Education News Roundup: July 30, 2013

"Empty Classroom" by Max Klingensmith/CC/flickr

“Empty Classroom” by Max Klingensmith/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Poll finds idea of ending compulsory education not getting much traction. (DN)

Sen. Osmond discusses the aftermath of his idea and further explains the idea. (UP)

Utah districts and charters may face audits. (DN)

Utah State Board of Education will hear from the State Trust Fund Task Force on Friday. (KCSG)
and (USOE)

Washington Post looks at states leaving the PARCC coalition on Common Core assessments. (WaPo)

In Utah, where we’re outdoor oriented, it’s called “backpack funding.” Louisiana, being much more gastronomically inclined, calls it “a la carte funding.” (Politico)

Attention Southern Utah school districts: Clark County, Nevada, is hiring 700 new teachers this year. Wall Street Journal notes that new teacher and police hiring is a good sign for the economy. (WSJ)



Utah political insiders wary of ending compulsory education

Sen. Osmond Braves the Education Reform Tempest

Audit announced for Utah’s school districts and charters

Task Force to Recommend Changes to State School Fund Management

Title 1 Cuts Mean Fewer Dollars for Utah Schools

Interior secretary: Federal lands pump $371 billion into economy

New prep guidelines in place to help prevent heat-related illnesses

iPads 4 Angels hopes to enrich special needs education throughout Utah


School lunch
Don’t give up on healthy foods

Hold states accountable on schools

Why Tony Bennett rigged school accountability

Marco Rubio Doesn’t Like Jeb Bush’s Plan To Fix Schools

What can Sweden and America teach us about social and emotional learning?
In a bid to find out how important happiness is to learning, free school head Zoe Dunn set off on a research trip to some leading Swedish and American schools


Common Core supporters say defections are no big deal

Louisiana reinvents high school with private sector help

Cities Begin Hiring Again
After Long Slump, Local Governments Add Teachers, Police

Computer Science Gets Plug in House Bill to Revise ESEA

Ark. school district arms staff for fall term

Parents Add Heft to Bond, Tax-Measure Campaigns


Utah political insiders wary of ending compulsory education

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal to end compulsory education in Utah is receiving little love from state politicos, with a new insider survey showing both Republicans and Democrats opposed to changing school attendance laws.
In the latest Political Insiders Survey posted Monday, 71 percent of Republican insiders and a unanimous 100 percent of Democratic insiders say lawmakers should not consider ending mandatory education for children.
Readers of were also cold to the idea, with 68 percent opposed to ending compulsory education compared to 32 percent in favor. (DN)

Sen. Osmond Braves the Education Reform Tempest

State Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, has come up with some interesting ideas on how to reform government since he first came into office just a few years ago.
Known as a public official who will listen to about anyone, Osmond, however, has really stepped in it when earlier this month he wrote a blog on the GOP Senate site questioning whether Utah should continue to force minor children into public education.
To say that Osmond walked into to the proverbial storm is a fair comment.
He got 135 “comments” on his blog, most of them in favor of doing away with compulsory education.
But he also saw newspaper editorials against him; a general uproar from the education community. (UP)

Audit announced for Utah’s school districts and charters

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s school districts and charter schools will be audited for compliance with new State Board of Education fiscal policies, the Office of the Utah State Auditor announced Monday.
Schools are required to implement new policies regarding the management and use of public funds by Sept. 15. Those policies include penalties for the unlawful use of gratuities, kickbacks and influence in procuring contracts; and prohibit using gifts, compensation, loans or position to secure privileges or exemptions.
The new policies also address the acceptance of gifts and donations; and the use of school property, facilities and equipment. (DN)

Task Force to Recommend Changes to State School Fund Management

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah State Board of Education’s School Trust Investment Task Force will recommend changes to the management and oversight of the $1.6 billion permanent State School Fund during Friday’s Utah State Board of Education meeting in Salt Lake City. (KCSG) (USOE)

Title 1 Cuts Mean Fewer Dollars for Utah Schools

Public schools in Utah are getting fewer federal education dollars this year than last; due in part to federal budget cuts, but also because there are more low-income students nationwide who are in need.
A projected nine percent reduction in Title 1 funding nationally will mean cutbacks in summer school programs, teachers and technology in many school districts and charter schools locally.
Congress slashed funding for several programs this year in an effort to roll back the nation’s deficit. In addition to federal sequestration there was a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut that also impacted schools.  (KUER)

Interior secretary: Federal lands pump $371 billion into economy

Washington • Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday touted the nation’s federal lands as an economic engine — one that could start to putter should House Republicans succeed in cutting back on budgets for some key programs.
The Interior Department’s activities — from recreation opportunities at national parks to oil and gas drilling to timber harvesting — contributed some $371 billion and 2.3 million jobs to the U.S. Economy last year, the agency said. In Utah alone, the department report suggests Interior’s missions boost the economy by $12 billion and 75,000 jobs while bringing 17 million visitors to the state.

But Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee over public lands, points out that energy exploration, mining, timber and grazing produce 68 percent of the economic activity that Jewell is citing and 58 percent of the jobs. Only 12 percent of the economic activity is credited to outdoor recreation and 16 percent of the jobs, Bishop notes.
It’s not the budget Jewell should be looking at, Bishop says, but the uses of the land.
“Balanced land management can be a major force in generating Western economic activity, job creation, and funding for our schools,” Bishop said in a statement. “One-sided policies that seek to lock up federal land are destructive and harmful and I’m hopeful this report will slow down such efforts.” (SLT)

New prep guidelines in place to help prevent heat-related illnesses

Monday was the first official day of workouts for football teams at Utah high schools. That will seem pretty early to long-time prep sports fans, especially when they look at schedules and see that the first games aren’t until Aug. 23.
Almost four weeks of practice before the first whistle? Unheard of in the past, but it’s going to be the norm from now on as programs across the state implement new heat-acclimatization guidelines adopted by the Utah High School Activities Association earlier this year.
The effort to reduce the chances for heat-related illnesses actually started years ago and the first formal state guidelines were issued just before the start of the fall season in 2012.
However, the UHSAA expanded the explanations and strengthened the guidelines for this year and distributed them in the spring so programs would have more time to plan and adapt schedules to meet the new standards. (PDH)

iPads 4 Angels hopes to enrich special needs education throughout Utah

OREM — When a mother noticed her special needs child became more educationally engaged after getting an iPad for Christmas, the idea to enhance special needs education with technology sparked a statewide movement.
Mellanie Taylor, whose 14-year-old daughter Alexia is diagnosed with Down syndrome, brought her idea to her fellow members of the United Angels Foundation, a Utah-based, nonprofit support group for parents of children with disabilities.
“These kids who have special needs have the same dreams and desires as their peers,” the West Jordan mother said. “They need help, and we want to give them the most opportunities as we can so that they can lead as fulfilling lives as they possibly can.”
The founders, a Springville family with a child also diagnosed with Down syndrome, then launched a grant program to enrich special needs education by providing local special education classrooms with collections of iPads. (DN) (KTVX)


School lunch
Don’t give up on healthy foods
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

When children and teenagers aren’t used to them, fruits and vegetables don’t necessarily appeal to them, even when they are hungry. But that’s no reason for school-lunch managers to quit trying to help students eat more healthful foods.
The longer they are exposed to good food choices, the better the chance students will at least try the fresh options, and, hopefully, many will eventually find out fruits and vegetables are pretty good.
A new law requires students to take a half-cup of fruits or vegetables, such as a small sliced apple or cucumber and carrot sticks. Both fruits and vegetables must show up on the lunch line. But, of course, requiring children and teens to put a certain food on their plates doesn’t guarantee it will get eaten.
Some school districts in Utah have lost money because of the new requirements. Fresh fruit and vegetables cost more, and, initially at least, the menu change has meant more waste as kids dump the healthy, but unfamiliar, food in the trash.

Hold states accountable on schools
Politico op-ed by REP. JARED POLIS

While I respect Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester Finn and Executive Vice President Michael Petrilli for their decades of work in education reform, in their recent article, “Education Reform a Test for GOP,” they grade the Republican Party on an overly generous curve. In neglecting the crucial role of the federal government as a disruptive force for school improvement, the authors aren’t just reciting conservative talking points – they’re ignoring extensive evidence to the contrary.
Take, for example, Humboldt Secondary School, located right outside House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline’s district in St. Paul, Minnesota. After being identified as one of the state’s persistently lowest achieving schools in January 2010, Humboldt Secondary School received a School Improvement Grant from the federal government. Humboldt chose the “transformation” model, opting to replace half its staff, extend learning time for students, and set aside 50 minutes per day for teachers to collaborate in teams. In just three years, Humbolt’s graduation rate has increased from under 60 percent to 77 percent, and the school has seen a significant increase in reading and math proficiency rates.
The leverage and resources the federal government provided were critical to Humboldt’s success. As principal Michael Sodomka explained to me, “The School Improvement Grant not only provided significant resources to meet many unmet needs of my students, the grants requirements allowed me to put in place a number of key changes that have directly led to improved outcomes for my students.”
But Humboldt is just one success story. As a country, we have a long way to go to close persistent achievement gaps and ensure that every child has the tools he or she needs to succeed in college and in a career. It is time to take into account what we have learned from No Child Left Behind in the past decade and improve the federal accountability and school improvement system, rather than end it.

Why Tony Bennett rigged school accountability Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier editorial

Everyone wondered what took the Indiana Department of Education so long to report its A-to-F grades — a cornerstone of the state’s school accountability push during former Superintendent Tony Bennett’s term.
Now, Hoosiers know why. And it shapes up as one sorry story.
According to emails uncovered by Associated Press reporter Tom LoBianco, Bennett bent over backward — and contorted the system in the process — to find a way for a charter school sponsored by school choice patron Christel DeHaan to do well.
When poor algebra scores threatened to stick Christel House Academy, DeHaan’s signature school, with a C grade, Bennett’s team flew into action.
On Sept. 12, Bennett wrote to his chief of staff, Heather Neal: “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work.”

Marco Rubio Doesn’t Like Jeb Bush’s Plan To Fix Schools New Republic commentary by columnist NORA CAPLAN-BRICKER

Early last week, one of the groups tasked with designing tests to accompany the new K-12 education standards known as the Common Core released an estimate of what its final product would cost, and all hell broke loose. The news—that the tests in the works at the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will cost more than what roughly half the states who’ve signed on to buy them currently spend on assessments (a projected $29.50 per student)—reignited a debate that has created deep schisms in the Republican party, with business-friendly conservatives pushing reforms they hope will bolster America’s competitive edge, while Tea Party activists hold rallies to protest what they consider a federal imposition on the rights of states.
Nowhere is this acrimony more fully on display than in Florida, where two of the party’s most promising presidential hopefuls disagree on Common Core: former governor Jeb Bush, and his one-time acolyte, Senator Marco Rubio. Bush, who turned Florida into a petri dish of free market-inspired education reforms (from vouchers and charters to increased testing and performance-based pay) during his two terms as governor, has been one of Common Core’s most loyal advocates. But Rubio trashed his mentor’s pet project Thursday in his first definitive statement on the standards.
“I am very concerned, and quite frankly opposed to any effort to try to create some sort of national curriculum standard and then try to leverage the power of the federal government’s funding to force states to adopt a certain curriculum standard,” he said in answer to a question from conservative blog The Shark Tank. “State and local levels are the best places to come up with curriculum reform, and its something the federal government shouldn’t be deeply involved in.”

What can Sweden and America teach us about social and emotional learning?
In a bid to find out how important happiness is to learning, free school head Zoe Dunn set off on a research trip to some leading Swedish and American schools
(Manchester) Guardian commentary by Zoe Dunn, head of Rimon Jewish Free Primary School in London

During a sabbatical last year, I spent six weeks completing a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Travelling Fellowship, which gave me the opportunity to visit different schools across America and Sweden to see social and emotional learning (SEL) in practice and witness its impact on school communities.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship was something I could not resist applying for as it offered an opportunity to combine my two main passions: travelling and education.
Every teacher strives for the best academic results for pupils in their care, so they can reach their potential and contribute fully to society. Yet some teachers are concerned that the drive for academic attainment is often at the detriment of a balanced and rounded curriculum, accessible to all, and one which prepares pupils to be socially and emotionally resilient.
Children, for many reasons, including different familial structures, multiple cultural influences, and socio-economic factors, are arriving at school with far more complex and wide-ranging social and emotional needs than ever before. Teaching children how to identify and manage emotions and how to build resilience prepares them to be more able to face challenges at school and in their own lives and also leads to enhanced academic attainment.
After visiting schools in the comfortingly similar metropolis of New York, I travelled to Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Alaska and Stockholm. I based my decision to travel to these diverse places after research suggested that the schools there were leading the way in teaching social and emotional learning to their pupils. Every classroom a teacher visits offers the opportunity to learn something new.

A copy of the report (Winston Churchill Memorial Trust)


Common Core supporters say defections are no big deal Washington Post

As lawmakers in Florida and Michigan debate whether to pull out from the new Common Core academic standards, states that have been writing the standards and related exams downplayed the defections as no big deal.
“We have a very strong and robust and large coalition of states that have made a definitive commitment in moving ahead,” said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who chairs one of the two groups of states that are designing the new math and reading standards as well as related tests to be given to students in grades K-12. His group is known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
Chester said 14 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to field test the new exams in the spring of 2014 and then implement them in the 2014-2015 year. The states committed to the tests include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Ohio, New Jersey and Louisiana, he said.
“And that doesn’t include states that are considering it,” Chester told reporters on a phone call Monday. “I think we’re in great shape, in terms of quantities.”

Louisiana reinvents high school with private sector help Politico

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime.
State Superintendent John White said Monday that nearly 3,000 students have enrolled in an array of private-sector classes that the state has agreed to pay for, from math and literature to Japanese and German to hair styling, welding and nail manicuring. The classes, which carry regular high school credits, are taught by an eclectic mix of nonprofits, unions, trade associations and for-profit companies, as well as local colleges.
White said he had only budgeted $2 million for the program but would find another $1 million to cover demand, perhaps by leaving some open jobs in the state education department unfilled. And he plans to expand the program substantially next year. White said he is particularly interested in adding more vocational classes, though an analysis of enrollments that the state provided to POLITICO shows one of the most popular offerings is ACT Prep.
Louisiana’s Course Choice program represents a first foray into a new approach to public education as an “a la carte” offering. States including Utah, Idaho and Florida let public-school students take some classes online from approved providers.

Cities Begin Hiring Again
After Long Slump, Local Governments Add Teachers, Police Wall Street Journal

Cities across the U.S. are starting to hire new teachers, firefighters and police officers as a deep and prolonged slide in local-government employment appears to have bottomed out four years after the recession ended.
Municipal police academies in Massachusetts are running at capacity as communities train new officers, while Minneapolis recently added nearly two dozen firefighters, ending a five-year hiring freeze. The school district for Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas, is hiring 700 new teachers this year, the first sizable boost in its workforce in five years.
Monthly jobs data from the Labor Department show local governments, which make up about 65% of the overall government workforce, added workers in seven of the past eight months, the longest such streak in five years. So far this year, 46,000 new jobs have been created on a seasonally adjusted basis. Local-government employment through June stood at 14.08 million, the highest level in more than a year and a half, though still well below a peak of 14.61 million in mid-2008.

Computer Science Gets Plug in House Bill to Revise ESEA Education Week

Although many STEM education advocates were opposed to the House bill approved earlier this month to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law, a bipartisan amendment to promote computer-science education was successfully inserted during floor debate.
The change basically makes clear that computer-science educators are eligible for the professional-development assistance provided through the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But while the amendment may have been bipartisan, support for the overall legislation was not. Indeed, not a single House Democrat voted in favor of the final bill. And the Obama administration has signaled its clear opposition as well.

Ark. school district arms staff for fall term USA Today

A small Arkansas school district is arming and training 20 volunteer teachers and staff with handguns for fall classes to become the first in the state to make use of a little-known state law that allows licensed, armed security guards on campus.
David Hopkins, superintendent of schools in Clarksville, says the move is in response to last year’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 students and six staff members dead.
“We lock the door, and we hide and hope for the best. Well that’s not a plan,” he tells KARK-TV.
Under the new program, 20 volunteers have undergone 53 hours of training in time for fall classes and will be armed with 9mm handguns. (AP)

Parents Add Heft to Bond, Tax-Measure Campaigns Education Week

Sitting in a cafeteria at Pimlico Elementary/Middle School last fall, parents were asked to imagine what their children’s school would look like with an influx of money under a proposed $2.4 billion bond project to renovate and upgrade facilities in the Baltimore district.
Parents called for “basic standards”: working air conditioning, drinkable water in fountains, and windows that open, said Sherrell Savage, a mother of three students, who helped rally parental support credited for providing the crucial momentum needed to get the measure approved by state lawmakers in this year’s legislative session. “Our parents couldn’t even dream about 21st-century schools because they were still dealing with 20th-century schools that weren’t operating properly,” she said.
To help push the measure over the top, Baltimore parents had to prod both their community and legislators from across the state to approve and pay for the project, which will rely on a combination of state, city, and district resources to build new schools, shut down old ones, and provide up-to-date facilities for the 84,700-student district.
Though the specifics may differ from community to community, parents throughout the country are increasingly becoming advocates for bond and tax measures needed to fill budget holes and better the quality of schools.

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USOE Calendar

UEN News

August 1-2:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

August 8:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City

August 28:
Public Education Appropriations Committee meeting
8 a.m., 210 Senate Building

September 17:
Executive Appropriations Subcommittee meeting
1 p.m., 445 State Capitol

September 18:
Education Interim Committee meeting
9 a.m., 30 House Building

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