Education News Roundup: July 25, 2012

"Swing" by Michael Newman/CC/flickr

“Swing” by Michael Newman/CC/flickr

Today’s Top Picks:

Annie E. Casey Foundation issues its annual Kids Count data book. (SLT)

and (OSE)

and (KUTV)

and (Ed Week)

and (USAT)

or a copy of the report

Sen. Osmond goes on Red Meat Radio to discuss his equalization plan. (KTKK)

America’s biggest school districts are seeing a decline in enrollment and subsequent drop in funding. (NYT)

And you’ll have to imagine an electronic black border around today’s roundup in deference to the demise of the “Weekly Reader.” (NYP)





Kids Count report: Number of Utah kids in poverty up 45% Report » In education, the state ranks 27th in the nation.

New after-school programs to open in Magna

Teen porn-addict camp

Programs help kids with a habit their elders never had: 24/7 online smut

Thieves break into district offices

‘Starving’ fundraiser exceeds $3,500 goal in one day


Rebuild Utah school system

Inside Utah Politics: Sen. Osmond on Equalization

Uncensored education

Seat belt safety on school buses cause more problems

A Parent Power Watershed

A judge lets parents pull the ‘trigger’ on a failing school.

A strange ‘parent trigger’ court ruling

What’s missing from congressional hearing on teachers

No Surprise Here: Some Federal Reporting Requirements ‘Burdensome’

Obama quietly implements Common Core

Federal funds buy control of school curriculum

Federal Priorities and State Funding

If It Is About the Students, Why Insult Them?

Astronaut Sally Ride, a Leader in STEM Education, Dies at 61

A Very Mean (But Maybe Brilliant) Way to Pay Teachers A Freakonomics author and a ‘Genius Grant’ winner suggest that giving teachers bonuses, then threatening to yank them away, might be the key to classroom success


Enrollment Off in Big Districts, Forcing Layoffs

Plan for holding private schools accountable in voucher program wins board approval

Smaller U.S. budget for smallest citizens – report

Bernanke Champions Early Childhood Education

Parents seek new teacher evaluations by September

Study: Online Learning Outcomes Similar to Classroom Results Universities with shrinking budgets could consider online education to save money.

Lottery sends $41.5 million to Idaho schools

How does Wyoming education rank?

Funding outpaces results in recent years

Efforts to cut risky sexual behavior by U.S. teens stall

Landmark publication Weekly Reader to shut down




Kids Count report: Number of Utah kids in poverty up 45% Report » In education, the state ranks 27th in the nation.

Utah is among 43 states where the number of children living in poverty has increased, according to the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book released Wednesday.

From 2005 to 2010, the number of Utah children living below the federal poverty threshold — $23,050 in gross annual income for a family of four— rose from 11 percent to 16 percent, roughly a 45 percent increase.

However, the Annie E. Casey Foundation study also ranks Utah 11th in the nation in terms of overall child well-being.

This year’s report expanded its analysis from 10 indicators to 16, spanning four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

“The domain we’re doing the worst in is education,” said Terry Haven of Voices for Utah Children, an advocacy organization that has received KIDS COUNT grants for the past 18 years.

“We can improve,” Haven said. “We know kids do better when they get to school ready to learn, so quality preschool for low-income kids is crucial.” (SLT) (OSE) (KUTV) (Ed Week) (USAT)

A copy of the report

New after-school programs to open in Magna

MAGNA — Salt Lake County Youth Services will be opening two new after-school programs and a Community Learning Center in Magna beginning in the fall of 2012.

Youth Services recently received a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to fund the new programs at Cyprus High School and Pleasant Green Elementary School. It will also enhance Youth Services programs already hosted at Brockbank Elementary School and Matheson Junior High.

Magna Elementary will also be opening a new after-school program at the beginning of the school year with a grant from Salt Lake County Division of Community Resources and Development and supplemental funding from the 21st Century grant. (DN)

Teen porn-addict camp

Programs help kids with a habit their elders never had: 24/7 online smut

An epidemic of teenagers hooked on smut has spawned a burgeoning new industry — live-in “porn camps” to help kids kick the habit.

Newly founded Mount Pleasant Academy, based in central Utah, has opened its doors to school-age boys struggling to control their online pornography obsession, while the nearby Oxbow Academy has expanded to a second campus to accommodate rising enrollments.

Oxbow director Stephen Schultz said the camps are meeting a growing need of a generation bombarded by easily accessible porn that’s more graphic than ever. (The Daily)

Thieves break into district offices

OGDEN — Police believe the same people are responsible for two break-ins at the Ogden School District’s main offices over the weekend.

“We have some leads we’re investigating,” said Ogden Police Lt. Chad Ledford. (OSE)

‘Starving’ fundraiser exceeds $3,500 goal in one day

LAYTON — Nurturing the Creative Mind’s third annual “Starving for Education” fundraiser met its goal in record time.

Participants raised their foundation’s $3,500 budget goal within 24 hours of beginning their fast Friday, and even exceeded that goal by $179. (OSE)




Rebuild Utah school system

(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

Children love to play with toys. But what Rich Ziegler is hoping to do with his Bricks 4 Kidz Lego camps in Provo and Lindon is more than just child’s play. He wants to transfer the enjoyable, casual relationship between child and toy to enthusiasm for STEM in later years — science, technology, engineering and math.

It seems to be working, according to Ziegler. “Just this last week I added several camps because they were so popular.”

Let’s hope he’s right. The United States is on a collision course with second-tier status in the family of nations because our educational system is not producing enough qualified experts in the “hard science” fundamentals of STEM.

Inside Utah Politics: Sen. Osmond on Equalization KTKK commentary

Uncensored education

Salt Lake Tribune letter from Harriet R. McDonald

Re “No apologies: Jordan School Board’s bad lesson” (Our View, July 13):

Members of the Jordan School Board apologized for the Bingham High School student production of “Dead Man Walking” because it was not “family friendly” enough.

Leaders of the Utah Eagle Forum were disturbed that the play about Sister Helen Prejean counseling Louisiana death-row inmates before their executions was not appropriate for children; therefore, it should not have been performed.

Seat belt safety on school buses cause more problems Deseret News letter from Denise Nelson

Responding to Barbara Jenkins’ letter about seat belts for buses (“School buses don’t meet seat belt standard,” Readers’ Forum, July 21):

National safety records show that buses are statistically very safe, much safer than cars. Working as a school bus driver for Davis School District for 14 years, my remarks do not represent the district but are my own. Some practical issues which have occurred on a few buses where seat belts were installed are: Students injured other students by whacking the seat belts (three per seat) on each other; Students buckled the belts across the aisle causing other students to trip; Re-buckling is very difficult (especially for the younger children) because belt sizes are constantly changing as students representing grades K–6 move around to alleviate crowding when students exit at their stops.

There is no practical way that I, as the driver and only adult on the school bus, can take responsibility for up to 84 elementary students and 56 secondary students remaining buckled throughout the drive home.

A Parent Power Watershed

A judge lets parents pull the ‘trigger’ on a failing school.

Wall Street Journal editorial

Summer vacation has just turned sour for some of the mandarins atop America’s sclerotic education system. With a judge’s ruling last week in Southern California, a group of parents has become the first in the country to take over their children’s failing public school after pulling a “parent trigger.”

California enacted this reform as an unprecedented accountability measure in 2010. It allows parents of children in persistently failing schools to force dramatic change through petition drives. If a majority of parents at a school sign a petition, they can close that school, shake up its staff, or convert it to a charter.

At least that’s the idea. But implementing the law requires some minimum cooperation from the local school establishment, which in California has resisted parent trigger from day one. That’s how the parents of Desert Trails Elementary School ended up in court.

With their school classified as failing six years in a row, and 70% of sixth-graders not proficient in English or math, the parents of Desert Trails filed a trigger petition in January with 466 signatures, or 70% support. The local school board then asserted that the trigger drive had only 37% support. Some petitions had errors or omissions, the board said, and nearly 100 were no longer valid because parents had rescinded their signatures.

These rescissions followed an orchestrated campaign of intimidation at Desert Trails and across the community.

A strange ‘parent trigger’ court ruling

Washington Post commentary by columnist Valerie Strauss

How’s this for logic? “Parent trigger” laws are supposedly about empowering parents to decide how to improve ailing schools. But now a California judge has ruled that parents who signed a petition to convert a traditional public school into a public charter are not allowed to change their minds and rescind their signatures.

Now that’s some way to empower parents.

What’s missing from congressional hearing on teachers Washington Post commentary by columnist Valerie Strauss

Congressional hearings are supposed to provide lawmakers wth information they need to make policy and legislative decisions. But sometimes, when you look at the witness lists, it is hard to figure out why legislators bother to hold them.

Take the hearing being held on Tuesday by the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter from California. It is called “Education Reforms: Discussing the Value of Alternative Teacher Certification Programs.”

The official media release on the hearing lets you know that the committee members already think there is a lot of value to alternative teacher certification routes. It says in part:

No Surprise Here: Some Federal Reporting Requirements ‘Burdensome’

Education Week commentary by columnist Christina Samuels

If you’re a district leader who thinks that reporting requirements surrounding certain federal funding streams are complicated and vague, you’re not alone, according a report released this week from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In a bit of a “dog bites man” assessment, the GAO interviewed state education officials in Kansas, Massachusetts and Ohio, and district officials in four school systems in each of those states. The federal agency found that 17 mandatory reporting requirements were identified in multiple interviews as difficult to fulfill. Of those 17 requirements, seven relate to Title I, which provides federal money to low-income schools; three are connected to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act; and four relate to the national school meals programs. Other problematic requirements, from the perspective of the officials interviewed, related to civil rights data collection, (Education Week reported extensively on that data) the Federal Funding and Transparency Act, and federal time distribution reports (the report noted that “in order for state and local federal grant recipients to use federal funds to pay salaries for their employees, they must document the employees’ time spent on federally funded activities.)

A copy of the report

Obama quietly implements Common Core

Federal funds buy control of school curriculum Washington Times op-ed by Robert Holland, senior fellow for education policy with the Heartland Institute

New standards for math and English called Common Core are poised to hit public schools across the nation. Some schools will begin implementing them as early as this fall, before parents have any inkling what has happened to their children’s classroom instruction.

Parents will not know how or why the nationally prescribed curriculum came about or how to change it if they don’t like it.

That undoubtedly sounds similar to the famous assertion of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress would have to pass the Affordable Care Act for people to know what’s in it. The nationalized Common Core for education is like Obamacare in ripping control over critical, life-altering decisions from those most affected.

Federal Priorities and State Funding

Whiteboard Advisors commentary by Gene Hickok, former deputy secretary of education under George W. Bush

The Obama Administration, through education secretary Arne Duncan, seems to be pursuing a two-track strategy regarding national education policy. One track emphasizes positive incentives such as “Race to the Top.” The other encourages states to seek waivers from No Child Left Behind. It is too soon to know whether the incentive approach is working. It has received a lot of positive press. But the actual results aren’t in yet. The waiver strategy seems to be working, though. A majority of states have requested and received waivers. In return, those states have agreed to adopt accountability plans approved by Washington.

It has long been a basic tenant of Washington policy and politics to use money to get states to do what they might not otherwise do. In education, it goes back to 1965, and the birth of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. By accepting federal dollars, states agree to abide by federal law and regulations. No Child Left Behind was merely the latest iteration of ESEA, with more dollars and more regulations. The fact that congress has failed to reauthorize the nation’s fundamental education law – and the fact that many in Washington and the education establishment see real flaws in it – has led Duncan to employ the waiver strategy as a means of giving states relief while getting them to accept his accountability approach.

It is interesting to note, however, that Washington is really in no position to enforce national education policy should states decide to not abide by it. The department of education has neither the resources nor the ability to determine whether or not the nation’s approximately 14,000 school districts are complying with federal law.

If It Is About the Students, Why Insult Them?

Huffington Post commentary by Carolyn Foote, high school educator

In her recent ad campaign linking failing education to a flabby American Olympian, Michelle Rhee insults American students everywhere, which is, of course, ironic for an organization known as Students First.

The more I watched the ad, the more angry it made me. I’m sick and tired of these broad brush strokes about the state of American education anyway. But her ad was an appalling misstep and an insult to our students (and our Olympians, frankly.) The ad implies that our students are like clumsy, middle aged, overweight and inept athletes competing in the global economy. And it comes at the moment when the best of our young people are about to compete in the Olympics. To say the ad is tasteless and tactless is an understatement.

A copy of the ad (YouTube)

Astronaut Sally Ride, a Leader in STEM Education, Dies at 61 Education Week commentary by columnist Erik Robelen

Sally Ride—the first American female astronaut and an influential role model and advocate for STEM education—died yesterday from pancreatic cancer at age 61.

Her impressive resume included not only two flights to space aboard the space shuttle Challenger, but also working as a prominent physicist in academia, holding a leadership post at NASA, and being a member of panels investigating two shuttle accidents.

But one of her passions was working to inspire young people, especially girls, to become interested in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In 2001, she started the private company Sally Ride Science, which she once said was intended to “make science and engineering cool again,” according to The New York Times, providing STEM-oriented educational programs, materials, and teacher training. She also wrote several science books for children.

A Very Mean (But Maybe Brilliant) Way to Pay Teachers A Freakonomics author and a ‘Genius Grant’ winner suggest that giving teachers bonuses, then threatening to yank them away, might be the key to classroom success Atlantic commentary by columnist Jordan Weissmann

One of the great, early insights from the field of behavioral economics was that when it comes to handling money, most people are driven much more by fear than they are by greed. The concept is called “loss aversion.” Faced with a financial choice — say, whether to sell a stock or hold onto it — the majority of us are more likely to worry about blundering away what we already have than get excited about the prospect of adding to our bank accounts. We simply feel the sting of losing a buck more strongly than we do the joy of making one.

In a new working paper, a group of high-profile academics have taken that well-worn principle and applied it to one of the most contentious topics in school reform: teacher pay. The study, by Freakonomics co-author and University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt, Harvard professor and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Roland Fryer, Chicago’s John List, and University of California — San Diego’s Sally Sadoff, suggests that if you give educators something to lose, they just might perform better in the classroom.

Sound a bit harsh? Perhaps. But if this theory is right, it could also be a major breakthrough.

A copy of the paper




Enrollment Off in Big Districts, Forcing Layoffs New York Times

Enrollment in nearly half of the nation’s largest school districts has dropped steadily over the last five years, triggering school closings that have destabilized neighborhoods, caused layoffs of essential staff and concerns in many cities that the students who remain are some of the neediest and most difficult to educate.

While the losses have been especially steep in long-battered cities like Cleveland and Detroit, enrollment has also fallen significantly in places suffering through the recent economic downturn, like Broward County, Fla., San Bernardino, Calif., and Tucson, according to the latest available data from the Department of Education, analyzed for The New York Times. Urban districts like Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, are facing an exodus even as the school-age population has increased.

Enrollment in the New York City schools, the largest district in the country, was flat from 2005 to 2010, but both Chicago and Los Angeles lost students, with declining birthrates and competition from charter schools cited as among the reasons.

Because school financing is often allocated on a per-pupil basis, plummeting enrollment can mean fewer teachers will be needed. But it can also affect the depth of a district’s curriculum, jeopardizing programs in foreign languages, music or art.

Plan for holding private schools accountable in voucher program wins board approval New Orleans Times-Picayune

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a new set of academic standards Tuesday for private schools participating in Louisiana’s expanded voucher program. By a vote of 9-2, the 11-member panel, known as BESE, adopted a plan proposed by state Superintendent John White that will require private schools to hit roughly the same academic bar that public schools do in order to continue accepting more students through the program. The new standards apply to schools with 40 or more voucher students in grades that include standardized tests.

The plan sparked angry commentary from teachers union officials and heated debate among BESE members, with Lottie Beebe, from St. Martin Parish, and Carolyn Hill, from Baton Rouge, twice trying to put off the decision until White could come back with tougher standards. Hill compared the board’s vote to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, warning that “evil is going to arise” from the board’s decision.

Chas Roemer, a board member who also represents parts of Baton Rouge, pushed back in White’s favor, calling the vote “one of our proudest moments as a board.”

Smaller U.S. budget for smallest citizens – report Reuters

NEW YORK – Federal spending on children has fallen for the first time in three decades, at a time when more than one in five U.S. children are already living in poverty, according to a report released on Thursday.

Even as total government spending rose in 2011, outlays and tax expenditures on children took a hit, said the sixth annual “Kids’ Share” report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based social and economic policy organization.

Another 4 percent decline in overall spending on children is expected in 2012 as the temporary boost from stimulus funds falls by $30 billion. Without legislative action, the amount spent on children will remain unchanged over the next decade, but will shrink to 8 percent of the overall budget.

A copy of the report

Bernanke Champions Early Childhood Education Wall Street Journal

Educating children starting at an early age increases their opportunities and benefits the larger economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a video prepared to be shown Tuesday.

Effective education can help reduce poverty, increase lifetime earnings and boost personal satisfaction at home and on the job, Mr. Bernanke said in a prerecorded video prepared for a conference of the Children’s Defense Fund in Cincinnati. The Fed chief didn’t discuss monetary policy in his remarks.

“When individuals are denied opportunities to reach their maximum potential, it harms not only those individuals, of course, but also the larger economy, which depends vitally on having a skilled, productive workforce,” said Mr. Bernanke, noting that his wife is a teacher and that he himself had been a professor.

Parents seek new teacher evaluations by September Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles parents planned to press for a court order Tuesday forcing the nation’s second-largest school district to begin using student test scores in teacher evaluations by early September.

In a closely watched case that could transform teacher performance reviews in California, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant last month ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District has violated a 41-year-old state law, known as the Stull Act, requiring that evaluations include measures of students’ progress in learning what the state and district expects them to know.

Attorneys for a group of unidentified parents argued that the absence of a rigorous evaluation system that effectively identifies weak teachers for help or, if needed, dismissal, deprives students of their constitutional right to educational equality.

Scott Witlin, an attorney representing the parents, said that the district and unions representing teachers and administrators are pushing for a later deadline in December. That, he said, is too late.

Study: Online Learning Outcomes Similar to Classroom Results Universities with shrinking budgets could consider online education to save money.

U.S. News & World Report

A recent study shows similar outcomes between traditional learning and interactive online learning.

Critics of online learning claim that students are exposed to an inferior education when compared to traditional in-class instruction, but a recent study from Ithaka S+R, a strategic consulting and research nonprofit, questions this notion.

The report, “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials,” notes that students who utilize interactive online learning—or hybrid learning—produce equivalent, or better, results than students participating in face-to-face education.

A copy of the report

Lottery sends $41.5 million to Idaho schools Associated Press via (Boise) Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Lottery is reporting another record year, posting more than $175 million in sales during the last fiscal year.

Lottery officials on Tuesday also turned over $41.5 million to funds benefiting Idaho public schools. That amount is the biggest since the lottery started in 1989 and the ninth consecutive year of record dividends.

For fiscal year 2012, the lottery reported sales of $175.8 million, up 19.5 percent or $28 million compared to 2011 and the single biggest annual revenue jump in the lottery’s history. The $41.5 million dividend is double the $20.5 million payout in 2003.

The dividend is being split among three separate accounts – the Department of Education’s public school building account and the state building fund, and a fund that helps match school bond payments.

How does Wyoming education rank?

Funding outpaces results in recent years Casper (WY) Star-Tribune

Wyoming ranks at the top of the nation for public school spending, but the results are disappointing, say researchers and state lawmakers. Wyoming made some gains measured by national reading and math tests, but it continues to grow on par with the national average, including states that have not increased funding per pupil.

“We haven’t seen the types of statistical gains that other states have seen spending less money,” Rep. Thomas Lubnau, R-Gillette said. “When those things happen, I think it bears examination by all of us to find out if there are methodologies that we can explore to get better results for our students. Certainly there shouldn’t be any reason why Wyoming doesn’t have the best educational opportunities in the world.”

The Wyoming Accountability in Education Act, Lubnau said, is designed to create a science-based program to shed light on what methods are successful and how to help more become successful.

“We have seen some gains over the years, but I don’t know if I’ve seen any data that would say what caused those gains,” he added.

Efforts to cut risky sexual behavior by U.S. teens stall Reuters

WASHINGTON – Efforts to reduce risky sexual behavior among U.S. high school students have stalled in the past decade and urgent action is needed to stem HIV infection rates in young people, who account for nearly half of all new cases, public health officials say.

The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, analyzed 20 years of national HIV-related risk behavior data on U.S. high school students primarily between the ages of 14 and 17.

It found that while progress was made in the 1990s, when a decline was seen in the number of students who admitted to having multiple sexual partners, those rates have largely held steady since 2001.

The proportion of high school students who said they had ever had sex declined from 54 percent to 46 percent between 1991 and 2001, and then flat-lined at 47 percent in 2011. Among sexually active teens, condom use stabilized to about 60 percent in the years 2003 to 2011, compared with 46 percent in 1991. (Ed Week)

A copy of the report

Landmark publication Weekly Reader to shut down New York Post

Weekly Reader, a staple in American classrooms for a century, has some hard news for its young readers: it’s shutting down.

Chief rival Scholastic, which bought the school newspaper earlier this year, is folding it into Scholastic News and axing all but five of Weekly Reader’s 60 employees in White Plains, NY, The Post has learned.

Like all papers, Weekly Reader was struggling with changes roiling the print world and was under pressure to develop digital editions. Along with school budget cutbacks, those challenges were compounded by ownership turmoil that left the paper with few resources to invest, sources said.

Weekly Reader and its predecessor My Weekly Reader, which grew out of Current Events magazine in 1902, was read by two-thirds of all kids in grammar school at its peak and hit a high of 13 millions subscribers across its editions for pre-school through 12th grade.




USOE Calendar

UEN News

August 3:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City

August 9:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City

August 14:

Executive Appropriations Interim Committee meeting

1 p.m., 445 State Capitol

August 15:

Education Interim Committee meeting

2 p.m.

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