Education News Roundup: April 15, 2014

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Legislature won’t try to override Governor’s veto of the curriculum complaint bill.  (SLT)
and  (DN)
and  (PDH)
and  (UP)
and  (KUTV)
and  (KSL)
or  (Senate Site commentary by President Niederhauser) or  (Utah House GOP commentary)

Washington County School District and Dixie Applied Technology College create a STEM program for students.  (SGS)

KSL features Mana Academy.  (KSL)

KUER checks up on the new Guadalupe School.  (KUER)

Data privacy became an issue in state legislatures this year.  (Ed Week)

Federal charter school bill passes House committee with bipartisan support. Wait. No. That can’t be right. No. It passed in a committee in the U.S. Congress with bipartisan support?  (Ed Week)



Legislators won’t try overriding governor Vetoes » Legislature will address issues later.

Training a skilled workforce
New program to train high school students with STEM skills

Charter school for minority students finding success in West Valley

New Guadalupe School Nears Completion

Ogden teacher resigns after sending ‘inappropriate’ messages to student

Weber teacher was using method to teach adult class she learned at conference

Teacher fired after refusal to grade standardized test

Schools show off robot skills

Sandy Charter School Hosts First Annual STEM Expo

Olympus player battles brain cancer with the support of the softball community

Washington County School District announces Education Evaluation Director

Apply Today for Math Software Grants for your School

Utah school to auction beautifully painted instruments for fundraiser

Two Herriman schools locked down as police hunt assault suspect

Officers deliver Easter gifts to schoolchildren


Teaching genitalia slang not the disturbing crisis in our schools

Looking back on Common Core

Citizens must aid schools; legislators won’t

Enough with the homework already

Guess where Florida is field testing its new standardized tests? (Not Florida)

The testing pendulum


State Lawmakers Ramp Up Attention to Data Privacy

Federal Charter Measure Clears Hurdle in House

Final draft of new Indiana academic standards released

Investor Lawsuit Targets K12 Inc. and Stock Sales of Former CEO

With Time Running Out, Arne Duncan Discusses His Lengthy To-Do List

Amplify Education Tries To Build An Identity Outside Of News Corp’s Shadow “There’s a sense that we’re doing something very big and very exciting,” CEO Joel Klein told BuzzFeed.

Parents mostly support armed deputies in schools

Suspected Extremists Kidnap 100 Girls in Nigeria


Legislators won’t try overriding governor Vetoes » Legislature will address issues later.

Utah legislators will not come back into session this summer to override three vetoes issued by Gov. Gary Herbert, including one arising from the investigation of former Attorney General John Swallow, agreeing the issues can be addressed later.
Support in both the House and Senate fell well short of the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override Herbert’s vetoes — with 34 representatives and only eight senators supporting reversing the governor.
It would take 50 House members and 20 senators to convene such a session, at which point the legislative leaders would have decided which of the three vetoed bills to put on the agenda.

Most notably, Herbert vetoed a bill that would have given a panel of parents at the state school board level the authority to hear complaints about school curriculum. The parents did not want the responsibility, suggesting it should be handled at the local level, and the state school board and PTA urged the governor to veto the bill.  (SLT)  (DN)  (PDH) (UP)  (KUTV)  (KSL)  (Senate Site commentary by President Niederhauser)  (Utah House GOP commentary)

Training a skilled workforce
New program to train high school students with STEM skills

ST. GEORGE — Area high school students will have a chance this fall to get hands-on training for high-demand jobs in manufacturing and information technology.
The newly-proposed AM STEM program, developed by the Washington County School District and Dixie Applied Technology College, would involve students spending the beginning of their school days at the DXATC learning advanced skills and gaining valuable certifications in areas like hydraulics, electronics, machining and computer networking.
Part of a larger local effort to develop a skilled workforce and recruit higher-paying industries, it could help generate more qualified local graduates and help encourage more companies to build and expand in Washington County, DXATC President Kelle Stephens said last week during a partners meeting of Site Select Plus, formerly known as the Washington County Economic Development Council.  (SGS)

Charter school for minority students finding success in West Valley

WEST VALLEY CITY — A new public charter school is the first of its kind not only in Utah, but in the nation.
Mana Academy is focused on closing the achievement gap among minority students by bringing culture into the classroom. Kindergarten through 12th-grade students can choose between learning Tongan, Samoan and Spanish; but learning the language of their ancestors is key to what Mana is all about.
“They can add, subtract, multiply and divide in their native languages,” Principal Adam AhQuin said of his students.
“Being able to validate their cultural heritage and validate who they are as individuals and their cultural identity is a pathway to academic success,” said ‘Anapesi Ka’ili, the school’s academic director.  (KSL)

New Guadalupe School Nears Completion

The walls are up at the new Guadalupe School in Rose Park. And school administrators say the fundraising campaign is on target for an August opening.
Leaving the old 13,000-square-foot school house in Poplar Grove behind for a brand new 50,000-square-foot-building in Rose Park means there’s plenty of room for amenities that students, teachers and faculty at Guadalupe School have only dreamed about. There’s ample classroom space, a library, a computer lab and staff restrooms. Perhaps Executive Director Vicki Mori’s favorite new features are the windows that overlook the Rose Park Golf Course and Rosewood Park.  (KUER)

Ogden teacher resigns after sending ‘inappropriate’ messages to student

OGDEN — When an Ogden mother happened upon her junior high son’s logged in Facebook account, she saw something that struck her as more than just a simple private message between teenagers.
“It made me sick. I was glad I found [the messages] then,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns for her son.
She doesn’t know if the causal late night discussions could have turned physical, but she wasn’t taking any chances.
She brought the complaint straight to Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith alleging the teacher’s inappropriate behavior with her son went beyond school hours and into the world of Facebook.
“I believe you can look at this material and say there are some problems with it,” Smith said, however noting that “there’s nothing sexual in the discussion” between the student and teacher.
That’s where the mother became frustrated because she says the teacher was allowed to resign and her license wasn’t taken away, because the situation didn’t turn into a criminal matter.
However, On Feb. 10, the teacher, who is not being identified since no criminal charges have been filed against her, was removed from her classroom by the superintendent and put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. By April 2 the 27-year-old female teacher at Highland Junior High was no longer employed with the Ogden School District.  (OSE)  (OSE)

Weber teacher was using method to teach adult class she learned at conference

PLEASANT VIEW – Weber High School teacher Ashley Williams was teaching a method learned at a Current Technical Education Conference last summer when she instructed students to list slang terms for genitalia, according to a teachers union official.
The conference was paid for by Weber School District. Williams is currently on paid administrative leave while district officials investigate accusations of an inappropriate lesson taught in her “Adult Roles and Financial Literacy Class” on Friday. One parent, whose child is enrolled in the class, said parents signed a statement allowing their children to attend the class and acknowledging the subject matter. The parent, who asked not to be identified, supports Williams.
A student complained to the school’s administration about the lesson and when administrators went to the classroom they found words describing private male and female parts written on a whiteboard. District spokesman Nate Taggart said that Williams was not suspended, but put on paid leave immediately on Friday after the incident was reported and discovered while the district investigates along with Utah Education Association representatives.
Matt Ogle, executive director of Ogden/Weber UniServ, said they will be representing Williams and that because of the investigation she cannot speak to media or it would jeopardize the investigation. Ogle thinks the investigation will be wrapped up quickly – in the next couple of days.  (OSE)

Teacher fired after refusal to grade standardized test

SALT LAKE COUNTY — A teacher fired from the Granite School District for refusing to grade a standardized test is speaking out against her former employer.
Ann Florence was terminated in March after expressing her disapproval of a formal assessment teachers are required to administer three times a year.
“A testing day doesn’t teach kids anything. I need that time. They give more and more tests and I do less and less teaching, and then I’m held more and more accountable,” Florence said.
The Acuity Test is a compilation of multiple choice questions and writing that is used to help teachers assess how their students are progressing.  (KSTU)

Schools show off robot skills

AMERICAN FORK — Rolling smoothly to the finish line of the obstacle course, the Westmore Elementary School robot activated its sound box to say, “Great job.”
Parents, students and teachers agreed with the robot and cheered its perfect run at the Robotics Showcase at the Alpine School District Professional Development Center in American Fork on Monday.  (PDH)

Sandy Charter School Hosts First Annual STEM Expo

The first annual Exposition of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, was held on Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. The free event was hosted by Beehive Science and Technology Academy, a STEM charter school in Sandy. Hundreds of students in grades 6 through 12 demonstrated their STEM skills to the crowd of parents and spectators.
Republican State Senator Aaron Osmond of Salt Lake City was among the guest speakers at the Expo. He said most legislators are in favor of increased funding for STEM education.  (KUER)

Olympus player battles brain cancer with the support of the softball community

SALT LAKE CITY — Reagan Everett’s body can’t eliminate the cancer cells inside her head.
But the sophomore has found a place where the disease doesn’t matter — the softball field.
“When I got my diagnosis it was kind of devastating, obviously,” said the 16-year-old Olympus High student. “But my first question after I was diagnosed was, ‘Will I be able to play softball again?’”
Everett has an extremely rare genetic condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome.  (DN)

Washington County School District announces Education Evaluation Director

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Washington County School District has named Cheri Stevenson, Education Evaluation Director. She will provide professional learning experiences centered around instructional leadership, on-site coaching and consulting, and sustained mentoring for administration and teachers. (KCSG)

Apply Today for Math Software Grants for your School

Through the 2013 session, the Utah State Legislature has provided $8.5 million for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Action Center to purchase supplemental math soft-ware for Utah classrooms.
All public schools, including charter schools, can apply for a two year grant to use one of seven math technologies for 6th through 8th grade and five math technologies for 9th through 12th grade.  (UP)  (UtahPublicEd)

Utah school to auction beautifully painted instruments for fundraiser

ENOCH — In an effort to raise money for her students to have instruments, a teacher has turned to unconventional artwork.
Rebekah Hughes has been the music director for Gateway Preparatory Academy since it opened in 2009. She teaches orchestra, choir and general music. Hughes said she loves teaching at the charter school, but she began to notice a troubling trend — many of the students didn’t have the needed funds to buy or rent instruments.
“Money is always an issue and instruments cost so much money, just for the school even to purchase,” Hughes said. “It’s an issue for the students and parents that they can’t rent them, and they do want to do music, but they just can’t afford to. I don’t want it to be an issue.”  (KSL)

Two Herriman schools locked down as police hunt assault suspect

Unified Police had two schools on lockdown Monday morning as they hunted for a man who allegedly threatened his mother with a handgun and then fled officers.
UPD Lt. Justin Hoyal said the 21-year-old suspect and his mother got into an argument at a Herriman residence near 12000 S. Bull Street, and when the son pointed the firearm at the woman she called 911.
When officers arrived about 8:30 a.m., the suspect climbed out of a rear window and ran.
Both Herriman High School and Copper Mountain Middle School were locked down until the suspect was found hiding in a vacant LDS Church seminary building near the middle school. He was taken into custody, unarmed. (SLT)

Officers deliver Easter gifts to schoolchildren

The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Unified Police Department brought Easter cheer to children with special needs on Monday at Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton. The goal of the National Sheriffs’ Association is to reach as many children as possible across the entire nation. Participating in this effort is The Easter Bunny Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a visit from the Easter Bunny bringing joy and comfort to children across the United States.  (DN)  (KTVX)


Teaching genitalia slang not the disturbing crisis in our schools
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner commentary by columnist Mark Saal

Four days, four front-page stories. I just can’t decide which was the most disturbing.
On Friday, reporter Ben Lockhart’s 1A story detailed a number of Bountiful schools that were briefly locked down after a man called a suicide hotline and said he had a firearm and was thinking of taking his own life. The lockdown was strictly precautionary, but completely understandable in the wake of so many school tragedies.
On Saturday, another Lockhart story featured a fictional incident at a school. Police officers received training about how to respond to the mentally ill — including the fabricated, but all-too-believable, scenario of a boy at a middle school who had locked himself in a classroom after his sister wouldn’t take him to McDonald’s.
On Sunday, Andreas Rivera reported on special firearms training being offered to teachers in Weber County. Taught by the Weber County Sheriff, the training includes requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit, as well as what to do in the event of a shooter at a school.
And on Monday, reporter Becky Wright wrote about a Weber High School teacher who was placed on administrative leave after leading a class exercise that had students writing slang terms for genitalia on a whiteboard.
Of those four front-page stories, guess which one has folks up in arms.

Looking back on Common Core
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner commentary by columnist Michael Vaughan

The Common Core curriculum is being discussed in editorial columns, debated on talk radio and lampooned by late-night talk show hosts. The harshest critics of the Common Core feel that it is a socialist-tinged effort to usurp local authority and impose a curriculum designed by the federal government.
I have to say that I am a bit surprised by the consternation regarding the Common Core because more than five decades ago there was an intentional and extensive effort by the federal government to shape the content of the curriculum. This exercise at transforming the educational landscape occurred with little criticism. In light of the current debate on the Common Core, it is interesting to reflect back on that prior time.

Citizens must aid schools; legislators won’t Salt Lake Tribune letter from Bill Forbes

Each year our Legislature and governor claim education is their top priority, and …? Well, what we know is that we are last in the nation in public school funding per student, and we barely fund the increased enrollment we face.
Our Legislature in particular seems intent on diverting education funds to charter schools in their never-ending snub of — some would say war on — public education. Since it seems that appeals to elected officials fall on perpetually deaf ears, here are some things we can all do to support public education in Utah:
Visit the Network for Public Education website, (, write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or website in support of your public schools, visit your local public school and offer to volunteer.

Enough with the homework already
Deseret News letter from Annie Johnson

I go to public high school, and I have had enough with all of the homework the teachers are giving out. They forget that every student has eight classes and jobs because they also have to help support themselves and their families. I do homework for an average of six hours each day, after the eight hours of school that I have.

Guess where Florida is field testing its new standardized tests? (Not Florida) Washington Post commentary by columnist VALERIE STRAUSS

Alberto M. Carvalho is the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida, and was named the national 2014 Superintendent of the Year by the School Superintendents Association. He’s held that job for more than five years, having worked his way through the school district as a teacher, assistant principal, lobbyist and other positions.
On a recent conference call with other superintendents and state officials, including Florida Education Commission Pam Stewart, Carvalho asked about field testing the new standardized tests that Florida is developing to replace the troubled Florida Comprehensive Assessment System. The answer was rather surprising.

The testing pendulum
Fordham Institute commentary by Bernard Lee Schwartz Senior Policy Fellow Andy Smarick

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002 was the apotheosis of the standards-assessments-accountability movement, which had been building for about two decades.
Some loved it, believing this latest reauthorization of the LBJ-era Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) finally put the spotlight on high-need kids and our nation’s ongoing inability to provide them with a great education. Advocates point to the steady closing of the achievement gap during the law’s period of influence as evidence that it was producing the results desired.
But many others viewed NCLB as the ultimate distortion of K–12 accountability. It emanated from Washington, unrealistically aspired to 100 percent proficiency, labeled too many schools “in need of improvement,” and—sin of all sins—was obsessed with assessments.
If NCLB represented the farthest point of the testing pendulum’s swing to the right, many forces beyond gravity alone are now pulling it leftward.


State Lawmakers Ramp Up Attention to Data Privacy Education Week

As the appetite for educational data on students has grown across the K-12 sector, so has the stated desire among many state lawmakers to try to protect the privacy and security of sensitive student information.
Spurred by concerns that the rise of education technology and the increasing prevalence of new assessments will place student data in unreliable hands or be put to nefarious uses, lawmakers in dozens of states have acted this year to clarify who has what access to student data and to specify the best practices for shielding that data.
In total, for the 2014 legislative sessions, 83 bills in 32 states have addressed student-data protection issues, according to the Data Quality Campaign, a Washington-based group that seeks to promote the use of educational data to inform classroom and policy decisions.

Federal Charter Measure Clears Hurdle in House Education Week

States and districts would be encouraged to help grow high-quality charter schools—and ensure that they enroll and retain English-language learners and students in special education—under a bipartisan bill approved overwhelmingly by the House Education and the Workforce Committee last week.
The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, was approved by a vote of 36 to 3 on April 8.
During debate on the bill, a number of committee Democrats lambasted charter schools for siphoning off resources from other public schools—before voting for the legislation anyway.

Final draft of new Indiana academic standards released Indianapolis Star

The final version of Indiana’s proposed K-12 math and English outcomes — the academic guidelines intended to replace the controversial national Common Core standards — was released today.
By the end of this month, they could be adopted and quickly implemented into classrooms across the state.
The Indiana Education Roundtable, co-chaired by Gov. Mike Pence and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, will vote Monday whether to endorse the standards.
If they approve the proposal, it will be forwarded to the State Board of Education for a final vote April 28. State law requires new standards to be adopted by July 1, but if either appointed board rejects the proposal, it’s unclear how long a rewrite would take — or the legal ramifications if the boards could not agree on new standards by the deadline.

A copy of the standards  (Indiana BOE)

Investor Lawsuit Targets K12 Inc. and Stock Sales of Former CEO Education Week

A recently filed federal lawsuit accuses the publicly traded company K12 Inc. of misleading investors by putting forward overly positive public statements during much of last year, only later to reveal that it had missed key operational and financial targets.
The lawsuit also alleges that former K12 CEO Ronald J. Packard “reaped the rewards” of the bullish company projections by selling millions of dollars worth of stock in the months before an October announcement of disappointing news sent its stock price plummeting.
The legal action, filed in January in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is seeking class-action status. It says that Packard sold 43 percent of his personally held K12 common stock, for gross proceeds of $6.4 million, during those months, when the plaintiffs contend that the stock price was “artificially inflated.”
Lawsuits alleging that companies mislead investors prior to a sharp fall in stock prices, and that corporate executives benefit before those losses, are not uncommon. K12 officials and Packard declined an interview request, but in statements to Education Week, they strongly denied the claims laid out in the legal action.

With Time Running Out, Arne Duncan Discusses His Lengthy To-Do List Education Week

In the waning years of the Obama administration, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees several important and difficult priorities ahead of him, he told Education Week in a wide-ranging 30-minute interview. Chief among them: The transition to new standards and tests, the debut of new teacher evaluations tied to test scores, and the costly drive to expand preschool.
That’s “a lot of change in a short amount of time—none of it easy,” he said in an April 11 interview in his Washington office. But if states and the federal government are able to navigate over a mountain of political and policy challenges, he said, then the result will “change education forever in some pretty extraordinary ways.”
And Duncan pledged to get one long-awaited initiative done that could also have a far-reaching impact: an overhaul of regulations that govern teacher-prep programs. “They will get done. [They are] very important.”

Amplify Education Tries To Build An Identity Outside Of News Corp’s Shadow “There’s a sense that we’re doing something very big and very exciting,” CEO Joel Klein told BuzzFeed.

Joel Klein has become a master at not mentioning Rupert Murdoch’s name during interviews — and for good reason. Amplify Education, the nascent education division within News Corp that Klein runs, might be dependent on separating itself from the highly politicized, controversy-laden Murdoch name.
Trying to position Amplify as a privacy-focused, politically neutral company under the News Corp umbrella is just one of several contradictions underlying Klein’s operation.
Klein pitches Amplify as a trendy ed-tech firm, setting up shop for the company in the hipster Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. And he repeatedly refers to Amplify as a “startup,” pausing to point out a ping-pong table in the office where two employees are in the midst of a game. The dress code among his young staff trends toward jeans and sneakers.
Yet Amplify already employs a staff of 1,200, far larger than almost any other startup in its age bracket, ed-tech or otherwise — the company was founded in July of 2012, and its Dumbo headquarters is offset by a second block of office space in a bland Midtown building near News Corp’s headquarters. As CEO, Klein’s work attire consists mainly of power suits and ties.
As Klein, 67, sees it, Amplify’s contradictions underscore how the company views itself in the market. “I see ourselves as being at the intersection of technology and education,” said Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools.
Put another way, Klein views Amplify partly as a traditional education company like Pearson and McGraw-Hill and partly like technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, who have been trying lately to break into the $1 trillion education market.

Parents mostly support armed deputies in schools (Denver, CO) KUSA

BERTHOUD – The Larimer County Sheriff Department explained a plan to place armed deputies inside six elementary schools to parents Monday night.
The Thompson School District hosted a community meeting Monday at Berthoud Elementary.
Under the plan approved by the school board, sheriff’s reserve deputies would patrol randomly at the schools, both in uniform and plain clothes.
Reserve deputies are volunteers, but the department says they receive the same training as full-time deputies. This includes firearms training and a background check.

Suspected Extremists Kidnap 100 Girls in Nigeria Associated Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Suspected Islamic extremists abducted about 100 female students from a school in northeast Nigeria before dawn Tuesday, but some of the teens managed to escape from the back of an open truck, officials said.
The girls were abducted after midnight from a school in Chibok, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest that is an insurgent hideout, said Borno state police commissioner Tanko Lawan.
Gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the school, then took off with at least 100 students, a State Security Service official said.


USOE Calendar

UEN News

April 16:
Legislative Management Committee meeting
2 p.m., 210 Senate Building

May 8:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

May 9:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

May 20:
Executive Appropriations Committee meeting
1 p.m., 445 State Capitol

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