Education News Roundup: April 15, 2015

"Winter Playground" by Scott Costello/CC/flickr

“Winter Playground” by Scott Costello/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Congrats to Erik Hans Fronberg and Zachary Miles Zundel for being selected as the ” most promising young scientific leaders” in Utah. (UTPo)



Local student shares FIRST Robotics Competition experience. (KUTV)



Can you figure out the answer to the math problem that has gone viral?  (NYTimes)

and  (USAToday)

and  (The Atlantic)



The ESEA reauthorization discussion continues. (AP)  (HuffPost)












New Provo High construction to be discussed at meeting


Weber High’s battle robot ‘Bruce’ crushes opponents


Lone Peak community asks Alpine School District for help and hope


Annie Yum: FIRST Robotics Competition


Another student suing Utah school district over sex with teacher


Don’t blame your child for not being motivated at school


New poll suggests Utah legislators made the grade in 2015 session


Ex-teacher convicted of sex abuse seeks parole


Gov. Herbert Announces Selection of Utah’s Delegation for National Youth Science Camp







Student’s sex-ed perspective impresses


General: School lunches are U.S. national-security issue


Senate Education Committee Continues Beating Bipartisan Drum on ESEA


Should every school class be a computer coding class?







For Special-Needs Students, Custom Furniture Out of Schoolhouse Scraps


A Math Problem From Singapore Goes Viral: When Is Cheryl’s Birthday?


Report offers case study of turnaround at J.C. Nalle Elementary in the District


Senate committee makes progress on updates to education law


103-Year-Old Woman Finally Receives Her High School Diploma


The All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education








New Provo High construction to be discussed at meeting


PROVO — A public information meeting will be held regarding the construction of the new Provo High School.

The meeting is on Wednesday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Provo High, 1125 N. University Ave. Members of the community are invited to hear from the architects in charge of the new buildings.

Architects will discuss plans going forward, and residents have the opportunity to ask questions and give comments. (DN)




Weber High’s battle robot ‘Bruce’ crushes opponents


OGDEN — Within a Lexan-lined cage, two robots battled it out for supremacy. Pieces of metal flew and casing twisted and the bots, the size of briefcases, collided.

Outside the cage, their adolescent creators controlled their actions. Thumbs flicked across the controls, as the teams, which represented local high schools, looked to secure themselves a victory.

At stake was the chance to be the first school to house the Rocky Mountain Robotics League trophy and yearlong bragging rights for having designed, built and fought the best bot in the county.

The robot-on-robot carnage took place Monday evening in Ogden Weber Applied Technology College’s multipurpose building.

Five teams competed for the title, representing Ogden, St. Joseph, Roy, Weber and Bonneville high schools.

The bots scored points by pinning their opponents, flipping their opponents or knocking their opponents behind yellow barriers within the cage. Matches lasted for three minutes.

For months, the students worked to build their 15-pound machines, along the way developing skills in mechanical and electrical engineering, machining, project management, communication, problem solving and teamwork. (OSE)




Lone Peak community asks Alpine School District for help and hope


AMERICAN FORK — High winds and snow may have prevented a large crowd of anxious parents from attending Tuesday’s meeting of the Alpine School District Board of Education.

But it didn’t dampen the hopes of those who wanted to have hope for their students.

Four members of the Lone Peak Community 4 Hope asked district officials to consider implementing a position at Lone Peak High School for a suicide prevention counselor. It is something the district has already been considering, but no decision has yet been made.

Jenney Rees, who also serves on the Cedar Hills City Council, spoke for a group of those present and gave some statistics showing that suicide had become the leading cause of death for Utah students as of 2013, surpassing accidents.

“The Alpine area is even higher than the Utah average,” she said. “This is a community effort. We are meeting with experts. We hope the district can help us.” She cited two areas where the group is seeking help. One is to provide a mental health counselor at Lone Peak High School.” This would be a resource to the actual school,” she said. “I know there are budget concerns.” (DH)




Annie Yum: FIRST Robotics Competition


Student Annie Yum stopped by the studio to talk about her experience at the FIRST Robotics Competition.

The FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Students learn build and compete with a robot of their own design with the help of professional engineers. (KUTV)





Another student suing Utah school district over sex with teacher


A second former student from Davis High School has sued the Davis County School District and former English teacher Brianne Altice, who is accused of having sex with three of her students.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the former student and his parents reiterated allegations made in criminal courts — that the student was 16 when Altice, 35, began flirting with him and other male students while she was their teacher.

The students at times skipped other classes to spend entire school days in Altice’s classroom, texted her, and made sexual comments to her, the lawsuit alleges.

Altice, in turn, confided in the boys about her marital problems, the lawsuit claims. Eventually, she began seeing them after school and having sex with them, according to the complaint. (SLT)





Don’t blame your child for not being motivated at school


A new study, which will be published in July in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, found that student motivation is tied to their genetics, according to a press release from The Ohio State University.

“We found that there are personality differences that people inherit that have a major impact on motivation,” said the study’s co-author Stephen Petrill, a professor at OSU. “That doesn’t mean we don’t try to encourage and inspire students, but we have to deal with the reality of why they’re different.”

The study, which looked at more than 13,000 twins from six different countries, found that the twins’ genetics influenced their motivation more than environmental factors, like teachers and family life.

The study asked fraternal and identical twins to rate their motivations for learning various academic subjects. The researchers then compared the answers of the fraternal twins, who share half of their genes, with the answers of the identical twins, who share all their genes. The identical twins had more similar responses than the fraternal twins, which indicates that motivation levels may be tied to genetics. (DN)





New poll suggests Utah legislators made the grade in 2015 session


Most Utahns give lawmakers a passing grade for their work at the Capitol this year. No surprise the highest marks come from republicans, but independents aren’t so generous.

Some big issues were on the table during the 2015 Legislative Session. Medicaid expansion, LGBT nondiscrimination, religious freedom, criminal justice reform and funding for education and transportation were at the top.

“Utah voters gave lawmakers a passing grade,” said Bryan Schott with A new poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates finds 64% of Utahns give lawmakers a passing grade, 5% give them an A, 12% an F and 7% an Incomplete. That Incomplete likely centers around one of the big issues that wasn’t resolved during the session, Medicaid expansion.

As you might expect the grades depend on where participants sit on the political spectrum. (ABC4)





Ex-teacher convicted of sex abuse seeks parole


DRAPER, Utah — A former Kaysville teacher convicted of having a sexual relationship with a student appeared before the state parole board.

Stephen Niedzwiecki, 35, had his first parole hearing on Tuesday since he was convicted on charges of unlawful sex with a minor. He admitted to carrying on a sexual relationship with a girl beginning in 2011 when she was 15 and he was her teacher. “I started sexually abusing my victim that summer,” he said. “Things continued for well over a year.”

Niedzwiecki was a teacher and girl’s basketball coach at Kaysville’s Jefferson Academy. During his parole hearing, he suggested that the two were dating and claimed he had approached the girl’s parents about it, as he befriended them after a divorce. “It was a terrible mistake and it hurts me so much to think what I must have done to convince them that was OK,” he said.

The victim’s brother blasted him and said her family gave no permission. The victim herself, who is out of state attending college, sent a letter to the parole board saying he should not be released from prison. (FOX13)




Gov. Herbert Announces Selection of Utah’s Delegation for National Youth Science Camp


Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced today that Erik Hans Fronberg and Zachary Miles Zundel have been selected as the two most promising young scientific leaders in Utah’s 2015 high school graduating class.

At the invitation of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia, they will participate as delegates in the 52nd year of the National Youth Science Camp held near the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia.  Ethan Silva has been selected as an alternate.

“Utah is proud of our student delegates for the time and work they’ve put into earning this recognition and opportunity,” said Gov. Herbert. “STEM education is a top priority in the state, and we are happy to continue to support all students in impressive scientific pursuits like this.”

Established in 1963 as a part of West Virginia’s Centennial Celebration, the National Youth Science Camp is an annual summer forum where two delegates representing each state exchange ideas with leading scientists and other professionals from academic and corporate worlds. (UTPol)







Student’s sex-ed perspective impresses. Salt Lake Tribune letter from Kirt Williamson


In her Sunday article, “Utah’s sex-education policy is doing more harm than good,” Carolyn Janecek helped us older readers understand the restrictions and prohibitions of Utah’s sex education policy regarding the discussing and advocacy of same-sex attraction to students.

In her criticism of the Utah code, she opines, “This portion of the Utah code perpetuates the idea that somehow children will ‘turn gay’ if they are exposed to any information regarding homosexuality.”

Science has long taught that one’s sexual orientation is innate and for the most part unchangeable. The Obama administration recently banned reparative therapy for minors, citing the consensus opinion of those professionals whose work is dealing with persons with same-sex attraction. Thankfully, the LDS Church is no longer referring conflicted members to this sort of fraudulent and dangerous “therapy,” which had long been a standard practice of theirs.





General: School lunches are U.S. national-security issue. Reuters commentary by Samuel E. Ebbeson


What’s on kids’ school-lunch trays can have an impact that reaches far beyond the cafeteria — even to the frontlines where our men and women serve.

If you’re wondering why a retired general cares about school lunches, know that childhood obesity is a serious national security issue. When I served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, I was responsible for recruitment, retention and related human-resource management of the U.S. Armed Services’ 1.4 million active-duty members.

That is why I am alarmed that nearly one in three young adults ages 17 to 24 is too heavy to serve in the military. Among active-duty service members, 12 percent are obese based on their height and weight, an increase of 61 percent since 2002. The military’s health system spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health problems and replacing troops discharged because they are unfit.




Senate Education Committee Continues Beating Bipartisan Drum on ESEA. Education Week commentary by Lauren Camera


Before Day Two of the Senate education committee’s markup of a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was interrupted by a series of votes on the federal budget and a bipartisan policy lunch on Wednesday, senators had whittled down their list of remaining amendments to 20.

The committee approved six (generally noncontroversial) amendments, all offered by Democrats, on a variety of issues, including expanding access to STEM subjects, ensuring low-income students have access to Advanced Placment and International Baccalaureate courses, and allowing states to use funding to create teacher and principal academies.





Should every school class be a computer coding class?  Hechinger Report commentary by Chris Berdik

This spring, at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia, the fifth-grade Spanish class programmed computers to produce bilingual, animated photo albums. The seventh-grade science class rejiggered the code behind climate models. The first-graders programmed robots to run mazes. And that’s just for starters.

“We’d like everybody to be more comfortable with computer science, because it’s running our lives now, and because it enhances what’s possible in the classroom,” said Kim Wilkens, a technology teacher at St. Anne’s and co-coordinator of the school’s computer science initiative.

They’re not alone. Although technology has flooded America’s schools, interest in computer science courses has not kept pace, especially among girls and underrepresented minorities. While states discuss if and how to make computer science a required course, many educators want to inject coding into all sorts of courses, from science to art to English. They’re not just out to prepare the next generation of technology workers. Their goal is far more expansive. They want to turn coding into a new kind of literacy — a fundamental applied skill, a mode of inquiry and expression — that everybody should know.









For Special-Needs Students, Custom Furniture Out of Schoolhouse Scraps


Whenever Michael Konstalid visits a school, he makes sure to pay a visit to the basement.

There, Mr. Konstalid, a roaming physical therapist for the New York City Education Department, gives his phone number to a custodian and asks that no broken furniture be thrown away until he is called. This protocol keeps him in the supplies he uses to build custom physical therapy equipment, out of things that would otherwise end up in the trash.

“Almost everything I build in schools are made from scrap wood, broken desks, broken tables, broken chairs, broken magazine racks, broken unidentified things,” Mr. Konstalid said. “These are some pretty tired pieces of furniture.”

Among his creations have been tiny hurdles made of PVC pipe, intended to help children improve their coordination. He has turned a discarded bookcase into a small set of steps, used to help a little girl get on and off the school bus by herself. He bound together a short length of red, white and blue scrap rope, so a boy with difficulty walking could be tethered to an adult in case he stumbled, but would otherwise travel the halls without leaning on a grown-up for support. He has made several kinds of specialty chairs. (NYTimes)





A Math Problem From Singapore Goes Viral: When Is Cheryl’s Birthday?


A couple of months ago, it was a color-changing dress that blew out the neural circuits of the Internet. Though it may not have quite the mass appeal, this week it is a math problem that is making bushels of brains hurt.

It started with a posting on Facebook, by Kenneth Kong, a television host in Singapore. From there, people around the world have been trying to figure out Cheryl’s birthday, or at least wondering why she couldn’t just save everyone a lot of trouble and be more direct with Albert and Bernard.

The wording of the problem is terrible, so here is a clearer version, which makes some of the assumptions more obvious but which does not change any of the underlying logic of the problem: Albert and Bernard just met Cheryl. “When’s your birthday?” Albert asked Cheryl. Cheryl thought a second and said, “I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll give you some clues.” She wrote down a list of 10 dates:

May 15, May 16, May 19

June 17, June 18

July 14, July 16

August 14, August 15, August 17

“My birthday is one of these,” she said. Then Cheryl whispered in Albert’s ear the month — and only the month — of her birthday. To Bernard, she whispered the day, and only the day.  “Can you figure it out now?” she asked Albert. Albert: I don’t know when your birthday is, but I know Bernard doesn’t know, either. Bernard: I didn’t know originally, but now I do. Albert: Well, now I know, too!

When is Cheryl’s birthday? (NYTimes) (USAToday) (The Atlantic)





Report offers case study of turnaround at J.C. Nalle Elementary in the District


J.C. Nalle Elementary School was at risk of closure in 2011 because of low academic performance and flagging enrollment. Two years later, the school had the highest math test score gains in D.C. Public Schools, with a 27 percent increase in math proficiency rates.

A report being released Wednesday by Child Trends, a Bethesda-based research center, found the improvement to be a result of a series of interventions that could be replicated in other schools.

“If you look at the research, there are plenty of school turnaround efforts that don’t work,” said Daniel Princiotta, principal research scientist for the study. He said the growth in math at J.C. Nalle was rapid and substantial.

The positive results were not mirrored in reading performance, which actually declined over time. But the interventions the report found to be effective in math included:

— Increased use of technology. New investments in tablets and laptops as well as math-related software, specifically ST Math and First in Math, helped personalize lessons and gave students a way to continue working on their skills out of class.

— Extended school day. The school used a $275,000 grant from D.C. Public Schools to add about 75 minutes to the school day for students in grades three to five, allowing for more academic instruction and one-on-one teaching.

— Saturday school. A family-oriented program was offered on Saturdays, including academic interventions and parent workshops. (WaPo) (Report)




Senate committee makes progress on updates to education law


WASHINGTON — A Senate committee made progress Wednesday on a bipartisan update to the No Child Left Behind education law. The committee passed a handful of amendments in the morning and hoped to hold a final vote on the bill in the evening.

Lawmakers are intent on ensuring that schools continue to use annual standardized tests to measure student performance. But they are moving toward letting states determine how much weight to give the tests in evaluating school performance. The move is in response to frequent criticism that the federal government shouldn’t dictate to the nation’s schools what they should do to improve.

Amendments approved on Wednesday tended to focus on renewing programs designed to help low-income children or those with special needs. For example, lawmakers voted to renew a program that helps poor students qualify and pay for taking college level classes while in high school. Lawmakers also renewed a grant program that trains teachers to identify and reach out to gifted children, particularly in poor schools where the students can get overlooked.

Tougher battles are sure to come, but senators have attempted to strike a bipartisan note in the debate. Some lawmakers have pulled divisive amendments and said they will bring them up at a later date, potentially on the Senate floor. (AP) (HuffPo)




103-Year-Old Woman Finally Receives Her High School Diploma


A 103-year-old Wisconsin woman has achieved something she’s “always wanted”: she’s become a high school graduate.

At a ceremony held at her assisted living facility on Friday, a cap-and-gown-clad Marie Hunt received the honorary diploma from River Valley High School in Spring Green. According to WKOW, staffers at the facility had partnered with the school and the Spring Green School District to make the centenarian’s dream come true.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Hunt told the news outlet. “And I didn’t have the opportunity to go and now 100 years later, here I am.”

According to KTVI, Hunt would have been a member of the class of 1928, but she dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade.

“I was born in 1911, and there was no way that country kids six miles away could go to high school,” she said. (HuffPo)




The All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education


In South Korea, grim stories of teen suicide come at a regular clip. Recently, two 16-year-old girls in the city of Daejeon jumped to their deaths, leaving a note saying, “We hate school.”

It’s just one tragedy in a country where suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, and 11- to 15-year-olds report the highest amount of stress out of 30 developed nations.

A relentless focus on education and exams is often to blame. For a typical high school student, the official school day may end at 4 p.m., but can drag on for grueling hours at private cram institutes or in-school study hall, often not wrapping up until 11 p.m.

“Every high school, they do this,” high school juniors Han Jae Kyung and Yoon Seoyoon tell NPR.

The 14-hour days in classrooms reflects South Korean society’s powerful focus on educational achievement. (NPR)








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May 7-8:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



May 14

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City





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