Education News Roundup: Oct. 21, 2013

Utah Core Standards Fact vs. Fiction ImageEducation News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Trib takes note of upcoming bond elections including one in Jordan district.  (SLT)

East High student allowed to drop AP class.  (SLT)

Rep. Powell writes about the Common Core State Standards.  (UP)
So does the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.  (Herald)
and  (Times)
or  (PolitiFact)



Bonds, taxes and city consolidation are on Utahns’ ballots

Bill addresses expression of religion in Utah public schools

Lawmaker’s bill may add $400 million to Utah schools, but at what expense?

Utah father had to fight for daughter to drop AP class After East High refuses a student’s request to drop an AP class, her father — an advocate for parents’ rights ­— appeals and wins.

UEA convention focuses on teacher collaboration

Unified Police investigate Jordan Valley principal Crime » District says it completed its own investigation and found no wrongdoing.

About Utah: Garffs know incentives work

Cheering for Kennedy: Fremont High girls share dreams, friendship with new teammate

Ogden River becomes the classroom

St. George school makes “miracles” happen for special-ed students

Autism medical waiver increases therapy enrollment

2 AFHS band students honored by U.S. Army

Springville High students run the Sub-for-Santa 5K

Controversial teacher evaluation system is working in D.C., study says


Utah needs no new law to protect students’ religious liberty Proposed law unnecessary

Common Core, Communism and Careers

Don’t suspend kids for behavior; it makes them drop out

Education legislation

Cache school plan sound

Turner Bitton is the choice of teachers

Prep football player appreciates coverage, community support

Sunlight as disinfectant: Why the Common Core deserves a loud and untidy debate

Why Do Teachers Quit?
And why do they stay?


Politics take center stage in Common Core controversy

PolitiFact: Distortions on Common Core

Lobbyists Ready for a New Fight on U.S. Spending

Study: 15 Percent of US Youth Out of School, Work

Teacher Michael Landsberry, killed in Sparks Middle School shooting, called a hero

School gun proposal prompts recall drive

‘Parent Trigger’ School Faces Challenge to Deliver School created by ‘trigger’ law opens to high expectations

Malala Inspires School Curriculum

Mark Zuckerberg Puts His Money in Ed-Tech Startup


Bonds, taxes and city consolidation are on Utahns’ ballots

A variety of ballot issues face voters in some Utah cities on Election Day.
Jordan School District is seeking approval of a $495 million bond to accommodate expected growth. The district serves more than 52,000 children in Bluffdale, Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan.  (SLT)

Bill addresses expression of religion in Utah public schools

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, will run a bill to allow a potential public expression of religious beliefs in public schools, tailored after a similar measure adopted earlier this year in Mississippi.
The Mississippi policy allows a limited public forum at school events, such as football games or morning announcements, to let students express religious beliefs. The action must include a disclaimer that such student speech does not reflect an endorsement, sponsorship or position by the school.
Weiler thinks Utah needs the same protections, because all that is on the books now are broad laws touching the subject.  (OSE)

Lawmaker’s bill may add $400 million to Utah schools, but at what expense?

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake County lawmaker has unveiled a plan to generate $400 million in additional funding for Utah’s public schools, at the expense of an exemption on state income tax returns that mostly benefits families.
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said her tax proposal would be so broad-based everyone would share in generating the new revenue, which she estimated would mean an additional $400,000 for each elementary school in the state each year, $700,000 for every middle school and $1 million for each high school in the Beehive State.
She said the money would be distributed to school community councils to utilize. She also said the revenue would not change the existing weighed pupil unit (WPU) method of funding local school districts.
The bill, which is still in the process of being drafted, would eliminate the tax exemption for dependents on state income tax returns. Jones said even without the deductions state tax rates would still be lower than 5 percent for most taxpayers.  (OSE)

Utah father had to fight for daughter to drop AP class After East High refuses a student’s request to drop an AP class, her father — an advocate for parents’ rights ­— appeals and wins.

Andie Thompson, a 17-year-old junior at East High School, decided she wanted out of a rigorous Advanced Placement biology class.
But a school counselor said dropping the class would be a violation of school policy — and it would show as an “F” on her school transcript, her father says.
After Gary Thompson failed to persuade the counselor, he had Andie and her tutor meet with the biology teacher and a vice principal, Greg Maughan, who also rejected her request. The frustrated father next hired an attorney and wrote a long appeal to Principal Paul Sagers, who decides such appeals.
Last week, Sagers sent Thompson a letter that said Andie can leave the class and will suffer no negative repercussions.
The victory, while good for his child, was a hollow one for Thompson, a champion of parents’ rights as the director of advocacy at Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center in South Jordan.  (SLT)

UEA convention focuses on teacher collaboration

SANDY — As teachers from around the state gathered Thursday for the annual Utah Education Association Convention, the message passed down from leaders was a call for greater collaboration.
UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh opened the convention by urging educators to take an active role in their local school communities and cultivate partnerships with fellow teachers, administrators, parents and policymakers.
“It’s time to stand up. It’s time to be candid about the power of working together,” she said. “We are the solution. We have an unprecedented opportunity to come together as education stakeholders to engage in positive conversations about what we’re doing in Utah.”  (KSL)  (MUR)

Unified Police investigate Jordan Valley principal Crime » District says it completed its own investigation and found no wrongdoing.

The Unified Police Department is investigating the principal of a school for special-needs children.
UPD Lt. Justin Hoyal confirmed that they are looking into a report that the principal of Jordan Valley School made inappropriate comments, though Hoyal could not expand further. Jordan Valley is part of the Canyons School District.
However, district spokesman Jeff Haney said that the administration conducted its own thorough investigation of those allegations when they surfaced two months ago, and found no evidence of wrong-doing.
The allegations stemmed from private meetings about individualized education plans — discussions about how best to educate children based on their disabilities. Haney could not comment on the nature of the allegations, since those meetings are confidential.  (SLT)

About Utah: Garffs know incentives work

BOUNTIFUL — Ten years ago, Bob and Kathi Garff, having arrived at that enviable stage in life where they could stop worrying about making money and start worrying about spending it, summoned their five grown children to the kitchen table in their home in Bountiful and spelled out what they wanted to do with their inheritance.
They wanted to give away cars.
But not to their kids. To other people’s kids.
Thus was born a program that has evolved into the Success in Education Foundation, a remarkably successful public charity with widespread public sector support that a decade later is used by more than 300 Utah schools to motivate their students to reach for the stars … or at least the car keys.  (DN)

Cheering for Kennedy: Fremont High girls share dreams, friendship with new teammate

PLAIN CITY, Weber County — From the moment Kennedy Hansen steps onto the field with the Fremont High School cheerleaders, the smile never leaves her face.
“For two hours, she’s a whole different girl,” cheerleading coach Jill Scoffield said.
Two or three cheerleaders are beside the soon to be 16-year-old every moment once the team gets off the bus, laughing and singing Taylor Swift songs. They link arms with Kennedy, guiding her out to the football field, and lay her forgotten cane aside.
She won’t need it as long as “her girls” are nearby.
Once a bright and active little girl who loved to dance, Kennedy was diagnosed in June with juvenile Batten disease, a terminal neurological condition that for the past seven years has been slowly robbing her of her cognitive abilities, motor skills and eyesight.  (DN)

Ogden River becomes the classroom

OGDEN — Young students at Venture Academy have been studying the different aspects of the Ogden River ecosystem in the classroom for awhile now.
Finally, they got the chance to experience it firsthand.
Last Thursday, about 150 third, fourth and fifth graders from the charter school in Marriott-Slaterville spent a picturesque fall day learning about the Ogden River’s water cycle, watershed, food web and plant life — not to mention the fish that call the river home.
While some were a bit squeamish, Venture Academy student Abby Laymon eagerly took the chance to pick up and hold a brown trout caught during an electrofishing demonstration by Andy Pappas, an aquatic biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. (OSE)

St. George school makes “miracles” happen for special-ed students

SAINT GEORGE — When Diana Wade’s daughter was born with Down Syndrome, a team of doctors explained to her what life would be like for her new baby.
“I always describe it as a quick trip to hell,” said Wade, a retired teacher and mother of eight who is out to shatter stereotypes when it comes to the potential of so-called special-ed students.
Wade started a nonprofit school, Children of Hope Academy. It’s open to people with all sorts of learning challenges, including Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and brain injuries.  (KSL)

Autism medical waiver increases therapy enrollment

OREM — A little boy looking at his mom and saying “hi” may not seem significant for many, but it is for the mother whose son wouldn’t even acknowledge her before he started treatment for autism spectrum disorder.
This is just one success story to come out of a Kids on the Move program called Bridges, which provides services for children ages 2–8 with autism spectrum disorder. The program has grown immensely over the past year for a variety of reasons, from 30 children to nearly 100.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 47 individuals in Utah are on the autism spectrum — the highest rate in the United States.  (DN)

2 AFHS band students honored by U.S. Army

Two students from American Fork High School were chosen from 1,400 student musicians from across the country for the honor of performing in the U.S. Army’s All-American Marching Band.
On Tuesday, U.S Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Revetti and Sergeant First Class Rodney Gagnon presented AFHS seniors Jordon Toomey and Erin Williams with 2014 U.S. Army Band jackets. The black jackets represent their official selection as members of the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Band.  (PDH)

Springville High students run the Sub-for-Santa 5K

Most teens like to sleep in on Saturday mornings, but Springville High students and their families arrived at the stadium under a full moon wearing red Santa hats ready to serve. Key Club members, SHS students, and supporters lined up to donate $25 to run a 5K supporting their Key Club and Kiwanis International Sub-for-Santa project.  (PDH)

Controversial teacher evaluation system is working in D.C., study says

The controversial teacher evaluation system used by District of Columbia schools seems to be working, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study showed that using a carrot and a stick — merit pay and threat of firing — motivated improvements by weak teachers and spurred effective teachers to even higher performance levels.  (DN)


Utah needs no new law to protect students’ religious liberty Proposed law unnecessary Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Convincing people that you have come to rescue them from threats that do not exist is a good way to raise campaign funds or win votes in a neighborhood caucus. But it is a lousy way to govern.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, isn’t claiming that the religious rights of Utah public school students are really under threat. But he still wants to waste the Legislature’s time and taxpayers’ money by pursuing a bill that would purport to give public school students several rights that nobody questions and one that could create some unnecessary woes.
The lawmaker says his as-yet undrafted bill, soon to appear in the file titled “Religious Freedom for Students,” is patterned after Mississippi’s Student Religious Liberties Act. Which is, in turn, if by happenstance, mostly patterned after a set of guidelines the federal government has been promoting as far back as 1998.
Despite what some religious leaders may want you to believe, the religious rights of public school students have never been excluded from our educational institutions, except by the occasional fearful teacher or clueless bureaucrat who didn’t get the memo.

Common Core, Communism and Careers
Utah Policy commentary by Rep. Kraig Powell

As a taxpayer, I don’t want my dollars going to public schools unless those schools are focusing on getting kids ready for jobs and the work force. Critics of the Common Core educational standards movement often complain that the standards treat students as mere objects of economic capital and are designed to force students into pre-determined career pathways rather than offering them the noble education of enlightenment in the classics that our country’s founders envisioned.
But most of our country’s founders were not products of a public education system and they had different goals for their own classical education, and leisure time to pursue those goals (philosophy, government, law).
I want the schools in my world to do everything they can to train the students to be ready to get a job in the modern workplace, and to expose them to those career and job skills now. Most of the skills that need to be taught in K-12 public schools to prepare students for the work force are essentially just literacy and numeracy, and those can and will continue to be taught by studying classical works (as my own kids are doing to the hilt now under Utah’s Common Core standards, based on my own personal experience reading The Scarlet Letter and other works together with them this year). But if we don’t make sure that these foundational language and math classes are aligned to the workplace and producing the skills needed in the work force, then I think we are wasting precious taxpayer dollars.

Don’t suspend kids for behavior; it makes them drop out Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Trace Downey, Mary Milner, Maureen Minson and Christopher Pieper, students in the Public Policy Clinic at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law

Hurrying down to class at a major Salt Lake high school years ago, one of us was in the company of two friends. When passing the vice principal, these two friends were stopped and questioned about why they were not in class, But our current law school peer, then just a naive high school student, was allowed to continue.
All three students were headed to the same place, for the same reason, and with a teacher’s permission.
The only difference among the three students was that the two who were stopped and questioned had brown skin. Now a law school student, our peer almost didn’t graduate because her faith and trust in the school, its administration, and the educational system were shaken.
This newspaper recently reported that close to one in five of Utah students are not completing high school, and the Utah Department of Education will soon release a guide on dropout prevention in Utah.
Utah needs to have a statewide conversation about our graduation rate, but the conversation must include the fact that overuse of school discipline is contributing to the problem.

Education legislation
Deseret News letter from Chris Reilly

I’d like to encourage everyone to support the recent proposal Rep. Pat Jones brought to the Utah Legislature. This means the families choosing to have more kids would pay more for those kids to be educated.
Education is the only service in life where the more you use it (more children), the less you pay for it. Let’s turn that around so the people using the services the most do not get tax breaks the more they use it. This bill would eliminate the state exemption for everyone; no favorites.

Cache school plan sound
(Logan) Herald Journal letter from Becky Neilson

As a member of the Building Task Force Committee for the Cache County School District, I would like to point out a few reasons for your “yes” vote.
We studied (for eight months) the issues at hand with data provided to us by the district as well as an impartial outside engineering firm. There were several ideas that came out of those meetings, most of which have been brought up in previous letters to the editor. It will be two years ago in January since we began the process as a committee. The minutes from all of our meetings are on the CCSD website.

Turner Bitton is the choice of teachers
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Brad Asay

It’s refreshing to endorse a candidate that is so willing to support public schools. Turner Bitton, candidate for Ogden City Council, is working closely with AFT Utah (American Federation of Teachers) in our efforts to increase collaboration between community members and public schools. Mr. Bitton has received the endorsement of AFT Utah and AFT Top of Utah Local 6473.

Prep football player appreciates coverage, community support
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Ryan Beal

I am a football player on Weber high school’s football team. I mainly just wanted to thank the Standard-Examiner for actually giving us coverage this season. It really means a lot to us players to be recognized.
Even more important, I really just wanted to thank the community that has been really gathering around this team to help us and this new program, which head Coach Matt Hammer has constructed.

Sunlight as disinfectant: Why the Common Core deserves a loud and untidy debate Hechinger Report commentary by columnist Liz Willen

It isn’t always easy to hear complaints and misunderstandings about the Common Core, new standards meant to increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the nation’s 100,000 public elementary and secondary schools.
Changing the way teachers teach and test students has been anything but smooth in the 46 states that have initially adopted the standards.
It should come as no surprise for a major sea change in education to meet both criticism and cheers.
The Common Core has already seen its share of both at the local and national levels. And parents, teachers and students will continue to need more information and reassurance about new expectations, curricula and tests.
That’s why it was so disturbing when New York State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. abruptly canceled four town-hall style meetings about the new standards earlier this month after being heckled by angry parents in Poughkeepsie.

Why Do Teachers Quit?
And why do they stay?
Atlantic commentary by LIZ RIGGS, a writer based in Nashville, Tennessee

Richard Ingersoll taught high-school social studies and algebra in both public and private schools for nearly six years before leaving the profession and getting a Ph.D. in sociology. Now a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s education school, he’s spent his career in higher ed searching for answers to one of teaching’s most significant problems: teacher turnover.
Teaching, Ingersoll says, “was originally built as this temporary line of work for women before they got their real job—which was raising families, or temporary for men until they moved out of the classroom and became administrators. That was sort of the historical set-up.”
Ingersoll extrapolated and then later confirmed that anywhere between 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years (that includes the nine and a half percent that leave before the end of their first year.) Certainly, all professions have turnover, and some shuffling out the door is good for bringing in young blood and fresh faces. But, turnover in teaching is about four percent higher than other professions.


Politics take center stage in Common Core controversy Miami Herald

TALLAHASSEE — There were outraged parents, tea party stalwarts and a man in a Revolutionary War uniform.
“As far as I’m concerned, Common Core is the same as communism,” one attendee said at the Wednesday night meeting in Davie.
“Marxism!” someone shouted from the audience.
The three public hearings on the Common Core State Standards, held last week at the request of Gov. Rick Scott, were intended to let parents, educators and taxpayers in Florida express their opinions on the new national benchmarks for students. But many of their voices were drowned out by emotional outbursts and political jabs aimed at the federal government.
It has happened in other states, too.
A Common Core town hall meeting in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., became so rowdy that the state PTA canceled three other hearings scheduled for future dates. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was also overwhelmed with Common Core critics, many of whom made political statements.
The hearings, some observers say, are evidence that the public debate on Common Core has drifted away from a discussion of standards.

PolitiFact: Distortions on Common Core
Tampa Bay (FL) Times

As Florida surges toward full implementation of Common Core State Standards for its public schools, the din is rising from some fronts to pull back.
Gov. Rick Scott, whose tea party base offers perhaps the most strident opposition, is listening. In open forums Scott requested last week, people stepped forward to give their views. Criticism ranged from what’s taught in English class all the way to conspiracy theories involving iris scans.
PolitiFact Florida reviewed comments from the hearings and found that several of the most dramatic criticisms aren’t backed up by the facts.  (PolitiFact)

Lobbyists Ready for a New Fight on U.S. Spending New York Times

WASHINGTON — Throughout the tense fiscal deadlock in recent weeks, some of the most powerful forces in Washington, including retirees and defense contractors, largely sat on the sidelines. Now they are preparing for a political fight with billions of federal dollars at stake.
With automatic cuts to the military set to take effect by January and a separate round of cuts scheduled for Medicare, lawmakers will have to decide who gets hit the hardest. Washington’s lobbying machine — representing older citizens, doctors, educators, military contractors and a wide range of corporate interests — is gearing up to ensure that the slices of federal money for those groups are spared in new negotiations over government spending.
It is a debate that almost no one involved wants to have so soon after the nasty fight over the federal budget, which produced the 16-day shutdown and again failed to reverse the automatic cuts resulting from previous disagreements. But Congress managed to reopen the government and extend the nation’s borrowing limit largely by creating a new series of deadlines that run through February, giving special interests several chances to influence the process.

Joel Packer, the top lobbyist for the Committee for Education Funding, spent last week giving a series of pep talks to education officials across the United States, urging them to get involved.
Even before the government shutdown, realizing that this battle was fast approaching, education officials organized by the group held a rally in Washington featuring a mock bake sale, which they followed up by distributing bags of cookie crumbs to lawmakers’ offices on Capitol Hill. “No More Budget Crumbs for Students and Education!!” said a flier promoting the effort.  (Ed Week)

Study: 15 Percent of US Youth Out of School, Work Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday.
That’s almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

A copy of the report

Teacher Michael Landsberry, killed in Sparks Middle School shooting, called a hero Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal

The Reno Gazette-Journal has confirmed Michael Landsberry, a math teacher at Sparks Middle School, was shot and killed this morning after a student opened fire, wounding two others and killing himself.
His family said today the fact that Landsberry is being called a hero for trying to get the student shooter to put his gun down before being shot and killed is no surprise.
“To hear he was trying to protect those kids doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Chanda Landsberry, who is married to Michael’s younger brother, Reggie. “He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is.”
Besides teaching eighth grade math, Michael Landsberry was also in the Nevada Army National Guard.
Tom Robinson, deputy chief with the Reno Police Department told reporters at a news conference: “in my estimation, he is a hero. We do know he was trying to intervene.”  (Reuters) (AP)

School gun proposal prompts recall drive Bonner County (ID) Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — Opponents of the proposal to arm school staff have launched a recall effort against Lake Pend Oreille School District trustee Steve Youngdahl.
Spearheaded by Tom Bokowy, Jacinda Bokowy, Stephanie Aitken and Sandpoint City Council candidate Bill Aitken, their efforts produced the minimum number of signatures to launch a recall petition against Youngdahl. Supporters have just over 70 days remaining to collect the necessary 105 signatures to bring the issue to ballot. According to Tom and Jacinda Bokowy, they’ve accumulated more than a third of that requirement.
If enough signatures are collected, residents of district Zone 5 will vote on the recall in a special election.

‘Parent Trigger’ School Faces Challenge to Deliver School created by ‘trigger’ law opens to high expectations Education Week

Adelanto, Calif. — The parent-led battle to transform Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school may be over, but the storybook ending that many charter supporters sought for the children in this Mojave Desert community may be even more challenging to achieve.
More than two months after the first school in the nation to be overhauled following a so-called “parent trigger” campaign opened its doors in July, many parents at the newly named Desert Trails Preparatory Academy say they are pleased with what they’re seeing of the instruction, atmosphere, and administration of the new charter school.
But as the school’s staff faces the daunting job of turning around a failing school, an unknown dimension of the task is what role these newly empowered parents will play in Desert Trails’ future—and how quickly the community’s wounds will heal after the divisive fight over the school’s creation.

Malala Inspires School Curriculum
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The 16-year-old Pakistani teen targeted for a Taliban assassination because she championed education for girls has inspired the development of a school curriculum encouraging advocacy.
George Washington University announced Monday that faculty members are creating multimedia curriculum tools to accompany a book recently released by the teen, Malala Yousafzai. Several faculty members will pilot the curriculum early next year for both college and high school instruction. Free of charge, it will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman’s voice and political extremism, the university said.
The tools won’t just look at the teen’s story, but also how the same issues get reflected elsewhere, such as when girls face child marriage and pressures to leave school, said Mary Ellsberg, the director of the university’s Global Women’s Institute.

Mark Zuckerberg Puts His Money in Ed-Tech Startup Reuters

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is spreading his wealth with what appears to be first national equity investment through his foundation Startup:Education. The lucky startup is Panorama Education, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that utilizes surveys among teachers, students, administrators and parents to garner feedback and provide findings to the school district.
“We are using technology to address some of the most difficult problems in education,” Panorama Education co-founder Aaron Feuer said in a statement. “We are tremendously excited to have Mark Zuckerberg involved because of his passion for technology and education.”
Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, co-led the $4 million seed round with Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC and had participation from Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments and Yale University.


USOE Calendar

UEN News

October 22:
Legislative Education Task Force
9 a.m., 445 State Capitol

November 7-8:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

November 14:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City

November 19:
Executive Appropriations Subcommittee meeting
1 p.m., 445 State Capitol

November 20:
Education Interim Committee meeting
9 a.m., 30 House Building

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