Education News Roundup: Sept. 5, 2013

Amelia Earhart Elementary Read-a-Thon 4

Parents joined city, state and education leaders at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in the Provo School District to read one-on-one with students.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

The school grading story sure has legs.  (SLT)
and  (UP)
and  (OSE)
and  (KUTV)
and  (DN)
and  (OSE)

Is there a compromise in the works on the Book Cliffs issue?  (KUER)
and  (Moab Times-Independent)

Alpine installs cameras on buses.  (PDH)

Slate magazine, which stirred the pot a few days ago with an opinion piece on parents who send their kids to private schools, is stirring the pot again. This time the question is: Why do American schools ask for so much volunteer time from parents?  (Slate)

With college costs rising, more students are trying to earn college credit in high school.  (Hechinger)

Will California suspend standardized tests this year?  (Sac Bee)
and  (LAT)



Utah’s letter grades for schools will engage communities, proponents say Education » The reform aims to help schools with challenges, lawmaker says.

Utah charter schools grades no better than traditional schools

Utah critics: Grading system flawed, schools misrepresented

Book Cliffs Compromise in the Works

After beating caught on tape, school district adds cameras to buses to help stop bullying

Dealing Powerfully with Bullying

Utah Catholic high school students spend their summer as interns at the University of Utah

Cottonwood High drama teacher wins statewide award

Singer Doug Osmond encourages kids at Valley View Elementary School to read

Delta Area Schools Robbed

Search underway for Utah¹s top youth volunteers

Lawyers, judges debate ‘under God’ phrase in Pledge of Allegiance

Avoiding ‘summer slide’: As one summer ends, plan now for 2014


Grading schools

Utah’s school grades are opportunity for real reform

New School Grading System Will Ultimately Help Minority Students

Grading Utah Legislators

Real learning is in the extracurricular lessons in life and outside the classroom

Why Obama should drop U.S. suit opposing school choice

In defense of No Child Left Behind
Standardized tests offer our only real measure of what is taught and learned

Not Very Giving

Ban School Bake Sales
Do American parents spend too much time volunteering at their kids’ schools?


States May Move Closer to Uniform Way of Identifying ELLs

College costs drive record number of high school kids to start early

Bill would cancel STAR testing in math, English this year in California’s schools

Beefing Up Security
What we can learn from the responses to Sandy Hook in Texas and elsewhere.

U.S. teen use of e-cigarettes doubled, CDC reports

Say what? China says 400 million can’t speak national language

Teachers Block Approach to Mexico City Airport


Utah’s letter grades for schools will engage communities, proponents say Education » The reform aims to help schools with challenges, lawmaker says.

Ogden • A day after the unveiling of Utah’s school grading system, more parents are taking notice of their schools, business leaders are energized to help and lawmakers are optimistic about the future, proponents say.
Even at schools that received a failing grade, at least people are getting engaged for the first time, said lawmakers, educators and school district leaders at a news conference Wednesday.
“In the last two days I’ve heard from several parents in my neighborhood who haven’t paid attention [to] the data in the past,” Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said, referring to Ben Lomond High’s “F” grade. “They haven’t been able to decipher the information before. They understand letter grades.”
Proponents of school grades said that is exactly the purpose: Giving parents an easy way to judge how their school is doing.  (SLT)  (UP)  (OSE)  (KUTV)

Utah charter schools grades no better than traditional schools

SALT LAKE CITY — Charter schools fared about the same as traditional schools under Utah’s controversial new public school grading system.
Comparing the two shows similar percentages of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s. Like traditional schools, charter schools are good and not so good. And like traditional schools, demographics seem to play a role in how well charter schools scored.
Chris Bleak, president of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, isn’t surprised and said charter schools have performed well.
“I’m not concerned that there are schools across the spectrum. In the same vein, I think we need to look and see what schools are doing well and what’s not working,” he said.
Bleak said if a charter school isn’t executing its charter or isn’t able to prove its model works over a couple of years, it should be discontinued.  (DN)

Utah critics: Grading system flawed, schools misrepresented

Viewmont High School Principal Dan Linford isn’t bothered so much that the new school grading system gave his school an “F.”
He is bothered by the fact that if just a few more students had taken CRT — or criterion-referenced test — exams, Viewmont High in Bountiful would have earned a “B” from the controversial new system.
“If anyone in my community sees the ‘F,’ they know it is a flawed grading system, and it speaks more to the system than it does to Viewmont High,” he said Tuesday. “But Viewmont also is not a ‘B’ school. Viewmont is an ‘A’ school.”
Both Newsweek and the Washington Post have declared Viewmont to be within the top 6 percent of public schools, Linford said.  (OSE)

Book Cliffs Compromise in the Works

Governor Gary Herbert’s office is trying to work out a deal with Utah’s state lands agency on a drilling lease in the Book Cliffs.
Last week, Governor Herbert asked the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, to hold off on a drilling lease in an area of the Book Cliffs in Grand County. Sportsmen’s groups and environmentalists say the area is pristine wildlife habitat and ought to be preserved.
This week, SITLA said it was planning to go ahead with its lease to Anadarko Petroleum, citing its mandate to generate revenue from state land for Utah’s public schools.
But a compromise is apparently in the works. Alan Matheson, the governor’s environmental advisor, says there’s a way to work out an agreement where everybody wins.  (KUER)  (Moab Times-Independent)

After beating caught on tape, school district adds cameras to buses to help stop bullying

Students who are bullying may not be able to hide behind their peers’ reticence from snitching this year, as the Alpine School District adds video cameras to its buses.
Nearly 21,000 students ride about 19,000 miles a day in the state’s largest district, and that’s just to and from school. It doesn’t count field trips and extracurricular activities. District officials have purchased camera systems to use in the buses, with a plan to eventually equip its fleet of almost 300 buses.
ASD is spending $93,800 for 48 school bus video systems from Gatekeeper Systems, Inc. District spokesman John Patten said the district had a pilot program with the cameras and determined they were helpful.  (PDH)

Dealing Powerfully with Bullying

Compared to all of the things kids can become involved in this day and age, bullying behavior might seem to be insignificant. But, it isn’t. More than 160,000 kids skip school every day because of bullying.
What is bullying? It’s more than just a part of growing up. Actually a form of aggressive, violent behavior, bullying occurs when someone repeatedly does or says things to gain power over another person, or to dominate them. And, studies show that one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30.  (KTVX)

Utah Catholic high school students spend their summer as interns at the University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY/ DRAPER — High school students from Juan Diego and Judge Memorial Catholic high schools had the opportunity to work as interns at the University of Utah this summer.
Juan Diego’s Academy of Science, with a grant from the ALSAM Foundation, works with the university to provide an internship program. This year, eight Soaring Eagle students participated in this program. Most of them were sophomores.  (IC)

Cottonwood High drama teacher wins statewide award

MURRAY — Cottonwood High School drama teacher Adam Wilkins recently received the Teacher of the Year award from the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers.
Wilkins, who has been teaching at Cottonwood High for five years, received votes from teachers statewide.  (DN)

Singer Doug Osmond encourages kids at Valley View Elementary School to read

BOUNTIFUL — Doug Osmond, member of the Osmond Second Generation singers, visited Valley View Elementary School on Wednesday, talking about his life growing up in the entertainment business and the importance of reading.
Osmond began singing and performing with his family at the age of 3 and has spent his life performing around the world. Osmond told students that music is powerful, but he has since discovered something even more powerful than music.
“Reading books is powerful, because it brings out a lot of emotion,” Osmond said during an assembly for nearly 300 students from grades three through six. “Did you know that nearly every single political and social change has been started with a book? Now that’s powerful.”  (OSE)

Delta Area Schools Robbed

On August 23, a deputy from the Millard County Sheriff’s Office was called to Delta High School for a burglary. The school administration had learned that the school had been burglarized a night or two earlier. After reviewing surveillance video from within the school, they identified a sixteen year old male student as the suspect. Through the investigation, an eighteen year old, Austin David Barr, was identified as a second suspect. Three days later, during a follow up interview, deputies learned that earlier in the summer two juveniles had burglarized Delta Elementary and Delta Middle School as well. Barr was arrested and booked into the Millard County Jail. The juveniles have been referred to juvenile court. All suspects are being charged with Burglary, Theft, and other related charges.  (MUR)

Search underway for Utah¹s top youth volunteers

SALT LAKE CITY — The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards has begun its 19th annual search for Utah’s top youth volunteers.
Through Nov. 5, students in fifth through 12th grades are invited to apply for Prudential Spirit of Community Awards if they have made contributions to their communities through volunteer service within the past 12 months.
The application is available at and  (DN)

Lawyers, judges debate ‘under God’ phrase in Pledge of Allegiance

The viewpoint of one party was missing Wednesday in a Massachusetts courtroom where attorneys and judges debated whether the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the equal rights of nonbelievers: Children who are asked to recite the pledge every morning.
Do children know they can opt out of saying all or part of the pledge? Do atheist students feel stigmatized as unpatriotic if they don’t say “under God” when reciting the pledge? Would a 6-year-old understand the term “under God” as a philosophical statement and not a religious declaration?  (DN)  (KSL)

Avoiding ‘summer slide’: As one summer ends, plan now for 2014

With a new school year starting and children returning to classrooms all across the country, the kids who didn’t exercise their brains during the summer will likely experience some degree of “summer slide” — in other words, they’ll perform worse on the same standardized tests following the summer break than they would’ve before vacation commenced.
Although it’s too late to conjure a stimulating summer for your child this year, the National Summer Learning Association’s “Summer Starts in September” planning guide proclaims, “As soon as one summer ends, it’s time to start planning for the next one!” In that vein, then, here are some ideas to consider in planning for summer 2014.  (DN)


Grading schools
(St. George) Spectrum editorial

Schools across Utah had that same anticipation or sinking feeling — depending on their individual scores — when the state issued grade letters for each public school Tuesday.
Eleven percent of Utah’s 855 public schools earned an A, 45 percent a B, 30 percent a C, 10 percent a D and 4 percent an F.
In the St. George and Cedar City areas, 12 schools earned A’s — Enoch and Three Peaks elementaries in Iron County and in Washington County, Desert Hills and Pine View middle schools, Fossil Ridge, Sunrise Ridge and Tonaquint intermediate schools, Arrowhead, Diamond Valley, Hurricane, Santa Clara and Sunset elementaries.
In both counties, only Washington County Online School earned a D, and only Millcreek High School, an alternative school for students who haven’t been successful in the traditional school setting, earned an F.

Utah’s school grades are opportunity for real reform Deseret News commentary by columnist Jay Evensen

Some schools received F’s, a lot were deemed mediocre, and many children in low-income areas performed poorly.
Lots of educators, meanwhile, hopped around and complained like they had been forced to walk barefoot on hot coals.
Reactions to Utah’s first-ever exercise in the grading of public schools on Tuesday were about as predictable as turkey on Thanksgiving. When the education monopoly is knocked out of its comfort zone, excuses fly faster than comp tickets at a lobbyists convention, and fingers point so quickly it’s a wonder no one loses an eye.
And on the flip side, state lawmakers and education leaders keep their deer-in-the-headlights look, with little real consensus as to what to do.

New School Grading System Will Ultimately Help Minority Students Utah Policy commentary by Sen. Stuart Reid

Yesterday, with the announcement of school grading results, I learned that the charter elementary school that two of my grandchildren attend received a “B” grade. The name of the school is the Ogden Preparatory Academy (OPA).
My daughter Sarah, who lives 13 miles away in Willard, decided to drive her children daily to and from OPA so that they could study and socialize with poorer minority children (for the same reasons she was educated in Rose Park schools) and to experience an immersion program. Today, after learning of the “B” grade OPA received, Sarah feels vindicated in the decision to place her children in this exceptional school in the heart of inner-city Ogden.

Grading Utah Legislators
Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon by Pat Bagley

Real learning is in the extracurricular lessons in life and outside the classroom
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner commentary by columnist D. Louise Brown

Listening to mom-to-mom conversations swirling around lately, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe the reason we send kids back to school is because moms need a break from the kids, and the kids need a break from the moms.
But no, the real reason we send kids to school is so they can get an education. They go there to learn stuff, like reading and writing and arithmetic. Or geometry. Or calculus. Or trigonometry. Or whatever form of number-related torture is trending this year.

Why Obama should drop U.S. suit opposing school choice Washington Post op-ed by Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana

While President Obama was publicly celebrating the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech last week, his administration took action behind the scenes in Louisiana that was a complete rejection of King’s dream.
The Justice Department has challenged our state in court for having the temerity to start a scholarship program that frees low-income minority children from failing schools. In other words, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder would rip children out of their schools and handcuff them to the failing schools they previously attended. And, in the ultimate irony, they are using desegregation orders set up to prevent discrimination against minority children to try to do it.
Never mind that 90 percent of the children receiving scholarships in Louisiana are minorities or that 100 percent of their parents choose to apply for these scholarships.
By his own words, the president is fighting for the right of these children to live the American dream, but his actions would destroy their dreams.

In defense of No Child Left Behind
Standardized tests offer our only real measure of what is taught and learned Baltimore Sun op-ed by Robert Maranto, 21st Century Chair in Leadership at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas

Just weeks after the U.S. House Republicans made a purely symbolic move to dismantle No Child Left Behind, the law that forces schools to report standardized test scores, standardized testing season hit our household.
By testing season I don’t mean the time when kids actually take the tests — that was four months back. Rather, now that one school season is long gone, we start a new season with the progress report on how the old school year really went academically.
I say how the school year really went because with grades, you just never can tell. Teachers face pressure from parents, and sometimes principals, to give everyone A’s and B’s. Powerful parents can be particularly pushy. Since serious grading is a grind, and controversial to boot, you can hardly blame some teachers for watering down standards.
For all these reasons, an A in one school might be a C in another. Even for the same course in the same school, an A from Ms. Smith means something very different than an A from Mr. Jones.
But standardized tests are relatively impervious to preference or politics.

Not Very Giving
New York Times op-ed by ROB REICH, associate professor of political science at Stanford and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society

STANFORD, Calif. — AS school gets rolling across the country, many parents will be asked to make a large financial contribution to their children’s school. In Hillsborough, Calif., for example, parents receive a letter from the Hillsborough Schools Foundation in which the amount requested is $2,300 per child.
There have always been parent-teacher associations that raise modest or even not-so-modest amounts of money. But increasingly local school foundations are being created expressly for the purpose of raising private funds.
Hillsborough is one of the wealthiest towns in the United States. Median family income is over $250,000, and residents enjoy one of the best school districts in the state. It’s not hard for Hillsborough families to donate to their own children’s school. And they do: bids at the foundation’s annual online auction last year went into the thousands for a paid internship at Franklin Templeton Investments and for a trip to the taping of the final episode of “The Bachelor.” Or you could make an offer on a vacation in a luxury home with a dedicated butler on a private island in Belize.
According to the foundation, charitable gifts have financed class-size reductions, librarians, art and music teachers, and Smart technology in every classroom. These funds supplement the annual public spending of $13,500 per pupil. In the process, they increase property values in Hillsborough. In 2012 private contributions to the foundation amounted to $3.45 million, or $2,300 per pupil.
Hillsborough is not an anomaly.

Ban School Bake Sales
Do American parents spend too much time volunteering at their kids’ schools?
Slate commentary by Amanda Ripley, author of the new book, The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way

American parents show up at their children’s schools. A lot. Nearly nine out of 10 attended at least one PTA or other school meeting in the 2011–12 school year, according to data released last week by the Department of Education’s National Household Education Surveys Program. Six out of 10 participated in at least one school fundraiser. American parents stay up late baking cookies for bake sales, and they leave work early for football games. It’s a remarkable investment of time and heart.
Yet over the past couple of years, as I traveled around the world visiting countries with higher-performing education systems while researching my new book The Smartest Kids in the World, I noticed something odd. I hardly saw parents at schools at all.


States May Move Closer to Uniform Way of Identifying ELLs Education Week

The widespread adoption of the common-core standards and the imminent rollout of shared content assessments is pushing states to find common ground in yet another dimension of schooling: how best to serve the growing population of English-language learners.
With a just-released set of recommendations from the Council of Chief State School Officers to help guide them, most states are now set to embark on an effort to bring more uniformity to identifying who English-learners are and when those students are no longer in need of language instruction. The goal is to move all states to a more consistent playing field over the next four or five years.
Doing so would upend current practice, which for decades has had states and local school districts using different approaches to identify ELLs and reclassify them as fluent in English. It would also lead, experts say, to much more comparability among states and districts on how well they are serving this growing population of students.

College costs drive record number of high school kids to start early Hechinger Report

Bahiya Nasuuna hasn’t even started college, but she’s already got some academic credits in the bank that will save her time and money and give her a jump on graduating—as she hopes to—within four years.
“My parents need as much help as they can get” to cover her tuition, said Nasuuna, who lives in the outskirts of Boston, in Chelsea. She passed an Advanced Placement test in English at her public high school that she’s cashed in for college credit, using it to forgo a required introductory writing course.
In all, Nasuuna passed seven AP exams in high school, and is ready to use those, too, to keep her studies on track at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she plans to begin this fall on a path to an eventual degree in public health.
She’s one of a record number of students getting a head start on college credits while still in high school, cutting costs and speeding toward degrees—and jobs—as quickly as possible to avoid dragging out costly higher educations.

Bill would cancel STAR testing in math, English this year in California’s schools Sacramento (CA) Bee

California students and teachers are set to receive a one-year reprieve from standardized testing requirements that have become a routine part of school culture each spring.
A plan introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature would end the use of STAR tests in math and English for the school year already under way – a year earlier than planned.
In their place, schools could opt in to computer-based assessments aligned to new curriculum standards called Common Core.
The annual release of the data gathered from state assessments would be suspended as well.  (LAT)

Beefing Up Security
What we can learn from the responses to Sandy Hook in Texas and elsewhere.
Scholastic Administr@tor

The Monday after the Sandy Hook massacre, as educators and students across the country went back to school in a fundamentally altered landscape, a task force of the Dallas ISD Police Department fanned out to assess security at the city’s 150 elementary schools.
While the department’s staff of 203—more than half of whom are armed—is charged with protecting the district 24/7, the focus had always been on middle and high schools. Police rarely received a call from an elementary school, says Chief Craig Miller. The Newtown shooting changed all that.
Not just in Dallas, of course. Across the country, educators are beefing up security and reviewing lockdown procedures. But which measures offer the best protection at a time of ever-shrinking budgets?

U.S. teen use of e-cigarettes doubled, CDC reports Reuters

Twice as many U.S. middle and high school students used electronic cigarettes, which mimic traditional cigarettes and deliver nicotine as a vapor, in 2012 than a year earlier, and these teens could be on the way to a lifelong addiction, according to a government report released on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 10 percent of high school students surveyed reported using e-cigarettes in 2012, up from 4.7 percent in 2011.
Some 2.7 percent of middle school students surveyed had used e-cigarettes in 2012, up from 1.4 percent in 2011.
Last year, nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students nationwide tried e-cigarettes, the report said.

Say what? China says 400 million can’t speak national language Reuters

BEIJING – More than 400 million Chinese are unable to speak the national language Mandarin, and large numbers in the rest of the country speak it badly, state media said on Thursday as the government launched another push for linguistic unity.
China’s ruling Communist Party has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of often mutually unintelligible dialects and numerous minority languages, but has been hampered by the country’s size and lack of investment in education, especially in poor rural areas.
Officials have admitted they will probably never get the whole country to be able to speak Mandarin, formally called Putonghua in China, meaning “common tongue”, suggesting everyone should be able to speak it.
Ministry of Education spokeswoman Xu Mei said that only 70 percent of the country could speak Mandarin, many of them poorly, and the remaining 30 percent or 400 million people could not speak it at all, Xinhua news agency reported.

Teachers Block Approach to Mexico City Airport Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Teachers angry over the passage of a national education reform are partially blocking the main approach to Mexico City’s airport, forcing many passengers to leave their cars and rush through the streets on foot to catch their flights.
Hundreds of police are guarding the airport to prevent the members of a dissident teachers’ union from blocking other entrances. Airport management is advising passengers to take alternate routes to the airport, including the subway.


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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