Education News Roundup for January 19, 2012

Cougar at the Cougar Mountain Zoo

Cougar at the Cougar Mountain Zoo/

Today’s Top Picks:

The State’s revenue projections are looking good. (KSL)
and (SLCW)
or Sen. Hillyard’s take:

New gubernatorial candidate David Kirkham says too much education money in Utah is going to administration. (SLT)
and (DN)
and (PDH)
and (KSL)
and (KSTU)
and (KCPW)

Sen. Pat Jones discusses her proposed resolution on parental involvement. (DN)

Canyons District’s decision to not use a cougar as the new school mascot goes viral (ENR knows that applies to videos, but you understand what happened). (CNN)
and (SLT)
and (Yahoo Sports) and (Forbes) and (Fox Sports) and (NBC Sports) and (Denver Post) and ( and (Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot) and (Toronto Star)

Apple moves into the textbook market. (AP)
and (Wired)
and (WSJ)
and (Reuters)



State’s revenue projections better than expected

Utah tea party founder Kirkham takes on Herbert Politics » He vows a more business-friendly Utah and seeks repeal of guest-worker law.

Senator: Parents should hit the books with kids

SMART technology helping teachers in the classroom

Hunter High teacher uses Sundance as lesson in adversity Education » Students in Hunter High’s AVID program chose to see a documentary this year

Students dictate curriculum at Murray school Education » Sego Lily School takes nontraditional tack to teaching.

Students get a peek into the working world

Youth leader honored for breaking down cultural barriers Recognition » Park City youth leads march, receives award, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Parking lots: the most dangerous place at school

Utah Kids Above National Average

Utah Chamber Artists to present third annual Youth Music Festival

UHSAA weighing six classes for football
Realignment » Proposal would make football classifications separate from other sports.

KeyBank donates to Junior Achievement of Utah

School scraps ‘Cougars’ as mascot after complaints of it being derogatory

China 1st, India last in global education rankings


Early learning
Preschool guidelines can be helpful

Utah teachers embrace school choice

A teacher evaluation fight brews in New York

Here we go again – Budget Preview 2012

Utah ranks 12th for its charter school law

Charter high schools boost graduation and college rates

Goodbye, Mr. Merrill

Study Questions Popular Explanation for Gender Gap in Math

Apple iBooks in schools: Devil is in the hardware

A Public Education Primer:
Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System, 2012 Revised Edition

Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011


Obama education reforms advance as Congress falters

Apple offers software for interactive textbooks

Pearson raises 2011 earnings guidance

Explosive Growth in Education Apps

Studying on a shoestring
A financial crisis threatens to shut down schools in the middle of term

Pryor Gets OK To Revamp Education Department Plan Includes Hiring New High-Level Chiefs

Lawmakers: High school seniors should be tested

Ga. teacher resigns over slavery math lesson

Learn How to Recognize and Help Depressed Students

Bill would kick trans fats out of Colorado schools


State’s revenue projections better than expected

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are gearing up for the start of the legislative session. 2012 is the first year of the past several in which lawmakers will have more money to work with than the previous year. But it’s still not enough to create any new programs.
The state is expected to have $128 million in one-time use money which will be used strictly for one-time expenses. But its revenue projections were better than first expected.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard said, “We’re going to be up $280 million in collections. So, that’s increased ongoing revenue that we can use in our budget as we look at the needs of the state.”
But a lot of that money is already earmarked for certain programs. Sen. Hillyard is the Executive Appropriations Committee Chair. He says Medicaid is the biggest expense.
“The cost there is at about $115 million for just Medicaid. That’s because more people are eligible because they expanded the eligibility limits,” he explained. (KSL) (SLCW)

Utah tea party founder Kirkham takes on Herbert Politics » He vows a more business-friendly Utah and seeks repeal of guest-worker law.

Provo • Packing tea party credentials and touting his business background, David Kirkham jumped into the governor’s race Wednesday with plans to boost Utah business and bust a controversial guest-worker law.
“I will do everything in my power so the people of Utah can arise and be that shining light on the hill for all of the United States,” said Kirkham, invoking the rhetoric of Republican icon Ronald Reagan.
Kirkham, a custom auto builder and Utah tea party founder, becomes the third Republican to challenge Gov. Gary Herbert.
Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, and former state lawmaker Morgan Philpot of Orem are also chasing the state’s top job this year.

As for the state’s education system, Kirkham said the problem Utah faces isn’t so much a lack of funding as it is getting that money into classrooms. (SLT) (DN) (PDH) (KSL) (KSTU) (KCPW)

Senator: Parents should hit the books with kids

SALT LAKE CITY — When Liz Holloran asks one boy in her classroom why he does so well on tests, or why he’s so responsible at studying and homework, she always gets the same answer: “My Mom.”
Holloran, a fifth grade honors teacher at Westland Elementary, sees first-hand how important parental involvement is in producing successful children — a topic one Utah senator is planning to take on during the 2012 Legislative session.
Parents and communities — not just schools and teachers — have a responsibility to educate children, according to Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay. The assistant minority whip is drafting a resolution that would encourage parental engagement in hopes of highlighting her belief that it takes a community to truly educate a child.
“One of the common things that I hear (from teachers) is parents really are not taking the responsibility that they should be taking,” Jones said. “We need to engage parents and the community in getting them involved.” (DN)

SMART technology helping teachers in the classroom

ALPINE — Ensuring students understand a new concept taught in the classroom can be difficult for teachers, especially when many students aren’t willing to ask questions because they don’t want to be embarrassed.
A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania found students of working-class families are much less likely than their middle-class peers to raise their hands and ask a question. Not surprisingly, the researchers note dropout rates among students from working-class families are five times greater.
New technology is making it possible for students to tell a teacher if they don’t understand a concept without being put on the spot.
At Westfield Elementary School in Alpine, Karre Nevarez has a new tool to help her know if her sixth-grade class is understanding as they review a new concept in astronomy.
“It definitely makes it a lot less daunting for the student because they can immediately say, ‘I don’t know that.’ But the rest of the class has no idea,” Nevarez explained.
The SMART Response devices are somewhat like handheld video games. Students answer questions with the buttons, and the data immediately register on the teacher’s computer. She knows right away who is having trouble. (DN)

Hunter High teacher uses Sundance as lesson in adversity Education » Students in Hunter High’s AVID program chose to see a documentary this year

West Valley City • Phaedra Johnson’s Hunter High students have something in common with the Lithuanian national basketball team.
The basketball team overcame the odds and won a bronze medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Because of that accomplishment, the team will be the subject of the documentary “The Other Dream Team,” which will be screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
The students at Hunter High have overcome some challenges, too. And, like the Lithuanian basketball team, they plan to make an appearance at Sundance.
“It’s a cultural activity that a lot of them wouldn’t get to do,” Johnson said. “Number one, they don’t have the money. But they also don’t know how to navigate things.”
Johnson, an English teacher, mentors students in Hunter’s AVID program. The course, known by its acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, helps students prepare for college. (SLT)

Students dictate curriculum at Murray school Education » Sego Lily School takes nontraditional tack to teaching.

Murray • From the outside, Sego Lily School looks like a regular house. But once you pass through the door, every nook and cranny is set aside for education.
With a theme of “learning through living,” Sego Lily is an alternative school in Murray where children, ages 4 to 18, decide what they want to learn.
Jen Schwartz, who founded the school with her husband, said Sego Lily is based on two principles:
“First, we’re a democratic school where every student and every staff has a vote in everything we do,” Schwartz said. “Second, we have a self-directed learning philosophy.”
That means students choose their own learning path — whether it’s through a structured class, a one-on-one mentoring session or an activity-based curriculum. (SLT)

Students get a peek into the working world

ENOCH – Gateway Preparatory Academy in Enoch is preparing to give eighth-grade students insight into the working world as administrators and faculty members search for employers in the Iron County area that are willing to allow the students to shadow their employees.
John Finlay, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Gateway, said the school uses teaching methods that involve providing more hands-on experiences for students ages 12 to 15. The idea, he said, is for the students to have some experience in the real world and learn what kinds of skills and education they would need for various jobs.
Additionally, the job-shadowing experiences would fulfill some of the requirements of the Utah curriculum under the category of career and technical education, he said. (SGS)

Youth leader honored for breaking down cultural barriers Recognition » Park City youth leads march, receives award, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King Jr. was in a singular class in the way he led so many Americans during a turbulent time in U.S. history. He was intent on peacefully breaking down social barriers and building bridges across ethnicities and classes.
A similar philosophy — although on a considerably smaller scale — has driven a young leader in Park City to try to make a difference in her community.
Nicole Chang, the 14-year-old student body president of Treasure Mountain Junior High, has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Award from the University of Utah’s Office of Diversity and Equity for an essay she wrote, describing how she has been able to build bridges between different cultures in her school and community. (SLT)

Parking lots: the most dangerous place at school

Some of the most congested roadways in Utah, for 20 minutes twice a day during the school year, are the parking lots at your local schools. Road rage is not uncommon and occasional conversations are held between parents that would make a New York City cabbie blush.
We are a car culture and increasingly, for a variety of reasons, parents are driving their students to school. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “The most common mode of travel to school is the family car (46 percent).”
The National Highway Safety Administration in the report, “Traffic Safety Facts 2008: Pedestrians,” lists parking lots as the most common area for injuries to pedestrians under the age of 12.
These two facts put more cars and more students in the highest risk area, the parking lots of our schools. Large numbers of automobiles and small children in close proximity can be a recipe for disaster. (DN)

Utah Kids Above National Average

Utah kids are doing pretty well according to a new national study.
And the study says that’s surprising, because they don’t get much help from the Utah government.
Well, this study by the Foundation for Child Development says that in America, kids that live in states with high taxes and expensive social welfare systems, do better than kids in cheap states.
Except for Utah that is. Utah has low taxes and a lousy social welfare system but Utah kids still do better than kids in most other states.

Utah Chamber Artists to present third annual Youth Music Festival

Utah Chamber Artists, in partnership with Art Works for Kids and the R. Harold Burton Foundation, will present their third annual Youth Music Festival at Libby Gardner Concert Hall on January 30 and 31.
As part of Utah Chamber Artists education program, over 1,500 elementary school students from Canyons School District, Granite School District and Monticello Academy will participate in concerts performed by Artistic Director Barlow Bradford and the Utah Chamber Artists Orchestra. (SLT)

UHSAA weighing six classes for football
Realignment » Proposal would make football classifications separate from other sports.

As realignment nears for the state’s high school athletics, the Utah High School Activities Association is considering a new plan that would make six football-specific classifications, separate from those in other sports.
On Wednesday, UHSAA Executive Committee unanimously recommended the format to the Board of Trustees, which should meet next week to discuss particulars.
There are several administrative steps left before any realignment plans are finalized or schools are categorized for the next realignment period starting in the fall of 2013. But based on school feedback and some perennial issues of competition, the UHSAA is giving serious consideration to the measure, officials confirmed. (SLT) (DN)

KeyBank donates to Junior Achievement of Utah

The philanthropic arm of KeyBank has donated $48,500 to Junior Achievement of Utah.
The donation from the KeyBank Foundation will fund “whole school” sponsorships for Bonneville, McMillan and Wasatch elementary schools in Sugar House, Murray and Provo for the current academic year. Whole school sponsorships support Junior Achievement financial literacy programs. (SLT)

School scraps ‘Cougars’ as mascot after complaints of it being derogatory

It’s tough to pick a mascot these days.
Over the past few years we’ve seen several instances of schools being pressured to change their mascots because of cultural sensitives like Miami University of Ohio having to go through a 25-year process to change from the Redskins to the Redhawks.
But we’ve never heard of a mascot that offended, well, older women.
The Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, needed to choose a mascot and after 23% of students who voted decided they wanted to be the Corner Canyon Cougars. Falcons, Raptors and Diamondbacks were the other choices on the ballot.
But that didn’t sit well with parents who called in and complained that “Cougar” was a derogatory word because of how it’s made its way into our vocabulary for older women who like to date younger men. (CNN) (SLT) (Yahoo Sports) (Forbes) (Fox Sports) (NBC Sports) (Denver Post) ( (Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot) (Toronto Star)

China 1st, India last in global education rankings

China and India have a lot in common. Both are among the world’s most populous countries. They are two of the fastest-growing world economies, and in recent years have undertaken liberalizing political reform. But when it comes to education, India and China are in different orbits.
A new global study of learning standards in 74 countries ranks India at the bottom of the pack while China comes out on top. The study, released by the Australian Council of Education Research, updates a 2009 Program for International Assessment (PISA) study that assess education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in participating economies.
“The findings are significant because they come at a time when India is making a big push in education and to improve the skills of their workforce,” says Prashant K Nanda in an article for Mint, an Indian business newspaper published in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal. “The results put in question India’s long term ability to compete.” (DN)


Early learning
Preschool guidelines can be helpful
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

The State Board of Education is considering adopting guidelines for what pre-kindergarten schools and parents of preschoolers should be teaching children. That’s an excellent idea.
Those involved in getting children ready for kindergarten need to understand what those kids should know before they enroll in public school. Many private schools, especially those that offer preschool classes, make clear the basics children should have mastered. Public schools would do well to provide the same kind of standard.
The proposal before the board would only be mandatory for public preschools; not for private preschools or for parents. But quality private preschools whose students go on to public schools should be interested in adopting curricula that will help children succeed in kindergarten. And the same is true of parents.
The board would be doing a service by implementing standards, not interfering with parenting, as some board members have suggested.

Utah teachers embrace school choice
Deseret News op-ed by DeLaina Tonks, director of the Open High School of Utah

As a child, my mom empowered me to have choices in what I wore, what I ate for lunch and which books to read. She taught me the importance of creating situations where children have the ability to exercise choice so they can learn how to choose wisely. As a professional educator, I still value options and having the ability to make the best career choice that fits my personal desires and the needs of my family.
I began my teaching career in Alpine District at Pleasant Grove Junior High teaching French and Spanish then moved to Ohio and spent a decade at a bricks-and-mortar district high school in Columbus. I absolutely enjoyed the experience and loved connecting with students and watching them grow in their abilities. There is nothing better than the “a-ha” moment for a teacher.
However, due to family circumstances and my particular skill set, I began searching for options to advance my career that would allow me the flexibility needed to balance my love for teaching with my growing family and my husband’s demanding job. My love for technology coupled with my own unique set of personal circumstances led me to realize that the high-tech, interactive online arena was a perfect career choice for me. Ultimately, this is where I have chosen to continue my professional journey.
In recognizing my own unique involvement in education, I have discovered that school choice creates options for students, but it also provides a choice for teachers just like me.

A teacher evaluation fight brews in New York Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to pick a fight with the teachers’ unions over teacher evaluations. As the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, “Mr. Cuomo gave unions and the state Education Department 30 days to settle a lawsuit filed by unions that has helped delay job-performance ratings for teachers that incorporate student test results, or he would push a new system through the Legislature himself. He gave school districts one year to implement new systems based on the state framework or risk losing a scheduled 4% increase in state aid–about $805 million statewide.”
This one’s worth watching because Cuomo is a popular Democrat widely viewed as a potential future presidential candidate. It intrigues me that he thinks this could be a winning issue.

Here we go again – Budget Preview 2012
Commentary by Sen. Lyle Hillyard

What a difference a year makes as we begin this one with surpluses. It has been difficult the past two sessions to spend the first week or two rearranging the ongoing budget with over half the year gone by.
To have a surplus like we do this year in Utah is not the norm for most states, who continue to struggle with downturns in their economies and the resultant decreases in tax revenue. I am even more pleased when I see the largest part of the increases are coming from personal income tax– we have had no income tax rate hike, so the increase means more people are working and earning more money. There have been little capital gains increases like in past years, so this is income from people working.
A few facts:

Utah ranks 12th for its charter school law Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is out with its report on how each state governs its charter schools in law. Utah did not make significant changes, according to the report, last year so our score didn’t change, but we dropped two places from number 10 because of progress made by other states. The most notable of those was Maine, which went from not ranked at all (they didn’t have a charter school law a year ago) to having the top law in the country.
If Utah had passed the equitable charter funding concept last year that UAPCS has pushed for many years, we would have stayed in tenth place. As it is, we get only middling marks or funding equity and access o all streams of state and federal funding.

Charter high schools boost graduation and college rates Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore

A fascinating new study in Florida and Chicago shows that attending a charter high school are more likely to graduate and more likely to go to college. The study, from EducationNext, studied groups of 8th grade charter school students who attended both charter high schools and traditional district schools when they entered 9th grade.

A copy of the study

Goodbye, Mr. Merrill
(Provo) Daily Herald letter from Cara O’Sullivan

I am saddened by Randy Merrill’s departure; he has done much good for the Provo school district. As a parent and citizen, I have not always agreed with school district policy; however, Mr. Merrill is the most effective superintendent the district has had in the 10 years I’ve had children in the Provo public school system. Provo is the county seat and home to core government services; hence, a great portion of its schools serve at-risk student populations.
Given very little support from the state government, Mr. Merrill and his staff have worked hard to meet the needs of all students. Mr. Merrill and his staff have also had to deal with tension between east and west Provo — it’s a very real issue.

Study Questions Popular Explanation for Gender Gap in Math Education Week commentary by columnist Erik Robelen

A new study casts doubt on the popular notion that a gender stereotype—namely, that girls are bad at math—explains why men dominate the higher levels of mathematics achievement and accomplishment. The researchers suggest that evidence is “weak at best” for what’s been called the “stereotype threat” explanation.
They suggest this comes at a real cost, because focusing interventions on this particular issue leads to neglect of other, and possibly more promising, paths to better gender balance in the math field.
“The stereotype theory really was adopted by psychologists and policymakers around the world as the final word, with the idea that eliminating the stereotype could eliminate the gender gap,” said David Geary, a professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, in a press release issued today. “However, even with many programs established to address the issue, the problem continued. We now believe the wrong problem is being addressed.”

Apple iBooks in schools: Devil is in the hardware CNET commentary by columnist Lindsey Turrentine

There was an Apple II in my third-grade classroom. We used it to play Oregon Trail. Then it died.
Therein lies the problem with iPads in high school: devices break. When Apple announced digital textbooks for primary schools via iBooks 2 this morning, the first thing I thought was: Oh, God, what about the hardware? I’ve done hard, rewarding time in public schools. Both my parents were high-school teachers and I’ve chaired the PTA at my children’s public grade school and can say with certainty that the best software in the world won’t make it practical to deploy fleets of Apple products (or any single piece of hardware) in public schools in the near future. I wish that weren’t true.
The first barrier is cost, and it’s an obvious one.

A Public Education Primer:
Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System, 2012 Revised Edition Center on Education Policy analysis

The 2012 Public Education Primer highlights important and sometimes little-known facts concerning the U.S. education system, how things have changed over time, and how they may change in the future. Together these facts provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s public schools, including data about students, teachers, funding, achievement, management, and non-academic services.

Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011 Center on Reinventing Public Education analysis

Charter schools are public schools. Historically, however, the relationship between school districts and charters has been nonexistent at best, antagonistic at worst. As the charter sector continues to grow steadily, an analysis of the national landscape explores how that relationship needs to start changing—and where it already has.
This year’s 6th annual edition of Hopes, Fears, & Reality provides a clear roadmap for school districts and charter schools interested in working together to improve education options. The report explains the risks and technical challenges behind charter-district collaboration and provides powerful examples of how they can be overcome.


Obama education reforms advance as Congress falters Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s administration is moving ahead in reforming U.S. education without the help of the Congress, and will soon announce which states can opt out of the national education law known as “No Child Left Behind.”
There are two bills currently in Congress to re-authorize the decade-old law that radically changed U.S. public schools.
“I don’t think either one of those is going to move forward anytime soon, but I think the waiver process that we’re doing now is going to be the only game in town,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a meeting of U.S. mayors in the U.S. capital.
“We hope to say ‘yes’ to the first set of waivers in the next couple of weeks, probably by the end of the month. We’ll just do this on a rolling basis,” he added.

Apple offers software for interactive textbooks Associated Press

NEW YORK — Apple is launching a new version of its iBooks software, tailored to present vivid, interactive textbooks for elementary and high school students on the iPads.
IBooks 2 will be able to display books with videos and other interactive features, the company announced Thursday at an event at an event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
It’s not clear how Apple plans to get it front of students, however, since textbooks are subject to lengthy approval processes by states. Also, few students have iPads, which start at $499.
Apple also revealed iBook Author, an application for Macs that lets people create electronic textbooks. (Wired) (WSJ) (Reuters)

Pearson raises 2011 earnings guidance

LONDON – British publisher Pearson has raised 2011 earnings guidance for the third time in three months after a strong year-end season, saying it now expected 10 percent growth in adjusted earnings per share.
The new guidance from Pearson, which owns the world’s biggest education technology business, the Financial Times and Penguin books, implied EPS of 85.25 pence. It had previously guided to EPS of 83 pence, up from 77.5 pence in 2010.

Explosive Growth in Education Apps

In 2007, when the iPhone made its debut, there was little doubt that it would revolutionize the mobile phone industry. But at the time, few imagined that it would spawn a multibillion-­dollar market for mobile applications, and fewer imagined that this market might become a significant one for children.
Less than five years later, more than a quarter of all parents have downloaded apps for their children to use, according to a Common Sense Media study. Babies have achieved virtual celebrity for mistaking a magazine for a broken iPad, children now learn to “swipe” before they can tie their shoes, and tweens and teens coveted the iPad over any other gift this holiday season.
Today’s children will benefit if apps become an important force for learning and discovery. This report, iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple’s App Store, documents the results of an analysis of the Education category of Apple’s App Store, with the goal of understanding the market dynamics, areas of innovation, and emerging opportunities within the market for apps labeled as education. Using the original iLearn study as a benchmark for change, this updated report examines a recent sample of top-selling apps for both the iPad and the iPhone.

A copy of the study

Studying on a shoestring
A financial crisis threatens to shut down schools in the middle of term Economist

CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA | THE Chester Upland school district is one of the poorest in Pennsylvania. It gets about 70% of its budget from state funds (richer school districts get most of theirs from local property taxes). Most of its 3,600 students come from low-income families, and about 80% are eligible for free or cut-price school lunches. Academically, it is no better off. Only half its students graduate. The district was under state oversight from 1994 until 2010. It also had an unsuccessful four-year stint under the supervision of Edison, a for-profit education group. Little wonder, then, that pupils have been fleeing the district’s schools. Nearly half the children living there attend independent charter schools.
The decision to come out of state oversight in July 2010 may not have been wise. The new school board inherited debts of about $20m, an unsustainable budget and an unaffordable workforce. The school board had to lay off 28% of the district’s staff last year. But the district still cannot afford to pay its bills. Its bank account is almost empty, but it owes suppliers $4m. Without state help, Chester Upland cannot pay for school-bus fuel and electricity, never mind salaries for teachers, drivers and lunch ladies. It owes millions to insurance companies and to the state pension plan.
So Chester Upland is seeking $18.7m from Harrisburg, the state capital. The state has refused, claiming the district has mismanaged its finances.

Pryor Gets OK To Revamp Education Department Plan Includes Hiring New High-Level Chiefs Hartford (CT) Courant

Education Comissionioner Stefan Pryor’s reorganization of the state education agency aims to improve school performance, find new talent for Connecticut’s schools and turn around failing districts and schools.
The state Board of Education Wednesday gave unanimous approval to the plan, which calls for appointing new high-level chiefs with responsibility for operations, academics, performance, talent and turning around the schools.
“The goal is to move from a compliance orientation to a performance orientation,” Pryor said. “For too long we’ve been trying to hold districts accountable without providing the resources and the supports necessary … We also haven’t aligned ourselves around the real priorities of our state.”
Pryor said he can do this “under budget and under the number of positions allotted for us” because the department has funded positions that are unfilled. The department’s central office is funded for 364 positions, but has 37 vacancies. (WSJ)

Lawmakers: High school seniors should be tested Casper (WY) Star-Tribune

Long exempt from high-stakes standardized tests, Wyoming high school seniors might soon join their classmates for four hours of filling in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil.
Lawmakers included a second ACT test for high school seniors in the latest draft accountability bill. Currently, all high school juniors take the ACT college readiness test, which is accepted by most institutions of higher learning to meet application requirements. The state pays the cost to administer the test, about $240,000 according to state Department of Education officials.
Under the proposed plan in the accountability bill, all juniors and seniors would take the ACT and juniors would take an extra writing component also administered by the ACT company. The plan also includes the EXPLORE test for ninth-graders and the PLAN test for 10th-graders — all districts are giving EXPLORE this year per changes in state law in 2010 and many already give the the PLAN test.
The department estimates the ACT suite of assessments would cost Wyoming about $600,000 every year — more than $1 million added to the biennial budget.

Ga. teacher resigns over slavery math lesson Associated Press

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — A spokeswoman says a suburban Atlanta teacher has resigned after an investigation over third-grade students being assigned math homework with word problems about slavery.
One of the problems read: “Each tree has 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
Another was: “If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
Gwinnett County schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said Wednesday an investigation has concluded into four teachers who gave out the assignments at Beaver Ridge Elementary. She says the school system accepted the resignation of one teacher but declined to elaborate on the rest.

Learn How to Recognize and Help Depressed Students U.S. News & World Report

One fifth of females between the ages of 14 and 17 reported feeling severely depressed at some point, according to a recent Department of Education report, and there are many factors of high school life that can lead to such feelings. Teachers, who often see these factors firsthand in classrooms and hallways, should know how to interpret the signs of their students’ depression.
The Department of Education report shows that 21 percent of high school females reported having a Major Depressive Episode (MDE) at one point in their lifetime, which it defines as a “period of at least two weeks when a person experiences a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, plus at least four additional symptoms of depression (such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and feelings of self-worth.)” Only 10 percent of males in the same age bracket, the report states, have experienced one of these episodes.

A copy of the report

Bill would kick trans fats out of Colorado schools Associated Press via Denver Post

Junk food in school cafeterias has been under attack for years. Now Colorado is considering the nation’s toughest ban on unhealthy fats in school foods, a ban that could endanger pizza, French fries and other childhood favorites.
A bill pending in the state legislature would make margarine, vegetable shortening and other traditional trans fats off limits. The ban would apply to school lunches, school breakfasts, a la carte side items and vending machines. Schools could still serve fried foods, but none made with traditional oils containing artery-clogging trans fats.
If approved, Colorado’s ban would be the nation’s most stringent. Many school districts have already moved away from trans fats in regular lunches, but the Colorado bill also would apply to breakfasts and after-school snacks served in schools.

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