Education News Roundup: March 27, 2015

Fox Hollow Elementary French dual immersion classroom.

Fox Hollow Elementary French dual immersion classroom.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


UVU hosts dual immersion students. (PDH)


Wall Street Journal looks at the push for private school options in statehouses across the country. (WSJ)


AP offers (yet another) primer on Common Core as the topic comes up more in political discourse. (AP)














Students practice language skills at fair


Local elementary school students to compete in robotics world championship


Hundreds of students compete at Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair


No proposals on the table for Granite High School


Inside Our Schools


Arkansas becomes the first state to mandate computer science offerings








The 2015 legislature’s report card on education


Hit them until they’re happy


Payson High School helping autistic students


Common Core and Common Values


Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous


How I teach about climate change in a state that relies on fossil fuels








Push for Private Options in Education Gains Momentum More statehouses weigh measures allowing taxpayer funds to be used on alternative programs


Kansas school districts try to block new school finance law


Fact Check: Myths in the Political Roar Over Common Core


One of the biggest threats to student privacy? Failure to communicate ‘Kids care a lot about privacy, but their view of privacy threats may be a little bit different than adults,’ researcher says.


Stretching One Great Teacher Across Many Classrooms


Suspension threat, outcry over boy’s ‘military haircut’


Education Writers Association Announces Journalism Award Winners









Students practice language skills at fair


OREM — College students aren’t really getting a lot younger. It just looked that way this week as nearly 2,000 fourth, fifth- and sixth-graders from across the state came to Utah Valley University’s campus. They were attending a world language farm for dual immersion language students.

Most days, those students attend classes in their schools, taught half a day in English and half a day in the language they choose to learn.

On two days this week, they participated in the fair, the first for those grade levels. Brigham Young University has hosted events for junior high and high school students. (PDH)






Local elementary school students to compete in robotics world championship


NORTH OGDEN — Four local elementary school students will compete against children from all over the world next month in the VEX Robotics World Championship.

The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Green Acres Elementary School qualified for the world championship by competing in the VEX IQ Challenge Highrise, where they designed a robot whose objective is to transport a set of colored cubes from one side of a plastic field to the other, according to Jayna Frost, Green Acres robotics coordinator and fourth grade teacher. (KSL)






Hundreds of students compete at Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair


SALT LAKE CITY – Hundreds of elementary, junior high and high school students came together to compete at the Salt Lake Valley Science & Engineering Fair. The science fair goes from Wednesday to Friday at the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

A total of 698 kids are competing and those in the high school division are vying to advance to the International stage. More than 200 judges will evaluate the projects to determine who will advance. (KTVX)





No proposals on the table for Granite High School


SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah – Granite High School closed its doors back in 2009.  Since then, the question of what will happen to the 27 acre property remains in limbo.  A trio of proposals have all fallen through.

Some parts of granite high are now boarded up.  It could’ve been replaced with a booming apartment or condo complex, but city council members say that proposal didn’t match their vision. (KTVX)





Inside Our Schools


Arrowhead Elementary

Sunrise Ridge Intermediate

Hurricane Valley Academy Charter

Lava Ridge Intermediate

Enoch Elementary

South Elementary

Three Peaks Elementary

Canyon View Middle

Cedar Middle (SGS)





Arkansas becomes the first state to mandate computer science offerings


Next school year, Arkansas will become the first state to require all public high schools and charter schools to offer classes in computer science, courtesy of a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, reports Wired. (DN)













The 2015 legislature’s report card on education Southern Utah Independent commentary by Marianne Mansfield


What sense of entitlement is it that leads people to think they have the right to disparage teachers in the public education system? Not just critique, but to debase the teaching profession which debasement is usually accompanied by some sort of personal attack like, Teachers are slackers, they wanted an easy job, and they don’t care about kids.

I put my question to a veteran teacher once, and she explained that, “Since practically everyone has had experience with the system, it makes them think they are experts.”

Here’s the corollary I’ll append to her theory. Those who are the loudest critics of the public education system are those who had the worst experiences as they went through it. Perhaps they were poor students, or gifted students, or perhaps they’d had a horribly memorable time with an inferior teacher, or administrator. For whatever the reason, those who are the most vocal are those for whom it all boils down to their own experience.





Hit them until they’re happy

Salt Lake Tribune letter from Richard D. Muranaka


When it comes to education, the Utah Legislature’s motto is, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”






Payson High School helping autistic students

(Provo) Daily Herald letter from Kylee Warton


Payson High School has a terrific program for autistic children.

Last year I had the opportunity to be a peer tutor. Peer tutoring is a class that lets students work with autistic children and help them with their classes.





Common Core and Common Values

Bloomberg commentary by Mark Buchanan, author of “Forecast: What Physics, Meteorology and the Natural Sciences Can Teach Us About Economics.”


Learning how to distinguish between fact and opinion would seem to be a pretty fundamental piece of any education. In the bizarre world of U.S. public schools, though, it’s proving to be controversial.

For several years, schools across the U.S. — with significant help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — have been putting in place something called the Common Core, a set of standards on what students from kindergarten through 12th grade should learn on topics including English, mathematics, science and history. Along the way, they’ve faced ample criticism, some of it reasonable. Teachers, in particular, think they haven’t had adequate preparation.

One strain of criticism in particular, though, sounds more like an assault on learning itself. Consider the argument of philosopher Justin McBrayer, of Fort Lewis College in Colorado: He complains that Common Core undermines moral education by teaching that some questions — Who was the first president of the United States? — have factual answers, while others — Is it wrong to eat meat? — don’t. Specifically, it requires that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.”

In a thoughtful and philosophically careful way, McBrayer suggests such an approach will actually confuse kids into thinking that rights and wrongs are nothing but opinion. “If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees,” McBrayer writes, “then how can we be outraged?” He notes that many students today don’t think cheating is wrong, and he attributes this to their being taught that “moral facts do not exist.”

It’s a powerful point, but made in a somewhat deceptive way. Do we really need absolute and metaphysically founded moral facts to be outraged at murder, or to see cheating as bad? I don’t think so.






Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous Washington Post op-ed by Fareed Zakaria, author of “In Defense of a Liberal Education”


If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science – and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. From President Obama on down, public officials have cautioned against pursuing degrees like art history, which are seen as expensive luxuries in today’s world. Republicans want to go several steps further and defund these kinds of majors. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.

This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want. America will not dominate the 21st century by making cheaper computer chips but instead by constantly reimagining how computers and other new technologies interact with human beings.





How I teach about climate change in a state that relies on fossil fuels NewsHour commentary by ROGER SPEARS , a physics and chemistry teacher at Torrington and Southeast High Schools in Torrington and Yoder, Wyoming


Climate change: you hear about it. You wonder about it. You believe it. You ignore it. It’s a controversial subject, especially when you are from a state where you are partially (although indirectly) to blame for it. The state in question? Wyoming, where I teach.

Wyoming holds vast amounts of low-sulfur coal, natural gas, crude oil and oil shale, all fossil fuels. When burned, they release carbon dioxide, the main culprit to greenhouse gases, into the air. Most of Wyoming’s resources travel via pipeline or railroad to major population centers throughout the country.

Many of Wyoming’s 584,000 residents are tied to the energy industry workforce, so it comes as no surprise that many of these people are weary or threatened by the topic of climate change or global warming. Student ideologies greatly reflect those of their parents; Wyoming is very proud of its traditions, livelihood and conservative nature.

I want to develop my students into independent thinkers so that they can make well-informed decisions by looking at many sources of information.At times, this has caused some contentious moments in the classroom.












Push for Private Options in Education Gains Momentum More statehouses weigh measures allowing taxpayer funds to be used on alternative programs Wall Street Journal


A growing number of statehouses are considering measures that would allow school districts, parents and students increasingly to use taxpayer funds to explore alternatives to traditional state-backed public education.

The flurry of new bills—which range from supporting private-school options to putting education dollars directly into parents’ hands—comes amid concerns of increasing federal overreach in schools and a backlash against the widespread implementation of common education benchmarks and standardized testing.

It has also gained momentum from elections last November that increased state legislatures’ numbers of Republicans lawmakers—traditionally strong supporters of school choice.

A bill that passed in the Nevada assembly Thursday proposes tax credits for businesses that support private-school scholarships. Meanwhile, a bill to establish so-called education savings accounts, which put state funds into special savings accounts for some parents to pay for certain services directly, passed through both chambers in Mississippi on Thursday. This latest form of education flexibility has caught the eyes of legislators in many states since Arizona and Florida launched programs in recent years.

So far this year, at least 34 states are considering proposals to create or amend programs that offer private education options, up from 29 last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The number of states considering education savings accounts has doubled to 16 since last year.





Kansas school districts try to block new school finance law Wichita (KS) Eagle


TOPEKA – Lawyers representing Wichita and 47 other Kansas school districts petitioned a court Thursday to block a new school finance law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

The governor signed SB 7 on Wednesday. It repeals the state’s 23-year-old school finance system and sets up block-grant funding for the next two years.

The bill restores a $28 million statewide cut to schools that went into effect earlier this month, but it also reduces equalization aid, which goes toward closing gaps between districts, by $51 million. That means that districts such as Wichita will face a cut to current-year funding while others, such as Burlington, will not.

“The Constitution requires equity and adequacy,” said John Robb, an attorney for Schools for Fair Funding. “So we’re asking that Senate Bill 7 be stayed both temporarily and permanently because it does not meet the equity part of the Kansas Constitution.”





Fact Check: Myths in the Political Roar Over Common Core Associated Press


ATLANTA — In the political uproar over Common Core, various myths are peddled as fact.

Do the learning standards really mean the federal government is serving as a “national school board,” as Sen. Marco Rubio says? That’s hard to square with the reality that the standards were developed by governors and state education leaders.

Should leaders “repeal every word of Common Core,” as Sen. Ted Cruz demands? Actually there’s no federal law – or even federal program – to repeal. Sen. Rand Paul slams “rotten to the core” propaganda forced on children by an initiative that has no curriculum at all.

Even so, the 2016 GOP presidential prospects who are criticizing Common Core have a point – if an overstated one – when they dispute the notion that it is strictly a voluntary initiative that bubbled up from communities and states. In complicated but unmistakable ways, the federal government does pressure states to live up to the standards.

Concerns about Common Core extend beyond the Republican politicians to many parents, some of them Democrats, who blame it for additional math homework headaches and extra time taking tests.

A quick primer on Common Core, followed by a look at the facts behind the rhetoric of some Republican hopefuls:






One of the biggest threats to student privacy​? Failure to communicate​ ‘Kids care a lot about privacy, but their view of privacy threats may be a little bit different than adults,’ researcher says.

Hechinger Report


PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Online programs bring new educational resources to classrooms and homes.

And with them comes the responsibility to ensure children are safe when they log in to play games, chat with friends and explore the world. Policymakers, businesses and educators continue to debate appropriate controls. The U.S. Department of Education last week released new tools for educators to help them keep student information safe.

Last week, The Hechinger Report sat down to discuss this with Lorrie Faith Cranor, a professor of computer science and of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. “Kids care a lot about privacy, but their view of privacy threats may be a little bit different than adults,” Cranor said.

Cranor, who is also director of the university’s CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory, says understanding the different ways in which children and adults think about security and privacy might improve their conversations.





Stretching One Great Teacher Across Many Classrooms NPR


A stack of research suggests that all the classroom technology in the world can’t compare to the power of a great teacher. And, since we haven’t yet figured out how to clone our best teachers, a few schools around the country are trying something like it: Stretching them across multiple classrooms.

“We’ll probably never fill up every single classroom with one of those teachers,” says Bryan Hassel, founder of Charlotte-based education consulting firm Public Impact. But, he says, it’s important to ask: “How can we change the way schools work so that the great teachers we do have can reach more of the students, maybe even all of them?”

Public Impact is working with schools in Tennessee, North Carolina and New York to build what it calls an “opportunity culture” for teachers. It’s part of a broader turnaround strategy at schools like Bailey Middle Prep in Nashville.






Suspension threat, outcry over boy’s ‘military haircut’

Army Times


A 7-year-old’s high and tight haircut meant to honor his soldier-stepbrother earned him the threat of suspension from an elementary school named for a Medal of Honor recipient, and the fallout from the incident has led a Tennessee school district to increase security measures.

Adam Stinnett went to Bobby Ray Memorial Elementary School in McMinnville, about a 90-minute drive southeast from Nashville, on March 9 sporting the new hairdo. His mother, Amy Stinnett, said he’d requested the high and tight to be more like Spc. Justin Bloodworth, his active-duty stepbrother.

Adam was written up by the principal, who thought the haircut was against school policy banning “mohawk haircuts or other extreme cuts.”






Education Writers Association Announces Journalism Award Winners Education Week


Reports about urban education, principal turnover, the use of restraints in schools, resegregation, charter schools, and testing were among the subjects of the first-place winners in the Education Writers Association annual contest announced Thursday.

The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, and the Baltimore Sun won first prizes in the large-staff general news outlet category for, respectively, single-topic news, beat reporting, and investigative reporting.

The Dallas paper’s Jeffery Weiss won for a report about a battle that undid testing in Texas, “How the Testing Bubble Popped.” The Times’s Javier C. Hernandez won for a range of stories on his beat, including the Common Core State Standards through a 9-year-old’s eyes. At the Sun, Luke Broadwater, Scott Calvert, and Erica L. Green won for reports about violence in the city’s schools that the judges said “combined [an] ingenious approach to public records with dogged personal reporting.”










USOE Calendar



UEN News



April 9:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



April 9-10:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

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