wave of state legislative proposals in 2012 intended to restrict children’s access to education systems and public assistance programs.
Last year, legislation was introduced in more than a dozen states intended to ban immigrant children’s access to public colleges and universities as well as impose stricter verification requirements to attend public schools and qualify for public assistance programs such as food stamps.
http://bit.ly/zGwlDk (KSL)

Middle school students given opportunity to visit high school, decide interests

SALT LAKE CITY — Eighth-grade students at Hillside Middle School got a peek into what their futures will hold on Tuesday by visiting high school classes they’ll be able to enroll in next year.
“I wish that I had this opportunity,” said parent volunteer Sarah Haslam, “because I kind of feel like I went into high school blindly.”
The field trip served two purposes: to familiarize the students with high school teachers and classrooms while introducing them to various career and technical courses beyond the standard core curriculum offerings.
http://bit.ly/wl2t3i (KSL)

LEGO robot teams compete for spot in state championship tournament

OGDEN — “Let the robot matches begin.”
That was how 7-year-old Rhett Douglass opened the robot games at the FIRST LEGO League qualifying competition Saturday at Weber State University.
FIRST is the acronym of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology; the goal is to get kids involved in creating and using technology. Eighteen teams of up to 10 students ages 9-14 competed for seven spots in the state championship tournament on Jan. 28 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
http://bit.ly/zNM5PE (OSE)

http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/news/lego-league/

Davis High School band returning to Rose Parade

KAYSVILLE — The Davis High School Marching Band will play for a national audience on New Year’s Day 2013 as one of the elite bands invited to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
The 300-member band was recently told it has been selected to represent the Mountain West region in the 124th annual Rose Parade.
http://bit.ly/yjS88Z (OSE)

Student projects spotlighted at Day of Service fair

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. day and students from all over Cache Valley have been doing all they can to commemorate his message of peace, service and community.
Projects the students have been involved with will be spotlighted Monday at a Day of Service fair to be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Logan Community Recreation Center.
http://bit.ly/xOPXhR (CVD)

Study: some students won’t ask for help

SALT LAKE CITY — A recent study is shedding some light on why certain kids don’t ask for help at school, even if they need it.
Remember back to when you were in class. There may have been a time when the teacher was explaining a very tricky concept and you just didn’t understand what was being taught.
While other kids shot their hands up to ask questions, you just sat there silent.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania say children of middle-class families are more prone to ask a lot of questions and get their work done, while children from what they deem to be working-class families tend to avoid asking questions.
http://bit.ly/xgfFcK (KSL)

Canyons votes for cooler schools

Canyons School District will install central conditioning or evaporative cooling in schools that are not cooled. On Jan. 3, the Board of Education approved spending $2.95 million to install air conditioning at Alta View, Edgemont, Midvalley and Peruvian Park elementary schools, and Midvale, Mount Jordan and Union middle schools. The systems will cost $260,000 a year to operate.
http://bit.ly/ABcz6C (SLT)

Family of girl hit in crosswalk files lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY — The family of junior high school student struck by a car while using a crosswalk on her way to school in November has filed a lawsuit against the Granite School District, as well as state and county agencies.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday in 3rd District Court, the 12-year-old girl was on her way to Matheson Junior High School about 7:30 a.m. when she was hit by a car while crossing 3500 South at the intersection of 7730 West in Magna.
http://bit.ly/wQeP7F (KSL)

Disabled students raise funds by collecting pop-tops, delivering them to Shriners Hospital

Shriner’s Hospital is the beneficiary of a fund-raising effort by severely disabled students in Canyons District.
Ten students at Jordan Valley School, the majority of them in wheelchairs and unable to communicate without electronic devices, on Friday, Jan. 13 will visit Shriners, a hospital that focuses on helping children with orthopedic conditions, to deliver 30 pounds of pop tops they have collected at home and school.
http://bit.ly/Ahk5Zg (DN)

Technology for learning disabled students

The Learning Disabilities Association of Utah will host a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. at the South Jordan Library, 10673 S. Redwood Road, featuring Utah assistive technology specialist Craig Boogaard, who will demonstrate how technology can enhance jobs, careers and education. The workshop will focus on tools to support reading and writing. It is free and open to the public.
http://bit.ly/ACk8qp (SLT)

Judge Memorial student to present research

Judge Memorial Catholic High School senior Anthony Fratto Oyler will be a presenter at Research Posters on the Hill 2012 at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 25, an honor normally limited to college-level students. Oyler has been working with Valeria Molinero, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Utah, where he helped develop computer simulations to examine micro-thin hydrophobic water surfaces at atomic detail.
http://bit.ly/AdaHId (SLT)

Credit unions donate thousands to local classrooms

Local students have much-needed textbooks, thanks to donations from local credit unions.
The 100% for Kids Credit Union Education Foundation has given $4,565 to four schools in the Alpine School District.
http://bit.ly/zd0u2X (PDH)

Woods Cross student wins flag contest

Andres Lancheros, a student at Woods Cross High School and the student member of the Davis Board of Education, has designed the new flag for the Davis County Republican Party. Woods Cross commercial art teacher Shon Feller encouraged his students to participate in a contest to design the new flag as an exercise in real-life experience designing a project on deadline for a client.
http://bit.ly/yJkBDy (SLT)

http://bit.ly/zpQVqj (OSE)

Bird festival seeking students’ artwork

Utah students in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to create an original drawing or painting of a black-crowned night heron for the annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. Students may use personal observation, field guides or Internet resources to research their artwork. An instructional packet can be found at www.greatsaltlakebirdfest.com. Winners in four categories will receive cash prizes. Deadline is April 6.
http://bit.ly/ycCq1W (SLT)

MLK essay contest offered to students

OGDEN — The United Way of Northern Utah is sponsoring a Martin Luther King Day essay contest just for fifth graders.
Participants are asked to write a five paragraph essay on Dr. King and turn them in to the United Way of Northern Utah offices or online at uwnu.org by Friday.
http://bit.ly/zRqTMH (OSE)

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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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Bad news piling up
Education ranking declines again
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Utahns long ago gave up being ranked anywhere near No. 1 in public education, considering the lack of commitment among their legislators to creating a top-notch system. But dropping to eighth-worst in the latest Quality Counts national report should be cause for real concern.
It’s especially worrisome that Utah’s trend in this assessment is toward the bottom. The state has dropped four places in two years.
The annual report by Education Week assesses such things as per-pupil spending, in which Utah has ranked last among all the states and District of Columbia for many years. No surprise there. Utah earned an overall grade of D+ in school finances, even factoring in a No. 1 ranking in the category of “spreading money evenly throughout the state.”
No doubt there is a correlation between the near-failing grade in financial support and the D+ grade the state earned in student achievement from kindergarten through 12th grade.
http://bit.ly/yZa4hP

The winners and the losers
Deseret News editorial

Loser: Utah’s public education system took a hit this week when the Quality Counts 2012 report, published by Education Week, ranked it 42nd among the 50 states. The overall grade of C-minus was based on a variety of factors from state laws and funding to teacher accountability. Not surprisingly, the education establishment discounted much of the report except for the parts concerning funding. The bigger question, however, remains how public schools nationwide plan to better compete on a global scale — something that will require greater consumer choices and accountability.
http://bit.ly/xUwCPn

Replacing Provo schools chief
(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

Superintendent Randy Merrill had been Provo’s top school administrator for a decade, and his contract was coming up for renewal. When he tendered his resignation last week many were surprised, even though some vocal Timpview High School football boosters had been calling for his head over his handling of fundraising issues involving head coach Louis Wong.
Merrill acknowledged that the Wong controversy was a contributing factor, but not necessarily the main one, in his resignation. He said he hadn’t been driven out, but admitted the brouhaha made his decision easier. He had been taking flak (whether justified or not remains to be seen) over a district investigation and state audit into the football fundraising.
Merrill’s resignation will not make the fundraising questions go away. Many questions still need to be answered. Once the matter is concluded, the district will have to consider whether its policies were adequate or not.
For now, the jury is still out.
http://bit.ly/yf2OrL

Legislative session
(St. George) Spectrum editorial

In just more than a week, Utah’s Legislature will open its 2012 session. While state revenues indicate the budget process won’t be quite as gloomy as it has been in previous years, there still is no shortage of important topics for discussion.
While Utah puts about half of its budget into public education, the state’s high population of children means our per-pupil spending is still last in the nation. Lawmakers no doubt will be discussing ways to reform the systems in place to improve the ways in which our children are taught.
http://bit.ly/wxbJ3s

The right words
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Those who deplore comprehensive sex education in schools (many of them live in Utah) as a sure way to initiate children into promiscuity will surely ignore what a coalition of health and education groups are recommending. Nevertheless, it makes good sense. The group says children as young as 7 should know the proper names for body parts and by fifth grade should understand what “sexual orientation” means and know about sexual abuse and harassment. The health educators say if there were consistent guidelines throughout the country, it would decrease some of the prejudice that older teenagers confront if they are homosexual. And they rightly say that better understanding would help children avoid becoming victims themselves. Those are all healthy goals, and it’s too bad that conservative Utah legislators won’t consider adopting them.
http://bit.ly/AnjEaw

Beehives and buffalo chips
(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

Beehives to two area educators for stellar work. The Utah Association of Secondary School Principals named Juab High School Principal Rick Robbins its high school principal of the year, and cited Mapleton Junior High Principal Suzanne Kimball as the junior high principal of the year. Among their accomplishments, the organization noted, was Juab High’s test scores going up 30 percentage points last year, and Kimball’s genuine concern for her students and her work in developing curriculum.
Beehive to the Alpine School District for adding more language immersion programs: Chinese at Alpine Elementary School in Alpine and at Riverview Elementary in Saratoga Springs. A Portuguese program will be launched at Rocky Mountain Elementary in Pleasant Grove. In our shrinking world, it’s important for schools to help our children communicate with other cultures. Kudos to Alpine for staying on top of things.
http://bit.ly/wgnqcP

My Goals for Higher Education This Session
Commentary by Sen. Steve Urquhart

I’ve attended my classes and done my homework. Now it’s time for my report. So, here’s what I want to do this session for higher education. If you disagree, you’re on notice and you should contact me.
First, to address our biggest challenge – completion – I want to raise standards, assess high schoolers, and fully prepare high schoolers. The details of the plan can be found here.
http://bit.ly/wF5MVL

UAPCS is growing the charter movement
Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore

The key to success in the world of influencing public policy at the legislature is based on:
Relationships
Political clout
The reason that education is so successful in getting first dibs on extra money isn’t because the UEA has a lot of money, it’s because they (and other education, especially education establishment, groups) have the good will of a lot of voters.
Charters have been at a disadvantage when it comes to education policy and funding. While they have the sympathies of a lot of influential people in the legislature, and many more now that Chris Bleak is leading the effort, charters haven’t had the same level of support from voters.
http://bit.ly/xRrnxm

Does “for profit” mean “anti-education”?
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

I’m finally getting back to my multi-part post on “attacking online education: the good, the bad, and the ugly”. And yes, I do plan to write more about what I’ve learned from my own experience teaching online. But an article by Jonah Goldberg in today’s National Review Online reminded me of one of the most common — and in my view bad- arguments against online education: It is often provided, gasp, by for-profit companies.
Of course state offices of education and school districts should carefully vet any and alll online programs before we send them a single taxpayer dollar. There are lots of bad online education programs out there. For example, I think the Utah Electronic High School — state funded and not for profit, by the way — is pretty dreadful.
http://bit.ly/xIRPxu

Guest Blogger: What a Romney Presidential Win Means for Utah Education
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

As promised, I am posting a guest blogger’s piece on Mitt Romney’s positions on education. Dr. Burke Sorenson currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College and the University of Phoenix. He has taught at every educational level: elementary, junior high, high school, and at the post secondary level. He is the author of numerous articles and two books.
Here’s what Dr. Sorenson has to say about presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
http://bit.ly/zrV0fb

The value added teacher assessment debate continues
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

While I’m not always a New York Times fan, I like the paper’s “Room for Debate” feature. This morning’s debate topic is “Can a Few Years’ Data Reveal Bad Teachers?” The lead article recaps the recent National Bureau of Economic Research study that seems to validate this approach. The authors of the study acknowledge that “evaluating teachers using test scores could encourage counterproductive behaviors, such as teaching to the test or even cheating,” but they counter that “value-added data can be a useful statistic even though it’s not perfect, just like performance measures in other occupations.”
http://bit.ly/zp8VvP

School lunch a great big bunch of baloney
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner commentary by Madison Ostberg, a junior at Bonneville High School

The National School Lunch Program’s mission is to serve wholesome lunches to students; however, anyone who has had school lunch will certainly agree that wholesome as they may be, school lunches are far from tasty.
Whether it’s burned gruel in the 1800s or over-processed food today, school meals have always been repellent. People often mistakenly blame the cooks, when it’s really government officials who make serving children one meal a day thousands of times more difficult and disgusting.
On Dec. 13, 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act into law. In summary, this law encourages schools to create more healthy options for kids, make water more available and buy fresh produce from local farmers. In return, the school will be reimbursed for the changes.
A problem has arisen, though; at the same time the legislation passed, government officials cut funding for schools, forcing school officials to buy the food from the cheapest sources available in order to feed their students. The biggest problem with the cheapest food is, of course, the quality.
http://bit.ly/yAdPyc

Allergies and schools: What you need know
KSL commentary by Guy Bliesner, school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of school age children with severe allergies is rising.
The results of a telephone survey published in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,” the rate of just peanut allergies alone in children more than tripled from 1997 to 2008. Other types of allergies show similar though somewhat less dramatic increases.
The level of concern for parents and schools alike is rising as well.
http://bit.ly/zV3O76

Fremont High resource class has transportation need
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Joshua Rowsey

I am an autistic student at Fremont High School. I am in a special resource class that is suppose to help prepare me to be successful on my own. My class is suppose to be able to go to job sites and work and learn how to shop for groceries. We cannot go to the store or job sites because our school only has one van that several classes have to use. Our school has been told that all high schools only have funding for one van. Fremont High School is not like other high schools that have access to the bus, TRAX and other forms of transportation. The lack of sufficient, equitable funding for special education is limiting my ability to meet my goals.
http://bit.ly/AdgXb5

ACT stress
Deseret News letter from Chantae Arroyo

There is a lot of pressure that one number, an ACT score, can determine the college you are accepted to or the possible scholarships you can receive to help you get there. Students spend 12 years in school trying to maintain a high GPA. A student’s grades throughout his/her schooling years can be much higher than an ACT score.
Taking the classes to prepare beforehand, or even paying a tutor to get a little extra one-on-one help cannot really assure how test scores are going to turn out. It seems as if students have worked their whole lives to achieve success later in life, but if this one test doesn’t meet certain standards, then their chances of that become slim to none.
http://bit.ly/zVJokV

Give us a break
Deseret News letter from Brooke Diamond

There has been a lot of recent discussion in the news about Jordan School Districts shortened winter break. It’s over now, but for future years, things need to change. Other school districts in the state got off much sooner.
Being a student at Bingham High School, and being involved with sports, I think we need a break. The holiday season is stressful enough as it is. The added stress of school and extracurricular activities can throw people overboard. Students aren’t the only ones who need a break. Our teachers have families and deserve a break, too.
http://bit.ly/wHUdqZ (DN)

Can a Few Years’ Data Reveal Bad Teachers?
New York Times commentary by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman, Dawn Shirk, Arun Ramanathan, Jesse Rothstein, Lance T. Izumi, Sydney Morris

With years of data, it seems possible to distinguish good teachers from poor ones. Does that indicate that, after collecting two or three years’ data on each new hire, districts should be using test scores for decisions about firings, tenure and pay?
http://nyti.ms/whiKdn

Study on Teacher Value Uses Data From Before Teach-to-Test Era
New York Times commentary by columnist MICHAEL WINERIP

My four children have all attended public schools in our middle-class suburban district. When my oldest was in fourth grade, in 1998, he took the state tests, and I was not even aware of it. Later, he said the tests were kind of fun; he got to miss his regular classes.
Six years later, in 2004, our daughter was in fourth grade. Long before the state tests, a letter came home. Prep classes were being offered before and after school. While the sessions were not mandatory, students were strongly urged to attend.
Eventually the results were printed in our local newspaper. The news was grim; the nearby districts, in wealthier towns, had creamed us. The following year, our middle school added a mandatory course to prep for the state English test.
That 1998/2004 divide — what happened in the interim was the 2002 No Child Left Behind law — should be kept in mind when analyzing a new, widely publicized study that closely tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years to determine whether teachers who helped raise children’s test scores have a lasting effect on their lives. The researchers conclude that having such a teacher improved students’ odds of going to a good college, the quality of the neighborhoods where they lived and their lifetime earnings.
The results have created a big stir because they seem to say that no matter what we think of all the standardized testing going on in education today, the scores are at least a measure of what matters in the long run.
That is not exactly what the research paper shows. While it is impressive for its scope and creativity, there is a major caution: it is largely based on test scores from the 1990s, that low-stakes era when my son enjoyed his fourth-grade test.
Whether those results are applicable to our post-2004 high-stakes world, we cannot tell. It may well be that teachers under pressure to raise their students’ scores through extensive test preparation will get inflated results that do not carry over positively to adulthood.
http://nyti.ms/xFSYV3

What Value Did the Chetty Study Add?
Education Week commentary by Diane Ravitch, research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Just days ago, three economists released a study that created a great deal of controversy. Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard University and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University studied the school records and income tax records of 2.5 million students in a major urban district (probably New York City) over a 20-year period. They concluded that good teachers cause students to get higher test scores, which lead in turn to higher lifetime earnings, fewer teen pregnancies, and higher college-going rates.
The study was reported on Page One of The New York Times, covered on the PBS Newshour, and lauded by Nicholas Kristof in the Times. While the study itself did not have specific policy recommendations, one of the authors told the Times: “The message is to fire people sooner rather than later.”
The study seemed to vindicate supporters of value-added assessment. It was certainly good news for Erik Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, who has been arguing for several years that the key to improving education is to fire the bottom 5 to 10 percent of teachers based on the test scores of their students. In theory, if a “bad” teacher is replaced by an average teacher, then scores go up.
http://bit.ly/zJDoAt

Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?
The Nation Commentary by Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University

Redlining was the once-common practice in which banks would draw a red line on a map—often along a natural barrier like a highway or river—to designate neighborhoods where they would not invest. Stigmatized and denied access to loans and other resources, redlined communities, populated by African-Americans and other people of color, often became places that lacked businesses, jobs, grocery stores and other services, and thus could not retain a thriving middle class. Redlining produced and reinforced a vicious cycle of decline for which residents themselves were typically blamed.
Today a new form of redlining is emerging. If passed, the long-awaited Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would build a bigger highway between low-performing schools serving high-need students—the so-called “bottom 5 percent”—and all other schools. Tragically, the proposed plan would weaken schools in the most vulnerable communities and further entrench the problems—concentrated poverty, segregation and lack of human and fiscal resources—that underlie their failure.
Although the current draft of the law scales back some of the worst overreaches of No Child Left Behind, the sanctions for failing to make “adequate yearly progress” that have threatened all schools under NCLB are now focused solely on the 5 percent of schools designated as lowest-performing by the states.
http://bit.ly/zATCcT

Measuring Up to the Model:
A Ranking of State Charter School Laws
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools analysis

2011 has been a significant year for charter school policy across the country. At long last, Maine enacted a charter school law, becoming the 42nd jurisdiction that allows this innovative public school option.
http://bit.ly/AwX86c

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NATIONAL NEWS
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More schools likely to lose accreditation, experts say
USA Today

As anxiety over the academic performance of public schools grows, experts say it’s likely that more schools and school districts will lose public or private accreditation.
“It happens more often than you’d think, but it needs to happen more often than it does,” says Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, a private Atlanta-based accreditation agency that works with about 30,000 schools. In the past five years, the organization has pulled accreditation on four school systems and a dozen private schools, for reasons ranging from poor academic performance to governance to financial fraud.
“It’s become more rigorous,” says Terry Holliday, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education. “I think there was a time accreditation just meant you had a certain number of library books and staff.” Now, he says, “accreditation does look at outcomes.”
Accreditation, sort of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for schools, matters to districts because losing it can lead to a state takeover or an exodus of students. For individual high schools, it can mean that students lose a competitive edge as they apply to college.
http://usat.ly/x6rfCL

In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise
Washington Post

For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates — but few, if any, academic gains.
Now, an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise. Drawing on psychology and brain research, these educators aim to articulate a more precise, and scientific, vocabulary for praise that will push children to work through mistakes and take on more challenging assignments. …
A growing body of research over three decades shows that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with significant learning opportunities. As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are “persistence,” “risk-taking” and “resilience” — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings.
“We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.”
http://wapo.st/ySvaM0

Science educators take on climate naysayers
USA Today

A noted science education organization Monday announced a turn to battling climate science naysayers.
The National Center for Science Education, based in Oakland, Calif., is best known for leading charges against creationist efforts to remove evolution from public schools nationwide. But now, the three-decade-old group will also fight efforts to slip incorrect climate science information into school lessons.
“We are seeing more efforts in legislatures and schools to push climate misinformation on teachers and students,” says NCSE head Eugenie Scott. The NCSE plans to serve as a resource for science teachers facing school board or classroom fights over climate science.
http://usat.ly/wPKM4Z

Legislative panel advances Wyoming education reform bill
Associated Press via Casper (WY) Star Tribune

CHEYENNE — Advancing education reform efforts in Wyoming’s public schools, a panel of lawmakers has endorsed proposed legislation that spells out how to make sure high school graduates are ready for college and careers.
The Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability on Monday unanimously approved a 55-page proposal that is another step that began in the 2011 Legislature to hold students, teachers, schools and administrators accountable for poor academic performance.
“We’re down to the nitty-gritty of trying to figure out how we can produce a better product,” said committee co-chairman Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody. “And that product we’re trying to produce is a kid when he comes out of high school that is career-ready and college-ready and has had, hopefully, the best education possible so that he can succeed at the next level.”
The proposed bill deals with everything from testing of students to teacher and school administrator evaluations. It sets up a process for measuring how students are performing academically year to year and helping schools with poorly performing students improve, a process that could include firing school principals.
http://bit.ly/w2xDxZ

Recession slows growth in public prekindergarten
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The expansion in public prekindergarten programs has slowed and even been reversed in some states as school districts cope with shrinking budgets. As a result, many 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t going to preschool.
Kids from low-income families who start kindergarten without first attending a quality education program enter school an estimated 18 months behind their peers. Many never catch up, and research shows they are more likely to need special education services and to drop out. Kids in families with higher incomes also can benefit from early education, research shows.
Yet, roughly a quarter of the nation’s 4-year-olds and more than half of 3-year-olds attend no preschool, either public or private. Families who earn about $40,000 to $50,000 annually face the greatest difficulties because they make too much to quality for many publicly funded programs, but can’t afford private ones, said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
And as more students qualify for free or reduced lunch – often a qualifier to get into a state-funded prekindergarten program – many families are finding that slots simply aren’t available, he said
http://apne.ws/yEUzn3

A copy of the report
http://nieer.org/yearbook/

Court rejects appeals in student speech cases
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has passed up a pair of cases for the online age – whether schools may censor students who are at home when they create online attacks against school officials and other students.
The justices on Tuesday rejected appeals from Pennsylvania and West Virginia involving difficult questions about the limits on criticism from students and where the authority of school officials ends.
In one case, an appeals court upheld the suspension of a West Virginia student who created a web page suggesting another student had a sexually transmitted disease and invited classmates to comment. In the other case, a different appeals court said two Pennsylvania students could not be disciplined at school for parodies of their principals that they created on home computers and posted online.
http://apne.ws/AumQrW

http://bit.ly/AuryAq (Ed Week)

School voucher law upheld by county judge
Indianapolis (IN) Star

Children attending private schools with state funding will be able to continue their classes — at least for now.
A Marion County judge ruled Friday that Indiana’s school voucher program is constitutional. However, those who oppose the program say they’ll appeal his decision.
The vouchers, approved by the General Assembly last spring, redirect money from public schools to help offset private-school tuition for students in low- and middle-income families.
In July, more than a dozen opponents of the voucher program, including teachers, school officials and parents, sued Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, arguing that the program is unconstitutional.
Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele granted summary judgment in favor of the state Friday.
http://indy.st/wayxxr

Florida education commissioner raises concerns about state comparisons with NAEP test
Tampa Bay (FL) Times

When it comes to comparing academic success across states, there is no better tool than the National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as NAEP and often called the nation’s report card. Fast-rising NAEP scores are one of the main reasons why Florida’s ed reforms generated buzz over the past decade.
But now Florida’s education commissioner is raising concerns about the validity of state comparisons with NAEP, given big difference from state to state in the percentages of potentially struggling students that are excluded from taking it.
This week – and the timing can’t be overlooked – Commissioner Gerard Robinson fired off a letter to David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board that oversees NAEP, and proposed that the board not report NAEP data for states that do not test high percentages of students with disabilities and students learning English.
http://bit.ly/wtFfvI

A copy of the letter
http://bit.ly/yvcd7x

Teachers Discuss How They Approach MLK Day
NPR All Things Considered

For teachers, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday comes with some heavy challenges. One reporter sat down with a group of teachers, who talked about keeping the lesson fresh — and whether white teachers are prepared to teach about civil rights.
http://n.pr/zDfvW4

Split by Race and Wealth, but Discovering Similarities as They Study Steinbeck
New York Times

WESTFIELD, N.J. — When an eighth-grade class at Roosevelt Intermediate School tackled Chapter 4 of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” one morning last week, the conversation focused on the loneliness of a minor white character known as Curley’s wife.
The next day at the same time, five miles away at the Cedarbrook K-8 Center in Plainfield, another eighth-grade class opened to the same chapter of the same book but paid scant attention to Curley’s wife, spending most of an hour on the sole black character, Crooks.
Similar discussions of the classic 75-year-old novel, about two migrant workers desperately seeking their own land, unfold in thousands of classrooms around the country. But these two sets of students are engaged in an unusual literary experiment, studying the book in a collaboration intended to provide lessons between the lines of Steinbeck’s prose.
In a state stratified to a large extent by race and wealth, the mostly white students in tony Westfield say that they live in a privileged “bubble,” while the Cedarbrook students in Plainfield are nearly all black and Hispanic, and two-thirds of them are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunches. On Tuesday, the day after Martin Luther King’s Birthday, 130 of the eighth graders who have been reading Steinbeck side by side, trading questions via Wikispaces, Skype and visits to each others’ schools, will gather for the final chapter in a project that sought to teach them as much about themselves as about Lennie and George.
http://nyti.ms/xEeOwS

Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ Barred from Arizona Public Schools.
Wall Street Journal

Two years ago, Arizona made headlines with its ban on ethnic studies in the state’s schools, and the Tucson school district in particular was under the spotlight for its Mexican-American Studies Program.
Turns out the ban also includes William Shakespeare’s The Temptest — about a banished duke who seeks revenge through magic.
Arizona’s new law prohibits courses and classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
http://on.wsj.com/xnXetY

Young U.S. Citizens in Mexico Brave Risks for American Schools
New York Times

TIJUANA, Mexico — Weekday mornings at 5, when the lights on distant hillsides across the border still twinkle in the blackness, Martha, a high school senior, begins her arduous three-hour commute to school. She groggily unlocks the security gate guarded by the family Doberman and waits in the glare of the Pemex filling station for the bus to the border. Her fellow passengers, grown men with their arms folded, jostle her in their sleep.
Martha’s destination, along with dozens of young friends — United States citizens all living in “TJ,” as they affectionately call their city — is a public high school eight miles away in Chula Vista, Calif., where they were born and where they still claim to live.
California teenagers start their mornings with crossing guards and school buses. Martha and her friends stand for hours in a human chain of 16,000 at the world’s busiest international land border. Cellphones in one hand and notebooks in the other, they wait again to cross on foot, fearing delays that could force them to miss a social studies final, oblivious to hawkers selling breakfast burritos or weary parents holding toddlers in pajamas.
In San Ysidro, the port of entry, they board a red trolley to another bus that takes them to school. They are sweating the clock — the bell rings at 8 a.m. sharp.
http://nyti.ms/yXopsw

http://nyti.ms/vZSy7I

‘Pretend that you are a slave’ assignment angers Melvindale parent
Detroit Free Press

It’s a class assignment Jessica Gibson says she will not let her 11-year-old son complete.
“Pretend that you are a slave in the southern United States,” says the assignment. “Write a journal/diary memoir about your life.”
Gibson, 27, of Melvindale said her sixth-grader Taylan received the social studies assignment from a Strong Middle School teacher in Melvindale last month. But her son hid it from her, later telling her he didn’t want to do it. Gibson found out about it last week.
“He’s never had a master nor will he ever have a master, so why should he have to pretend to have a master?” Gibson said. “That really disturbed me.”
http://on.freep.com/xK7LpT

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