Education News Roundup: March 20, 2014

Arts and Education statue at the Utah State Capitol.

Arts and Education statue at the Utah State Capitol.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

If you haven’t had enough Legislature news, there are some roundups today.  (SLCW)
and  (DCC)
and  (Sanpete Pyramid)

BYU poli-sci professor Adam Brown posted lots of stats about the just-ended legislative session. Of interest to ENR was his analysis of close votes in the House and Senate. Of the 20 closest votes in the House, eight (40 percent) were on education issues. In the Senate that goes to five of 20 (25 percent).  (Utah Data Points)

Granite District’s Mill Hollow is facing an end-of-the-month funding deadline.  (SLT)

Speaking of deadlines … today at 5 is when candidacy declarations close. You can see who has filed for State School Board races (OK, and some other races like U.S. House, and the Legislature) here:

Jeb Bush goes on the offense for Common Core.  (AP)



2014 Utah Legislative Recap
A Look At The Bills That Finally Made It And Those That Went Off The Rails

Popular Mill Hollow Outdoor Education Center faces closure With former funding gone, supporters face a March 31 deadline to raise enough money to open the center this summer.

N. Davis Junior High goes big with iPads for all

Students demonstrate underwater robots for competition

Competition in chemistry

Ben Lomond Latinos in Action program helps the recipients and the mentors

Prom Queen gives up her crown to classmate with special needs

Sterling Scholars for Central Utah

Student club makes award-winning vocabulary videos

Bishop Wester honored by Utah Catholic Schools

School district to participate in state’s UPSTART program


Recap: The 2014 Utah Legislature

Lawmakers should pay attention to teachers

Many traditions have become meaningless

Code and Treat
How schools discourage some girls from pursuing STEM.

Turning a Tablet Into a Child’s Interactive TV

Knowledge pills, robo-graders, brain implants and other dystopian edtech

Eric Schmidt says students should use Google Docs over Office ‘because it’s free!’

Why New York’s Bill de Blasio is good for school choice movement

What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality Charters are not a comprehensive solution to public education’s problems.

Skill-Based Sorting in the Era of College Prep for All: Costs and Benefits

Seeing Past the “Colorblind” Myth of Education Policy Addressing Racial and Ethnic Inequality and Supporting Culturally Diverse Schools


Jeb Bush: Follow Through on Common Core Standards

Q&A: A Crash Course On Common Core

Weighted Admissions Lotteries: Will They Reshape Charter Demographics?

South Korean schools are remotely disabling students’ smartphones


2014 Utah Legislative Recap
A Look At The Bills That Finally Made It And Those That Went Off The Rails

Every bill rides a train up the Hill toward passage into law. It’s a tough track to ride, as they chug through committees, the House and the Senate, picking up amendments, public ridicule and substitute drafts along the way. Not every bill arrives at the final station, where Gov. Gary Herbert, like a friendly conductor, will see the bill out of the Hill and sign it into law.
Every year, plenty of bills fly off the rails—voted down or killed by a committee just as they’ve begun their journey. The 2014 session was no different, except that a number of bills that have derailed year after year finally made it through.
For some of those bills—like the one that allows election-day voter registration and one that’s an initiative to fund preschool for disadvantaged youth—it took a sponsor who was determined enough to shovel the coal needed to get them through. Others were pushed up the Hill by overwhelming public demand.

CHUG CHUG: Preschool Funding

DERAILED: iPads for Kids

CHUG CHUG: Increased Education Funding

DERAILED: State School Board Reform  (SLCW)  (DCC)  (Sanpete Pyramid)

Popular Mill Hollow Outdoor Education Center faces closure With former funding gone, supporters face a March 31 deadline to raise enough money to open the center this summer.

The Mill Hollow Outdoor Center, run by the Granite School District, should be celebrating its 50th year of immersing students in the wonders of the wilds of the Uinta Mountains.
Instead, the district is scrambling to find funds to keep offering the popular summer tradition.  (SLT)

N. Davis Junior High goes big with iPads for all

CLEARFIELD — In every classroom at North Davis Junior High, students are now using Apple iPads, as the largest school in the state implementing the 1:1 iPad initiative.
In the Science Earth Systems class, students were using their iPads to follow lab instructions. Ninth-grader Mikaela Rose poured various liquids into flasks, stirred the mixture per her instructions, and then took a picture of the chemical reaction with the iPad.
Before using iPads, students would listen to their teacher give out the instructions.
“These iPads are really effective and helpful because I can see the instructions easily without having to keep asking the teacher questions,” said Rose.  (OSE)

Students demonstrate underwater robots for competition

LEHI — About 450 elementary and middle school children demonstrated their underwater robot engineering skills Wednesday for the annual Utah Underwater Robotics competition.
Hosted by BYU’s Splash Lab, the competition at the Lehi Legacy Center featured students from 15 Utah schools navigating self-built robots through underwater obstacle courses.
In its second year, the Utah Underwater Robotics program teaches schoolchildren valuable STEM concepts through the mentoring of BYU students.  (DN)  (PDH)  (KUER)

Competition in chemistry

CEDAR CITY — Students from 10 middle and elementary schools in Iron County and as far away as Kanab, St. George and Minersville pitted their knowledge of chemistry against each other this week in a competition on the Southern Utah University campus.  (SGS)

Ben Lomond Latinos in Action program helps the recipients and the mentors

OGDEN – Students in Ben Lomond High School’s Latinos in Action class crowded around a big stack of hand-drawn pictures at Bonneville Elementary Tuesday morning with “oohs” and “aahs.”
The elementary students had drawn the pictures as a “thank you” to their high school mentors. Twenty-three Ben Lomond students with the school’s newly created Latinos in Action program have spent every other day of their school year reading to and working with students at the elementary school to help them become better readers.
And boy, have they made a difference.  (OSE)

Prom Queen gives up her crown to classmate with special needs

RIVERTON, Utah – It’s one of the amazing thrills of high school – being picked as the prom queen. But this story is a little different because this Utah high school prom queen decided to give up her crown to another student.
“I didn’t know I was going to get it. It was kind of a surprise.” said Kendra Muller.
Over the weekend Muller was named the Prom Queen of her school. And according to students and teachers at Riverton High School no one was more deserving.
“She is a very happy girl at school. She never looks upset. She has a sparkle,” said Colleen Curran, a teacher at Riverton High School.
But Kendra, who was paralyzed in a freak accident two years ago, decided to give up her crown to special needs student Amanda Belnap.  (KTVX)  (KSTU)

Sterling Scholars for Central Utah

High school seniors from schools throughout the central Utah region will vie for Sterling Scholar honors tonight in Richfield. Students will spend the day at the Sevier Valley Center being interviewed by professors from Brigham Young University, Dixie State University, Snow College, Southern Utah University, Utah Valley University, and some local professionals. Judges will select one winner and two runners-up in each of the 15 categories. Results will be announced this evening. The public is invited to attend.
The scholars hail from Delta, Gunnison Valley, Juab, Manti, Millard, North Sanpete, Richfield, South Sevier, Tintic and Wayne high schools. Judging is based on scholarship, leadership, and citizenship that are profiled in each nominee’s portfolio, as well as their interview.  (MUR)

Student club makes award-winning vocabulary videos

Some kids use flash cards to memorize their vocabulary words, but a group of 5th graders in Logan commits big words to memory by making movies about them.
The principle goal behind Ellis Elementary School’s theatre club is to define difficult words in a spirited way.  (KSTU)

Bishop Wester honored by Utah Catholic Schools

DRAPER — March 14 was a red-letter day for the Most Rev. John C. Wester, who celebrated not only the seventh anniversary of his installation as Bishop of Salt Lake City, but also received the 2014 Christ the Teacher Award by Utah Catholic Schools.
The award “is given for faithful service and commitment to Catholic schools,” said Holy Cross Sister Catherine Kamphaus, superintendent of Utah Catholic Schools; in Bishop Wester’s case, that service has been not only to the Catholic schools in Utah but also in other dioceses in the United States, particularly the Archdiocese of San Francisco. (IC)

School district to participate in state’s UPSTART program

Local preschool aged children who are set to start kindergarten in 2015 may be getting a little extra help with their preparation for school due to an agreement between the Grand County School District and the Waterford Institute.  (Moab T-I)


Recap: The 2014 Utah Legislature
Utah Data Points analysis by Adam Brown, assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University

I’ve just posted several items about the recently concluded legislative session. Here’s a quick overview:

Lawmakers should pay attention to teachers (St. George) Spectrum op-ed by Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA president

Teaching is my life’s work. I have spent 35 years in public education. It is from this perspective, as we evaluate a record number of education-related bills in the Utah Legislature, I must respectfully say, “Enough is enough.”
Last year, the Utah Legislature created and funded a task force charged with making sensible public education recommendations for our lawmaker to consider. The goal, as I understood it, was to limit the number of new education proposals to those the task force agreed would make the most difference for our students.
There were more than 115 education-related bills considered by the 2014 Utah Legislature. This represents the highest number in recent memory. So much for focusing on what’s important.
One proposal that attracted a great deal of interest would have provided $200 million to place mobile device technology in the hands of every student.
How is it when teachers say we need to make major investments in proven educational strategies, our cries fall on deaf ears, but when technology companies say they have some new “silver bullet” for education, everyone stands and takes note?

Many traditions have become meaningless
Davis County Clipper commentary by columnist MARK GRAY

The Wall Street Journal columnist, Joe Queenan, recently wrote that Americans would be better off if the country’s businesses and institutions “repudiated outmoded traditions.”
Among the meaningless traditions were the ridiculously invisible interest rates paid by banks, holding up the game for the intentional walk in baseball, and, as noted below, cigarette warnings.

It got me thinking…What other meaningless traditions and ideas are held by Utahns?
How about the idea that Utahns value education? Surveys constantly report that a majority of taxpayers claim Utah’s legislators should fork over more money to public schools, even responding that they would support an increase in taxes for such a cause. Yet these same taxpayers continue to vote for legislators who parcel out money like a blackjack dealer offers sympathy. The annual 2 percent increase ends up covering health insurance increases and new student growth, but does not increase per pupil funding.
Why not be honest? We want our education system to be better financed but we want the “other guy” to pay for it!

Code and Treat
How schools discourage some girls from pursuing STEM.
Slate commentary by Kimberly Scott, associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation

According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, African-American and Latina women make up only 3 percent and 1 percent respectively of the computing workforce. In 2011, only one Native American woman earned her doctorate in computer science and information systems. These statistics highlight an understudied phenomenon—that our schools continue to justify failure for some groups. In part, this disaster is a result of our society’s preference to oversimplify matters.
As research demonstrates, structural barriers often prevent individuals from historically marginalized groups from achieving their full potential. Schools continue to “code and treat”: African-American girls as hyperagressive and hypersexualized; Latina girls as destined for nothing more than teen pregnancy; and Native American girls as more likely to become alcoholics than anything else. These beliefs help maintain the digital divide.
And I am not referring to whether a student has an iPad. While most school communities have relatively fast Internet service and computers, the poorer, disproportionately black, Hispanic, and Native American educational settings rarely provide the students with technological activities beyond the basics of word processing and PowerPoint. At the same time, more affluent, predominantly white settings offer countless opportunities for students to not only manipulate technology but to create it. When economically disadvantaged schools do offer advanced computer science courses, girls are too often discouraged by their male counterparts and teachers from enrolling in such “difficult” courses, UCLA’s Jane Margolis has demonstrated.
But some girls actively rebel against these low expectations.

Turning a Tablet Into a Child’s Interactive TV New York Times commentary by columnist Molly Wood

MY son has been having conversations with imaginary characters. I know, because I can listen to some of them, and even see pictures.
The children’s entertainment publisher ToyTalk created an interactive program, the Winston Show, and as my son talks back to the characters in that show, I get emails with subject lines like, “Your kid said something awesome.”
I can sign into my account and find multiple sound files and screenshots of him having a conversation with an imaginary character from a show he’s been watching on his iPad. It’s adorable, and it’s the interactive future of tablet-based television.
Tablets and phones are an increasingly common way for children to consume television. And that is changing the way content developers and even advertisers try to reach children in new locations.
The Winston Show is an example of the innovative new content types that are possible when a TV is also a hand-held computer. It’s an iPad-only production, available as a free app, that is now in its second four-episode “season.”

Knowledge pills, robo-graders, brain implants and other dystopian edtech Hechinger Report commentary by columnist Anya Kamenetz

It’s been a good week for the weird fringes of ed-tech. On Tuesday, Nicholas Negroponte took the stage at the 30th anniversary of TED, the starry technology-entertainment-design conference. He’s the mastermind of One Laptop Per Child. It pioneered the idea of low-cost personal devices for students around the world.
Negroponte has been criticized as an extreme apologist for the “teachers don’t matter, kids + tech = MAGIC” view of ed tech. Chris Anderson, TED’s curator, asked him this week for “one final prediction.” He said, according to the blog Ars Technica,
“ In 30 years…we’re going to be able to literally ingest information. Once information is in your bloodstream, some kind of mechanism could deposit the information in the brain. You could take a pill and learn English or the works of Shakespeare.”
Sound improbable? Surf over to the Wall Street Journal. Neuroprosthetics–literally, brain implants–are coming to market. These include the cochlear implant, for hearing, and a retinal implant for seeing which received FDA approval last year. Soon, we may see devices that enhance memory, focus, and the speed at which we acquire new information. One group of researchers at UC Berkeley is working on a wireless brain interface made up of thousands of microsensors. Each the thickness of a human hair, they call them “neural dust”. It’s the stuff that sci-fi horror movies are made of.

Eric Schmidt says students should use Google Docs over Office ‘because it’s free!’
GeekWire commentary by columnist Blair Hanley Frank

Why use Google Docs over Microsoft Word? According to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, there’s a very simple answer.
As a part of CNN’s ongoing “Chicagoland” documentary series, cameras followed Schmidt, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and IBM exec Stanley Litow into one of Chicago’s IBM-funded technical schools. As a part of the executives’ visit, a teacher asked the class why they should use Google Docs, and a grinning Schmidt chimed in with: “Because it’s free!”
While he had already spent time establishing the service’s bona fides, saying that he wrote a book with Jared Cohen using Google Docs, Schmidt’s comment highlights one of the risks Microsoft faces in the academic world. While Microsoft has started offering schools incentives to use Office 365, including free licenses for their pupils, the company is under greater pressure from its competitors.

Why New York’s Bill de Blasio is good for school choice movement Fox commentary by columnist Juan Williams

Bill de Blasio is the best thing to ever happen to the School Choice Movement.
The New York City mayor is crippling the growth of charter schools by throwing them out of rent-free space in buildings previously used by standard public schools. His strategic goal is to stop school reform even as the nation’s public school system fails so completely that a quarter of students drop out – and that is the lowest drop-out in decades.
If the mayor took notice he’d find that even the people graduating from public schools often lack basic reading and math skills. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 30 percent of U.S. public school graduates have to take a remedial class before they can do basic college work.
The School Choice movement has fire in the belly, the likes of which I have never seen.
Years ago I called for parents to get in the streets and start marching and screaming against this abuse of America’s children.
Now de Blasio’s crackdown on charter schools has done the trick.

What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality Charters are not a comprehensive solution to public education’s problems.
Atlantic commentary by CONOR WILLIAMS, senior researcher at New America’s Early Education Initiative

School choice—exemplified by charter schools—has changed the relationship between parents, neighborhoods, communities, and schools. And D.C.’s experiment with choice is as fully developed as almost any other public school district in the United States. That day, I stood there primarily as a parent and (to a lesser degree) as a former first-grade teacher, not as someone who writes about public education for a living. But on Monday, that moment spilled into my day job. It’s been on my mind ever since.
A lot of debates on school choice’s merits are unproductively narrow. Sam Chaltain’s new book, Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice, is a welcome exception. Chaltain spent a school year shadowing students, parents, teachers, and administrators in a new public charter school and a traditional district school to gauge how they’re coping with the state of public education today. Near the end of his book, Chaltain writes,
“[O]ur democracy needs to be something we do, not something we have. When it comes to a nascent experiment like school choice, we have within us the capacity to turn an open marketplace of learning options into something creative and regenerative. But there is nothing automatic about it. Choice by itself leads to nothing.”
One of the things that’s become clearer to me as we’ve worked through the application process in D.C. is the degree to which school choice is much less about choice than it looks on paper—or even in theory.

Skill-Based Sorting in the Era of College Prep for All: Costs and Benefits University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research analysis by Takako Nomi and Elaine Allensorth

How students are sorted into classrooms by skill level can have as much of an effect on their achievement as the content they are taught.
Skill-Based Sorting in the Era of College Prep for All examines the effects of two curricular reforms by Chicago Public Schools, one that sorted students into algebra classes based on skill level and another that de-sorted students. “What this study makes clear,” author and UChicago Lewis-Sebring Director Elaine Allensworth says, “is that for students at both ends of the skill spectrum, there are costs and benefits of sorting and of not sorting. And there are clear implications for supporting students and teachers, depending on which strategy schools choose.”
Key findings from the report include:
* Overall, test scores improve when students are sorted by skill level. Low-skilled students have slightly lower test scores with sorting, while high-skilled students have substantially higher test scores.
* The grades and pass rates of high-skilled students decline, while the grades of low-skilled students improve.
* When classes are sorted by skill level, low-skilled students are at higher risk of being in disruptive classrooms and thus, weaker instructional environments. Teachers in these classrooms need support around classroom management and getting students engaged in challenging work.

A podcast interviewing the authors  (UofC)

Seeing Past the “Colorblind” Myth of Education Policy Addressing Racial and Ethnic Inequality and Supporting Culturally Diverse Schools National Education Policy Center analysis by Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College, Columbia University

This policy brief presents the most significant evidence-based critique of ostensibly “colorblind” education policies by highlighting their relationship to past and present racial/ethnic inequality and their failure to address the rapidly changing demographics of our school-age population, which could be considered an asset if we were not “blind” to it. The author argues that even when education policies are “colorblind” on the surface, they interact with school systems and residential patterns in which race is a central factor in deciding where students go to school, what resources and curricula they have access to, whether they are understood and appreciated by their teachers and classmates, and how they are categorized across academic programs. Such policies are also at odds with a multi-racial and ethnic society in which a growing number of parents and educators see the potential educational benefits of paying attention to diversity and difference as a pedagogical tool.
The author recommends that policymakers address race-conscious policies, practices and conditions that perpetuate segregation and inequality while simultaneously tapping into the changing racial attitudes of Americans by supporting racially diverse schools.


Jeb Bush: Follow Through on Common Core Standards Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday urged state officials to follow through on Common Core education standards despite what he called an “avalanche” of criticism from those who oppose them.
Bush said at an education forum with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that the standards are key to improving educational achievement around the country.
“This is a real-world, grown-up approach to a real crisis that we have,” said Bush, who later brushed off reporters’ questions about his presidential aspirations. “And it’s been mired in politics.
“Trust me I know,” he said. “There are not a whole lot of people who are standing up to this avalanche.”
Bush ascribed the opposition to Common Core to what he called “myths” about the standards being part of a federal takeover of local classrooms.

Q&A: A Crash Course On Common Core
NPR All Things Considered

Confused about the Common Core State Standards? Join the club. That’s not to say the new benchmarks in reading and math are good or bad, working smoothly or kicking up sparks as the wheels come off. It is simply an acknowledgement that, when the vast majority of U.S. states adopt a single set of educational standards all at roughly the same time, a little confusion is inevitable.
Below is a handy FAQ about Common Core. We’ll continue answering your questions in the coming months. You can post them in the comments section, or on Twitter and Facebook using #commonq.  (Scholastic commentary by columnist Alexander Russo)

Weighted Admissions Lotteries: Will They Reshape Charter Demographics?
Education Week

New federal regulatory guidance that now allows charter schools to hold weighted admission lotteries in favor of disadvantaged students may affect a small number of charters now, but could have a greater impact in the future, experts say.
Already the guidance has spurred conversations about the use of weighted lotteries and brought greater attention to the demographic makeup of charters around the country.
“The direct impact [of the guidance] may be limited in the immediate future,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the executive vice president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has been supportive of charters. “But I think it could grow over time, and particularly if we see cities gentrify, this is going to become a very important tool.”
The federal guidance, released in January, says that if it is permissible under state law, charter schools may hold weighted lotteries that favor disadvantaged students and still be eligible for federal charter school aid. Disadvantaged students are defined as low-income students, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and students who are migrant, homeless, or delinquent.

A copy of the federal guidance

South Korean schools are remotely disabling students’ smartphones The Verge

Following small-scale trials, Korean officials are reportedly moving forward with a plan to install remote management software on students’ smartphones. iSmartKeeper is an app that restricts what services and apps students have access to. With the app installed, teachers have the ability to lock phones down in one of six modes. Educators can choose to lock all of the phones in the school, allow only emergency calls, allow only phone calls, allow calls and SMS, or turn off specific apps. The idea is to prevent distractions in class, and iSmartKeeper can also allow access to only a single app, ensuring that educational apps can still be used as teaching aids.
These settings can adhere to a schedule so a teacher could automate the settings to, for example, allow access to only a certain educational apps in class while preventing text messages and chat, and then unlock the phones entirely during recess. The app can also utilize GPS geofencing to automatically begin restricting phones as students enter school grounds. In addition to the teacher tools, parents are provided with a management app that can block access to certain apps on a permanent basis, or similar scheduling tools to prevent a child from chatting while they’re supposed to be completing their homework.
To date, the app has been trialled in at least 11 schools in Korea’s capital, Seoul, and in other nearby provinces with mixed results.


USOE Calendar

UEN News

March 21:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
Noon, 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

April 10:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

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