Education News Roundup: April 17, 2012

Football helmet on astroturf

John Bordano's Helmet/Schlüsselbein2007/CC/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

All four Utah State Board of Education incumbents survive Monday’s election interviews. Spoiler alert: The same can’t be said of today’s interviews (!/lschencker). (SLC)

Now there’s a petition drive surrounding Canyons Superintendent Doty. (DN)
and (KSL)

St. George parents aren’t happy with school principal rotation. (SGS)

What is the teacher evaluation requirement doing to school improvement grants? (Ed Week)

High school football head injuries at an all-time high. (News&Observer)
and (Ed Week)
or a copy of the report



Four incumbents, so far, survive Utah state school board process Education » Nominating committee has yet to interview 24 of 59 hopefuls for nine seats.

Petition calls for investigation into Canyons School District

Parents upset over principal rotation

Students, officials, responders participating in earthquake drill Earthquake » Drill simulates a real threat to Wasatch Front.

School for autistic children getting a new building

Roy High student charged in bomb plot to get 6 months Prosecutors withdraw efforts to certify Joshua Hoggan as adult

Teacher rewards reading even after death

Utah’s Junior Achievement Program celebrated

Pioneer organization memorializes early education in Layton

Beacon installed to ensure safety of pedestrians crossing U.S. 89 in North Salt Lake

New App Helps St. George Parents Know Student Progress

Teen surprised at prom by soldier father

Civics Central


PTA’s strength is local

If I were a GOP delegate …

A student’s take on testing

Booze ed

High School Sports: Settling Class Warfare by Adding More Classes

What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform

Consider the Principal

Mitt Romney: Clueless on Education

Man vs. Computer: Who Wins the Essay-Scoring Challenge?


Federal teacher evaluation requirement has wide impact

Log-on learning
Could online learning transform American education?

Five minute primer: School funding

High school football brain injuries increasing

N.D. Supreme Court denies Grand Forks Central student’s appeal A student at Grand Forks Central High School busted on drug charges a year ago has had his appeal to the State Supreme Court denied. On Feb. 17, 2011, a school security guard noticed Alaniz and another student acting suspiciously near a town square and, when he approached them, tried to evade him, according to the opinion.

Police handcuff Georgia kindergartner for tantrum

Extremists poison schoolgirls’ water; Afghan officials say


Four incumbents, so far, survive Utah state school board process Education » Nominating committee has yet to interview 24 of 59 hopefuls for nine seats.

Four state school board incumbents have cleared the first hurdle toward re-election in a selection process that’s been widely criticized for taking choice out of the public’s hands.
Some incumbents, however, just barely made the cut.
A governor-appointed nominating committee interviewed 35 of the 59 candidates vying for nine state school board seats on Monday. Committee members then, as directed by law, voted for at least three candidates for each seat to forward to the governor. The governor chooses two candidates for each seat to appear on the November ballot.
The committee will interview and vote on the remaining candidates and seats Tuesday. But so far, each incumbent interviewed has garnered enough votes to be considered by the governor. (SLC)

Petition calls for investigation into Canyons School District

SANDY — An online petition calling for an investigation into the management of Canyons School District is gaining signatures, pushed by a candidate for the Canyons Board of Education.
Chad Iverson started the petition Friday and by Monday it had collected more than 300 names. The petition urges the board to authorize a third-party investigation into allegations that Superintendent David Doty manages the district under an atmosphere of intimidation. It also calls for an anonymous survey to be conducted of district employees, allowing them to voice concerns without fear of retribution.
Iverson launched the petition after KSL-TV aired a report Thursday, in which former and current district employees accused Doty of inappropriately reprimanding them for insubordination and pressuring them into silence. (DN) (KSL)

Parents upset over principal rotation

ST. GEORGE – The sudden announcement last week that principals at seven area schools would be headed to new assignments before the end of the school year has some parents calling foul, arguing that the changes are unfair to schools and damaging to students.
“The fact that nobody was warned, that we didn’t have a choice – it’s like you have this person you can think you can depend on and then they’re just ripped away from you for no reason,” said Caroline Nelson, the parent of a second-grader at Washington Elementary School, where popular principal Burke Staheli has already left for his new job at Riverside Elementary.
Staheli is one of seven principals on the move as part of what administrators are calling a “principal rotation,” a practice commonly seen in districts throughout the country as a way to breathe fresh ideas into schools where the same principal has presided for about five years.
It has only happened rarely in Washington County, though, and never with so many principals involved or before the end of the school year.
While most of the principals will have a couple of weeks to ease into the move – they don’t have to be at their new schools officially until May 1 – some parents said they were stung by the suddenness. (SGS)

Students, officials, responders participating in earthquake drill Earthquake » Drill simulates a real threat to Wasatch Front.

Schoolchildren, state officials, police and fire departments and thousands of Utahns dropped and covered Tuesday as part of the state’s largest ever earthquake drill.
At Granite Elementary in Sandy, First Grade Teacher Victoria DiPietro’s 23 students were quietly sitting on rugs in the classroom when they heard rumbling, shaking, banging and crashing sounds come across the building’s intercom system.
That was their signal to scurry under their desks and hold on, some of them with white-knuckled and giggling nervously as they anticipated the next sound. After a brief pause on the recording, their teacher reminds them to be quiet. When the sounds start again and then dissipates, the children do a mock evacuation by walking outside and lining up by a fence in the rain. When everyone is accounted for, they are allowed to go back inside, but are cold and wet.
DiPietro debriefs the students afterward. (SLT)

School for autistic children getting a new building

OREM — When Sondra Hurst, the mother of two autistic children, announced that it was her dream to have a school for them, the dinner table around which they were gathered became the first staging area for what is now Clear Horizons Academy, a private school designed to meet the needs of children with autism. (PDH)

Roy High student charged in bomb plot to get 6 months Prosecutors withdraw efforts to certify Joshua Hoggan as adult

OGDEN — A Roy High School student charged with plotting to set off a bomb during a school assembly has accepted a plea deal that will allow him to spend just six months in “secure confinement.”
Prosecutor Letitia Toombs told 2nd District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost Tuesday that Joshua Kyler Hoggan, 16, will plead guilty as charged to use of a weapon of mass destruction, a first-degree felony.
Prosecutors would then withdraw their motion to certify the teenager as an adult and Hoggan will spend six months in “secure confinement,” she said.
Hoggan was expected to enter his plea following a short break. (DN)

Teacher rewards reading even after death

SANDY — Teachers touch the lives of many students throughout their careers. But one Sandy elementary school teacher is continuing to bless the lives of children even after her death.
Ask any of Julie Overholt’s students and they’ll tell you they loved having her as a teacher.
“She was a really good teacher and I would have liked to have her longer,” said student Aubrey Lake.
Unfortunately, these Quail Hollow Elementary school students didn’t get to finish out the year with Mrs. Overholt. The beloved 6th grade teacher recently passed away awaiting a liver transplant. But in her death, she left a gift: Books she had saved over the years are now being donated to needy kids. (KSL)

Utah’s Junior Achievement Program celebrated

Business leaders, students, education officials and the governor gathered Monday to celebrate the Junior Achievement Program, which through the work of 5,000 volunteers offers career and personal finance skills to more than 70,000 youths in Utah annually.
Gov. Gary Herbert spoke of the importance of inspiring and preparing Utah’s young people to succeed in a global economy, several students related stories about personal growth achieved through the program and several corporate executives talked about the importance of “success through partnerships.” (SLT)

Pioneer organization memorializes early education in Layton

LAYTON — Several generations of Davis County students gathered Monday afternoon to commemorate the history of early education in the city.
The Adams Wood Camp of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers met with students, teachers, administrators and community members to dedicate a historical marker at Layton Elementary School in conjunction with Davis County School District’s Centennial celebration.
The original Layton Elementary, completed in 1902, was the first multigrade school in Layton. (OSE)

Beacon installed to ensure safety of pedestrians crossing U.S. 89 in North Salt Lake

NORTH SALT LAKE — A HAWK in the sky is making it safer for Adelaide Elementary School students to walk to school.
At the request of the school and North Salt Lake City, the Utah Department of Transportation recently installed a new High Intensity Activated Crosswalk, or “HAWK,” beacon at the intersection of U.S. 89 and 800 West in North Salt Lake.
The new system is above the roadway and remains dark unless a pedestrian pushes the button to activate the signal. (OSE)

New App Helps St. George Parents Know Student Progress

ST. GEORGE – Parents in St. George can now find out immediately on their Smartphones if their child is tardy for class or missed a homework assignment.
Washington County Public Schools recently made available an application for iPhones and iPads that makes attendance, assignments and grades available on-the-go.
“It’s a great way to communicate with parents,” said Dave Burr, a science teacher at Dixie High School. “It’s a great way for the parents and students to know what’s coming up and exactly how to get the grade they want.” (KUTV)

Teen surprised at prom by soldier father

LAYTON — A Layton High School junior-class prom queen says she’ll never forget her big weekend — but the best part about it was something she never could have anticipated.
“They announced that my dad was here, and I was shocked and I just didn’t know what to do,” said Sabrina Newman, who had just been crowned prom queen. “And he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and there he was.”
Newman’s dad, Randall, has been serving as a major in the U.S. Army for nearly two years. He took leave this weekend to escort his daughter during her crowning moment, and the family got it on camera. (KSL)

Civics Central

Here’s your weekly roundup of what local city councils, school boards and other government entities are tackling during regularly scheduled meetings. All meetings are open to the public, and citizens are welcome to voice their opinions during designated times. If you do wish to speak at a particular meeting, you may need to sign up in advance.
Jordan Board of Education • Takes public comment on proposed location of a new elementary school at approximately 14000 South and 5600 West in Herriman, and then votes on the staff recommendation to site the school there. The board will also discuss spending upwards of $900,000 on new math textbooks; Tuesday, April 17, 6:30 p.m., at 7905 S. Redwood Road, West Jordan.
Canyons Board of Education • Votes on revising the daily schedule for elementary school students, shortening the day by 20 minutes and requiring students to be in school all day on Fridays, which have been half-days; Tuesday, April 17, 17, 7 p.m., at 9361 S. 300 East, Sandy.
Davis Board of Education • Votes on proposed fees and a recommendation to increase all school meal prices by 15 cents; Tuesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m., at 45 E. State St., Farmington. (SLT)


PTA’s strength is local
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial

The National Parent Teacher Association, better known as the PTA, has suffered a bit of a membership slump in the past generation. It has fewer than 5 million members today, a 20 percent drop in a decade. In order to stem that drop and restore prominence to the 115-year-old iconic institution, the PTA needs to put its emphasis on local issues.
The organization has been criticized for lobbying efforts on national issues, including charter schools, home-schooling, and juvenile justice. It has also been a vocal lobbying voice against school vouchers and for-profit charter schools. That may excite professional advocates of education, but it doesn’t enthuse moms, dads, and guardians in communities that want the PTA that they pay dues to to improve education locally.
We agree with Gary Parker, president of the PTA at Carmel Elementary School in Woodstock, Ga., who told the Associated Press, “Parents think they’re joining to be involved with the kids at their school, and they’re really becoming part of a massive political action committee.”
And we all know how popular political action committees are, right?

Cal Grondahl editorial cartoon

If I were a GOP delegate …
(Provo) Daily Herald commentary by columnist Randy Wright

If I were a delegate to Saturday’s state Republican nominating convention at South Towne Expo Center, I wouldn’t have to think very hard. But here are a few thoughts I would have:

For governor, why replace Gary Herbert? None of his challengers will do a better job of promoting Utah or finding ribbon-cutting opportunities. Herbert should be reelected solely on his veto of the legislature’s crazy sex-education bill. Besides, none of Herbert’s challengers are nearly bland enough to be governor.

A student’s take on testing
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

I’ve hoped that I might persuade some students to participate as guest bloggers. Many thanks to Suzie Rhodes, who sent me her thoughts on testing.
I asked Suzie (pictured below) to tell me a little about herself, and here’s her reply:

Booze ed
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Jessika Jeppson

My 15-year-old son recently started driver education at his public high school. Last week, he came home and told me he had learned how the body processes alcohol and how many drinks one could have while still being within the legal limit for driving.
So he is learning at school all the ins and outs about responsible drinking and driving (something I hope he never does), but there is all this debate regarding teaching kids how to be responsible when having sex (something I know he will do someday). Seems a bit backward to me.

High School Sports: Settling Class Warfare by Adding More Classes Forbes commentary by columnist Bob Cook

In a time when merely proposing that maybe the rich should give a little can get you branded a socialist, high school associations by that measure are flaming pinko commies as they try to make competition more even. And the Ohio State High School Athletic Association is so Communistic, it makes Leon Trotsky look like Ayn Rand.
The organization that oversees the bulk of high school sports in Ohio is adding one more class to football to create seven classes, with the largest class consisting of the largest 72 of the 716 football-playing schools. That move in and of itself is not unusual. It’s something more state associations are proposing or undertaking, particularly in football, where wide enrollment margins in a single class are perceived to create especially unfair advantages for schools at the bottom of the stack. Examples from other states:
– The Virginia High School League, for its 315 schools, is proposing doubling the numbers of classes from three to six.
– The Minnesota State High School League in 2012 is adding a seventh class for football only, made up of the largest 32 schools. The other classes include one nine-player football division.
– The Utah High School Athletic Association, pressed by some 3A schools (which have the widest enrollment gap) in 2013 will expand from five to six classes in football. With 101 football-playing members, that’s an average of about 17 schools per class.
– The South Dakota High School Activities Association, with 149 member schools, in March voted to expand from six to seven classes in football. There are still three nine-player classes, but the 11-player classes grow from three to four, with the largest class consisting of eight schools.

What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform Washington Post commentary by Pasi Sahlberg, author of “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?” and director general of Finland’s Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation

As the United States is looking to reform its public school system, education experts have increasingly looked at other countries for examples on what works and what won’t. The current administration has turned its attention strong performing foreign school systems. As a consequence, recent education summits hosted in the United States have given room to international education showcases. This commitment to think outside of the box was illustrated two years ago, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked for a report titled “Strong Performers and Successful Reforms: Lessons from PISA for the United States,” prepared by a team of analysts — I was one of them — with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). One of the strong performers that is gaining increasing interest in the United States is my home country, Finland.
During the last decade, Finland has become the go-to place for education reformers all around the world. The main reason is its success in the international survey comparing 15-year-olds in reading, math and science learning called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). Since that OECD report, I have been privileged to meet legislators, administrators, teachers, and parents here in the United States. Anywhere I go, people are eager to hear about Finnish education and its accomplishments. Especially, they want to know what they can learn from it.
What I have to say, however, is not always what they want to hear. While it is true that we can certainly learn from foreign systems and use them as backdrops for better understanding of our own, we cannot simply replicate them. What, then, can’t the United States learn from Finland?

Consider the Principal
National Journal commentary by Fawn Johnson, Richard Lee Colvin and Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Responses The principal is your pal. (That’s how I learned to spell it, anyway.) That statement may be hard to square with literary characterizations of principals–from the hapless Principal Krupp in the acclaimed kids’ book series Captain Underpants to the deliciously evil Principal Rooney in the 1996 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–but it does bear out in real life. A principal’s main job is to make sure the kids and teachers in his or her school are taken care of, and that’s no small task.
A new report from the Center for Public Education says that a principal’s responsibilities have grown beyond administrative duties to include core curriculum and student achievement goals, and many in the profession now feel the job is “undoable.”
However, the report also says that principals often are the key ingredient to improving a school’s performance, and principals have the most impact at low-achieving schools. Effective principals hire and retain the most effective teachers, and they stick around to make sure that needed changes are carried through. The less effective principals tend to move more frequently to different schools, which adversely impacts the students and teachers.
Principals also are on the hook more than they used to be with the achievement goals of No Child Left Behind and the Education Department’s turnaround model for low-performing schools, which mandates new leadership. The Center for Public Education agrees with the administration that the principal is a critical element in turning around a low-performing school, but its report notes that even the best leaders need time before the results of their labors are evident. “It takes a highly effective principal about five years to fully impact a school’s performance,” the report said.
What is the appropriate role for the principal? Is it different for elementary and secondary schools? Has there been enough focus on principals’ in public policy discussions? Not enough focus? How much responsibility for student achievement should lie with the principal? Are principals given enough time to turn around low-performing schools? Should principals be saddled with administrative duties?

Mitt Romney: Clueless on Education
Education Week commentary by John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association

As I forecasted in my 2012 predictions, Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination for president, and he is on a path to secure the necessary delegates in June. So now is a perfect time to examine his support for children, education, public schools, and teachers. Some may think using the term “clueless” is harsh, but upon my review of his record, I cannot think of a better descriptor.
When it came to education, Presidents Obama, Clinton, and even George W. Bush were passionate about education and the transformative impact it could have on children. Romney on the other hand is much more dispassionate. Maybe he really does believe that the federal government has no role. After all, there was a time when he advocated the elimination of the Department of Education. Lately, he has backed off on that position and instead espouses that education is a local and state function. After living through the overreach of the last two administrations, eliminating the federal role in education may sound good to some, but let me tell you what is wrong with that.

Man vs. Computer: Who Wins the Essay-Scoring Challenge?
Education Week commentary by columnist Erik Robelen

Would you rather have an actual person score your carefully crafted essay, or an automated software program designed for that purpose?
I’d still take the flawed human being any day—assuming, of course, the proper expertise and that he or she is operating on a good night’s sleep—but a new study suggests there is little, if any, difference in the reliability and accuracy of the computer approach.
And this may be good news for those who believe essays are an essential component of state testing systems, since the cost-savings may well encourage more states to embrace the use of such test items to balance out multiple-choice questions.

A copy of the study


Federal teacher evaluation requirement has wide impact Hechinger Report

Elliott Elementary in Lincoln, Ne., struck off on its own last year when it became the only school in the city to win money through the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Winning wasn’t something to be proud of, though: It meant the school qualified as one of the worst in the nation. About a third of fifth-graders at Elliott were proficient on state reading tests when the reforms began, compared to 80 percent in Lincoln as a whole.
Winning also meant a lot of work for teachers and administrators. One of the biggest tasks was overhauling the way teachers at the school are evaluated. Elliott was the only school in the city making the change, which meant it had to come up with a new way of rating teachers mostly on its own.
“The challenge was connecting it to student achievement,” said Jadi Miller, named the principal at Elliott after a longtime principal was ousted to comply with the grant’s mandate of new leadership. “That was certainly very new for us.”
In the Obama administration’s new push to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools nationwide, the vast majority of districts chose the reform option that seemed the least invasive: Instead of closing schools or firing at least half of the teaching staff, schools could undergo less aggressive interventions, such as overhauling how teacher performance is measured and rewarding teachers who do well.
But the teacher-evaluation requirement has turned out to be a major stumbling block for many schools in the SIG program.

Log-on learning
Could online learning transform American education?

School books, papers, and two laptop computers are spread out on the dining room table of the Wether­bee family home in Clinton, a small town 15 miles northeast of Worcester. Taryn and Brynn, twin 14-year-olds, are hard at work on grammar exercises for their English class. It looks like the eighth graders are diligently tending to homework they received that day in school. But it’s 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon, and the teens haven’t come home from school—they are at school.
The sisters are students at the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield, the state’s first foray into the world of online public schools. Each morning, Taryn and Brynn log on to their computers, check their schedule for assignments, plan out their day, and do all their school work from home. They can email questions to teachers and set up times to talk to them on the phone or through an online connection in which a teacher can use a “virtual blackboard” to write out a problem that they see on their laptop screen.
Now in its second year, the school is operated by the Greenfield school district but enrolls students from throughout the state. Full-time “virtual” schools form just a small part of the burgeoning field of on­line education, but they are experiencing enormous growth, with schools now operating in 30 states plus the District of Columbia and about 250,000 students enrolled. Prop­onents say virtual schools represent a valuable new option for the small number of students who, for reasons ranging from health issues to bullying, are not well served by traditional schools.
Full-time virtual schools have become a flashpoint for controversy over the quality of online education. Much of their growth is being driven by huge for-profit companies that critics say are more focused on returns to shareholders than student achievement. Student outcomes at many schools have been poor, and some educators recoil at the idea of children as young as kindergarten missing out on the social development that comes from attending a school with peers.
The much bigger frontier in online learning, however, involves tapping innovation to better serve students in traditional schools.

Five minute primer: School funding

Buses, salaries, building maintenance … the costs add up. It should come as no surprise that a free public education is hardly free. An estimated $1.15 trillion will be spent in public elementary and secondary schools this academic year to educate almost 50 million students throughout the U.S. Where does the money come from? Here are some major sources of funding for public school districts and some challenges to that funding.

High school football brain injuries increasing Raleigh (NC) News and Observer

Catastrophic brain injuries among high school football players appear to be increasing, according to data collected by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.
Despite a widespread educational effort and rule changes designed to make the game safer, 13 high school football players suffered catastrophic brain injuries nationally in 2011, the most since the center began tracking them in 1984.
The three highest yearly totals for football-related catastrophic brain injuries have come in the last four years. (Ed Week)

A copy of the report

N.D. Supreme Court denies Grand Forks Central student’s appeal A student at Grand Forks Central High School busted on drug charges a year ago has had his appeal to the State Supreme Court denied. On Feb. 17, 2011, a school security guard noticed Alaniz and another student acting suspiciously near a town square and, when he approached them, tried to evade him, according to the opinion.
Grand Forks (ND) Herald

A student at Grand Forks Central High School busted on drug charges a year ago has had his appeal to the State Supreme Court denied.
In an opinion released Tuesday, the court affirmed the judgment of Northeast Central Judicial District Court Judge Joel Medd, who ruled that the search and probable cause to search Christian Antonio Alaniz Jr. were reasonable and constitutional. (Ed Week)

A copy of the opinion

Police handcuff Georgia kindergartner for tantrum Associated Press

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Police in Georgia handcuffed a kindergartner with her arms behind her back after the girl threw a tantrum and the police chief defended the action as a safety measure.
The girl’s family demanded Tuesday that their central Georgia city change policy so that other children aren’t treated the same way. They say the child was shaken up by the ordeal.
While it’s unusual to see a young child handcuffed in school, it’s not unheard of. School officials around the nation have wrestled with the issue of when it’s appropriate to call police on a student.
Salecia Johnson, 6, was accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books and toys in an outburst Friday at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, according to a police report.

Extremists poison schoolgirls’ water; Afghan officials say CNN

Kabul, Afghanistan — At least 140 Afghan schoolgirls and female teachers were admitted to a local hospital Tuesday after drinking poisoned water, said local health officials, who blamed the act on extremists opposed to women’s education.
The victims range in age from 14 to 30 and were taken to a hospital in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province after their school’s water tank was contaminated, according to provincial health department director Dr. Hafizullah Safi.
No deaths were reported, but more than half the victims partially lost consciousness, while others suffered dizziness and vomiting.

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