Education News Roundup: April 17, 2015

20150417_160830 (2)Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Alpine School District kicks off its 100th anniversary celebration with a gala.  (DH)


A Denver area elementary teacher shares her “I wish my teacher knew,” lesson on Twitter.  (KSL)  (Fox13)  (KUSA-TV, Denver)


USU program aims to inspire elementary students to pursue higher education or vocational training.  (HJ)


An article offering four points on the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” passed this week by a Senate panel.  (HuffPo)









Rocky Mountain students clean up river walk


100 years of educating within Alpine School District honored with gala


Century, Ridgepoint or Skyridge — what will new Lehi school be named?


USU offers Multicultural Leadership Program to elementary students from across Utah


Inside Our Schools


Attendance at Hildale school exceeds expectations in first year


Students in Herriman hear the rumble of the Great Utah Shakeout


3rd-grade teacher shares heartbreaking notes from students









Boy Scout Troup discusses school lunch


In Our View: Literacy in Utah


Teacher layoffs are coming, and it’s the Great Recession’s fault Thomas B Fordham Institute commentary by Michael J. Petrilli.


Don’t You Quit









As student tests move online, keyboarding enters curriculum


Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Senate HELP Committee’s Markup of the No Child Left Behind Act


Feds investigating CPS chief, $20.5 million contract to her former employer


Prosecutor calls for charges against middle-school bullies


Filmmaking for Kids: Rough, Raw, and Real


4 Things You Should Know About The Senate’s Overhaul Of No Child Left Behind









Rocky Mountain students clean up river walk


WEST HAVEN — Students from Rocky Mountain Junior High School spent a cold Thursday morning cleaning up garbage and debris along the Weber River walk in West Haven. The students wore white T-shirts with the words, “Rachel’s Choice For Club” as they cleaned.

Once finished, with wet feet and pretty muddy clothes, the students said it was a great time and for a great cause. School counselor Anneke Petersen said the “For Club” stems from a challenge called “Rachel’s Challenge” that students took at the beginning the year. The challenge is part of a national non-profit group where students are challenged to create a safe, connected learning environment – chiefly no bullying, Petersen said.

After students accepted the challenge, about 100 students joined the For Club where they have done monthly projects to foster the good vibes from the challenge. The service project is the first community-based service project the students have done. But the students, teachers and administrators believe it was successful.

“This gives them a chance to look outside their own personal selves and see what others may need,” said principal Nicole Meibos. She has noticed a huge decrease in bullying in her school since the challenge and club were started this year and she thinks the community service adds to that challenge. (OSE)






100 years of educating within Alpine School District honored with gala


OREM — Having bloomed from humble beginnings in a few small school houses to now 82 schools, the Alpine School District is celebrating its 100th anniversary with various events throughout the year.

To kick off the celebrations, the district held a gala Thursday night at Orem High School, recognizing the achievements and progress made over a century.

“For 100 years, the Alpine School District has helped shape and educate the minds of young students,” said Gov. Gary Herbert via recorded video.

Herbert attended many schools in the district and wished the district a happy anniversary.

Former superintendents, board of education presidents and other administrators throughout the district’s history were also in attendance to recognize the education offered by Alpine School District.

In turn, they were among many people recognized for their respective contributions to the district. From faculty to students, to parents to bus drivers, they were all honored for what they do to help further education.

Throughout the event, Rhonda Bromley, Lone Peak High School principal, and Rob Smith, a district administrator, acknowledged every person, every piece of the puzzle that makes up the Alpine School District by having virtually everyone stand in the audience, acknowledging their individual and collective roles in the district.

“We’d be here all night if we talked about all the things they’ve done for us,” Bromley said of the superintendents in attendance. ((DH)







Century, Ridgepoint or Skyridge — what will new Lehi school be named?


LEHI — More than 7,000 suggestions were given for the name and mascot of a new high school opening in northeast Lehi in the fall of 2016. From that list, officials have pared the number down to three of each, and the final decision is expected at the end of April from the Alpine School District Board of Education.

Century High School, Ridgepoint High School and Skyridge High School are the current top contenders for the school’s name. The mascot will likely be chosen from Spartans, Falcons and Panthers.

Joel Perkins has been named principal of the school, and he reported 7,007 suggestions were submitted for consideration.

“We did an online survey open to anyone,” he said in a phone interview. “We sent out an email to every family in the new high school boundary that has a child on our records with a link to submit suggestions.

“We also contacted local feeder elementaries and the junior high school. Some of them made a fun class project to look at the options.”

There was a 21-person committee that took part in the process of narrowing down the long list to a short one for final consideration. “It was a committee of parents and students,” Perkins said.

The committee also looked at possible colors for the school’s various teams. Those came down to orange and steel gray or silver; yellow and black; burnt orange, white and steel gray; and green, silver and black. (DH)







USU offers Multicultural Leadership Program to elementary students from across Utah


Elementary students from schools across the valley converged at Utah State University on Tuesday as part of a culminating event celebrating multiculturalism and leadership. The kids got to meet USU students, take a tour of the university, visit engaging science labs and take a tour of Aggie Ice Cream.

The Multicultural Leadership Program is an academic and leadership program for students who speak English as a second language. The program is based at several elementary schools within Cache County School District, including Canyon, Lincoln, Nilbey, Park and Lewiston. These schools team up with student groups at USU to share their success stories, foster leadership, support students in their current academic endeavors and inspire students to pursue higher education or training. The leadership program also incorporates the Leader in Me program that is already integrated into many of the schools and uses author Stephen Covey’s ideas on success.

“These university students provide academic and leadership support to these students, making a positive connection with each other,” said Christy Schreck-Leishman, an ESL educator in the Cache County School District. “This supportive connectivity is crucial for Latino students in the public school system — encouraging them to become leaders who are proactively focused on learning, leading and serving.”

While the visit to USU is the culminating event, the program has been active throughout the year. At each of the schools, students have been participating in leadership workshops that are based on the Leader in Me program, focusing on the tenet of being proactive. The students have also attended after-school programs where they not only receive academic support but additional workshops on leadership. Some of the schools also hosted ESL literacy nights where high school students read to elementary students in both English and Spanish. (HJ)








Inside Our Schools


Enoch Elementary began end-of-level testing this week. Our students have worked so diligently throughout the year and this is the time they get to shine. A new feature of our SAGE testing system allows for immediate results available for each learner. Rather than waiting until the next fall for testing results and information, parents and teachers can look forward to feedback soon after each test is completed. Thank you for encouraging excellent attendance during the testing window. A hearty breakfast, adequate sleep and a great attitude are all so important. Our school had the opportunity to travel to the SUU campus to watch the local Playmakers production of “Honk! Jr.” It was a fabulous opportunity and the students loved seeing fellow classmates in the production. They were wonderful representatives of our school while on this field trip. (Spectrum)







Attendance at Hildale school exceeds expectations in first year


Attendance at the first public school in Hildale in over a decade has surpassed expectations after starting the year with an uncertain future.

Previous to this year, some students at the new school were home schooled in the polygamist community or hadn’t seen the inside of a public school classroom before.

It started with less than 162 students. That number has risen to 217, a 30 percent increase, which according to the Washington County School District, was a very pleasant surprise to teachers and students.

“I’ll be graduating this year as the only senior,” said 19-year-old Danny Jessop. “I’m very much excited. I love it here.”

“There are things that I think I’ve gotten from this school that I couldn’t get anywhere else,” said Bryce Barlow, a junior at the school.

Barlow and Jessop are two of the older boys at the kindergarten through grade-12 school and both say they’ve seen a change in the kids and how the community has adjusted to the school and what it offers.

Principal Darin Thomas says they’ve exceeded their expectations and then some so far and they hope to continue that trend.

“Are there naysayers? Or were there naysayers? Yes,” said Thomas. He said the district and teachers didn’t let that get in the way of the real goal of making a difference in the lives of the students.

Thomas said special education Teacher, Emma Leavitt, has helped students adjust with this school and the changes it brings to their education. (KUTV)







Students in Herriman hear the rumble of the Great Utah Shakeout


HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Are you ready for a major earthquake? Students in Herriman can now say they’re better prepared. They’re one of several groups participating Thursday in the Great Utah ShakeOut.

If you listen closely you can you hear the rumbling sound of a major earthquake. It’s part of Thursday’s emergency preparedness drill for students in Herriman.

“We got under our desks and they played this earthquake music over the speakers,” said Jenalynn Sampson, student.

“They came on the intercom and said ‘What if there was a gas leak?’ and we all evacuated,” said Cody Sanford, student.

Students at Copper Mountain Middle School are participating in the Great Utah ShakeOut. It’s a series of statewide drills designed to teach everyone, including students, what to do when the big one hits. Emergency preparedness experts claim Utah is overdue for a massive quake. It makes drills like this essential.

“With the kids knowing and doing their drills they know exactly where they need to go and what they need to be doing in their drill,” said Elisha Johnson, Teacher.

Students are learning how to protect themselves, evacuate safely, and make sure all students are accounted for. Students ABC 4 Utah talked with Thursday said it’s a valuable experience. (Good4Utah)







3rd-grade teacher shares heartbreaking notes from students


SALT LAKE CITY — A Colorado elementary teacher has started a Twitter campaign to help other teachers connect with their students after a class project opened her eyes on the needs of children.

Kyle Schwartz, a third-grade teacher at an elementary in the Denver area, wanted to learn more about her students and to build trust with a group of students in an underprivileged area, according to ABC News.

Schwartz created a lesson plan called “I wish my teacher knew,” where students would write on a paper anything personal or an interesting fact about them that they wanted their teacher to know. The students could write the note anonymously or put their name on it.

“As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them,” Schwartz told ABC News. “I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”

Schwartz, though, said she didn’t expect the response she got from the class and called it “a reality check.” Several of her students shared personal, heartbreaking messages about their life. (KSL) (Fox13) (KUSA-TV, Denver)









Boy Scout Troup discusses school lunch Herald Journal commentaries by Boy Scout Troup members.


Enlarge, extend school lunch

For the communications merit badge, we have to write a letter to an editor. I’ve chosen to write about school lunch.  We don’t get very much food at school. Sometimes they give us seconds, but only on really special occasions. We also need longer lunch time, because if you get in the back of the line you don’t get lunch until there’s only 10 minutes left.

So if it takes about eight minutes to eat, you only get two minutes of free time to talk with friends of play basketball in the gym. Please remember that we barely get any food. My mom complains because I get too much food when I get home. The reason is that I only get like two spoonfulls of mac-n-cheese or two bites of a sandwich and it’s all gone. (HJ)






In Our View: Literacy in Utah


Kudos to Dixie Power and the SunRiver St. George community for 15 years of hard work and dedication to the children of Washington County. The 15th annual Kite Festival, on Saturday, has a wonderful history as a family-oriented event with the primary goal of having “everyone participate regardless of experience, training, financial means or physical ability.”

But, the Dixie Power Kite Festival’s other equally important goal is to “promote reading as a fundamental basis of education for every elementary age child.”

The most important primary skill anyone — no matter their age — can develop is reading. The ability to communicate through literacy and numeracy are factors in everything we do in life.

According to the most recent data from the National Adult Literacy Survey, illiteracy is a problem in every U. S. community and is not limited to any race, region or socioeconomic class. Estimates show that as many as 23 percent of adult Americans, or approximately 40-44 million people, are functionally illiterate, meaning they lack basic literacy and numeracy skills beyond a fourth-grade level. (Spectrum)






Teacher layoffs are coming, and it’s the Great Recession’s fault Thomas B Fordham Institute commentary by Michael J. Petrilli.


In education reform, we like to say that demography isn’t destiny—that, with the right supports, poor children can achieve at high levels despite the many challenges they face. But today, I’d like to discuss demography more literally—namely, the nation’s birth rate. Because it is destined to lead to significant teacher layoffs in the near future.

Much like the Great Depression did, the onset of the Great Recession led to a sharp decline in the U.S. birth rate. This graph illustrates the trend clearly:

More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than any other year in history—even more than at the peak of the Baby Boom. But the numbers started to plummet in 2008; as of 2013 (the most recent data), we’ve seen six straight years of decline. We are now 9 percent below 2007’s high.

So what does this mean for schools? For starters, remember that there’s a five year lag between birth and kindergarten entry. Do the math and you’ll learn that, at least nationally, there are a whole lot of first and second graders (born in 2007). But the kindergarten class is smaller, and the rising kindergarten class (kids born in 2009 and 2010) is smaller than that. Give it a few years and our national enrollment of elementary school students will be down, well, about 9 percent. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)






Don’t You Quit.  Huffington Post commentary by Emily K. Genser


It is time to lift each other up. No one else will do it. If we do not praise each other, if we do not remember that we are a community stronger in our numbers than alone, than we lose. Our numbers are beginning to fall as it is. All over the country the numbers of people entering teacher preparatory programs are diminishing. You can see it here. Those in the profession warn others away, and even our first Nobel Prize winner, Nancy Atwell, told her audience that they should not become teachers. It is too hard, too unforgiving, too under-compensating. There is reason in all of this. But those of us who are already teachers, are in it. We are here, and more than ever, we need to remember why. So let me remind you.

Teachers are the absolute best people I know. They are generous, giving up free time to talk to any student at any time. They will answer phone calls, respond to emails, edit student work, cover classes and make copies for absent teachers, even when they know there are a million other things that need doing at that exact moment, all equally urgent. (HuffPo)









As student tests move online, keyboarding enters curriculum


SAN PABLO, Calif. — Seven-year-old Ja’Niyah Smith’s first-grade class filed into a computer lab at a suburban San Francisco school recently and, as they do every week, practiced using mouses to pop bubbles with a cartoon pickle, catch flies with a frog’s tongue and arrange virtual blocks into words.

The students, their legs dangling off their chairs, fell quiet, the silence broken by an occasional “I did it!”

“Computers give us a break, so when we are in class, our minds can be fresh for learning,” Ja’Niyah explained as she deftly maneuvered a turtle across a 14-inch desktop screen.

For teachers, administrators and parents in San Pablo — and across the country — the games are a way to help students, sometimes as young as 5, acquire the technology skills they will need to excel on standardized tests that now are being offered online for the first time by a majority of states.

New exams linked to the Common Core state standards are replacing the multiple-choice tests taken with paper and pencils in 29 states this spring. Among the functions even the youngest test-takers must be able to execute are switching between screens, opening drop-down menus, and rearranging words and numbers.

While adults raised in the pre-Internet era might assume today’s youngsters are born computer-conversant, educators say hands-on instruction is necessary because the tests require different dexterities than the ones many youngsters pick up playing with smartphones. (AP)







Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Senate HELP Committee’s Markup of the No Child Left Behind Act


I applaud the leadership of Chairman Alexander, Senator Murray and the members of the HELP Committee on the important steps taken this week to advance a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It is long past time to replace No Child Left Behind with a law that ensures continued progress and opportunity for America’s children. The bill now honors the widespread bipartisan call to expand access to high quality preschool. The bill also makes a critical investment in innovation and scaling what works. However, to live up to ESEA’s legacy of advancing equity and providing opportunity for every child, we join with numerous civil rights and business groups in urging that further significant improvements be made to the bill to create the law that America’s children deserve. Every family and every community deserve to know that schools are helping all children succeed – including low-income students, racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities and students learning English.  (Ed.Gov)






Feds investigating CPS chief, $20.5 million contract to her former employer


Federal authorities are investigating Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and a $20.5 million contract the district awarded on a no-bid basis to a training academy that formerly employed her, sources said.

The CPS inspector general’s office began an investigation into the contract with north suburban-based SUPES Academy and Byrd-Bennett’s relationship to the company in 2013, a source said. The U.S. attorney’s office then started its own probe, and a grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year, the source said.

CPS officials have discussed the possibility of appointing an interim CEO depending on the outcome of the investigation, a source said. Byrd-Bennett, who was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in October 2012, attended a regularly scheduled meeting at CPS headquarters Wednesday and remains in her post.

CPS signed its initial contract with SUPES for leadership training not long after Byrd-Bennett took office. Byrd-Bennett had worked for the company before joining CPS as a consultant in April 2012.

A spokesman for SUPES Academy said federal authorities have “obtained records and files” from the company for the investigation.

“SUPES will of course cooperate with this investigation,” spokesman Dennis Culloton said in a statement. Culloton said the company “stands behind the countless hours of training it has provided to Chicago Public Schools principals.”

The federal investigation was first revealed Wednesday by CPS officials in a release that offered few details. The district said authorities have requested interviews with several district employees. (Chicago Tribune) (NYTimes) (Reuters) (AP)






Prosecutor calls for charges against middle-school bullies


BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper was clear Thursday about why she filed petitions recommending charges be leveled against two boys who were videotaped repeatedly calling a 13-year-old classmate the N-word.

“I had to,” said Cooper, who was elected in 2008 and six months later was visiting schools with her staff to teach kids how to stay out of trouble.

“If the courts choose not to pursue it, I know I’ve done something,” Cooper said. “You can’t stand by and do nothing. That’s really the message. You have to say this is not fair. This is wrong. Don’t do this again, and there are ways we do that.”

Children have been kidding, taunting and haranguing each other since the beginning of schooling. So what kind of school incident would move a county prosecutor to recommend a felony charge against one child and a misdemeanor against another?

It was an incident of harassment so horrible that it has spawned anti-hate rallies at Bloomfield Middle School, led to a campaign on Twitter and resulted in a community meeting at month’s end. (USAToday)







Filmmaking for Kids: Rough, Raw, and Real Educators are embracing video-production technology, from professional equipment to smartphones, to give students ownership over their learning.


I started high school the year the iPod was released. It would be another eight years, when I was getting ready to graduate from college, before the iPod—and eventually its successor, the iPhone—could shoot video.

Now, smartphones (along with laymen-friendly apps) that let you shoot, edit, and immediately publish mini-films are in the pockets of high-school students all over the country. And that means their presence in American classrooms is all but inevitable. Some schools continue to grapple with the role of these devices on campus, often because they lack sufficient funding to integrate them into learning constructively.

But a few lucky campuses do have the resources to take advantage of these technology trends, while many others have found cost-effective ways to use student’s smartphones as teaching tools—and, increasingly, not just as tools to support regular instruction. A growing number of organizations, from feminist groups to grassroots campaigns, are bringing into classrooms teaching that’s focused explicitly on film-based storytelling. After all, quality filmmaking entails far more than simply having access to video-production technology.

Here’s what three such organizations had to say about how—and why—they’re helping children and their teachers leverage that technology and share their stories with the world. The interviews have been edited for concision and clarity. (The Atlantic)






4 Things You Should Know About The Senate’s Overhaul Of No Child Left Behind


A Senate committee pushed an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act a step closer Thursday, passing a rewritten version called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

The vote by the Committee on on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), gives hope that the Bush-era law, which expired in 2007, will finally be updated. Previous attempts have failed miserably.

Here are four things to know about the committee’s Every Child Achieves Act.

  1. It Passed Unanimously, With Bipartisan Support The measure was approved 22-0. Members of both parties praised the vote as a triumph of bipartisanship.

“The committee considered 57 amendments, approved 29, and improved the bipartisan agreement Ranking Member Murray and I reached–but the consensus that the committee found is the same that Senator Murray and I found,” Alexander said in a statement. “That consensus is this: Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.”

“I am very pleased with the bipartisan process in committee, which allowed us to build on and improve the starting point that Chairman Alexander and I agreed to work from,” Murray said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to continue to strengthen and improve this legislation on the Senate floor and as we work toward getting this signed into law.” (HuffPo)









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May 14

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

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