Education News Roundup: Feb. 6, 2014

Utah State Legislature

Utah State Legislature

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Democrats put forth their education priorities.  (SLT)
and P (DN)
and  (UP)
and  (KUER)

Senate passes Sen. Osmond’s bill allowing districts and charters to convert up to six instructional days into professional development days.  (SLT)

New Mexico considers taking funds from its Land Grant Permanent Fund, which grows through investments and royalties for use of state land, notably for oil drilling, and using it for early childhood programs.  (New Mexican)



Utah Dems want more money to train teachers, help schools Education » Bills sponsored by Utah Democrats seek additional funding for programs and a limit on tax exemptions for parents.

Utah Senate OKs changing six classroom days to teacher prep time
SB103 » Senate advances bill to allow local school boards to decide.

Utah legislative auditors find school district efficiencies

Bill to Change State Tree to the Quaking Aspen Passes Committee

Pleasant Grove autism charter school filling quickly

Utah State Board of Education

Young artists at work

Salt Lake school officials blame system glitch for lunch debacle

Weber High students feed needy kids each weekend

Orem police: Girl sexually assaulted on way to school

Student who brought pellet gun to school located


Who deserves what?

Don’t blame the lunch ladies

Using transportation funds for kids’ iPods ‘outrageous’

Not every parent wants kids in preschool

Parents need more info from schools about problems

The State of State Education

Oregon’s kindergarten test is wrong, not the children

Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools


In Massachusetts, top-performing schools phase in Common Core with reservations

In Boston, low-performing schools navigate Common Core standards

Common Core standards incite both passion and blank stares

Study: Districts Vary Widely in the Amount of Time They Spend on Testing

Helping to Build a School for the Poor, by Selling One in a Wealthier Area

Early education bill advances

Colo. superintendents banding together to push legislative agenda

Study: Single-sex education offers no benefits Researchers say science doesn’t support advocates’ assertions that boys and girls learn differently

Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes

Houston-area mentor pays delinquent lunch accounts for more than 60 kids


Utah Dems want more money to train teachers, help schools Education » Bills sponsored by Utah Democrats seek additional funding for programs and a limit on tax exemptions for parents.

Democratic state lawmakers pushed for more money for schools and teacher training while criticizing a new system that rates each school with a letter grade during a press conference on education bills Wednesday.
“Giving each school a letter grade without support will not help schools succeed,” said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City. He’s preparing a bill to give help to schools where at least 20 percent of students have limited English proficiency, a group that struggled under the new rating system.
“They will never reach Prosperity 2020 without support,” he said, referring to education goals set by a coalition of business and community leaders.  (SLT)  (DN)  (UP)  (KUER)

Utah Senate OKs changing six classroom days to teacher prep time
SB103 » Senate advances bill to allow local school boards to decide.

The Senate endorsed a bill Thursday that could allow school districts to convert up to 60 hours, or six school days, a year into professional development or preparation days for teacher.
It voted 21-6 to pass SB103 by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, and sent it to the House.
Many of our teachers spend a lot of time on their own dime preparing for class because we don’t pay for them to be able to prepare for class,” he said. The bill would allow school boards to decide whether to make the change.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, called it a “draconian” way to provide preparation time for teachers by cutting into the 181 classroom school days a year in Utah and putting students at a disadvantage.  (SLT)

Utah legislative auditors find school district efficiencies

SALT LAKE CITY – Davis and Box Elder school districts are among the state’s best when it comes to providing cost effective school lunches, while the Davis School District uses a model for measuring the efficiency of each district building that other districts might want to consider, an audit of the best practices of Utah schools shows.
In an effort to find out what works best and where, state leaders asked the Office of the Legislative Auditor General to conduct a probe of best practices among school districts in the Beehive State. The audit focused on food services, food transportation, energy use, school security and contracted services. The outline was released on Tuesday afternoon.
State Superintendent of Schools Martell Menlove said the state Board of Education would look closely at the review and have conservations with local districts about potential best practices. He suggested the diversity in the sizes of districts throughout the state means many districts do not share some commonalities.  (OSE)

Bill to Change State Tree to the Quaking Aspen Passes Committee

The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee has approved a proposal to change Utah’s state tree from the Colorado blue spruce to the Quaking Aspen.
SB 41, which is sponsored by Senator Ralph Okerlund (Republican – Monroe), unanimously passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation Tuesday afternoon.
Schoolchildren from Monroe were on hand to testify in favor of the bill.  (UPC)

Pleasant Grove autism charter school filling quickly

Less than a month after breaking ground, a special charter school catering to the educational needs of autistic children has already filled its lower grades.
Kindergarten, first and second grades have filled, but there are still some openings in grades 3-8, said administrator Brad Nelson.
With autism numbers on the rise, the school is in demand. Spectrum Academy Charter School in Salt Lake County has 540 students with 525 more on a waiting list — a hundred of those added in just the past month. Parents in Utah Valley have been begging organizers to expand here. In January, officials broke ground in Pleasant Grove to house 600 students.  (PDH)

Utah State Board of Education

The state board will be hosting an all-day meeting covering issues related to Utah’s most precious (non-fossil-fuel) resource: children. Discussions will consider the statewide online education program and a graduation & grading task-force report, among other items. The board will also receive an update on the Legislature’s education bills and funding plans. The event runs all day, but public comment will start around 10:40 a.m.  (SLCW)

Young artists at work

Whether it be an acrylic painting, sculpture, drawing, water color or photo, Utah teenagers are proving that talent in the arts has no limit.
The Springville Museum of Art presents its 42nd annual Utah All-State High School Art Show beginning Friday and going until March 26. This art event provides high school juniors and seniors with the opportunity to compete in a professional setting.
This year, the art exhibit received 904 entries from 91 schools — with 341 works accepted.  (PDH)

Salt Lake school officials blame system glitch for lunch debacle

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District officials say a glitch in a new payment system is to blame for several elementary school students going without lunch last week.
A board meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss why dozens of students at Uintah Elementary School had their lunches taken away from them and thrown into the garbage on Jan. 29 after they were told they did not have enough money in their school accounts. Representatives with the district’s Child Nutrition Services said the problem came from a new system, My Payments Plus, which was installed at the beginning of the school year.
District Child Nutrition Services director Kelly Orton admitted that the department didn’t follow procedures. Orton said parents were either not given enough time to add money into lunch accounts for their children or parents weren’t notified at all of the low funds.  (DN) (KTVX)

Weber High students feed needy kids each weekend

NORTH OGDEN — What started out as a routine assignment for a school club has resulted into a project that will feed hundreds of needy kids in North Ogden.
Members of Weber High School’s HOSA club, a high school club for future health professionals, were filming a public service announcement for a competition around the theme for the year, which is combating youth hunger.  (OSE)

Orem police: Girl sexually assaulted on way to school

OREM – Police in Orem are looking for a suspect after an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on her way to school Wednesday morning.
According to Lt. Craig Martinez, the girl was walking to Cherry Hill Elementary school at 1650 S. 250 East around 8 a.m. Wednesday when she was approached by a man who took her to a nearby church parking lot and sexually assaulted her.
Martinez said the girl was able to make it back to the school where she told school officials about the incident. The assault allegedly occurred in a church parking lot at 1650 S. 400 East.  (PDH)  (OSE)  (KUTV)  (KTVX)  (KSL)  (KSTU)  (MUR)

Student who brought pellet gun to school located

LEHI — A 16-year-old student faces charges after bringing a pellet gun to school, police say.
Just before lunch Wednesday, a student at Lehi High School notified faculty of a male student with a black handgun in his possession, Lehi police said.  (KSL)  (MUR)


Who deserves what?
Deseret News letter from Paul Gibbs

A lot of Utahns are justifiably in an uproar over the situation at Uintah Elementary, wherein students whose parents had not kept up payments on their accounts had their lunches taken away from them. I’ve heard people blaming the public school system, the phantom of “government bureaucracy,” and some talk of a “culture of bullying” with the school district.
Isn’t it possible that the culture of bullying here is the same one that promotes cutting food stamps, or not expanding Medicaid, because poor people (including children) are “lazy?”

Don’t blame the lunch ladies
(Logan) Herald Journal letter from Roger Thornhill

So, the lunch ladies, vilified. Isn’t it interesting how often blame for some wrong doing is bucked down to the lowest common denominator. Let’s begin by doing the basic step of identifying the problem.
First, the food is not being denied to any kids at the poverty level as their lunches are free. So, the children who were effected are from families that can afford to pay; however, they don’t want to pay. Apparently, the amount of money in arrears was mounting up enough to cause some action to take place.

Using transportation funds for kids’ iPods ‘outrageous’
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from John Hill

Here we go again, The Standard Examiner has an article printed Feb. 5, “Road project backers fear costs of school tech initiative.” Herein, the noble representatives discuss the possibility of removing up to $90 million from the transportation budget to fund iPods for kids in school. This is outrageous.
However, in the past the Standard Examiner has run editorials advocating the increase in the gasoline tax because it hasn’t been raised lately. Is this what the Standard Examiner wants the gasoline tax used for? Does the Standard Examiner think the buying iPods is more important that repairing roads?

Not every parent wants kids in preschool
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Marguerite Smoot

My initial response to the “Our view” of Feb. 4, “Get more kids in Preschool” was one of anger and fear. Anger that someone else is legislating bills to determine whether or not I put my preschool-age children in school, all because I happen to live in a low-income home. Fear that if legislation goes through on such matters, I will not have a choice of keeping my young children at home with me, because that is what I choose to do for them.
I know there are aspects as to why legislation is even occurring over this issue due to the high number of non-English speaking kids entering kindergarten. But, this is why kindergarten exists, to teach each child the letters and basic book-learning skills, no matter the ethnicity, income of their home, or the previous or current education of their parents. Preschool should always be an option for any family because the parents’ choice matters.

Parents need more info from schools about problems
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Sharrel Abel

We as parents hear nothing but are asked to be more involved in our kids’ school, their school work, what they are doing in school, and who they hang out with. But my question is, how can we do this if the school does not call us, informing us that there is a problem? I have talked to many parents around, the number one problem is they can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on in the school; kids fight and unless there is blood parents don’t get called to be notified. When the kids get checked for drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol do parents get called? No!
We can talk to our kids about the dangers in all of this and hope that if they have problems they come to us, but in reality they don’t; so we hope and pray the kids feel safe and feel they can go to the principals, teachers, counselors and other adults with their problems. I have been researching this and the number one complaint from the kids is that they ask for help or guidance from these people and they feel like they don’t care, nor are they even listening because they don’t call the parents because authorities don’t feel it’s a big deal.

The State of State Education
Huffington Post commentary by Chris Minnich, executive director, Council of Chief State School Officers

Last week, during President Obama’s State of the Union address we heard him praise some of the important state-driven work to “raise expectations and performance” for our students. Working for an organization that represents state education officials across the country, I have the privilege of seeing the unique genius of the American political system — with our states as largely independent incubators for ideas, innovations and approaches — at work every day.
That’s one reason why I think it’s valuable to drill down into the details of some of the incredible work individual states are doing to implement new education standards, roll out more sophisticated assessments of student learning, prepare new educators for the classroom and better support educators already teaching, and to more fully understand the ingredients that make for a great teacher.

Oregon’s kindergarten test is wrong, not the children
(Portland) Oregonian op-ed by Stephanie Feeney, Ph.D, professor emerita of education at the University of Hawaii and adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University

A recent front page article in The Oregonian states “Kindergarten test results ‘sobering’.” What is most sobering is that people who, no doubt, want the best for young children would choose to use the Oregon kindergarten assessment.
The article describes results from an evaluation of last year’s entering kindergarten students. The assessment used included observation of students’ behavioral preparedness, together with a test of reading and math skills. And while research shows that a child’s behavior is a better indicator of future school success than academic skills, the article leads with statistical results of the skills test. It implies that the children assessed have been shown to be ill-prepared and that preschool education is deficient. The article misses the point: It is the assessment itself that is deeply flawed. It measures the wrong things, with the wrong instrument, in the wrong way.
The wrong things: The assessment is not consistent with accepted views of appropriate preschool curriculum.

Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools Harvard Business School, Boston Consulting Group, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation analysis

The time has come for America’s business leaders to consider anew how they work with the nation’s educators to support our schools. A number of trends are converging to create fresh opportunities, greater need, and a unique moment for business to partner with educators.
Three decades ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education warned that “a rising tide of mediocrity” in America’s schools was eroding our economy and society.1 The nation’s educators rose to this challenge, though progress has been slow and inconsistent. Today, many indicators of average student performance in the United States are gradually improving. High school graduation rates, for instance, have climbed bit by bit and are approaching an all-time high.
America’s business community played a role in this gradual improvement, especially by donating money and employee time. Support from individual businesses has not always been steady, but the business community as a whole gives a large sum to schools. No one knows exactly how much, but the best estimate is $3 billion to $4 billion annually.2 Such generosity is also self-interest: America’s companies depend on our schools to produce the next generation of employees and consumers.
Unfortunately, gradual improvement in average student performance is not sufficient when global standards for education and skills are rising rapidly.  (Ed Week)


In Massachusetts, top-performing schools phase in Common Core with reservations Hechinger Report

The Massachusetts Department of Education voted to adopt this new approach three years ago and will soon be implementing the same curriculum here that students in 44 other states are following.
That’s exactly why some people object to the program.
“Massachusetts has shown incredible progress,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute, a conservative, Boston-based think tank that focuses on education.
Stergios points out that Massachusetts has much higher standards than other states, and is already competing with high-performing nations like Japan and South Korea.
“It’s not just because of charter schools,” he said. “It’s not just because of specific changes in terms of governance within district schools. It’s also because we set the highest expectations in the country for our kids, and we thought they could reach that.”
So why would a state with a proven track record change its standards?

In Boston, low-performing schools navigate Common Core standards Hechinger Report

Now, looking into that future, the Burke is facing another challenge: developing new curriculum.
That’s because Massachusetts is one of 45 states — and the District of Columbia — that have adopted new Common Core standards that set out what students from kindergarten through 12th grade should know in English and math.
The standards, supporters say, will lift schools like the Burke out of their academic slumps, increasing the number of students who are ready for college and careers. It’s all designed to lift the country’s achievement scores, erase stagnant gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged students.
In some classes at the Burke, teachers are already exploring some of the new standards that require collaboration, persuasive argument and critical thinking. But McIntyre isn’t confident these new standards are the answer.

Common Core standards incite both passion and blank stares Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Common Core State Standards.”
That’s the extent of what almost half of state voters know about a set of nationwide academic expectations for K-12 students in reading and math, according to the results of a new poll suggesting one of the most debated educational topics in the state and country draws a blank stare from many Wisconsinites.
More than a third of voters — 36% — said they had heard nothing about the Common Core and 10% said they’d heard just the name, according to the responses to several education-related questions in the latest Marquette University Law School poll.
But among those who are in the know, the topic is hotly debated, and recent hearings and potential legislation in the works suggest that won’t end anytime soon.

Study: Districts Vary Widely in the Amount of Time They Spend on Testing Education Week

Students in some school districts spend 20 more hours annually on district- and state-mandated math and English/language arts tests than do their peers in other districts, a new study has found.
“The Student & the Stopwatch,” released Wednesday by TeachPlus, examines the wide variations in the time spent on testing. Nationwide, it found that some districts spend five times more time on tests than others. Urban schoolchildren tend to spend more time in testing than those in the suburbs. And teachers say that testing costs them twice as much instructional time as their students actually spend taking the tests.
TeachPlus, a nonprofit that works to strengthen the teaching corps in big cities, used the six districts where it works (Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, and the District of Columbia) as focal points for the study, examining district and state testing calendars and interviewing teachers about their experiences with testing. The organization compared those districts’ experiences to testing practices in several suburban districts around each of the focal districts. And it conducted similar analyses in six other big urban districts (Anchorage, Houston, Denver, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Baltimore).
The study examined testing in kindergarten, 3rd, and 7th grades. Only at the 3rd grade level are tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

A copy of the study  (TeachPlus)

Helping to Build a School for the Poor, by Selling One in a Wealthier Area New York Times

Ife Lenard, a charter school principal in the South Bronx, could not help but smile as she ran her hand over an architectural model of the school that the Children’s Aid Society plans to build for her young students, and described its future pottery kiln, science labs and library.
“I love it,” Ms. Lenard said. “This is a college preparatory school, and the children deserve to be able to have a space that speaks to that.”
But seven miles and an economic stratosphere away on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Ellen Santoro, a Children’s Aid Society preschool director, sadly shrugged her shoulders as she walked through the successful program that the society is closing so that Ms. Lenard’s dream can be realized.
“This place has been working so perfectly; there’s a warm, fuzzy, great feeling,” Ms. Santoro said wistfully, before entering a soaring nursery classroom buzzing with play and festooned with children’s art. For some of the middle-class families she serves, in a neighborhood where preschool tuition can approach $30,000, “we are their only alternative,” she said.
Like other nonprofit organizations in New York City, the Children’s Aid Society has been making programming choices that are playing out in the world of Manhattan real estate. A few years ago, the charity raised the ire of some downtown Manhattan parents for selling off a beloved Greenwich Village preschool and children’s center to developers building luxury condominiums. Now, in a similar move, it is selling the Rhinelander Children’s Center on the Upper East Side, and marketing the property as a potential single-family townhouse with a price tag of about $20 million.
The proceeds of the Upper East Side sale, the organization said, will largely go toward the construction of a new building for the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School, which it opened two years ago inside a public school in Tremont, an impoverished Bronx neighborhood.

Early education bill advances
Santa Fe New Mexican

A constitutional amendment to dip into the state government’s largest endowment to pay for early childhood education programs advanced Wednesday in the Senate.
The Senate Rules Committee endorsed the bill on a 5-4 vote. All the Republicans on the committee voted against it, a clear signal that the measure faces long odds of making it through the Senate.
The sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, tried to assuage critics of the bill by quickly agreeing to reduce the amount of money that would be taken from the $12 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund, which grows through investments and royalties for use of state land, notably for oil drilling.
As drafted, Sanchez’s bill calls for 7 percent to be siphoned annually from the fund — 5.5 percentage points for K-12 public schools and another 1.5 percent for early childhood programs.
But, he said, he would accept a forthcoming amendment by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, to reduce the total amount to 6 percent.

Colo. superintendents banding together to push legislative agenda Boulder (CO) Daily Camera

Boulder Valley School District Superintendent Bruce Messinger is part of a broad coalition of school superintendents asking the state Legislature to restore education money that’s been cut, focusing on support for initiatives already in place instead of adding new ones.
“Where we find ourselves now, across the state, is there’s just a real lack of adequate funding to provide services we think are essential,” Messinger said. “We felt like maybe our voice wasn’t being heard.”
The groundswell draws budgetary battle lines over education funding as the Legislature tackles K-12 challenges in the wake of Amendment 66’s defeat.
With voters last year soundly rejecting the proposed infusion of $950 million in new tax money, the question becomes how to repair damage done by the recession with existing budget dollars — even with improving revenue projections.
The superintendents seek a commitment from lawmakers to bolster basic funding by addressing the so-called “negative factor,” the work-around employed to cut about $1 billion in recent years despite constitutionally required increases in education spending.

Study: Single-sex education offers no benefits Researchers say science doesn’t support advocates’ assertions that boys and girls learn differently Aljazeera America

Single-sex schools do not provide any social or educational benefits over coeducational programs within the public school system, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Their findings dispel assertions from proponents of same-sex schools that boys and girls learn differently and must therefore be separated to reach their full potential.
The team of psychologists examined all available research on single-sex education published within the past seven years, which included 184 studies comprising 1.6 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade in 21 different countries, and found no evidence to support proponents’ claims.
In their study, which appeared Monday in Psychological Bulletin, a journal published by the American Psychological Association, the psychologists said that students who attended single-sex schools weren’t any better off than peers who attended coed programs in terms of self-esteem or performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes Bloomberg

In East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods want an educational divorce from a neighboring community where four out of 10 families live in poverty.
Saying they want local control, they’re trying to leave the 42,000-pupil public-education system. They envision their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-value homes, which would take money from schools in poorer parts of state-capital Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. They even want their own city.
Similar efforts have surfaced in the past two years in Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee, some of them succeeding as the end of court-ordered desegregation removed legal barriers. The result may be a concentration of poverty and low achievement.

Houston-area mentor pays delinquent lunch accounts for more than 60 kids
(Houston) KPRC

HOUSTON – In his 10 years as a mentor and tutor, a local man has always done his best to meet the needs of the students in his life.
That’s exactly what Kenny Thompson did Monday when he learned that some children at Houston’s Valley Oaks Elementary School who had negative balances on their lunch accounts were receiving different lunches than the other kids: cold cheese sandwiches instead of a full tray of food.
He was spurred to take action after hearing last week that dozens of Utah students, whose accounts were delinquent, had their lunches taken and thrown away.
“I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson said.
He not only inquired about it, Thompson learned that many of the kids were already on reduced lunch. Children whose parents couldn’t afford the meals that cost just 40 cents a day. He took $465 of his own money and zeroed out the delinquent accounts of more than 60 kids.
“These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances,” said Thompson. “They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.”


USOE Calendar

UEN News

February 6:
House Education Committee meeting
8 a.m., 30 House Building

Senate Education Committee meeting
4 p.m., 210 Senate Building

February 7:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
7:45 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting
8 a.m., 445 State Capitol

Feb. 12-13:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

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