Education News Roundup for January 25, 2012

Cafeteria food on blue tray

Blue plate/toastforbrekkie/CC/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

Will all Utah students take the ACT?
http://bit.ly/wITniE (SLT)

Or will the students swap the CRTs for CATs?
http://bit.ly/wmMv76 (DN)

And you thought redistricting for the State Board was done …
http://bit.ly/yMpH73 (SLT)
and http://bit.ly/yZ7Jk4 (DN)
and http://bit.ly/wzfHMD (UPD)
or http://bit.ly/z8VvQ8 (Utah House)

President discusses the dropout age in the State of the Union.
http://bit.ly/wuT2i8 (Ed Week)
or portions of the State of the Union Address aimed specifically at education:
http://wapo.st/zllQ3L (WaPo)

Teacher tenure weakening across the nation?
http://apne.ws/yJA7je (AP)
or a copy of the report
http://bit.ly/AF9NOv

School children to lunch ladies: What do you mean there’s more broccoli?
http://apne.ws/AcYtnD (AP)
and http://bit.ly/xBvpQw (HealthDay via U.S. News & World Report) and http://usat.ly/waHJdb (USAT) and http://bloom.bg/zjnFZ0 (Bloomberg) or a copy of the rule http://bit.ly/xrOetX

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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH

Utah may pay for all its students to take ACT

Overhaul of school testing system discussed, given preliminary approval

Lawmakers consider restoring money for technical education Partnerships » Education leaders detail proposals for cost sharing.

Utah lawmakers asked to fix redistricting problems Boundaries » Several hundred Utah voters would be affected by changes.

Friends of Artworks for Kids! encourages parents to support arts in schools

Utah PTA aims to snuff out electronic cigarettes

Utah Gov. Herbert set to deliver annual speech

School Board visits Escalante Valley school

Former classmates remember Ostberg

Utah school district sued over student’s suicide

Former Alta High vice principal reaches settlement in race-related incidents

Teen says he was beat in a racist fueled attack

Former teacher pleads guilty to child sex abuse

Handguns found near Provo elementary school

Ogden board sets later start to school

Utah Legislature Muses Football Realignment

Little Cougars meet their BYU heroes at Sports Hero Day

Shakespeare Festival’s educational efforts get award

Crystal Apple award recipient

OPINION & COMMENTARY

Saving the schools

Bill would make it easier for professionals to teach

Evaluating teaching . . . or learning?

Meaning of cougar

Expensive schools

Can schools rekindle the American work ethic?

Scratching the Surface of Obama’s Education Rhetoric

SOTU: Nothing new on education

Science Education Experts Respond to Obama’s Speech

Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers Is Based on the Wrong Values

Education reform based on school choice

School Choice: It’s Not for Everyone, and that’s the Problem

The Cost of Cutting High School Athletics Sports may be expensive and “extracurricular,” but schools that eliminate them to save money may end up paying an unintended price.

Year Two of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: States’ Progress and Challenges

2012 ABCs of School Choice

NATION

Obama Wants Lower College Costs, Higher Dropout Age

Council finds states weakening teacher tenure

Lawsuits Say States Fail to Meet K-12 Funding Duties

Ind. lawmakers seeking looser school voucher rules

Furor erupts over bills to let parents decide poorly performing schools’ fate

School lunches to have more veggies, whole grains

Google’s Chromebooks making big school push

New insurance provides concussion testing for student-athletes

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UTAH NEWS
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Utah may pay for all its students to take ACT

All Utah high school students soon may take the ACT college-entrance exam — and have the state pay for it.
The Senate voted 28-0 on Wednesday to pass SB10 and sent it to the House. The measure would eliminate state testing now taken by juniors in high school and replace it with the ACT.
Sponsoring Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said the ACT is a better measure of how well students are prepared for college and might encourage some students who otherwise were not considering college to enter it if they receive good scores.
Eliminating the current test and switching to the ACT is expected to cost the state an extra $700,000 a year.
http://bit.ly/wITniE (SLT)

Overhaul of school testing system discussed, given preliminary approval

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would overhaul the student assessment test system used by the state’s public schools advanced out of committee Tuesday.
HB15, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, is the State Board of Education’s top priority this session — trumping an increase in funding to cover the estimated 12,500 new students entering Utah’s public schools next year.
“I think it’s exciting that you see our school board here with me,” Hughes told the House Education Committee. “I think it narrates the importance of this bill.”
The proposal, which has an estimated annual price tag of $6.7 million, would eliminate the state’s current assessment system — the Criterion Reference Test — in favor of adaptive computer exams. The new tests would adapt as students progress, meaning as they answer questions correctly, the test would get more difficult, and as they get answers wrong, the test would lighten up.
http://bit.ly/wmMv76 (DN)

Lawmakers consider restoring money for technical education Partnerships » Education leaders detail proposals for cost sharing.

School districts and charter schools that send Utah high school students to applied technology colleges for some classes might not lose state funding — or at least lose less — for time students are away.
On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee considered two proposals for a “partnership fund” that would encourage continued collaboration between public high schools and the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT). Last year, lawmakers required that per pupil funding be cut for hours that students spend on UCAT campuses, which also receive state funding to educate secondary students.
Legislators worried the state was paying twice for those students’ classes.
But the funding cut, which goes into effect next school year, would result in a $5.4 million loss that largely impacts smaller, rural school districts. Most Salt Lake County school districts offer their own career and technical education (CTE) programs. About 8 percent of high school students who take career and technical classes in Utah take them through ATCs.
http://bit.ly/wZUk5G (SLT)

Utah lawmakers asked to fix redistricting problems Boundaries » Several hundred Utah voters would be affected by changes.

Legislators were asked Tuesday to fix about 60 problematic district boundaries that they drew late last year for the Legislature and state School Board — and are rushing bills to make changes before county clerks by law must finalize voting precincts next week.
Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, the House chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said many of the problems came because the Legislature used census blocks to draw new boundaries. County clerks discovered that those blocks did not always match city boundaries.
So, in some cases where lawmakers intended to include all of a city in a particular district, it actually did not.
Other problems came because with the new crisscrossing boundaries for the Legislature, school board and Congress, counties on occasion would be forced to create some new voting precincts — where everyone living there would vote in the same races — that would include only one or two homes.
http://bit.ly/yMpH73 (SLT)

http://bit.ly/yZ7Jk4 (DN)

http://bit.ly/wzfHMD (UPD)

Group fights for creativity
Friends of Artworks for Kids! encourages parents to support arts in schools

BERYL – Friends of Artworks for Kids!, an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that the Utah legislature continues to fund art specialists in school districts throughout the state, wants to make sure the arts will be represented in elementary school core curriculum.
Lisa Cluff, executive director of the Friends of Artworks for Kids!, said they reach out to parents with the goal of enlisting them to write letters to the legislature in favor of keeping art specialists in the schools.
The specialists, she said, are employed by the school district to work alongside elementary school teachers and plan ways in which the arts can be integrated into teaching other subjects in elementary school curriculum.
This program, which is designed to integrate the arts into the Utah core curriculum, is called the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program. The Utah Arts Education Program is an alliance that advances arts education initiatives in Utah such as BTSALP.
http://bit.ly/xaGJK2 (SGS)

Utah PTA aims to snuff out electronic cigarettes

SALT LAKE CITY — During this legislative session, a child advocacy group typically associated with education is taking a strong stance on e-cigarettes. The Utah PTA is keeping the issue active, even as a bill that would ban the device in public places is now on hold.
The Utah PTA works with lawmakers to make sure children come first, whether it’s their education or health. One of their big concerns this year is exposure to e-cigarettes. The Utah Department of Health says in the past year nearly eight percent of youth have tried them.
“The PTA is about education but we’re also about children’s issues,” said Gainell Rogers, president of the Utah PTA.
http://bit.ly/wSlLoG (KSL)

http://bit.ly/x5ek9Y (DN)

http://bit.ly/zmuWyW (KSTU)

Utah Gov. Herbert set to deliver annual speech

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the State speech to lawmakers.
Herbert will likely focus on the health of Utah’s economy and the need to fund the state’s education system during the Wednesday night speech.
http://bit.ly/xqDn95 (PDH)

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

http://bit.ly/AiW6I4 (MUR)

School Board visits Escalante Valley school

The Iron County School District board conducted its monthly meeting at Escalante Valley Elementary School in Beryl on Tuesday as part of the district’s continuing commitment to visit and highlight one school every month.
During the board’s work meeting, sixth graders performed a song and an instrumental piece using drums and xylophones.
Media Specialist Chris Haught told board members during the regular meeting about the way students learn to use technology to enhance their education. Every classroom, she said, has both a digital and web camera, and the students often put together video presentations that they post on YouTube.
“The whole goal is for kids to be creators of media and not just consumers,” Haught said.
She also said having the students post videos of their activities help their parents to be aware of what they are doing in school. For example, she said if parents are not able to watch their children perform in a play, they are able to see it on YouTube.
http://bit.ly/AroeGF (SGS)

Former classmates remember Ostberg

GARLAND — Wearing their best dress clothes as a symbol of respect, a half-dozen solemn ninth-graders gathered Tuesday in a small office at Bear River Middle School to grieve the death of a former classmate.
Fourteen-year-old Robby Ostberg died Monday morning after accidentally shooting himself in the head with a miniature cannon at his home in the 400 block of Tremont Street in Tremonton.
Ostberg hadn’t attended Bear River Middle School for 10 months, but the students who gathered around a table outside a guidance counselor’s office said their fond recollections of him remain fresh.
http://bit.ly/zRMcD6 (OSE)

Utah school district sued over student’s suicide

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah couple has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a school district that claims it failed to protect their son from years of bullying, hazing and false sex assault allegations that led to his suicide.
The federal lawsuit filed Jan. 17 on behalf of Bradd and Edna Hancock seeks unspecified financial damages against North Sanpete School District.
The Hancock’s son, Jacob, committed suicide Jan. 21, 2010, said Sonny Olsen, an attorney for the Fountain Green family. Jacob Hancock was 18 and a senior in high school when he died, Olsen said.
The lawsuit contends district officials knew Jacob Hancock, who is identified in court papers only as J.H., was the target of physical and emotional abuse from students and school district employees for more than five years but failed to act to adequately protect him. That includes implementing existing policies against bullying, hazing and suicide prevention, Olsen said.
http://bit.ly/Akm5Cl (DN)

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

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

http://bit.ly/yFs5ko (KTVX)

http://wapo.st/A5Q4P0 (WaPo)

http://bit.ly/wAz0Wp (London Daily Mail)

http://huff.to/x3ET98 (Huffington Post)

Former Alta High vice principal reaches settlement in race-related incidents

SALT LAKE CITY — A former vice principal at Alta High School who met with controversy following an investigation into alleged racism at the school announced Tuesday that he has reached a settlement with the Canyons School District.
“I am completely satisfied with this outcome,” Mark Montague said. “It was gratifying to have it acknowledged that there was absolutely no finding of racism or condoning of racism on my part. Throughout this ordeal, I’ve heard from former students who told me that they believed in me and let me know I made a difference in their lives.”
Montague — an educator of 33½ years and administrator for 13 years — voluntarily resigned from the district last week. Montague and Alta High principal Mont Widerberg were placed on paid leave by the district last spring after it began an investigation related to an incident at a school assembly.
http://bit.ly/Arybcl (DN)

http://connect2utah.com/news-story?nxd_id=204977

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

http://bit.ly/A9AiEE (KSTU)

Teen says he was beat in a racist fueled attack

SALT LAKE CITY – Seventh grader Jordan Henson is recovering from injuries that he and witnesses say came from a racist fueled attack. And in addition to the physical injuries, his family says there are also emotional scars from being called derogatory and racist names.
13-year-old Jordan Henson says a white 10th grader began harassing him on the school bus last week. “He started calling me names like chocolate.” And when he got off the bus – in his Santaquin neighborhood – the older teen followed. “He got off on the wrong stop and followed me home.” Jordan’s friend Mason Call picks up the story from there. “He (the juvenile suspect) pushes him and says are you going to fight me? No, I’m not going to fight you.” Mason says the older teen then spewed out more racist terms. “Calls him the N-word. Laughs at him because of the color of his skin.”
It is as this point that Jordan and Mason say the harrassment turned to violent. Jordan turned around to stand up for himself and the suspect, according to Jordan and Mason “started beating him up.” Jordan says, “I think I got kneed in the face. He knocked me to the ground.” It happened quickly and Mason says he then picked up his wounded friend. “Helped him up. Went to my house. Grabbed a napkin to clean him up.”
http://bit.ly/wVEk2o (KTVX)

Former teacher pleads guilty to child sex abuse

ST. GEORGE – A former Pine View High School teacher pleaded guilty to charges of child sexual abuse Tuesday in 5th District Court.
John Robert Cody, 42, was awaiting trial on allegations he deliberately groped two sisters ages 14 and 19 while playing flirtatiously with them in June 2008 in the Coral Canyon housing association pool in Washington City.
The girls later testified they didn’t know the man but remembered a distinctive sun tattoo with multiple colors on the man’s right arm.
Cody was also accused of groping a 12-year-old girl under her swimsuit while playing the same type of game at the same pool in July 2009.
http://bit.ly/yEJWNt (SGS)

Handguns found near Provo elementary school

PROVO, Utah – Police say two handguns were found near an elementary school Wednesday morning.
According to police, one gun was found in a crosswalk near Sunset Elementary School on 1600 West 600 South by a student who picked it up, put it in his backpack, and brought it to a crossing guard.
Police say the second gun was found in the street at 1100 West 600 South by an adult who left the gun on the ground, called police and stayed until they arrived.
Police say the guns were a 9mm and a .20 automatic, and that both handguns were not loaded.
http://bit.ly/yQii9Y (KTVX)

http://bit.ly/xQsSxw (SLT)

http://bit.ly/y2oWtM (DN)

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

http://connect2utah.com/news-story/?nxd_id=205247

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

http://bit.ly/wojUnY (KSTU)

Ogden board sets later start to school

OGDEN — The Ogden School Board has approved its 2012-13 calendar, with classes starting Aug. 27, half a week later than in the 2011-12 school year.
That was after board members discussed other options that would have started the school year even later in an attempt to spare students a few more late-August days in the district schools that lack air conditioning.
http://bit.ly/zVpsRS (OSE)

Utah Legislature Muses Football Realignment

SALT LAKE CITY – As the Utah Legislature continues throughout the week, among the major topics of discussion is the Utah High School Activities Association’s apparent decision to divide football-playing high schools in the state into six classifications rather than the five which currently exist.
Among the decisions for the State Board of Trustees to navigate through is to juggle where schools should be playing along with weighing the impact this would have on urban and rural students alike.
It is expected the board will consider further alignment matters Thursday while the major sticking point at this stage, according to Deseret News reporter Amy Donaldson, is what should be done with non-boundary schools, charter and private schools, such as Diamond Ranch and Pinnacle, which do not have geographic boundaries.
These schools are often derided by the public which follows high school sports and activities in Utah because these schools can potentially recruit students from anywhere in the state.
http://bit.ly/xHeykP (MUR)

Little Cougars meet their BYU heroes at Sports Hero Day

Last Thursday began as a damp and chilly morning, but the air on campus was electrified with the excitement of nearly 1,000 sixth graders who came to see and hear from their sports heroes.
The BYU Center for Service and Learning teamed up with BYU athletes and student volunteers to host the annual ‘Sports Hero Day’ on Jan. 19. During those two and a half hours, sixth graders from various elementary schools in Utah County visited BYU sports athletes, while listening to their pep talks and playing simple sports games with them.
http://bit.ly/znVBIQ (Universe)

Shakespeare Festival’s educational efforts get award

CEDAR CITY – The Utah Shakespeare Festival will be recognized for its educational efforts at the Utah Theatre Association’s annual conference, beginning Thursday at Brigham Young University. The Utah Theatre Association will be giving the USF an Outstanding Contribution to Secondary Theatre in Utah award.
Also, Brian Vaughn, an artistic director for the USF, will be the keynote speaker at the conference, and members of the USF will perform their Shakespeare-in-the-Schools touring production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
http://bit.ly/y1vQXB (SGS)

Crystal Apple award recipient

Hobble Creek’s 2011-2012 Crystal Apple goes to Linda Pugh, a second-grade teacher. The award was presented by Craig Harvey and is sponsored by Horace Mann Insurance and the Nebo Education Association. Teachers on the faculty who are members of the association nominate their peers for this award.
http://bit.ly/wNnRTz (PDH)

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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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Saving the schools
(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

Democrats in the Utah Legislature have rolled out nearly a dozen attention-getting plans for pouring more money into public schools. But their plans overlook real difficulties as well as some opportunities.
For instance, Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, has a plan to funnel $500 million into the school system. He would cap the amount of income tax that could be deducted for dependents on state income tax returns.
In other words, if you have more than a state-prescribed number of children, you’ve got to pay more for their schooling. That’s a kick in the face to family values.
http://bit.ly/z8djHq

Bill would make it easier for professionals to teach Commentary by Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore

Two key changes to competency-based licensing of teachers will make a major impact in the ability of working professionals to become teachers in public schools. This change also makes a significant leap forward in expanding local control of education, greatly empowering local school boards of districts and charter schools to have the only say in what makes a teacher qualified to provide instruction to students at local schools.
H.B. 84, by Greg Hughes, changes competency-based licensing in the following ways:
* Would allow districts and charters to set their own standards for whom is qualified to teach.
* Would not allow the State Board or State Office to deny a competency-based license once requested by a local school for a candidate that has met the local standards.
http://bit.ly/yb1zwP

Evaluating teaching . . . or learning?
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

Evaluating teaching . . . or learning?
As threatened, I wanted to take a look at the recently released Utah Teaching Standards and see how well they match up with recommendations from the Gates Foundation’s Measurement of Effective Teaching (MET) project.
At first glance the Utah standards seem to “define a set of teaching competencies” and how they are demonstrated at “different performance levels, specifically “practicing, effective, highly effective, and distinguished.” The “specific examples” that the project urges, on the other hand, are largely missing, in part, I assume, because the standards are not subject or grade level specific.
And that’s my first big problem with the standards. Because they are designed to apply to teachers from kindergarten to high school, to subjects ranging from art to zoology, the Utah teaching effectiveness standards are vague almost to the point of meaninglessness.
http://bit.ly/wsOMf6

Meaning of cougar
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Gail L. Porritt

According to Bill Oram’s and Kyle Goon’s Tribune blog, the Canyons School District rejected the students’ choice of “Cougars” for a mascot for Draper’s new Corner Canyon High School. It seems that Principal Mary Bailey and the district board thought it was demeaning to women because in popular culture slang, “cougar” “sometimes refers to an assertive, attractive middle-aged woman who dates younger men.”
Instead, the ruling adults in the district selected “Chargers” for the new school’s mascot. Interestingly, in the same popular culture slang, “charger” is sometimes used to describe someone who cannot pay cash but uses credit that ultimately leads to bankruptcy.
In this economy, perhaps they feel the “charger” mascot preference is timely and more descriptive of the Draper community than “cougar.”
http://bit.ly/xmIpNn

Expensive schools
Deseret News letter from Patricia Sorensen

Every time I see a new school go up, my blood boils, as it did this morning when I saw the artist rendition of new Granger High School.
We spend tons on these buildings with all the fancy details. We should go back to one plan that is a very plain rectangle, not these exorbitant, expensive schools.
Then we would have more for actually teaching kids something worthwhile.
During the holidays there were numerous letters from students complaining about not getting out a day earlier and having to go back a day earlier than some and how much stress that caused. It is way past time that we quit coddling these kids so they will be prepared to go get a job when they graduate.
http://bit.ly/zb0IkD

Can schools rekindle the American work ethic?
Fordham Institute commentary by President Chester E. Finn, Jr.

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times featured a pair of articles, each of which was informative and alarming in its way but which, taken together, produced (in my head at least) a winter storm—as did Tuesday evening’s State of the Union message by President Obama.
The longer, more informative, and more alarming of the articles was an extensive account of why Apple’s iPhones are now made in China rather than the U.S. The short version is that “the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.”
Flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills. Hold that thought.
http://bit.ly/zhSFOz

Scratching the Surface of Obama’s Education Rhetoric The Nation commentary by columnist Dana Goldstein

In general, I was underwhelmed by the education sections of President Obama’s State of the Union address, which were long on platitudes and short on honest talk about the difficulties of implementing school reform.
Most notably, the president made an odd and surprising proposal to make dropping out of high school illegal before the age of 18:
http://bit.ly/z3K8zL

SOTU: Nothing new on education
American Enterprise Institute commentary by Frederick M. Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies

President Obama (like President Bush before him) has used education to signal to centrists and moderates that he’s no ideologue. Where Bush used No Child Left Behind to demonstrate his “compassionate conservatism,” Obama has used education reform to make the case that his calls for higher taxes and more federal activity are about “transformation.”
Obama has enjoyed great success on this front, winning plaudits from the Wall Street Journal and David Brooks for Race to the Top. He and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have been heralded as reformers (even though 95 percent of ARRA education spending subsidized the status quo and not their “reform” agenda).
With the election year ahead, it’s likely that education will be a key piece of Obama’s strategy to woo the middle. Which made it intriguing that the State of the Union devoted seven minutes to education but offered no notable ideas or initiatives.
http://bit.ly/yLZBLb

Science Education Experts Respond to Obama’s Speech Scientific American commentary by columnist Anna Kuchment

In his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama spent less time than in years past discussing his ambitions to reform science education. He referred to his administration’s offer to let states opt out of No Child Left Behind (” … grant schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test …”). And he brought up the Common Core State Standards in math and language arts which 45 states plus the District of Columbia have now adopted (“we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning — the first time that’s happened in a generation”). (By the way, a state survey out today from the Center on Education Policy reports that most states believe the new standards will improve students’ skills in math, reading and writing but that many are struggling to pay for new curricula and teacher training).
I asked science education experts to weigh in on the president’s remarks. More will be sending in reactions throughout the day, so check back. And please leave your own comments below.
http://bit.ly/wcfqxO

Using Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers Is Based on the Wrong Values New York Times commentary by Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre School District on Long Island

I should be a cheerleader for the New York evaluation system for educators known as the Annual Professional Performance Review system, or A.P.P.R. I am the principal of a very successful high school where students get great test scores. I have a wonderfully supportive superintendent. My personal “score,” in all probability, will be high.
The right question to ask, however, is not whether this evaluation system is good or bad for adults, but rather whether it is good or bad for students.
Numerical evaluations of educators, 40 percent of which is based on student test scores and achievement, will damage the relationship between teachers and students, a relationship at the heart of student success.
It will accelerate teaching to tests instead of teaching to the needs of kids.
It will put teachers in the terrible position of wondering whether the performance of their weakest students on a test might be a threat to their careers.
It will make principals hesitate to lead schools where test scores are low.
http://nyti.ms/x1m5YN

Education reform based on school choice
CNN commentary by Andrew Campanella, vice president of public affairs for National School Choice Week

For a moment, try to envision an America where, regardless of how much money you make or where you live, the government empowered you – even encouraged you – to send your children to better schools.
I’m talking about schools that inspire your children, challenge them to excel, and encourage them to dream big and plan for their futures, all while teaching them to love learning.
Sounds impossible. Sounds impractical. Sounds expensive.
But it isn’t.
It’s called school choice, and it’s the notion that across the country, families should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children – public schools, public charter schools, private schools, virtual schools and even home schooling.
http://bit.ly/AnFzRS

School Choice: It’s Not for Everyone, and that’s the Problem Huffington Post commentary by Maureen Costello, Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project

This week is National School Choice Week — a well-orchestrated PR event to celebrate “school choice.”
The week of nationwide events even kicked off with a party in New Orleans complete with performances by The Temptations and Ellis Marsalis. It’s a lot of fanfare in the name of choice. And choice is an attractive word. As American as apple pie, it’s hard to pick an argument with choice. Options, we believe, are always good.
But that’s not always the case.
When we talk about school choice — which is most often associated with charter schools — we can’t let feel-good words and a glitzy campaign prevent us from providing our children with the best education possible. That means we must ensure our public education system is excellent, equitable and accessible to all children.
Unfortunately, these goals have become obscured by “school choice,” which has become an end in itself — even garnering its own week.
School choice doesn’t magically improve education.
http://huff.to/xX2gYY

The Cost of Cutting High School Athletics Sports may be expensive and “extracurricular,” but schools that eliminate them to save money may end up paying an unintended price.
The Atlantic commentary by Emily Richmond, public editor for the National Education Writers Association

For one school district in rural south Texas, there will be no Friday Night Lights.
Facing a state takeover due to slumping student achievement, Superintendent Ernest Singleton has canceled athletics — including football — for the Premont Independent School District, which serves the town’s 2,700 residents. According to this terrific story by Christopher Sherman of the Associated Press, the Texas Education Agency was scheduled to assume control of the the district July 1. Premont won a brief reprieve, and is trying desperately to improve its shaky standing. Singleton intends to focus all of the district’s limited resources on academics.
As the AP story makes clear, the picture is bigger than just disappointment and heartbreak for this year’s varsity players at Premont High School. The future of the entire community might well be riding on whether Singleton is able to save the district — one of the town’s largest employers — from closure. Frank Davila, a county constable who grew up in the area and also works as a school security officer, made this blunt assessment to the AP: “The school shuts down in this town, the town dies… This is all we have.”
http://bit.ly/wCTJhD

Year Two of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: States’ Progress and Challenges Center on Education Policy analysis

This report, based on a fall 2011 survey of 35 Common Core State Standards-adopting states (including the District of Columbia), examines states’ progress in transitioning the new standards. The vast majority of the states in the survey believe that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are more rigorous than previous state academic standards in math and English language arts. The vast majority of survey states are taking steps to familiarize state and district officials with the new standards and to align curriculum and assessments. However, most of the states in the survey do not expect to fully implement the standards until 2014-15 or later. In addition, a majority of the responding states caution that having adequate resources is a major challenge to full implementation of the CCSS.
http://bit.ly/yiIpYk

2012 ABCs of School Choice
Friedman Foundation analysis

Milton and Rose D. Friedman envisioned a true revolution in American education. Their ideal was simple but powerful: give every parent the power and freedom to choose their children’s education.
Unquestionably, 2011 was a breakthrough year in the quest to see that vision achieved in the United States. Thirteen states enacted school choice programs (this includes Washington, D.C., and Douglas County, Colorado). A total of 19 programs were enacted or improved—including the creation of eight new programs and the expansion of 11 existing ones.
It’s undeniable—the tide of educational choice is rising.
http://bit.ly/zHM7jt

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NATIONAL NEWS
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Obama Wants Lower College Costs, Higher Dropout Age Education Week

President Obama gave college affordability a prominent place in his domestic agenda during his annual State of the Union address, calling directly on universities to hold down costs in order to make higher education more accessible to the middle class. He outlined a set of proposals that include threatening universities with a loss of federal money if they are unable to tamp down tuition.
“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said in his hour-long address. He didn’t offer specifics, however, and the blueprint document the White House sent out to accompany the speech didn’t get specific either. But advocates expect him to lay out more concrete details in the coming days.
In a speech that emphasized four pillars—manufacturing, energy, worker training, and American values—he advocated for one concrete K-12 policy: He urged states to raise the dropout age to 18. “We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” he said.
And, he reiterated his call for Congress to approve some version of the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, if they go on to college or the military.
http://bit.ly/wuT2i8

Portions of the State of the Union Address aimed specifically at education:
http://wapo.st/zllQ3L

Council finds states weakening teacher tenure Associated Press

WASHINGTON — America’s public school teachers are seeing their generations-old tenure protections weakened as states seek flexibility to fire teachers who aren’t performing. A few states have essentially nullified tenure protections altogether, according to an analysis being released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
The changes are occurring as states replace virtually automatic “satisfactory” teacher evaluations with those linked to teacher performance and base teacher layoffs on performance instead of seniority. Politically powerful teachers’ unions are fighting back, arguing the changes lower morale, deny teachers due process, and unfairly target older teachers.
The debate is so intense that in Idaho, for example, state superintendent Tom Luna’s truck was spray painted and its tires slashed. An opponent appeared at his mother’s house and he was interrupted during a live TV interview by an agitated man. Why? The Idaho legislature last year ended “continuing contracts” – essentially equivalent to tenure – for new teachers and said performance, not seniority, would determine layoffs. Other changes include up to $8,000 in annual bonuses given to teachers for good performance, and parent input on evaluations. Opponents gathered enough signatures to put a referendum that would overturn the changes on the November ballot.
Luna says good teachers shouldn’t be worried.
http://apne.ws/yJA7je

A copy of the report
http://bit.ly/AF9NOv

Lawsuits Say States Fail to Meet K-12 Funding Duties Education Week

Even as they struggle to climb out of deep financial holes, states are facing lawsuits that contend they don’t meet their constitutions’ requirements to provide sufficient funding to districts and fail to provide resources for disadvantaged schools and student populations.
Ongoing or recently decided legal battles in Colorado, Texas, Washington state, and elsewhere underscore the challenges confronting states that have been battered by the extended economic downturn and are only beginning to see their revenues improve. The cases also highlight the political and ideological divides over school funding in many states, with some governors and lawmakers choosing to balance budgets by making deep cuts in spending—including for K-12—rather than raise taxes.
One of the more dramatic fights is taking shape in Texas, where four separate lawsuits—brought by an assortment of poor, middle-income, and wealthy districts, along with advocacy groups—have been challenging different aspects of the school finance system. Those cases are playing out in the shadow of deep cuts, more than $5 billion by some estimates, that lawmakers imposed last year on the state’s schools—reductions that school officials say have laid bare the flaws in the current system.
http://bit.ly/A7ayFU

Ind. lawmakers seeking looser school voucher rules Associated Press via Yahoo

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of students could pour into the country’s broadest private school voucher program if Indiana legislators drop a requirement that children spend at least one year in public schools before becoming eligible.
The move would immediately open the voucher program to current private school students, with questions about whether the state could afford potentially millions of dollars in additional costs less than a year after it was approved.
Supporters say the one-year requirement is a burden that can disrupt a child’s education and limits the school choice that the voucher program was meant to provide. But public schools contend eliminating the requirement would take away their chance to compete for students.
http://yhoo.it/xztVic

Furor erupts over bills to let parents decide poorly performing schools’ fate Orlando (FL) Sentinel

Florida lawmakers want to give parents the power to dictate the future of poorly performing public schools, sparking criticism from parent advocates and others that the effort is part of a continuing campaign to privatize education.
Florida’s version of a “parent trigger” law won favorable committee votes Tuesday in the Florida House and Senate.
The bills would allow parents — if more than 50 percent agree — to determine a “turnaround plan” for a struggling school. That could include turning it into a charter school or allowing a private-management firm to run it.
http://thesent.nl/xP0z6M

http://bit.ly/yVO5f6 (Miami Herald)

School lunches to have more veggies, whole grains Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in more than 15 years means most offerings, including popular pizza, will come with less sodium and more whole grains, with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables on the side, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced during a visit Wednesday with elementary students.
Pizza won’t disappear from lunch lines, but will be made with healthier ingredients.
Mrs. Obama, also joined by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, said youngsters will learn better if they don’t have growling stomachs at school.
“We have a right to expect the food (our kids) get at school is the same kind of food we want to serve at our own kitchen tables,” she said.
http://apne.ws/AcYtnD

http://bit.ly/xBvpQw (HealthDay via U.S. News & World Report)

http://usat.ly/waHJdb (USAT)

http://bloom.bg/zjnFZ0 (Bloomberg)

A copy of the rule
http://bit.ly/xrOetX

Google’s Chromebooks making big school push San Francisco Chronicle

Apple made headlines last week with its push into the textbook market, but it’s not the only Silicon Valley giant making greater inroads into education.
Google will announce this morning that hundreds of schools in 41 states across the United States are using its Chromebooks in one or more classrooms. In addition, three school districts, in Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina, are rolling out “one-to-one” programs that will hand laptops to each student.
The deals add up to nearly 27,000 machines, which are leased for $20 per month or sold for $449, with service and warranties.
http://bit.ly/zsXuRm

http://cnet.co/wQloRI (CNET)

New insurance provides concussion testing for student-athletes Sacramento (CA) Bee

As awareness grows of the grave dangers of concussions, coaches and parents across the nation are searching for ways to better manage these brain injuries in young athletes.
Now, Sacramento may become a proving ground for a potential solution.
Wells Fargo’s Student Insurance Division, based in Rancho Cordova, has crafted a new insurance package that provides concussion testing and medical care for high school athletes. It’s a level of diagnosis and treatment that has historically not been available to high school football linemen, rugby halfbacks and soccer forwards – only to pros.
Club teams and youth leagues for any age could also purchase the plan.
http://bit.ly/yGxrnB

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