Education News Roundup: Sept. 3, 2013

Image adapted from

Image adapted from

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Utah releases first-ever school grades. (SLT)
and (SLT)
and (DN)
and (OSE)
and (OSE)
and (PDH)
and (LHJ)
and (SGS)
and (KUTV)
and (KTVX)
and (KSL)
and (KSL)
and (KSTU)
and  (KCSG)
and (KUER)
and (KUER)
and (MUR)
and (MUR)
and (USOE News Release) or links to summary and spreadsheet of all school grades (USOE)

Utah Democrats take on Utah GOP on school funding. (DN)
and (KSL)

SITLA will move forward with oil leases in the Book Cliffs. (DN)

KSL’s Sunday Edition focused on education. (KSL)

Sen. Reid wants to give the Governor the power to fire the State Superintendent. (DN)

State Board Member Burningham discusses early childhood education. (UP)

Rep. Snow discusses UPSTART. (SGS)

AP goes over the national back-to-school numbers. (AP)

Are heat days the new snow days? (AP)



Utah assigns A-F grades to all schools but controversy lingers

Utah Dems fire at GOP lawmakers in defense of teachers, SLC School District

School trust managers say they will go forward with oil lease plan

Uinta Basin oil shale project on track for permit Environment » Red Leaf’s underground oven proposal spurs concerns about groundwater.

Education in Utah

Parents upset with Timpview STEM program cancelation

Teacher earns accolades for role in digital classroom

Sevier School District spotlighted in national case study

High school sports: What it really costs to play high school football

“Common Core” Opponents Petitioning People to Pray

Timpanogos High coach charged with touching teen girl

Alleged DHHS vandals arrested
3 suspects face charges for property damage

Matheson visits Juab High School to discuss current events

Parents in Saratoga Spring say school buses too crowded, not safe

Kaysville elementary schools will now have designated police officers

Book on school’s suggested reading list draws controversy

Foundation offers free Raptors baseball

Ben Lomond Class of ’63 unveils photo gallery gift

Study: Children who have a stutter in preschool do fine socially, emotionally

Alabama struggles with how to get kids out of failing schools


Grading the system
School grades are fuel for change

Grading the schools

Off limits
Herbert stands up for preservation

SITLA needs a makeover

Utah Needs Early Childhood Education

Preschool program’s results promising

Every day counts, even in kindergarten

Bernick and Schott on Politics

Don’t fear high school

Cookie-cutter kids

Helping west-side schools

Good for our students, good for Utah, good for our economy

Late information on school fees adds salt to the financial wound

It’s time to extend MLK’s dream to school choice aspirants and nonviolent offenders


Expecting the Best Yields Results in Massachusetts

With Common Core, Fewer Topics but Covered More Rigorously

First-grade teacher dives into Common Core with cautious optimism

Facts, Figures as Students Return to the Classroom

Public Education Gets a Revamp
States are changing their curriculum and teacher evaluations

Education solutions from abroad for chronic U.S. school problems From teach-to-test straitjacket to school disparity, chronic school problems that American schools face are being solved in different ways around the world.

Recess can reduce bullying and prepare kids to learn, research says

What Makes The ‘Smartest Kids In The World’?

Not your grandmother’s gym class

‘Heat Days’ Become More Common for Sweaty Schools

Without paperwork, school lunch free in Boston Officials seize opportunity to join new federal meal program

‘Sesame Street’ Widens Its Focus

Protecting the pricey device your kid takes to school


Utah assigns A-F grades to all schools but controversy lingers

For the first time, Utah’s traditional and charter public schools have received letter grades of A through F — hailed by lawmakers as a move toward transparency and decried by educators as an unfair, one-size-fits-all ranking.
Find each school’s grade, released Tuesday, at
State lawmakers who passed the accountability system earlier this year — now one of two used to evaluate Utah schools — said it will improve the quality of education. (SLT) (SLT) (DN) (OSE) (OSE) (PDH) (LHJ) (SGS) (KUTV) (KTVX) (KSL) (KSL) (KSTU) (KCSG) (KUER) (KUER) (MUR) (MUR) (USOE News Release)

Links to summary and spreadsheet of all school grades (USOE)

Utah Dems fire at GOP lawmakers in defense of teachers, SLC School District

SALT LAKE CITY — A significant portion of the agenda at last week’s meeting of the Education Task Force was given to Salt Lake City School Board member Michael Clara and his oft-repeated criticisms of his school board colleagues.
Clara accused the Salt Lake City School District of neglecting the needs of west-side schools and failing to address the graduation rate of at-risk and minority students.
His comments drew concern from the Republican members of the task force, who suggested that inquiries and investigations be made into the operation of the school district and the training that school board members receive from the Utah School Boards Association.
But on Friday, Utah’s Democratic Party fired back at GOP lawmakers, accusing them of scapegoating teachers for the state’s achievement gap despite little support or leadership from the Legislature.
“Our schools are not failing our students. Our Republican leaders are failing our schools,” Matt Lyon, the Utah Democratic Party’s executive vice president, said in a prepared statement. (DN) (KSL)

School trust managers say they will go forward with oil lease plan

SALT LAKE CITY — School trust land managers said a controversial oil and gas lease in the Book Cliffs will not be reconsidered, despite Gov. Gary Herbert’s objections, the state wildlife agency’s disappointment and sportsmen’s harsh criticism.
“The agency intends to pursue this lease agreement as originally instructed by our board,” said Kim Christy, deputy director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. “That doesn’t suggest we are turning a blind eye to the governor’s concerns.”
Herbert last week added his voice to a growing chorus of criticism aimed at the agency’s board of trustees for its decision to lease 96,000 acres in the Book Cliffs to Anadarko, one of the world’s largest independent oil and gas exploration and development companies. (DN)

Uinta Basin oil shale project on track for permit Environment » Red Leaf’s underground oven proposal spurs concerns about groundwater.

State water-quality regulators have released a draft permit for a Uinta Basin oil shale project after concluding it poses minimal threat to groundwater.
The proposed permit, which puts Utah a step closer to seeing its vast shale deposits mined on an industrial scale for the first time, would excuse Red Leaf Resources from full-scale groundwater monitoring because the company’s process doesn’t use water, the spent ore is dry and not much groundwater moves through the project area — a finding environmentalists dispute.
“It’s an untested process, and they are asking us to take their word that everything is going to be hunky-dory,” said John Weisheit of Moab-based Living Rivers.
Subject to public comment through Sept. 27, the permit is among the final regulatory hurdles the company faces to build its early-production “capsule” on 17,000 acres it has leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA. This underground oven will help determine whether Red Leaf’s new process can extract oil in commercial quantities from the waxy petroleum precursor, known as kerogen, embedded in oil shale. (SLT)

Education in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — In this Sunday Edition: fees, funding and grades. We’re heading back to school to take a closer look at the issues that are important to parents. Plus, see how a volunteer tutor program is boosting reading scores around the state and get a preview of the legislature’s agenda for education. (KSL)

Parents upset with Timpview STEM program cancelation

PROVO — STEM might be running out of steam — at least for the present. In some instances, the classes emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math are not increasing as expected.
A group of students at Timpview High School had planned to register for drafting and architecture classes this year, but then the school canceled classes in those subjects. The move was not popular, nor was the method used to announce it.
“Students and parents were never informed about any issues regarding cessation of a whole department of classes until approximately the first week in May,” a memo from a parent group to Provo School District superintendent Keith Rittel said. “Students were informed during class time by the head of the engineering and architecture department rather than notification by Timpview administration.” (PDH)

Teacher earns accolades for role in digital classroom

SANTA CLARA — Named the American Board Utah Teacher of the Year, Sara Layton is no stranger to the classroom, but she currently spends her days taking a different approach to teaching.
Layton works primarily out of her kitchen in her Santa Clara home but still spends about eight hours a day instructing high school seniors. She is an English teacher with Mountain Heights Academy, an online Utah-based charter school, she said.
“I originally thought it would be a really great job for a mom to have,” she said. “I have five children, and I thought working from home would be more flexible.”
Layton teaches 90 students, who are located around the state.  (SGS)

Sevier School District spotlighted in national case study

Sevier School District was spotlighted in a national growth and achievement case study. The study showed how the district used goal setting to help students improve proficiency scores and mean growth rates in both reading and mathematics. The study, conducted by the North West Evaluation Association, states that students within Sevier School District consistently surpassed national norms in every grade. When asked for its keys to success, Sevier School District’s leadership team cites its strategic, personalized approach to goal setting and a relentless dual focus on proficiency and growth. Dr. Cade Douglas, Sevier’s Director of Student Learning, said the district set goals for each grade in terms of the percentage of students they expected to reach proficiency targets as well as the percentage growth they expected to see. Douglas said the teachers took it seriously and worked extremely hard to hit those goals. (MUR)

High school sports: What it really costs to play high school football

These mothers aren’t alone in their worry or confusion. As the popularity and profile of high school sports continues to grow, so too have the costs.
So just how much does it cost to play high school sports? Who decides what costs are fair and reasonable? And who ensures that children who can’t afford to pay can still play? (DN)

“Common Core” Opponents Petitioning People to Pray

SALT LAKE CITY – Some people who are against the controversial education standards “Common Core” are now turning to God. Right now Common Core is being implemented in Utah schools, and opponents who want to stop it are now asking others to pray for help.
Opponents of the upcoming education mandate Common Core are now petitioning for divine intervention.
“We’re asking people to pray,” said Christel Swasey, parent against Common Core. (KTVX)

Timpanogos High coach charged with touching teen girl

OREM — A high school soccer coach has been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a 17-year-old girl.
Angel Enciso-Lezama, 48, the boys soccer coach at Timpanogos High School, was issued a citation charging him with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a class A misdemeanor, in July. The alleged victim worked for him at a private business, said Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez.
“The victim was helping her boss, our suspect, clean out or move stuff around his storage unit. … During that time there was a lot of inappropriate conversations taking place that then led to some inappropriate touching,” Martinez said. “There was no sex or allegations of any sex, but it still concerns us due to the age of the victim and the suspect.” (DN) (PDH) (KSL)

Alleged DHHS vandals arrested
3 suspects face charges for property damage

ST. GEORGE — A St. George man is facing several criminal charges for his alleged involvement in vandalizing Desert Hills High School earlier this week.
St. George Police arrested Patrick Conor Derrick, 19, Thursday night and charged him with unauthorized entry on a school bus, theft under $500 and criminal mischief causing damages estimated between $1,500 to $5,000.
Two juveniles were also arrested and charged, but their names were not released. (SGS) (KSTU)

Matheson visits Juab High School to discuss current events

NEPHI — Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, visited Juab High School on Thursday to speak to geography and history students about what is going on in the world today. Matheson took questions on topics like education, the conflict in Syria and natural resource development.
Matheson represents Utah’s newly created fourth congressional district, which includes parts of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties. (PDH)

Parents in Saratoga Spring say school buses too crowded, not safe

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Some parents in Saratoga Springs say school buses for Vista Heights Middle School are overcrowded, forcing some kids to sit on the floor, and that’s not safe.
The Alpine School District said it is trying to adjust the routes to fix the overcrowding, but it doesn’t help that some students aren’t taking their assigned buses.
The students live in Harvest Hills and all are bused to Vista Heights Middle School. There are six buses in the neighborhood, but parents say that is not enough and they are worried about safety. (DN)

Kaysville elementary schools will now have designated police officers

KAYSVILLE — Kaysville’s police department is changing the way it operates in elementary schools, giving each one a designated officer.
For years, Davis High School and the junior high schools in Kaysville have had police officers assigned there, but the elementary schools had a roaming officer covering them. However, in the wake of serious tragedies at elementary schools across the nation, Kaysville Chief Sol Oberg decided to be proactive and make sure their younger kids have an officer on site to help with problems and give kids a positive experience with the police force. (OSE)

Book on school’s suggested reading list draws controversy

LEHI, Utah — Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison published her first novel in 1970, and still all these years later, “The Bluest Eye”, is just as controversial.
“I don’t think that it would be appropriate for this age,” said Marie Nuccitelli, a parent of two students at Lehi High School.
She stumbled across critical reviews of the book’s content a few days ago and was stunned to learn it was on the suggested reading list for advanced placement English students at LHS. (KSTU)

Foundation offers free Raptors baseball

OGDEN — Students in the Ogden School District can watch a free night of Ogden Raptors baseball on Friday at Lindquist Field, 2323 Lincoln Ave.
The Ogden School Foundation is offering free tickets for students, families and teachers that night, along with other free prizes. (OSE)

Ben Lomond Class of ’63 unveils photo gallery gift

OGDEN — Ben Lomond High School class of ’63 members gave their alma mater a gift when they graduated, and decided to give another as part of a recent golden anniversary celebration.
The first was the blue “BL” marker that stands to the west of the school. What to give this time around was the subject of debate.
“We talked to Principal Ben Smith, before he left, and we walked through the school, trying to decide what it needed,” said Brenda Ward, of Kaysville, one of 320 BLHS students who graduated in 1963.
Ben Lomond class of ’63 members decided to honor the school’s current and former principals with photographs. (OSE)

Study: Children who have a stutter in preschool do fine socially, emotionally

When parents hear their child struggle with stuttering, many may fear the negative outcomes, such as getting teased or not making friends when the child begins preschool.
However, according to a study recently published in Pediatrics, children who attend preschool with a stutter are not hindered emotionally or socially — they do just fine among their peers. (DN)

Alabama struggles with how to get kids out of failing schools

Alabama’s attempts to help kids in failing schools was challenged this month when the Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state to halt a new scholarship and tax credit program that grants $3,500 refundable tax credits to parents of children in failing schools.
The tax credits for parents, which essentially amount to vouchers because they translate to cash for parents with no tax liability, are available only to parents of kids in one of 78 “failing” schools, as outlined in the law, and they are only available if the child is removed from the failing school to a private school or another public school. (DN)


Grading the system
School grades are fuel for change
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Parents, teachers and school administrators should not get too alarmed ­— or complacent — about the grades individual public schools receive Tuesday in the first-ever school grading project launched by the Legislature.
But they — and all Utahns — should be prepared to use the grades as ammunition to demand that their representatives take positive, constructive steps to help failing schools fix deficiencies on which the school-grading system has, in the words of legislators, “shone a bright light.” And, in many cases, that means increasing money available to school districts, something legislators have perennially resisted.
Additional revenue will be needed to attract well-trained, performance-oriented teachers and principals to schools with large numbers of struggling students, the schools most likely to receive low grades under this system. A redistribution of existing resources — when Utah has the lowest allocation per student in the nation — is not the answer.

Grading the schools
Deseret News editorial

The month of September, when a new school year is still in its infancy, is not typically a time to receive a report card. That changes today, when each school in Utah will receive a letter grade that reflects its performance in three key areas: proficiency, participation, and progress. The results will establish clear new state standards in education that will allow for greater transparency in the process for educators, parents, and students alike.
This has not quieted many of the naysayers, who think the program won’t accurately reflect the truth about some Utah schools. To a small degree, they make some valid points, but the grading system overall is positive and illuminating.
Primarily at issue is a requirement that 95 percent of non-proficient students in any given school must participate in mandatory end-of-year testing to avoid the school receiving an automatic failing grade.

Off limits
Herbert stands up for preservation
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Gary Herbert finally met an oil well he doesn’t like.
Utah’s fossil fuel-driven governor surprised some, and pleased a few others, when he called upon the state agency that is supposed to manage state-owned land for the financial benefit of public education to back off its plans to lease some 98,000 acres in the Book Cliffs region of eastern Utah for oil exploration.
The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration had invited drillers into an area that is now mostly devoid of roads or other human markings, but home to the kind of big game that hunters come looking for. But Herbert suggested the other day that SITLA offer to transfer at least some of that land into the protective care of the federal government, in exchange for some other lands that would be more suitable for, and less damaged by, oil exploration.

Utah’s handling of education could be a model for the nation Deseret News op-ed by Sen. Stuart Reid

There is much brouhaha over the adoption of the Common Core, education curriculum across the nation, including in Utah. Mostly, the ruckus is over who controls the content and quality of the curriculum. Utah should step up and become “uncommon” by constructing a curriculum with Utah standards and requirements aligned with the market place down through the entire education system.
Both higher education and Utah Colleges of Applied Technology (UCAT) should respond to the market needs of the economy by aligning their educational standards and requirements accordingly. An effective alignment would better respond to employers’ needs and prepare students for the job market, making Utah more competitive and prosperous.
Public education should follow by aligning its education standards and requirements with higher education and UCAT’s elevated standards and requirements. This approach would more productively and seamlessly align the three silos of education — creating efficiencies, improving education value, and preparing students to be college and career ready.
To reduce education siloing and reinforce the education and marketplace alignment, the Legislature granted greater authority to the governor in the selection of the leadership of higher education and UCAT. The same needs to be done for public education. Applying a similar approach to public education will help break down conflicting interests among the three education silos for limited resources. Instead, an alignment in governance will be more responsive to student needs and achievement.
Under this new governance model, the Board of Education would maintain its authority to appoint the superintendent, but with the approval of the governor and confirmation of the Legislature. In addition, after consultation with the Board of Education, the governor would have the authority to fire the superintendent, the same authority he now has over the commissioner of higher education and the president of UCAT.

SITLA needs a makeover
Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Lynn Jackson, vice chairman and at-large member of the Grand County Council

The decision by the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration to lease 90,000-plus acres of state land in the Book Cliffs of Grand County demonstrates the flaws in the agency’s current model for developing revenue for Utah’s school system.
Management of our state lands should, by statute, require openness and collaboration with other vested interests, marketing in an open and competitive manner, be subject to elected representatives’ oversight, and demonstrate a reasonable level of success.
SITLA’s decision was made behind closed doors, with no collaboration, cooperation or coordination with anyone. Grand County elected officials were never formally consulted.

Utah Needs Early Childhood Education
Utah Policy op-ed by Kim Burningham, Utah State Board of Education Member

For the past five years, Susan and I have volunteered at a local Title I elementary school tutoring young readers. We have worked with almost all grades, 1st through 6th. This past school year, we read with first graders.
The students are so spontaneous and gregarious; this experience was delightful. The young children would run to greet us. However, we were disturbed by a haunting fact. As a result our support of early childhood education have been intensified.

Preschool program’s results promising
(St. George) Spectrum op-ed by Rep. V. Lowry Snow

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a graduation event for some young people in Washington County.
This was not your typical graduation because the average age of the graduates ranged between 4 and 5 years. These children had been participating with their parents in an in-home preschool pilot program known as UPSTART that was funded by the Legislature about four years ago.
The primary objective of the program is to equip pre-kindergarten children with the basic literacy, vocabulary and math skills needed to better ensure their success as they begin their K-12 education. The pilot is administered by the non-profit Waterford Institute and is overseen by a statewide advisory committee.

Every day counts, even in kindergarten
Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Tracy S. Gruber, policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children

The opening days of school conjure up images of backpacks stuffed with notebooks and pencils, bulletin boards freshly decorated by teachers, and students greeting each other after summer break. But even in these early days of the new school year, some students already are heading toward academic trouble.
These students are starting the academic year missing too many days of school. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year, and in Utah, 13.5 percent of our students missed more than 10 percent of the school year in 2011. These absences can correlate with poor academic performance at every grade level and increase the likelihood a student will drop out of high school.
Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. Investments in new technology, curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students are not in school to benefit.

Bernick and Schott on Politics
Utah Policy commentary by columnists Bryan Schott and Bob Bernick

What happens if John Swallow is cleared by the feds? Utah is ready to unveil a new school grading system. And, will Gov. Gary Herbert give in to the demands of the “comic book lobby”?
Bryan Schott and Bob Bernick discuss the week in Utah politics.

Don’t fear high school
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner commentary by Melissa Johns, a junior at Bonneville High School

For many students, high school can be a scary thing. Even if you don’t think it’s scary, it is a completely different thing than even junior high.
Feeling overwhelmed and nervous is very common for new high school students and with a new year beginning, these feelings are probably growing stronger and stronger.
But don’t you worry, by following these easy five tips, you are bound to have a great high school experience. By senior year, who knows? Maybe you’ll never want to leave.

Cookie-cutter kids
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Peggy Clark

Grading schools? What could possibly be wrong with that idea? After 35 years of teaching I’ve decided that the Legislature lives in a bubble. Legislators need to spend some quality time in our schools before they instigate policies that affect teachers, students and schools.
Grading schools is based on the premise that every child comes to school with the same deck of cards. The Legislature perceives our students as cookie-cutter children, equal in every way. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Like it or not, socioeconomics greatly affects a school.

Helping west-side schools
Salt Lake Tribune letter from Tab L. Uno

Salt Lake City’s west-side schools need help. As a former Salt Lake School Board member representing the west side, I admire board member Michael Clara’s persistent efforts to gain attention for west-side schools at the Legislature. In your scathing Aug. 28 article “School board maverick stirs teacher debate at Legislature,” Clara takes on the Salt Lake School Board and superintendent to get more experienced teachers for these schools. They continue to face difficult socioeconomic issues requiring great teachers and community resources to make up for the poverty that prevents many students from getting a competent education.
As a board member in the 1980s and ’90s, I tried increasing the power of parents to have more say in their children’s education at their schools and the district. My efforts weren’t successful. Perhaps Clara’s approach might be more effective in making a real difference for these students.

Good for our students, good for Utah, good for our economy Deseret News letter from Kate Gressman

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, is set to sponsor a bill to raise $400 million in new money for our neighborhood public schools (“Utah senator wants money for schools by eliminating family child tax exemption,” Aug. 23). Good for Sen. Jones. Good for our students. Good for Utah. Good for our economy. At last, someone is listening to the people who have repeatedly called for a great and ongoing investment in public education.
Jones’ bill is much-needed tax fairness legislation. In the end, we all give up one state exemption and $400 million per year goes back into our schools to pay for teachers, reading and math specialists, and others who help our students. Imagine class sizes going down. The reality is 5,000-10,000 new jobs for the state. And isn’t that good for the economy?

Late information on school fees adds salt to the financial wound Deseret News letter from Helen Jones

On Aug. 28, Nadine Wimmer did a story about school fees (“Pay-to-play fees not as advertised,” KSL). The ads encouraging people to tune in for the information indicated state laws would be given to prove why fees charged by school districts may or may not be required.
The information is valuable, but given way too late. Granite School District conducted school registration Aug. 14. The information helping parents decide which fees they were required to pay was not available to them at the time needed. Delivery of this information after school fees are paid and school begins does not help those who want to speak out on this issue. Attempts to speak out now will be ignored because the message comes too late.

It’s time to extend MLK’s dream to school choice aspirants and nonviolent offenders Washington Times op-ed by Sen. Rand Paul

This week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther KingJr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s speech ranks alongside the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation as one of the most important expressions of American values and aspirations in our history. The marchers and activists of that era battled unspeakable odds to turn the nation’s eyes toward the plight of blacks in America. King reminded us then, and reminds us today, of the power of civil disobedience — in changing minds, changing hearts and, ultimately, changing the law.
There will always be the laws of men. But King showed us that there is sometimes a higher calling, a duty to one’s nation and God that requires resisting conventional standards or laws.

————————————— ———————-

Expecting the Best Yields Results in Massachusetts New York Times

BRAINTREE, Mass. — Conventional wisdom and popular perception hold that American students are falling further and further behind in science and math achievement. The statistics from this state tell a different story.
If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore, according to Timss — the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which surveys knowledge and skills of fourth and eighth graders around the world. (The most recent version, in 2011, tested more than 600,000 students in 63 nations.)
Massachusetts eighth graders also did well in mathematics, coming in sixth, behind Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. The United States as a whole came in 10th in science and 9th in math, with scores that were above the international average.
Of course, Timss is only one test, and achievement tests are incomplete indicators of educational prowess. But behind Massachusetts’ raw numbers are two decades of sustained efforts to lift science and mathematics education. Educators and officials chose a course and held to it, even when the early results were deeply disappointing.

With Common Core, Fewer Topics but Covered More Rigorously New York Times

If the new mathematics standards adopted by New York and 44 other states work as intended, then children, especially in the lower elementary grades, will learn less math this year.
But by cutting back on a hodgepodge of topics and delving deeper into central concepts, the hope is that the children will understand it better.
So, for Mayra Baldi, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that will mean focusing on numbers. “You have to deepen their understanding,” she said. “You have to get them to think more.”

First-grade teacher dives into Common Core with cautious optimism Hechinger Report

BELLE CHASSE, La.—It’s the fifth day of school at Belle Chasse Primary and Debbie Giroir’s first graders show off everything they know about the number five.
Jasmine, a small girl with braids, stands in front of the classroom, sketching out different ways to represent the number: five triangles, five tally marks, 2 + 3 = 5.
“Does anyone have another way we can make five?” Giroir asks. The answers come fast and furiously.
“Five plus zero!”
“Four plus one!”
“I have another way!”
“I think they tricked me,” Giroir tells the eager students. “I think I’ve got third graders here.”
Last year’s first graders did not get off to so strong a start. Hurricane Isaac and a toilet explosion interrupted the opening weeks, sending Giroir’s class home for several days. But she also attributes the auspicious beginning to a less random, ungovernable force: the national curriculum standards known as the Common Core.
The new standards have ignited political battles about the role of the federal government in public education, America’s international competitiveness, and the amount of time and money spent on standardized testing. But in classrooms across Louisiana and dozens of other states, the response has been more pragmatic than ideological as teachers—some optimistic and others resigned—work to align their approach to the new standards: adding more non-fiction texts to syllabi, for instance, and adjusting the way fractions are taught to emphasize that they are actually numbers of varying sizes (and not just pieces of pizza).

Facts, Figures as Students Return to the Classroom Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Schools and classrooms are spiffed up – maybe.
New textbooks have been ordered – perhaps.
Teachers are energized – hopefully.
What’s certain is that millions of children in the United States are heading to school after the summer. Many are there for the first time, while others are in the final year of their formal education.
There will be tears, from some prekindergarten and kindergarten youngsters starting school, and from parents as they leave their new college students at the dorm.
Statistics make clear that those with college degrees generally will do better than their peers who do not graduate and that those who drop out from high school face an even more dismal future.
As the school year begins, some facts and figures about education in America:

Public Education Gets a Revamp
States are changing their curriculum and teacher evaluations Wall Street Journal

Millions of students heading back to school are finding significant changes in the curriculum and battles over how teachers are evaluated, as the biggest revamps of U.S. public education in a decade work their way into classrooms.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core math and language-arts standards, which lay out what students should know at each grade level. More than 40 states have agreed to link teacher evaluations to test scores or other student-achievement measures, and four plan to rescind the licenses of some teachers who fail to make the grade.
Moreover, 14 states have passed laws allowing more charter schools, and at least eight adopted or expanded voucher programs that let students use tax money for private schools.
Supporters say the overhauls will help make U.S. students more competitive with pupils abroad. But others worry that the sheer volume and far-reaching nature of the new policies is too much, too fast.
Already, the changes have sparked pushback.

Education solutions from abroad for chronic U.S. school problems From teach-to-test straitjacket to school disparity, chronic school problems that American schools face are being solved in different ways around the world.
Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK — American schoolchildren are heading back to the classroom amid an intensifying debate as shrill with urgency as the bell urging them to their desks: how to ensure that they will be able to compete in a global market when they graduate.
Study after study in recent years suggests that American children fall well behind kids from Seoul to Helsinki, putting them at a great disadvantage in an increasingly knowledge-driven and global economy. The United States ranked 30th in mathematics literacy, 20th in science, and 14th in reading in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In math, noted a February report to the US Education Department by the Equity and Excellence Commission, “only one in four of America’s 52 million K-12 students is performing on par today with the average student in the highest-performing school systems in the world.”

Recess can reduce bullying and prepare kids to learn, research says Washington Post

When D.C. students discovered last week that recess had been cut to a minimum of 15 minutes per day, many parents launched an immediate protest. Others merely shrugged.
“Teachers should be teaching. Students should be learning,” wrote Steve Sweeney, a parent at Tyler Elementary on Captiol Hill, whose three daughters told him that recess was no more than a chunk of unstructured social time in the middle of the day.
But research released this spring showed that recess — when it’s well-organized — can make a real difference in schools, resulting in students who feel safer, bully less and are more ready to learn.

A copy of the study (RWJ Foundation)

What Makes The ‘Smartest Kids In The World’?
NPR All Things Considered

Compared to the rest of the world, American schools don’t stack up like they used to. But what’s the best way to educate children? Author Amanda Ripley followed students and teachers across the globe to find out for her new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.

Not your grandmother’s gym class

NEW YORK – Physical education in the United States has come a long way since the one-size-fits-all regimen of jumping jacks and rope climbing that was the bane of the baby boomer generation.
Today, where children learn can determine the type of fitness lessons they receive.
“We have schools with rock climbing walls, Zumba classes, inline skating – amazing stuff that I would have loved to have when I was a kid,” said Carly Braxton, senior program manager for advocacy at the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), a nonprofit group that promotes physical activity and education.
Even in schools constrained by local budgets or indifference, Braxton said, imaginative physical education teachers are finding innovative ways to get kids moving, from snow shoeing in cold climates to treasure hunting in warm ones.

‘Heat Days’ Become More Common for Sweaty Schools Associated Press

CHICAGO — When city students arrived for the first day of school under the blazing temperatures of a Midwest heat wave, staff greeted them with some unusual school supplies: water bottles, fans and wet towels to drape around their necks.
What they couldn’t always offer was air conditioning.
“It’s kind of hard to focus because everyone was sweating,” said Deniyah Jones, a 12-year-old 7th-grader at Nash Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side, which has just a few window units for the entire fortress-like brick and stone building.
This year’s late August heat exposed a tug-of-war in school districts that are under pressure to start school earlier than ever but are unable to pay to equip aging buildings with air conditioning. Parents who worry hot classrooms are a disadvantage for their kids are issuing an ultimatum: Make classes cooler or start the year later.

Without paperwork, school lunch free in Boston Officials seize opportunity to join new federal meal program Boston Globe

Boston public schools will begin serving free lunches to all students this school year even if families have the financial means to pay, school officials are expected to announce Tuesday.
The meal program, more than a year in the making, is part of an experimental federal initiative that aims to make it easier for students from low-income families to receive free meals by eliminating the need to fill out paperwork, including potentially invasive questions about income.
Cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago have been or will be participating in the free-meal program. Starting next school year, the program will be open to any school district across the country with high concentrations of students from low-income families. The cost of the free meals will be covered by the federal government.

‘Sesame Street’ Widens Its Focus
New York Times

On “Sesame Street,” a distressed cow has a big problem. She made it up the stairs to the beauty parlor but now, her bouffant piled high, she’s stuck. Cows can go up stairs, she moans, but not down.
Enter Super Grover 2.0. Out from his bottomless “utility sock” comes an enormous ramp, which, as the cow cheerily notes before clomping on down, is “a sloping surface that goes from high to low.”
Simple ABCs and 123s? So old school. In the last four years, “Sesame Street” has set itself a much larger goal: teaching nature, math, science and engineering concepts and problem-solving to a preschool audience — with topics like how a pulley works or how to go about investigating what’s making Mr. Snuffleupagus sneeze.
The content is wrapped in the traditional silliness; these are still Muppets. But the more sophisticated programming, on a show that frequently draws an audience even younger than the 3- to-5-year-olds it targets, raises a question: Is there any evidence that it is doing anything more than making PBS and parents feel good?

Protecting the pricey device your kid takes to school Reuters

NEW YORK – In the couple of weeks since the Academy of Our Lady in Marrero, Louisiana, began its school year, three of the 450 students have already broken their school-issued iPads.
One got crushed by books in a backpack, and one got dropped on the ground while a girl was running for the bus. The third – well, it just “mysteriously” cracked, the teenage student told Melinda St. Germain, technology director of the Catholic school.
As kids across the United States head back to school this fall, they are likely to have some kind of device with them every day. More and more students are either bringing their own or getting one from their schools, from small private academies to the Houston Independent School District, which is handing out 17,000 laptops in high schools this year.
Studies show that electronic devices, particularly mobile ones, tend to break when kids are using them.
SquareTrade, which provides extended insurance policies for these products, says that 50 percent of parents report that their kids have damaged an electronic device, costing families some $2.8 billion over the last five years.
That is not to mention theft, which typically would have to be covered under a homeowner’s or renter’s policy.


USOE Calendar

UEN News

September 5-6:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

September 12:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City

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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