Education News Roundup: April 21, 2015

Starry Night Group project by Hawthorn Academy's second grade students.

Starry Night Group project by Hawthorn Academy’s second grade students.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


The Maple Mountain High School Science Olympiad team takes the top spot at the state science competition.  (DNews)


A Utah school helps a teen with autism gain independence.  (SLTrib)


Public meetings are scheduled  to discuss proposed  grade 6-8 science standards. (UTPublicEd)  (HJ)











Utah State Board of Education seeking public comment on science standards


Utah school helps teenagers with autism gain independence


Maple Mountain High wins science state title


3 high schoolers suffer minor injuries after buses collide







Start school later. Deseret News commentary by Jordan Miles


Inconvenient hearings on science standards


Op-ed: ‘Promise Partnership’ builds on common interests to help children


How some school funding formulas hurt learning and make schools more dangerous







Testing Titans Pearson, ETS Battle Over Calif. Deal


Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web


Atlanta test-cheating case judge may reconsider harshest sentences


4 Reasons for High School Graduates to Turn to Community College


Are the Common Core tests turning out to be a big success or a resounding failure?







Utah State Board of Education seeking public comment on science standards


The Utah State Board of Education is asking for public review of the sixth to eighth grade Utah Science and Engineering Education (SEEd) standards for a period of 90 days.

The Utah SEEd standards are available online for the public to view and provide feedback using an online survey tool. The SEEd standards, as well as the link to the online review tool, are available at:

The standards outline what is expected to be learned at each grade level. For instance, sixth-graders are expected to learn how energy affects the structure and behavior of matter and how energy and matter move in patterns that affect Earth’s weather and climate, among other things. (HJ)





Utah school helps teenagers with autism gain independence


It’s Tuesday, and that means teens from the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning are shopping at Reams Food Store on State Street.

The three cruising the aisles with lead teacher Markell McCubbin — Sam, Gavynn and Carson — have just picked out the generic cereal version of Lucky Charms ($5.77) and consult their shopping list.

Oreos are next on the list, and they need three bags, ordered by teachers back at school.

“We’re going to find those Oreos. Do you see them behind you?” McCubbin asks. “Carson, turn your eyes,” she instructs the 15-year-old, who slowly maneuvers the shopping cart out to the main aisle.

Up strolls Charlie, who has progressed enough in the year since Pingree started the Getting Ready for Our World (GROW) program that he now shops on his own.

“Do you need help?” Charlie asks.

“Charlie!” McCubbin says. “I might give you a dime when we get back to school. That was so kind! Do you want to give Carson a hint if you’ve seen any Oreos around here?” (SLTrib)





Maple Mountain High wins science state title


SPANISH FORK — The Maple Mountain High School Science Olympiad team won the state title during a competition last weekend at the University of Utah.

Maple Mountain competed against 31 other high schools from across the state in science, technology, engineering and math.

Of the 24 events in which Maple Mountain High competed, the school took first place in six events, second place in four events, and third place in three events.

The team will now move on to the national competition next month at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where the students will compete against the 60 best teams in the nation. Members of the community who would like to support the team can contact coach Kyle Miller at (DNews)





3 high schoolers suffer minor injuries after buses collide


MAGNA — Three high school students were hospitalized with minor injuries after two Box Elder School District buses crashed into each other Monday afternoon.

The first bus slowed abruptly as it entered I-80 near Saltair shortly after 4 p.m., according to Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce. The other bus was following close behind and rear-ended the other, Royce said. Three 16-year-old girls, who were with a group traveling to a choir competition at Grantsville High School, were taken to a nearby hospital after suffering minor injuries. The bus in front hit the brakes after a cement truck made a U-turn in front of it to enter a construction zone, according to UHP.

I-80 was closed in both directions, causing delays of more than 15 minutes, the Utah Department of Transportation reported. (DNews) (ABC4) (KSL)









Start school later. Deseret News commentary by Jordan Miles


Congratulations to Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake for their success in raising graduation rates to nearly 90 percent. This is truly an immense achievement. Perhaps one unheralded reason behind the school’s feat is their flexible scheduling; on average, students don’t arrive at school until 8:45 a.m., which allows them to sleep in.

Study after study reveal that adequate sleep promotes stronger memory, improved concentration, more stable moods and improved immune systems, all of which are essential for quality school performance. Medical research has also shown that teens’ circadian rhythms are different from other age groups. They sleep best from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. However, early school start times make it so many of America’s teens show up to school sleep-deprived.

At a time when schools are trying so desperately to improve education and test scores, can they afford to pass up one of the simplest solutions: more sleep?





Our View: Inconvenient hearings on science standards. Standard Examiner commentary by its editorial board.


Utah’s science standards for students grades 6 through 8 are in need of an upgrade. They are 10 years old, which means they were written before many mobile devices, such as the iPhone, were developed.

A draft of new standards has been developed by state science teachers and curriculum specialists and is now available for review and comment during a 90-day period set up by the state Board of Education.

The Utah Science and Engineering Education (SEEd) standards are available online, complete with a survey tool at:

There also are five public meetings planned throughout the state where participants can discuss the SEEd standards with officials. Here’s the schedule:





Op-ed: ‘Promise Partnership’ builds on common interests to help children


Last year, with support from United Way of Salt Lake, we first convened the Promise Partnership Regional Council (PPRC). Around the PPRC table sit leaders from government agencies, community organizations, institutions of higher education, businesses, K-12 education systems, philanthropies and civic entities. Amidst demanding schedules, we come together to align the systems and community efforts that we represent around bold goals that no single organization or sector can achieve alone.

In its broadest form, the aligned, data-driven actions of the PPRC impact approximately 294,000 children ages 0-25 in Granite, Davis and Park City school districts. A startling 102,000 of these children live in poverty. Each and every one of them has a story and a dream. (SLTrib)





How some school funding formulas hurt learning and make schools more dangerous. Washington Post commentary by Cinque Henderson


At a California charter school where I once worked as a student teacher a few years ago, I saw a 16-year-old student curse at and threaten a teacher in the worst way. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen this type of thing, but this incident was particularly bad. The bell had just rung to change periods, and the halls were crowded. I have no idea what the argument was about, but the student flipped off the teacher and said “f— you!” As the teacher was trying to call a guard, the student walked back toward him menacingly and said: “You don’t have to call the guard. We can handle this right now.” This student wasn’t a first-time offender; he habitually bullied students and adults alike. It was baffling that, after all this bad behavior, the student was still allowed on the campus. Then I overheard a parent offer a disturbing explanation: “This is what $41 a day gets us.”

Forty-one dollars. That’s how much money that charter school receives per day for each student who walks through its doors. When a student doesn’t show up at school – whether it’s because of illness or a suspension – neither does that $41. That might not seem like a lot, but that money can quickly add up. Take a small charter school in a transient, low-income neighborhood: If it were to lose just 10 students over the course of the year – a few students transfer to other schools; a few families move out of the area; a few kids are expelled or become truants – the school would be docked about $75,000. That could be the equivalent of two teachers’ salaries. For a cash-strapped school serving a lot of at-risk students, that is a death blow.







Testing Titans Pearson, ETS Battle Over Calif. Deal Pearson and ETS Battle as U.S. Market Evolves


Two of the biggest names in testing are locked in a dispute over one of the most coveted jewels in the K-12 market: the right to oversee a suite of assessments in California, a state with about one-eighth of the country’s students.

The state’s recent decision to award a tentative three-year, $240 million contract to the Educational Testing Service drew an angry response from a rival vendor, Pearson, which has accused reviewers of missteps that include sloppy scoring and improperly discarding records of their deliberations. (EdWeek)




Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web


Today’s schools are focusing on boosting kids’ technological proficiency and warning them about the perils of the web. But something critical is missing from this education.

When Reuben Loewy took up his first teaching gig in 2012, he had a major revelation: The digital revolution has dramatically transformed the way that kids perceive reality.

Perhaps that makes the 55-year-old teacher sound like a dinosaur. What he discovered is, after all, one of the most obvious realities shaping education policy and parenting guides today. But, as Loewy will clarify, his revelation wasn’t simply that technology is overhauling America’s classrooms and redefining childhood and adolescence. Rather, he was hit with the epiphany that efforts in schools to embrace these shifts are, by and large, focusing on the wrong objectives: equipping kids with fancy gadgets and then making sure the students use those gadgets appropriately and effectively. Loewy half-jokingly compared the state of digital learning in America’s schools to that of sex ed, which, as one NYU education professor describes it, entails “a smattering of information about their reproductive organs and a set of stern warnings about putting them to use.” (The Atlantic)




Atlanta test-cheating case judge may reconsider harshest sentences


Three former Atlanta public school administrators who received the stiffest prison terms among educators convicted in a test cheating scandal involving thousands of students could see their sentences reduced next week.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter’s office said on Tuesday he has set a re-sentencing hearing for April 30 for former regional directors Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts, the three highest-ranking school officials found guilty earlier this month on conspiracy charges.

Baxter last week sentenced them to each serve seven years in prison, a decision one of their attorneys called unjust.

A state investigation in 2011 found that 38 principals and 140 teachers in the Atlanta school district were involved in cheating on 2009 tests. Educators erased incorrect answers and, in some cases, instructed children to change their answers, the investigation found.

During a nearly six-month trial, prosecutors accused the educators who were indicted of being greedy for higher paychecks and said they robbed thousands of children of a quality education. (Reuters)





4 Reasons for High School Graduates to Turn to Community College Community colleges offer a lot of flexibility for students who need to balance more than academics.


Prom, college acceptance letters, graduation: Spring can be an exciting time for students who have secured a spot at their dream four-year university, but the future can seem less exciting for those headed to community college. Teens often consider community colleges to be undesirable and inferior, but the two-year institutions can be a great option for recent graduates, experts say.

“When I was growing up there was a perception that if you went to community college you weren’t good enough to get into a four-year school,” says Robert Miller, interim superintendent-president of Pasadena City College in California. “It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.”

The quality of instruction at many community colleges is on par with the courses taught at four-year universities, experts say. Two-year programs are also a great option for students interested in well-paying technology or health care professions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Articulation agreements – a partnership between two-and four-year institutions that outlines a clear path to college – can help students who do need a bachelor’s earn the degree at a fraction of the cost.

The financial benefits are a draw for many students, but there are other reasons for teens unable to attend a four-year institution to consider community college as a viable option after high school. (USN)




Are the Common Core tests turning out to be a big success or a resounding failure?

Will the Common Core survive technical issues and the opt out movement


This spring, students across the country are sitting down to new tests tied to the Common Core, or at least that was the plan.

Last week, technical issues brought testing to a halt in three states, while in yet more states, thousands of parents refused to let their students sit for exams that are expected to be much harder than the old state tests they are replacing. This all comes at a time when the standards, the tests and how test scores are used are being fiercely debated by school boards, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

In New York, over 150,000 students have opted out of the state’s Common Core-aligned tests

After technology issues stopped the new online tests in Montana that state’s superintendent told districts that they no longer had to give a test this year. Nevada and North Dakota – which used the same testing company, Measured Progress, to administer its tests – had similar issues.

While in New York, over 150,000 students opted not to take that state’s Common Core-aligned tests. And across the country in Portland, Oregon, just about five percent of students opted out of the tests. Federal funding is at risk when more than five percent of students don’t take mandated annual tests, though it is unclear whether or how states or districts will be punished. (Hechinger Report)









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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