Education News Roundup: Oct. 15, 2014

"'Focus' on Education..." by Cityear/CC/flickr

“‘Focus’ on Education…” by Andy Dean/Cityear/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Education was one of the focal points in last night’s debate between Mia Love and Doug Owens. (SLT)

and (DN)

and (UP)

and (OSE)

and (PDH)

and (SLCW)

and (KUTV)

and (KTVX)

and (KSTU)

and (KUER)

and (KNRS)

and (MUR)


Former Davis Superintendent Rich Kendall wonders why education funding debates don’t play a bigger part in Utah politics. (Signpost)


Washington School Board discusses the district’s new schedule. (SGS)


National School Boards Association cuts its ties with big tobacco. (AP)

and (Ed Week)














Education funding at center of heated 4th District debate


WSU tackles Count My Vote compromise


School board addresses enrollment, new schedule


PCHS advisor gets word out about paying for college Tips include planning in advance, searching for scholarships


SEARCH Group Partners Candidate Selected As New Superintendent Of Public Instruction For The State Of Utah


Parents say they complained about bus driver before her DUI arrest


No easy answers for Davis school bus driver woes


Teacher pleads not guilty to child sex abuse


Utah man pleads guilty to scamming Willard band


Eat Up!

Salem Jr. High Celebrates National School Lunch Week


“Cool School” of the week: West Jordan Middle School


Educator of the Week: Shane Waters


Student of the Week: Jamie Wright







Daytime curfew a good idea


4th District Debate Fails to Sway Voters


Elections part of cyclical news patterns


Keep Grunig on school board


11 Ways to Make Data Analytics Work for K-12


Don’t Overhaul the SAT Essay, Dump It

The College Board shouldn’t kid itself. The new writing requirement won’t change anything.


As Lobbyists and Politicians Shout It Out Over School Lunch, Can Parents Be Heard?







School Group Cuts Ties with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco


California school district settles transgender discrimination complaint


Math education: Parents push schools to accelerate middle schoolers


The Bare Walls Theory: Do Too Many Classroom Decorations Harm Learning?


Don’t shy away from British values in schools – Morgan









Education funding at center of heated 4th District debate


A continuing spat over education policy played prominently into the only televised debate between Utah’s main 4th District competitors, Republican Mia Love and Democrat Doug Owens, and led to accusations of negative campaigning on both sides.

KUED’s Ken Verdoia, who moderated Tuesday’s debate in Salt Lake City, led out with a question on education funding. Love said she wants to bring as much local control to Utah’s schools as possible and suggested shifting federal funding from the Department of Education to school districts. Owens said his goal is “to make sure children are equipped to compete in a global economy.”

And then the fireworks began. (SLT) (DN) (UP) (OSE) (PDH) (SLCW) (KUTV) (KTVX) (KSTU) (KUER) (KNRS) (MUR)





WSU tackles Count My Vote compromise


Richard Kendall, Weber State alumnus and former Davis School District superintendent, stood before a panel discussion sponsored by WSU’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service Monday.

He asked a simple question: Why is there a disconnect between Utah elected delegates and the people they serve?

“If you did a survey today, let’s say of 1,000 people in Utah, they’d probably list the funding and support of public education as their number one priority,” Kendall gave as an example.

Kendall said funding for public education would not even show up on the delegate’s list.

Kendall concluded, “This system has marginalized me. There’s no place for a guy like me.” (Signpost)




School board addresses enrollment, new schedule


ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School Board met Tuesday to discuss a variety of issues impacting schools in the county, including decreased enrollment numbers, school safety and the new 5-by-5 schedule for high school students beginning next year.

The new 5-by-5 schedule means two additional classes high school students will take each week, which has some parents and teachers upset they weren’t more involved in the process to make the schedule official.

School board members reported hearing complaints about the new schedule from concerned parents and teachers regarding issues such as requiring students to take additional classes, as well as teachers having less preparation time. (SGS)





PCHS advisor gets word out about paying for college Tips include planning in advance, searching for scholarships


Having spent the last several years working in the admissions office at the University of Utah, Heather Briley knows a thing or two about what it takes to get into college.

Briley has brought that expertise home this year. A 2001 graduate of Park City High school, she is her alma mater’s new financial aid advisor, helping students understand the options available to them to pay for college.

Just months into the job, Briley is already discovering that it’s a good fit. While she enjoyed her time at Utah, she gets a sense of satisfaction from now being able to focus solely on the individual needs of students. (PR)





SEARCH Group Partners Candidate Selected As New Superintendent Of Public Instruction For The State Of Utah


SALT LAKE CITY — SEARCH Group Partners, a boutique recruiting firm headquartered in Utah, announced that one of its represented candidates, Brad Smith, was appointed by the Utah State Board of Education on October 10th as the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Smith replaces Martell Menlove, and is expected to start work in early November. (PRNewswire)




Parents say they complained about bus driver before her DUI arrest


FARMINGTON — Some parents said Tuesday that they’ve felt uncomfortable with school bus driver Lycia Martinez since the beginning of the school year.

A day after Martinez, a Davis School District driver, was arrested for investigation of DUI while transporting 75 children and adults to an event in Provo, some parents whose children ride Martinez’s bus on a daily basis said they have been actively complaining about her to the district’s transportation department. (DN) (OSE) (SGN) (KTVX) (KSL) (KSTU) (MUR)





No easy answers for Davis school bus driver woes


FARMINGTON – Davis school board member Peter Cannon has been a bus driver, and at one time supervised a fleet of 26 bus drivers, so he understands what drivers and the district may be feeling concerning the district’s shortage in personnel.

Cannon also sees the perspective as a board member grappling with a budget that he said is already stripped to the bone.

Hearing about the district’s shortage in bus drivers is concerning to Cannon, but he feels the district has quality drivers despite the shortage. (OSE)





Teacher pleads not guilty to child sex abuse


ST. GEORGE – A former Hurricane charter school music teacher accused of groping some of his students pleaded not guilty to four felony charges Tuesday and asked for a trial.

Lynn Richard Lundstrom, 64, is charged with four first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, which could potentially lead to a sentence of up to life in prison and a minimum of five years if he is found guilty. (SGS)





Utah man pleads guilty to scamming Willard band


Utah tour operator Calliope “Ope” Saaga pleaded guilty today to taking money for a 2012 Willard High School band trip that never happened.

Willard students, parents and school staff paid more than $360,000 for the Hawaii trip — and they still don’t know if they’ll get any of it back.

Any decision about restitution or jail time will be decided at a sentencing hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

Saaga, 40, who used some of the funds entrusted to him for gambling and travel, appeared in federal before U.S Magistrate Judge David Rush today. He stared straight ahead or looked down. (Springfield [MO] News-Leader)




Eat Up!

Salem Jr. High Celebrates National School Lunch Week


In an effort to promote healthy living, the Nebo School District celebrated National School Lunch Week with a three-day event. Monday through Wednesday, schools throughout the district sponsored games, prizes and other lunch time activities aimed to encourage a balance of healthy eating and physical activity. (PDH)




“Cool School” of the week: West Jordan Middle School


WEST JORDAN, Utah — FOX 13’s Big Budah spent Wednesday morning at West Jordan Middle School as part of this week’s “Cool School” installment. (KSTU)





Educator of the Week: Shane Waters

Shane Waters teaches 8th and 9th grade at Spanish Fork Junior High and also serves as the Science Department chair. (PDH)





Student of the Week: Jamie Wright


Jamie Wright, age 17, is a senior at Spanish Fork High School. Born in Ontario, Ore., Wright was raised in Provo and Spanish Fork and has also lived in New Mexico. (PDH)









Daytime curfew a good idea

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial


We consider school truancy to be a major problem in Utah as well as locally. For that reason, we have urged strong measures to get the truancy numbers down. North Ogden city is mulling a proposal that would establish a daytime curfew on youngsters. It would allow police the opportunity to take action against truancy.

The proposal is fairly mild and bends to try to be fair to students and their parents. There’s a five-step process that leads to a $50 fine for parents and youngsters if the student continues to be truant. Eventually, for repeat offenses there may be a youth court, in which offenders are judged by peers.

Some home-schooling parents have objections to the proposal, concerned that their children may be targeted by the curfew. We understand the concerns of the home schoolers, but this issue can easily be overcome. Police can make sure of a youngster’s status; if he or she is home-schooled, the law would not apply to them. Also, perhaps home schoolers can provide city officials the names of students taught at home.




4th District Debate Fails to Sway Voters Utah Policy commentary by columnist Bob Bernick


If one’s goal in a major political televised debate is not to make any really stupid mistakes, not to show yourself as inarticulate or ignorant of the issues, then Tuesday night’s 4th Congressional District fest between Mia Love and Doug Owens was a success for both parties.

But if one wanted to make some points with voter groups you really have to do better with, well, again, both candidates fell flat.

That’s not to say Love and Owens didn’t show well in the Utah Debate Commission’s final event of this election cycle, held in the KUED Channel 7 studios on the University of Utah campus and moderated by the always debonair, well-versed Ken Verdoia.

No. Both candidates looked, sounded well.

And Love was especially effective in her final closing statement. I almost stood up and saluted.

But as shown in a UtahPolicy poll on the 4th District race released Monday – Love leads Owens among all likely voters 49-40 percent – each candidate needs to do better among certain classes of voters. (UP)





Elections part of cyclical news patterns

(Provo) Daily Herald commentary by columnist David Kennard


In the newsroom we see nearly every day the saying, “All Things are Cyclical” played out in real life.

When you work in journalism long enough, you begin to see patterns in local news events and you do your best to find fresh ways to write about them.

Most of the cyclical patterns follow an annual rotation — United Way campaign season, prep football season, patriotic holidays, etc. Other news events happen more often, such as city council meetings or monthly jobless rate reports.

Another major issue Provo voters will see on their Nov. 4 ballot is a funding proposal for five new schools in the district.

Provo’s schools are literally crumbling around students and the district is asking residents to replace the worst of those. Provo High School is among those.

Back when I was a student at BYU, one of the odd jobs I held was a playground attendant at Rock Canyon Elementary School. It was an old school back then, now it’s 20-plus years older.

The issue of school funding is a cyclical pattern that is very long term. Most of the schools to be rebuilt are decades old, and most of the people who originally voted to fund those schools are not around anymore.

Likewise, those voting this year on the proposal likely won’t be around to see the life of the new schools, but their children might.




Keep Grunig on school board

(Logan) Herald Journal letter from Tamara Grange


It’s easy and a pleasure to write a positive letter in support of Allen Grunig for the Cache County Board of Education. I have known Allen for over 50 years and know him to be an able and caring man of integrity. While serving with him on the Board of Education for several years, I found him to be well prepared in knowledge, background, experience and correct motivation. Allen does his homework and is prepared for the issues facing the school district.  He is approachable and a good listener. I don’t know anyone who cares more about or will work harder for the well-being and success of the district, its students, faculties and staff. I sincerely hope the voters in his voting district will choose him to continue to serve as member of the board.





11 Ways to Make Data Analytics Work for K-12 Education Week op-ed by Irving Hamer, former deputy superintendent for academics, technology, and innovation for the Memphis, Tenn., school system


The drive to close achievement gaps and eliminate chronic low performance has become a quest for the K-12 Holy Grail. We know what we are looking for and why, and see clues to success everywhere.

In public education, the promise of data-informed decisions that drive instruction, improve student and school performance, and close achievement gaps appears limitless.

But schools, districts, and most K-12 leadership teams are not close to realizing the kinds of data-driven benefits that already exist in fields like financial services, medicine, and science.

There are numerous reasons for this. In large part, the problem starts with failing to customize data programs for education-specific missions and becoming distracted by “snapshots” of data, including early-warning systems that rely on one-time impressions of student performance.




Don’t Overhaul the SAT Essay, Dump It

The College Board shouldn’t kid itself. The new writing requirement won’t change anything.

Wall Street Journal op-ed by JAMES S. MURPHY, a tutor for the Princeton Review


On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of high-school students took the SAT. The first section in the more than three-hour test is writing, in which students pen an essay on a pseudo-profound question like “Can individualism be overvalued?” The already stressed-out test takers have 25 minutes to devise, write and proofread an essay displaying a command of logic, structure and style. If they are smart (or worked with a tutor like me), they will make sure their essay looks neat, fills two pages and contains four paragraphs and two examples.

The SAT writing section, which was added to the exam in 2005, is a superficial exercise that encourages students to write formulaically, with little regard for analysis or even truthfulness. Don’t take my word for it. The writing section “does not grade you on the correctness of what you write,” David Coleman, president of the College Board, which administers the SAT, said in a September 2013 speech. The College Board announced in March that it would overhaul the SAT, particularly the writing section, and roll out a new version of the test in spring 2016.

The new writing section will no longer ask students for their opinions. Instead, test-takers will read a source document and explain how the author builds an argument. They will have 50 minutes instead of 25 to write the essay. It will be the last section of the exam instead of the first. And it will be optional. No one will be required to write the essay, at least not by the College Board.





As Lobbyists and Politicians Shout It Out Over School Lunch, Can Parents Be Heard?

New York Times commentary by columnist Bettina Elias Siegel


Even parents who pack their children’s school lunches likely remember the media uproar back in 2011 when Congress decided that pizza could qualify as a school food vegetable. New legislation championed by the first lady, Michelle Obama, had just gone into effect, and it mandated the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in decades. But under heavy lobbying pressure from the leading manufacturer of frozen pizza served in school food, Congressional representatives preserved an existing regulatory loophole that let schools count the pizza’s tomato paste toward their vegetable requirement. It was an unusually blatant demonstration of the power of private corporate interests in Congress. Or, as the comedian Jon Stewart put it at the time, “It’s not democracy, it’s DiGiorno.”

But as Nicholas Confessore, a Times political reporter, writes in an article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the pizza-as-vegetable scuffle was just the opening salvo in a larger battle over school food reform, a fight that’s likely to escalate even further when the school food law comes up for reauthorization next year. And because many Republicans view the healthier school food law as unwelcome federal overreach, some of its key provisions may well be reversed if that party wins majority control of Congress this fall.












School Group Cuts Ties with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Associated Press


RICHMOND, Va. — In a quick about-face, the National School Boards Association is cutting ties with the nation’s second-biggest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The organization announced late Tuesday that it is ending a recently announced partnership with the Camel and Pall Mall cigarette maker’s youth tobacco-prevention program called “Right Decisions, Right Now.”

The partnership first announced last Thursday was questioned by Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who had earlier called the program ineffective and urged the association to end its partnership with the nation’s second-biggest tobacco company. (Ed Week)




California school district settles transgender discrimination complaint Reuters


A southern California school district settled a claim with the federal government that alleged the district discriminated against a transgender student, officials said on Tuesday.

The Downey Unified School District agreed to treat the student as they would any other female pupil, allowing her access to the same sex-designated facilities, programs and events, the U.S. Department of Education said in a statement.

The student filed a complaint with the department in November 2011, it said, alleging that elementary school staff confiscated her make-up and forced her to write an apology letter for making male students uncomfortable.

She also reported facing verbal harassment by her peers, saying students would insult her with anti-gay slurs on the school bus. (AP)





Math education: Parents push schools to accelerate middle schoolers San Jose (CA) Mercury News


“Go slow to go fast” is the mantra of the new Common Core method of teaching math, designed to demystify the often-hated subject and prepare students for advanced classes.

But parents from Palo Alto to Pleasanton to Piedmont have rebelled, insisting on keeping some of the key elements of “old math” and its “learn more faster” approach.

The reason? Many fear their children will not get to take calculus, which they see as key in the competition for college admission.

“Our community feels more comfortable with the traditional approach,” said Katherine Baker, an administrator in the high-performing Palo Alto Unified School District.

Math teachers and professors who back the new Common Core standards insist they provide a needed grounding in math concepts, compared with what they characterize as the mile-wide, inch-deep approach of old math that has led to U.S. students’ poor performance in global math tests, as well as this country’s widespread math phobia. Common Core organizes math topics into related groups, more closely resembling math teaching in high-performing countries, and it stresses problem-solving skills over rote memorization.

Backers of the new standards warn against dividing students into different tracks in middle school, where Common Core changes math teaching fundamentally. “If you try and monkey around with that, in principle it’s ill-advised,” said Hung-Hsi Wu, math professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, who helped developed the new standards.

But many high-performing districts, while adopting the new standards, retain the fast pace of old math instruction. Palo Alto, Saratoga, Cupertino and Pleasanton — districts that pride themselves on high test scores — maintain some accelerated math tracks in middle school.




The Bare Walls Theory: Do Too Many Classroom Decorations Harm Learning?



HARVEY, Ill.—To decorate her kindergarten classroom for the new school year, Lori Baker chose cheerful alphabet and number charts featuring smiling children of different races. In the reading corner, she hung three puffy paper flowers from the ceiling and posted dancing letters spelling “Welcome to Kindergarten.”

Otherwise, though, the 20-year teaching veteran exercised restraint and deliberately left several walls bare in her room at Whittier Elementary School in Harvey, Ill., a predominately African-American, working-class city about 25 miles south of Chicago.

The latest research suggests she’s onto something.

This fall, as teachers nationwide prepared their classrooms for the new school year, many reported being bombarded with a decorations blitz, from educational supply store promotions to classroom design blogs to Pinterest posts on themed classrooms with polka dots, owls and bumblebees.

But a recent study has found that for young children, adopting a more subdued approach, like Baker’s, is better.


A copy of the study (Psychological Science)





Don’t shy away from British values in schools – Morgan BBC


Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has told MPs that schools should not shy away from promoting “fundamental British values” to their pupils.

People with “different ideologies” would otherwise get theirs across, she told the Commons education committee.

In evidence on the Trojan Horse affair and extremism in England’s schools, Ms Morgan defended her department’s reaction to the affair.

She stressed there had been progress since Ofsted last visited the schools.

The hearing came a day after the education inspectorate reported on significant problems at the five Birmingham schools placed into special measures following concerns about a hard-line Islamist takeover there.










USOE Calendar



UEN News



October 15:

Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee meeting

9 a.m., 20 House Building

Education Interim Committee meeting

2:30 p.m., 30 House Building



October 16:

Native American Legislative Liaison Committee meeting

8 a.m., 30 House Building



October 29:

Education Task Force

1 p.m., 210 Senate Building



November 7:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



November 13:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



November 18:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

1 p.m., 210 Senate Building



October 29:

Education Task Force meeting

1 p.m., 210 Senate Building


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