Education News Roundup: Nov. 20, 2014

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


The Legislature looks at changes in school grading. (SLT)

and (DN)


Will the method for getting to the ballot change for Utah State Board of Education candidates? (SLT)


Data Quality Campaign gives kudos to Utah for its use of student data. (DN)

and (KSL)

and (Ed Week)

or a copy of the report (Data Quality Campaign)


Common Core and the GOP hit the spotlight as Jeb Bush talks education. (CBS)

and (WaPo)

and (CSM)

and (Ed Week)

and (AP)


President Obama will discuss immigration tonight, a topic of special interest to K-12 populations. (Ed Week)

or a copy of the report (Pew Interactive)

and (Pew Static [pdf])













Lawmakers question new method for grading schools


House GOP leader working on alternative method for state school board election


Bill would require state agencies to expunge public records of administrative sanctions


Report: Utah among top 10 states for effective use of student data


Leadership Academy students embrace business, technology


Over $109,000 in mini-grants awarded to teachers in the Cache County School District


Utah students get ready for the next step with College Application Week


Weber High names gym after decorated coach


Teen goes from civil war in DR Congo, to refugee camp, to Utah’s state championship game


Ogden after-school program gives free tutoring


Alpine district lists closed schools


Teachers Union Lauds Education Support Professionals for Behind-The-Scenes Efforts


Police release Brighton High School threat details


Fitch Rates Washington County School District, UT GOs ‘AAA’; Outlook Stable


Kids rarely eat veggies from school lunch, study says







A 5-year education plan


Kids and homelessness


How poorly designed classroom space puts student learning at risk








The Common Core conundrum for 2016


No Child Left Behind, Pre-K Programs Could Be On New Congress’ Agenda


Obama Poised to Grant Deportation Relief to Millions of Undocumented Immigrants


U.S. states get more, spend more on Medicaid under Obamacare: report


Common-Core Math Standards Put New Focus on English-Learners Language demands heightened


Teachers’ Union Fee Case to Be Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court


Rep. Bobby Scott Tapped as Top Democrat on House Education Panel


Snow days will be cyber days for some private schools


Wash. school district tries arming administrators to protect students from shootings


Lockdown Drill at Jewett Middle: School Officer Taken Off Resource Force


Hour of Code to feature ‘Frozen’ characters


Wylie ISD names new school after George W. Bush









Lawmakers question new method for grading schools


Utah schools will be graded on a modified curve this year under an agreement reached by legislative leaders and state education managers.

But some lawmakers on Wednesday questioned whether the change in the calculation of school grades, made to mitigate the effects of a new year-end testing system, will paint an accurate picture of school performance.

“Are we letting the schools know where they truly fall, or is this judgment giving them a false sense?” asked Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton. “What type of adjustment would there be and how is the true score, the true measure of their students, being articulated?”

Gibson’s questions came during a meeting of the Education Interim Committee, where Associate State Superintendent Judy Park explained the adjusted school grading calculation. (SLT) (DN)






House GOP leader working on alternative method for state school board election


For years, the debate over how to elect Utah’s state school board has been locked in a stalemate between partisan and nonpartisan proposals.

Several bills have been sponsored and defeated, allowing a widely-unpopular hybrid model that blends direct elections and gubernatorial appointments to stay on the books.

But on Wednesday, the Utah House’s new Majority Whip Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, presented an idea to “split the baby” by requiring would-be school board members to acquire signatures from voters in order to qualify for a direct, nonpartisan election.

Under his bill, school board candidates would need to gather 2,000 signatures, including at least 300 from each school district they represent.

“Does it do everything?” he asked. “No. But it does more than the delegate system.”

After watching multiple attempts to create partisan elections fail, Gibson said he has tried to create a bill that could pass in the Legislature. (SLT)






Bill would require state agencies to expunge public records of administrative sanctions


SALT LAKE CITY — State agencies would be required to expunge public records of administrative discipline or actions if the subject of the decision has obtained court expungement of criminal records related to the same act.

Rep. Brian M. Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, told the Utah Legislature’s Judiciary Interim Committee on Wednesday that a number of people who had successfully petitioned courts to have criminal convictions expunged from their records were “surprised” to learn that information on administrative actions related to the same acts were still available on public databases.

Agencies that regulate certain professions or license people to perform certain functions turn over information to law enforcement if they believe, in the process of investigating administrative complaints, that the person may have committed criminal acts.

Greene said the legislation would require administrative agencies to remove from public databases the parallel administrative information about the conduct. (DN)





Report: Utah among top 10 states for effective use of student data


SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s use of data in monitoring and guiding student achievement made several improvements this year, earning the state an almost perfect score on a report by the Data Quality Campaign released Thursday.

Specifically, Utah is “leading the nation” in its efforts to link K-12 data systems with postsecondary education and workforce data systems to find long-term trends in student progress, according to Aimee Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, a national education advocacy group.

“We’re seeing across the country a change in culture from one that’s focused on using data for compliance to one that uses it … to ensure that every child is on track for success,” Guidera said. “We have a lot to learn from the work that Utah has done.” (DN) (KSL) (Ed Week)


A copy of the report (Data Quality Campaign)






Leadership Academy students embrace business, technology


  1. GEORGE — Twenty-five high school students from throughout Washington County attended an off-campus field trip today to learn from industry professionals how social media impacts news and marketing.

The students are members of an elite educational and leadership training program known as Leadership Academy. Five students from five local high schools–Desert Hills, Dixie, Hurricane, Pine Vie and Snow Canyon–are hand-selected each year to attend the program. (SGS)





Over $109,000 in mini-grants awarded to teachers in the Cache County School District


Hundreds of teachers in the Cache County School District will soon be receiving grants to help them purchase the tools they need to be better teachers. The Cache Education Foundation, the fundraising arm of the school district, is awarding an all-time high amount in Tools for Schools grants.

CEF Executive Director Teri Lewis says every school in the district will benefit.

“We had over 570 grant requests totaling over $109,000,” Lewis explains. “Every school in the Cache County School District will be receiving funds that are substantial and it will have a huge impact in the classrooms.” (CVD)






Utah students get ready for the next step with College Application Week


KEARNS — Most middle schoolers — in fact, 90 percent —will tell you they want to go to college. But when it comes right down to it, fewer than 60 percent actually do. The state is trying to change that by giving high schoolers a hand in the application process.

The goal of Utah College Application Week is to provide high school seniors at partner schools the opportunity to complete at least one viable college or university application during the school day. The program focuses on students who would be the first in their families to attend, low-income students, or students who may not have otherwise considered applying. (KSL)





Weber High names gym after decorated coach


PLEASANT VIEW — Jan Keim has been the most successful and effective coach who has ever passed through Weber High School, as most people familiar with the school will attest.

To honor her, the WHS staff will name the gymnasium court, at which she has spent 23 years of her life coaching, teaching and playing, the “Jan Keim Court.”

With 11 state titles and 26 region titles, Keim has led her teams to the highest level of competition any high school athlete can experience. Keim coached women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, track and field and softball.

She was not only an incredible coach for WHS, but also a highly committed teacher. Starting her teaching career in 1975, she went from teaching Physical Education to ending her career in AP European History in 2014. (OSE)






Ogden after-school program gives free tutoring


OGDEN — Trinity Duran needed help to improve her grades.

“I was struggling on my math and language,” said the 10-year-old from Ogden.

So her mother started taking her to Give Me A Chance. That was two years ago, and Duran says her last report card is proof that it’s working.

“I had three As, and one B,” she said.

Give Me a Chance is a Catholic charity administered by the Daughters of Charity, an order of sisters whose mission is to serve the poor. The main mission of the seven nuns based in Layton is to teach low-income women marketable skills, to help them become self-sufficient. (OSE)






Teen goes from civil war in DR Congo, to refugee camp, to Utah’s state championship game


ROY, Utah – Roy High School’s football team will play Timpview High School in the 4A state championship game Friday, and one Roy player has had a long road to get to this point.

Ben Aikuli survived a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has found a new life in Utah, where plays as the kicker for Roy’s team.

Ben was 6 years old when he and his brother returned home to find their house burning and the rest of their family gone. The brothers, unsure of what to do next, went into the jungle. (KSTU)





Alpine district lists closed schools


In order to establish new boundaries, stabilize enrollment and help maintain certain programs, the Alpine School District Board of Education has declared the following schools closed to out-of-area students for the 2015-16 school year: (PDH)






Teachers Union Lauds Education Support Professionals for Behind-The-Scenes Efforts


Officials with the nation’s largest teacher’s union are in Utah celebrating the work of school cafeteria workers, secretaries, bus drivers and other Education Support Professionals.

As secretary to the principal at an elementary school in Redlands, California Paula Monroe had seen one particular student in her office too many times.  Monroe knew the student well, and knew that his older brother was involved in gangs. The young man confided in her that he had felt so threatened by kids at school that he was carrying a loaded 9 millimeter gun in his pocket. Monroe says her interest in the student may have prevented a tragedy that day.

“Students couldn’t function if we didn’t deliver them to school safely, if they weren’t fed, if they weren’t able to check out library books, if we didn’t have a nurse to take care of them,” Monroe says. “We connect with the students as much as the teachers do.”

The National Education Association named Monroe the National Support Professional of the year for her 27 years of service. (KUER)





Police release Brighton High School threat details


Police in Cottonwood Heights are revealing more about a threat at Brighton High School.

Police say the threat implied a shooting would occur Monday and pictured two handguns and ammunition.

Police and the FBI began tracking the IP source and following tips from students and school officials. (KUTV) (KTVX) (KSL) (KSTU) (MUR)






Fitch Rates Washington County School District, UT GOs ‘AAA’; Outlook Stable


SAN FRANCISCO–Fitch Ratings assigns an ‘AAA’ rating to the following Washington County School District, Utah (the district) general obligation (GO) bonds:

–$47.5 million GO school building and refunding bonds (Utah School Bond Guaranty Program), series 2014. (Business Wire)





Kids rarely eat veggies from school lunch, study says


NEW YORK — Despite widespread availability of healthy school lunches, kids are saying “no” to more vegetables mandated by federal standards, a new study says.

The study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, observed the actions of 274 children from kindergarten to second grade from 10 different New York City public schools. The kids were offered a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat milk and a lean protein.

Nearly six in 10 kids put a vegetable on their tray, but less than a quarter actually took a single bite., the researchers said. And while 75 percent chose the lean-protein entrée, only 58 percent took a fruit and 59 percent chose a vegetable. (KSL)










A 5-year education plan

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial


We discuss education a lot in these pages and with good reason. The quality of education in Utah — the number of students who take advantage of education, and the amount of talented graduates who remain here — will determine our state’s economic future. We need to have higher job growth in Utah from within the private sector, from companies that offer high-paying wages. We need to see GDP rise in Utah, and incomes from families and individuals grow. Better education can help do that.

To be very candid, you cannot do enough to improve education in Utah. We offer strong support to the five-year educational plan launched by two business groups, Prosperity 2020 and Education First, that sets specific goals for educational spending and achievements from students in core areas.






Kids and homelessness

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial


There is a lot to learn regarding kids and homelessness from a study by The National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research. Most of the information leaves much room for improvement. According to “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” the name of the report, nearly 2.5 million U.S. children were homeless at some point during 2013.

That’s one child in every 30. The numbers are most severe in California, with about 527,000 homeless youth. In Utah, there are, according to the study, about 31,000 homeless youth. Homelessness is more than an individual stuck out on the streets or in a shelter. It also encompasses housing insecurity, in which children may ”couch surf,“ living where they can without a permanent family home.






How poorly designed classroom space puts student learning at risk Hechinger Report op-ed by Lennie Scott-Webber, director of education environments at Steelcase Education


Space matters. For over 200 years we have been teaching in row-by-column seating. Many experts argue that this classroom style has conditioned both educators and students to ineffectively utilize space.

Researchers have said that space affects human behavior in powerful ways. So it is striking to realize that in education, empirical research on space is largely underutilized.

Typical classrooms are designed with one-quarter to one-third of the space allocated for the educator and the rest for all of the students. Hierarchy is built into the design; sometimes as an actual stage raised above the rest of the floor. As a student you are expected to sit and listen. You are not in control. You are to passively receive information provided by the educator. You sit facing forward looking at the back of your fellow student heads and at the front wall where content is being shared.

As an educator, my role is to deliver information and control student experiences throughout the timeframe provided. I look out onto a sea of faces and it is my job to keep up with curricula demands and facilitate learning. Is this truly effective? Many would argue that this is a classic teacher-centered educating place, not a real learning place.












The Common Core conundrum for 2016



With the 2014 midterms now nearly a bygone memory, the spotlight is starting to turn to the possible presidential candidates in 2016. On Thursday, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and latest potential presidential candidate in the Bush family dynasty, takes the stage in Washington at a conference for the education reform group he founded.

Bush is expected to decide whether he will run by the end of the year. And if he does, he can probably be expected to defend some policies that are unpopular with the Republican base — such as the Common Core State Standards.

Though Bush isn’t likely to talk presidential politics at the event, Common Core has become an increasingly political issue, as lawmakers on the state and national levels object to what they see as a federal intrusion into local education policy. The math and literacy standards lay out benchmarks for what students should know after completing each grade, but they do not dictate the curriculum. They were developed by the states and are backed by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The federal government is also giving $360 million to the group of states writing the new tests based on the standards.

Gallup polling shows that the more parents learn about Common Core, the less likely they are to support the standards. And public school parents who identify as Republican are more likely to dislike Common Core, with 58 percent of parents holding a negative view in a September 2014 poll, a 16 percentage-point increase since April 2014. (WaPo) (CSM) (Ed Week) (AP)






No Child Left Behind, Pre-K Programs Could Be On New Congress’ Agenda NPR All Things Considered


With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Congress may push for change on several big education issues, including a rewrite of the law known as No Child Left Behind. But it’s also clear that, even on classroom issues that seem to have bipartisan support — including Pre-K funding — Democrats and Republicans may have trouble compromising.






Obama Poised to Grant Deportation Relief to Millions of Undocumented Immigrants Education Week


President Obama on Thursday will announce steps he will take to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation, a move that could have implications for millions of America’s K-12 schoolchildren.

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House website Wednesday afternoon.

A Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report released Tuesday found that, in 2012, children with at least one undocumented immigrant parent accounted for nearly 7 percent of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade. According to the report, states with the largest shares of students with unauthorized immigrant parents include Nevada, California, Texas and Arizona.


A copy of the report (Pew Interactive) (Pew Static [pdf])





U.S. states get more, spend more on Medicaid under Obamacare: report Reuters


WASHINGTON – One part of the Affordable Care Act is going according to plan, with U.S. states receiving and spending more money on the Medicaid health insurance program, a report released by the National Association of State Budget Officers on Thursday showed.

States run Medicaid, which serves families who have low incomes, and receive partial reimbursements from the federal government. The healthcare overhaul known as Obamacare allowed more people to enroll in Medicaid and also gave states 90 percent to 100 percent reimbursements for new enrollees.

“The large increase in federal funds to states in fiscal 2014 was almost solely due to additional Medicaid dollars, mainly resulting from the expansion of Medicaid in a majority of states under the Affordable Care Act,” the association found. “While federal Medicaid funds to states increased $41.8 billion in fiscal 2014, all other federal funds to states are estimated to have declined $3.4 billion.”

For most states, fiscal 2014 ended on June 30.

Medicaid spending rose the most of all states’ budget areas, increasing 11.3 percent in fiscal 2014, but the federal government shouldered most of the burden. Federal funding for Medicaid increased 17.8 percent, and state dollars directed to the program only grew 2.7 percent, according to NASBO.

Before Obamacare, Medicaid had each year eaten up a larger portion of state spending. In fiscal 2014, it was states’ biggest budget item, consuming slightly more than a quarter of all state expenditures. Elementary and secondary education, though, remains the largest category of spending exclusively from state funds, representing 24.2 percent of state funds, compared to 15.3 percent for Medicaid.


A copy of the report (NASBO)





Common-Core Math Standards Put New Focus on English-Learners Language demands heightened Education Week


When he began working the Common Core State Standards into his instruction three years ago, New York City middle school mathematics teacher Silvestre Arcos noticed that his English-language-learner students were showing less progress on unit assessments than his other students.

“It wasn’t necessarily because they didn’t have the numeracy skills,” recalled Mr. Arcos, who is now a math instructional coach and the 7th grade lead teacher at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, a charter school in New York. Rather, they were struggling with the linguistic demands of his new curriculum, which was oriented heavily toward word problems and explication of solutions.

To address the issue, Mr. Arcos began incorporating strategies that are typically the province of language arts teachers into his math lessons. Especially when working with his English-learners, he provided detailed instruction in close reading, sentence annotation, and writing fluency.

He also redoubled his efforts to ensure that his lessons had specific language objectives—to help students grasp important terminology, for example—as well as content objectives, a practice he had learned in graduate school.

To help his English-learners adapt to the aims of the new standards, said Mr. Arcos, “it was important for us to develop their language skills.”

Mr. Arcos’ recognition that the new math standards may require greater attention to the needs of English-language learners is not uncommon among educators who work with such students.






Teachers’ Union Fee Case to Be Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court Education Week


The U.S. Supreme Court will likely soon have a fresh opportunity to consider overruling a key precedent on service fees for workers who object to joining the teachers’ unions or other public-employee labor organizations.

In a case involving a group of California teachers who object to paying agency fees to their local teachers’ union, a federal appeals court this week issued an order that allows the objectors to appeal to the high court.

Lawyers for the nonunion teachers had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, to expedite a ruling against them so they could be on their way to the Supreme Court. The teachers said only the Supreme Court justices can grant the relief they need, because only the justices could overrule the court’s 1977 precedent in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which authorized public-sector unions to charge agency fees to objectors for the costs of collective bargaining.

In its June 30 decision in Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court stopped short of overruling Abood when it held that a group of Medicaid home-health workers were really not government employees and could not be forced to pay agency fees to a union representing the majority of such workers in Illinois.






Rep. Bobby Scott Tapped as Top Democrat on House Education Panel Education Week


Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia will serve as the top Democrat on the House education committee when the new session of Congress starts in January. He’ll be taking over the slot held by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., an original author of the No Child Left Behind Act, who is retiring this year after nearly four decades in Congress.

Scott has long had an interest in K-12 education, with a focus on equity. He recently introduced legislation to officially authorize the Obama administration’s “Promise Neighborhood” program, which pairs K-12 with other supports, such as health and arts programs. And back in 2007, he wrote a bill that would have held states accountable for improving graduation rates, including for poor and minority kids.

But Scott may be more skeptical of test-based accountability than Miller. Scott’s favorite line on NCLB, according to former committee aides? “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing it.”





Snow days will be cyber days for some private schools Wilmington (DE) News Journal


As Delaware watches other states dig out from huge piles of snow, parents and educators are remembering last year’s hard winter and hoping the white stuff doesn’t cancel as many school days this year.

In case it does, some private schools have set up a system for students to work from home in inclement weather, staying warm and safe without losing days.

“I think this is a way for us to keep kids on track academically while also allowing us to make the safest decision for our students,” said Cindy Mann, school leader of Padua Academy in Wilmington.

Here’s how the system will work at Padua: If the Diocese of Wilmington cancels classes, teachers would send emails to students by 9 a.m. with information about the assignments they would expect students to complete that day. Students would then do the work and submit it electronically.

Teachers would keep electronic “office hours” – the school is recommending from 1 to 3 p.m. – in which students can ask questions and seek help with their work.






Wash. school district tries arming administrators to protect students from shootings NewsHour


In Washington state, where there was a deadly school shooting just last month, a different district has been training administrators to carry guns in case of a confrontation with an active shooter. Special correspondent Terry Murphy of KCTS Television in Seattle reports.





Lockdown Drill at Jewett Middle: School Officer Taken Off Resource Force (Lakeland, FL) Ledger


WINTER HAVEN | The Winter Haven Police Department school resource officer who helped plan the controversial school lockdown drill at Jewett Middle Academy Magnet has been taken off that unit.

Officer Derrick Doles has been transferred to the patrol unit and will not face further disciplinary action, said department spokeswoman Jamie Brown. The Police Department will not be conducting an internal investigation regarding last Thursday’s drill.

The school’s principal, Jacquelyn Moore, has been suspended while the Polk County School District conducts an internal investigation into the incident.

During the drill, Doles and Officer Michael Roe checked classrooms while carrying weapons, which scared some students and angered several parents. During the drill, the classroom doors are supposed to be locked and the lights turned off.






Hour of Code to feature ‘Frozen’ characters Washington Post, the non-profit group that offers a free tutorial in computer programming to students as early as kindergarten, is preparing to unveil its second annual “Hour of Code” lesson, but with an assist from Disney designed to attract more girls to participate.

Disney Interactive teamed with to create a free lesson that teaches students to write computer code that enables Anna and Elsa, the two female characters from Disney’s wildly popular “Frozen” movie, to draw snowflakes, snowmen and fractiles.

The tutorial, at, will begin the second annual “Hour of Code” campaign during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 8 through Dec. 14. The campaign offers free hour-long tutorials in computer coding for students from kindergarten through high school. The lessons are accessible on a range of devices, from tablets to desktops.






Wylie ISD names new school after George W. Bush Dallas Morning News


The school board unanimously voted Monday to name a new $16.5 million elementary school outside of St. Paul after former President George W. Bush.

The George W. Bush Elementary School will open in the new Inspiration development at the start of the 2016-17 school year.










USOE Calendar



UEN News



November 20:

Native American Legislative Liaison Committee meeting

9 a.m., 20 House Building



November 25:

Education Task Force meeting

2 p.m., 445 State Capitol



December 5:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



December 9:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

1 p.m., 210 Senate Building



December 11:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



January 26:

Opening day of the Utah Legislature

Capitol Building



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