Education News Roundup: April 16, 2015

Aboriginal Dot paintings by Hawthorn Academy Middle School students.

Aboriginal Dot paintings by Hawthorn Academy Middle School students.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


A local high school  gets recognition  for its successes in blended learning.  (DN)


Utah students compete in the state’s first “concurso de ortografía en español” (Spanish Spelling Bee).  (OSE)


Meet two octogenarians working and volunteering in two local schools.  (OSE)  (KSL)


The Every Child Succeeds Act, an update of No Child Left Behind, passes in Senate committee.  (USAToday) (AP) (WaPo)  (TheHill)  (The Nation)









Innovative Salt Lake high school recognized for learning success


Photos: Utah judges mark 800-year anniversary of signing of Magna Carta


This professor makes a case for religious education in school


Local students compete in first Spanish spelling bee


Bonneville’s “grandma” substitute receives the “Super Sub Award”


Students shine in Hope of America’s opening night


Lone Peak High School Students Build a School in Chojolhó


Their Voice: Walking into adulthood


Current Willow Valley Middle School principal to lead Mountain Crest High


Water Canyon School gets national media attention


Concerns delay school construction


Retired veteran spends days teaching children to read








No more hungry kids.


Underserved communities reap returns from educational investments.


The ‘most powerful’ classroom innovation — by the $1 million teaching prize winner


Don’t Just Kiss Babies, Promise Them an Education


After Cleaning up the NCLB Mess, Then What?







U.S. study finds teacher bias in discipline toward black students


Senate panel approves bipartisan K-12 education bill


Vaccine exemption bill temporarily stalls in California Senate Education Committee


High school, middle school kids now use more e-cigs than tobacco: CDC








Innovative Salt Lake high school recognized for learning success Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City is getting the attention and praise of educators across the country for its innovative strategies to boost student success.


SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake high school is getting the attention and praise of educators across the country for its innovative strategies to boost student success.

In a report scheduled for release Thursday by the Evergreen Education Group and the Clayton Christensen Institute, Innovations Early College High School is one of six schools across the country recognized for their successes in blended learning, a way of using technology and online content to personalize the learning process in the classroom.

Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of education at the institute, said successful blended learning is often most visible in charter schools, but Thursday’s report shows there are examples to look to in implementing such practices in district schools, he said.

“I think what you’re seeing is a high school in Salt Lake City using blended learning to really boost the graduation rate and allow a lot of students that would not have succeeded in the old system find a pathway to success,” Horn said. “It’s neat to see a district really innovating in a novel way.”

Innovations Early College High School’s primary success lies in its graduation rate of 89 percent, which is 6 percent above the state average and 19 percent above that of the Salt Lake City School District, according to the Utah State Office of Education.

Most of the improvement is in the students’ math scores, though English language arts scores have stayed flat or declined and are the focus of current improvement goals at the school, according to the report.

The school opened in 2012 to help address the district’s attrition rate, especially among minorities and students from low-income families. (DN)






Photos: Utah judges mark 800-year anniversary of signing of Magna Carta


Judges affixed their names to a replica of a medieval document as the Utah state courts hdld a ceremony to recognize the 800-year anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The Magna Carta was signed in 1215 by King John as an agreement between him and a group of English rebels, as it contained some basic rights of citizens.

A traveling exhibit of the Magna Carta, organized by the Utah State Bar, will be on display from through Friday in the Matheson Courthouse rotunda. The event kicked off the annual Law Day celebration, the theme of which commemorates the 800-year anniversary of the Magna Carta. (DN)






This professor makes a case for religious education in school


Joseph Laycock, an assistant professor at Texas State University, wrote an article for Quartz this week that advocated for religious education in school. His reason was simple: education on world religions can teach students a lot about the type of people they’ll meet in the world.

“Without knowledge of the world’s religions, students will not understand the traditions and values of their neighbors and co-workers,” Laycock wrote for Quartz. “They will be ill-equipped to compete in a global marketplace. Most critically, they will have no framework with which to assess claims about religion made by politicians and the media.”

Laycock wrote that religious literacy should begin before college, since many Americans don’t attend college. He was quick to point out that there already is some religious education in high schools, but students still aren’t knowledgeable enough.

He may be right. The Pew Research Center reported in 2010 that only about half of Americans could answer what Laycock called “simple questions about the world’s religions,” like where the “golden rule” appears in the Bible, that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and that the Jewish Sabbath begins on Fridays. (DN)






Local students compete in first Spanish spelling bee


OGDEN — Elementary and junior high school students from all over Utah competed in the state’s first Spanish Spelling Bee at Weber State University Tuesday afternoon and by the looks and sounds of it, it was the first of many. A fifth grader from Dixie Sun Elementary, Raul Martinez, won as best Spanish speller, but many walked away glad they participated.

Isabel Asensio, associate professor and adviser for Sigma Delta Pi, a National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society on WSU’s campus, said the group wanted to start a tradition on campus it could be known for and that others would recognize in a positive way. She has heard of other states that had done Spanish spelling bees and thought it would work at WSU.

“The hardest part was sending an invite to all the schools,” Asensio said. She wanted to make sure all dual language immersion schools in the state were included, which was a daunting task. The group decided the age range would be fourth through eighth grade and many dual immersion programs are new enough that they don’t have fourth graders yet. Asensio started contacting schools during the summer, getting commitments from them. She felt 10 was a good number and that’s how many she ended up with at the competition. Each school was invited to bring three competitors and they could choose how they decided on which three to bring. “I think most of the schools had some kind of spelling bee at their school but I also gave them the option to select their students since this was the first year,” Asensio said. (OSE)






Bonneville’s “grandma” substitute receives the “Super Sub Award”


OGDEN – After 46 years working as a substitute teacher at Bonneville High School, Barbara Bingham, age 84, retired Monday, April 6.

Nancy Peebles, a history teacher at Bonneville, said, “I went to our principal with the idea (of honoring Bingham with an award). She’s been a sub for 46 years and I thought we should honor her.”

Bingham began teaching in 1969 when her oldest son attended Bonneville as a senior. She hasn’t stopped since.

“My life, next to my own family, has been centered around Bonneville High school,” Bingham said.

Weber School District awarded Bingham with the “Super Sub Award” on Wednesday and hundreds of students, family, and friends came to support her.

“I don’t care if they’re black, white, pink, or purple, I love them all,” said Bingham during the award presentation speaking of the students.

Students have long recognized her with the title of “Grandma.”

Tenniel Smith, Bingham’s actual granddaughter, remembers calling her grandma while attending Bonneville High.“Some student came up to me and said that was rude (calling her grandma) just because she is old,” Smith said Bingham responded by saying, “Grandma is the nicest name I’ve ever had.” (OSE)






Students shine in Hope of America’s opening night


Students from across Utah Valley participated in the opening night of the annual Hope of America presentation Wednesday night at the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.

More than 6,600 fifth-grade students from 78 Utah schools participate in the annual two-night Freedom Festival event, now in its 19th year. The event features singing, choreography and sign language. (DH)






Lone Peak High School Students Build a School in Chojolhó


When the student council at Lone Peak High School picked the theme of “Reaching Students Near and Far” for their annual fundraising effort, none of them realized how powerfully it would reach each of them individually.

Every winter, from Thanksgiving until the middle of February, the Highland school participates in a service effort called Gold Rush. The entire student body raises money for a student-chosen charity. This year’s Gold Rush focused on raising funds to help Cedar Valley Elementary in Cedar Fort and a school high in the mountains of Chojolhó, Chiapas, Mexico.

After countless hours, the LPHS students raised $49,277, the most any Gold Rush has made thus far. Of that, $10,000 went to Cedar Valley Elementary to purchase a playground for the small school, $2,000 went to local families in need within the LPHS community and the rest went to building two new buildings for the school in Mexico, in partnership with The Escalera Foundation of Salt Lake City.

LPHS Assistant Principal Tim Pead said the Escalera Foundation placed an example of their small one room school buildings in the main lobby of Lone Peak High during the Gold Rush fundraising.

“For the students to see that, to see that as those kids’ school, how it fit in a teeny corner of our school, that had a big effect on them,” Pead said.

When LPHS was doing the fundraising, none of the students knew they’d actually go down to Mexico for one week in March and build the school. (DH)






Their Voice: Walking into adulthood


With spring break behind us, the next milestone for most high school seniors is graduation. Many upcoming graduates throughout the valley have probably secured the next step in their journey. They may have already been accepted into a college or university or know where they are going to be employed.

For the approximate 10 to 13 percent of students with disabilities and their parents or caregivers, the path may not be as secure. These students, with the help of special education programs, teachers and tutors, have followed their peers through 12 grades of public school and now face a less certain future. One educator put it well: For years, many of these families were only able to concentrate on what was going to happen the next day. They didn’t have the luxury of planning for the future. Now, with graduation day upon them, many decisions are imminent.

One option for students in the Nebo School District is the transitional program Bridges. It provides assistance in independent living skills and direction toward employment to those who completed their high school program but were unable to receive a diploma.

“Bridges gives students the opportunity to recognize their own abilities and to encourage people to give them a chance,” said Kay Thomas-Perkins, a teacher with the program. “We have to find the right garden for them to grow.”

For six students, this garden came in a recent opportunity to acquire jobs as teacher’s aides in Nebo School District. Thomas-Perkins is quite clear that this was an earned opportunity. “They had to apply like everyone else and were up against many other applicants who did not have disabilities,” she said. “In the end, however, they were chosen because of the skills they had learned.”

Alpine Transition and Education Center (ATEC) is a similar program in Alpine School District. Students ages 18 to 22 who do not have the ability to get a diploma qualify for the services.  (DH)







Current Willow Valley Middle School principal to lead Mountain Crest High


The Cache County School District announced Tuesday that Teri Cutler will be the new principal of Mountain Crest High School beginning July 1. Cutler, current principal at Willow Valley Middle School, is replacing Bob Henke, who will be leaving the Hyrum high school to lead the new south-end high school in Millville.

Along with Cutler, the district announced that Terry Williams, current assistant principal at Mountain Crest, will be the new principal at North Cache 8/9 Center and Mike Thompson, current principal at North Cache, will be principal of Cedar Ridge Middle School. There is no word yet on who will replace Cutler at Willow Valley, nor the fate of Scott Jeppesen, current principal at Cedar Ridge Middle School.

Cutler began her career in the district 28 years ago as a counselor at Cedar Ridge Middle School. After seven years as counselor, she went into administration and became an assistant principal of South Cache Freshman Center, when the school only contained ninth grade. She then spent a year at the North Cache Freshman Center before coming back to the South Cache Freshman Center, where she became principal. She stayed there until 2010 when she became the principal of Willow Valley Middle School.

Cutler said working at the freshman center and eventual 8/9 center gave her a lot of experience working with freshmen. (HJ)






Water Canyon School gets national media attention


HILDALE – The first year of public education in Hildale after leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints forced the Washington County School District out of town in 2002 has been one of expectations met and surpassed, and bridges built across the community’s cultural divide.

“It’s more than just reading and writing, math and science, and history. It’s being in a safe place where you can be yourself, get to know who you are, and figure out what you want to do with your life,” Principal Darin Thomas said. “I think that this school opens the doors for many, many people to get the education that they not only need, but deserve.”

On April 4, “Good Morning America” aired a segment about Water Canyon School on ABC and online via Yahoo News. Hildale, ex-FLDS community leader Willie Jessop, and the school were profiled in a March episode of “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” on the OWN Network.

Thomas said People Magazine and the CNN show “This is Life with Lisa Ling” have both contacted him with interest in further publicizing the school, which he welcomes.

Media coverage has been generally favorable, he said.  (The Spectrum)






Concerns delay school construction


KAYSVILLE – A decision by the Kaysville City Council is delaying the start of construction on a new elementary school in west Kaysville and may delay its opening as well.

Responding to the concerns of a group of neighbors near the proposed school, city leaders tabled a vote on the final plat for two weeks to allow time for an independent traffic study. Those two weeks are significant, according to school officials.

Ideally, said Bryan Turner, director of architecture and new construction for Davis School District, work would begin the first of April for a school slated to open the following year.

Cutting into that time could mean teachers would have to be setting up as construction was being finished, or the school would have to open with some things incomplete. If there are weather-related delays in the winter, it could also mean school would not open for the 2016 school year and students at existing schools nearby would need to go to a year-round schedule, he told the Clipper.

Land south of 200 North and west of Bonneville Lane has been purchased by Davis School District for the district’s 62nd elementary school.

Because the property is bordered by land reserved for the West Davis Corridor and a neighborhood with several cul-de-sacs, neighbors were concerned about traffic patterns and safety issues. (The Davis Clipper)






Retired veteran spends days teaching children to read


WEST VALLEY CITY — At 83 years old, retired veteran Eugene Ward has no intention of slowing down. Ward lives in Heber City, nearly an hour from the West Valley elementary school where he volunteers. The octogenarian makes the round-trip drive at least twice a week.

“It’s not so bad,” Ward said. “I just get to Parleys Summit, and I can coast the rest of the way.”

Ward, known to the children of Redwood Elementary School as “Mr. Gene,” is a regular volunteer in the classroom of first-grade teacher Marta Welch. He has been teaching children to read for the past year, giving 10 to 15 minutes of critical individual coaching to each student.

“As teachers with up to 30 students, we do our best, but there’s no way that we can every day check in with each student, much less sit down and read with them one-on-one,” Welch said. “To have a Mr. Gene who is able to sit down one-on-one with them and check in has just been amazing for my classroom.”

The children have formed deep connections with Ward, Welch said. “We have adopted Mr. Gene, definitely, as our classroom grandparent,” she said. (KSL)







No more hungry kids. Desert News Letter to the Editor from Willie Dickerson


There was an excellent reminder of the importance of the SNAP program, or food stamps, by Ariane Dansie (“Keep SNAP funded,” April 7). One in five hungry children is too many. Connecting with our representatives about this tragedy of hunger in the world’s richest country can help turn it around. Please take five minutes for a call or email asking your representative and senators to fully fund the SNAP program.






Underserved communities reap returns from educational investments. Desert News commentary by Henri Sisneros


Political leaders in a modern world make decisions how to spend public monies — our taxes — in furtherance of public goals. One example: We promote the welfare of our citizens by way of investing in education.

It’s difficult to measure the efficacy of an investment in education. Do we compare the dollars we spend against monies spent by other educational systems? Should we track testing results to measure effectiveness? And do these metrics correlate whereby more investment equals better outcomes, or all of the above?

One key challenge to measuring an investment in education is that it’s difficult to capture long-term impacts. How can political leaders who must make yearly budgeting decisions know that the investment they make today is sound, when the long-term benefits are unknowable? Or how do we know today whether a particular initiative promotes educated, engaged and taxpaying citizens 10 or 20 years in the future?

I’ve been lucky to personally witness a successful education initiative that at least, anecdotally, supports investment in education initiatives that target underserved communities, including those of color.

In the mid-1980s, Layton, Utah, was a small — around 20,000 people — bedroom community adjacent to Hill Air Force Base, Davis County’s largest employer. Layton was diverse, drawing much of its population from workers and airmen from around the country who worked at the base.






The ‘most powerful’ classroom innovation — by the $1 million teaching prize winner Washington Post commentary by Nancie Atwell


Nancie Atwell is the renowned founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning, an award-winning non-profit independent K-12 demonstration school in Edgecomb, Maine, where she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade writing, reading and history. She is the author of numerous books, including the classic “In the Middle: A Lifetime of Learning About Writing, Reading, and Adolescents,” which has inspired teachers for years, and she has won numerous awards, including the first-ever $1 million Global Teacher Prize given last month by the Varkey Foundation.

Atwell’s school has a national reputation for its research-based literacy methods which focus on engaging and challenging students while fostering relationships between faculty and parents. A hallmark of the school are the  collections of books, carefully selected by adults, from which students can choose. Afterward the children develop lists of  books they found inspiring, an effort  to help guide other young people looking for great books to read. The recommended book lists are on the school’s website and popular with teachers around the country.

In this post, Atwell reclaims the term “innovation” from the tech world and identifies what she calls the simplest and most powerful classroom innovation that she has used in during her 40-year career. (WaPo)






Don’t Just Kiss Babies, Promise Them an Education U.S. and World Report News commentary by Sara Mead


Shaking hands and kissing babies. It’s the old stereotype of a political campaign. Now that several candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the 2016 presidential race, we can expect to see a lot more of both in the next 18 months. But this time around, we should expect candidates to do more than kiss the babies.

Parents, policymakers and the public increasingly recognize the importance of early childhood education. Research documenting the crucial role of early language, social-emotional and cognitive development for children’s later learning has become widely known. High-quality pre-K programs in Boston, New Jersey and Oklahoma have demonstrated the potential of early interventions to produce lasting changes in children’s outcomes. There is also increasing recognition of the strains that working families are under as they seek to balance work and family obligations and obtain adequate care for their children. These are all potential reasons for candidates to pay attention to early childhood education.

Moreover, federal policymakers actually have much more influence over early childhood education than they do over K-12. Whereas federal funds account for only 10 percent of elementary and secondary spending, they compose the majority of public spending on early childhood education.






After Cleaning up the NCLB Mess, Then What? Huffington Post commentary by Jack Jennings


Congress is finally grappling with which parts of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) ought to be repealed or retained. Various officials, and the president who must sign the final agreement, have different lists. After the squabbling, a shadow of a national school improvement policy will remain with nothing comparable taking its place.

Seven years ago, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the basic federal law, expired. ESEA is popularly known today as NCLB, the controversial 2002 ESEA amendments. By providing annual funding, Congress and the president put NCLB/ESEA on artificial resuscitation, hoping for congressional re-writing. During those years, the Congress could not reach agreement on changing the law, and thus it languished despite pleas from educators that it was unworkable.

To provide temporary relief, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan waived NCLB’s worst provisions. That action in itself was controversial since Congress did not like the Department of Education setting policy that the legislators themselves were incapable of establishing.

Now Congress is finally moving, thanks to Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman John Kline, the chairs of the Senate and House education committees. The Senate even offers hopes of bipartisan agreement, seemingly impossible in the more ideological House.










U.S. study finds teacher bias in discipline toward black students


(Reuters) – Teachers in the United States were more likely to feel troubled when a black student misbehaved for a second time than when a white student did, highlighting a bias that shows why African-American children are more often disciplined than schoolmates, Stanford University researchers said on Wednesday.

The federal government has found black students are three times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled, a disparity experts say contributes to lower academic achievement among African-American students caught in the discipline system. But the Stanford University team said few experiments have examined the biases among teachers that play a role in disproportionate discipline.

For their study published this month in the journal Psychological Science, “Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students”, they gave elementary and secondary school teachers school records describing instances of misbehavior. The researchers then randomly assigned names to those records, using both names more often given to African-Americans, such as DeShawn and Darnell, and others more often associated with white people, such as Jake.

The study found the teachers exhibited no difference in their emotional response when faced with a pupil who committed a first infraction, regardless of the student’s perceived race.

But when a student believed to be black committed a second infraction, they felt troubled at a level of about five and a half on a scale of one to seven, compared with less than four and a half for students seen as white, it found.

Students perceived as black who committed two infractions were judged by teachers to deserve discipline at a severity level of just over five on a scale of seven, compared with just under four for students seen as white. (Reuters)






Senate panel approves bipartisan K-12 education bill


WASHINGTON — A bipartisan education bill to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind law and reduce the federal government’s power over schools cleared its first big hurdle Thursday.

The Every Child Succeeds Act, from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., was approved by a vote of 22-0 by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after three days of debate and the adoption of nearly 30 amendments.

Supporters said the bill would “fix” the No Child Left Behind law that governs the nation’s approximately 100,000 K-12 public schools.

Critics say that law – signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 – placed too much emphasis on judging and punishing schools based on student test scores and gave the federal government too big a role in deciding how best to improve local schools. The law expired in 2007, but states still have to abide by its requirements until a new law replaces it.

“I believe that working through this process in a bipartisan way from the start is the best chance we’ve got at fixing this broken law,” said Murray, the senior Democrat on the education committee. “It helps make sure that all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.” (USAToday) (AP) (WaPo) (TheHill) (The Nation)





Vaccine exemption bill temporarily stalls in California Senate Education Committee


SACRAMENTO — A controversial bill to require vaccinations for all California school children ran into trouble Wednesday, when its author delayed a key Senate committee vote after enraged parents opposed to the legislation demanded lawmakers answer a central question: Don’t all kids — whether they are vaccinated or not — have a right to a public education?

With bill co-author Sen. Richard Pan facing similar questions from fellow committee members, the Sacramento Democrat put the brakes on a scheduled vote in the Senate Education Committee, promising to return with answers in a week for another hearing.

The unexpected retreat seemed a promising turn of events for hundreds of opponents who again showed up in Sacramento to challenge lawmakers and insist the bill would deprive them of their right to choose not to vaccinate their children.

“It shows that legislators realize it’s a bad bill,” said Jean Munoz Keese, a spokeswoman for California Coalition for Health Choice, a group of parents and others who are fighting the bill. “They started looking closely at this bill and realized it is not what Sen. Pan wants people to believe. It essentially will deny children the right to access public education and there are no answers in the current bill to address that.” ( San Jose Mercury News)






High school, middle school kids now use more e-cigs than tobacco: CDC


The number of middle and high school students using electronic cigarettes tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to government figures released Thursday, a startling increase that public health officials fear could reverse decades of efforts combating the scourge of smoking.

The use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has eclipsed the use of traditional cigarettes and all other tobacco prodcuts, a development that Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called “alarming” and “shocking.”

“What’s most surprising is how in­cred­ibly rapid the use of products other than cigarettes has increased,” Frieden said in an interview, adding that some e-cigarette smokers would undoubtedly go on to use traditional cigarettes. “It is subjecting another generation of our children to an addictive substance.”

The results, based on an annual survey of 22,000 students around the country and published Thursday by the CDC, detail a quickly evolving landscape of tobacco products that appeal to teenagers.

Anti-smoking advocates argue that the rise in the popularity of e-cigarettes stems in part from aggressive, largely unregulated marketing campaigns that Frieden said are “straight out of the playbook” of cigarette ads that targeted young people in earlier generations. (WaPo) (ABC) (USN) (Reuters) (EdWeek)






USOE Calendar



UEN News



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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