Education News Roundup: April 23, 2015

"Graduation Caps" by JMaz Photo/CC/flickr

“Graduation Caps” by JMaz Photo/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Two Cache School District schools cancel classes because of water contamination.  (DNews)  (AP)  (Cache Valley Daily)    (ABC 4 Utah)


A report from the Utah State Auditor’s office looks at college readiness.  (DNews)  (KSL)  (KUER)


“A Tennessee dad gives a whole new meaning to helicopter parenting.”  (Fox 13)


The Trib looks into SAGE opt out numbers as end-of-year testing begins. (SLTrib)










School districts say number of Utah students opting out of SAGE test holding steady


Photos: Boeing employees help students celebrate Earth Day


Photos: Sharing birthday wishes


Water ban issued, schools closed in small Cache County city


Utah high school students unprepared for college, new state report says


Education Secretary Arne Duncan praises Senate’s effort to reimagine No Child Left Behind


Three high school students awarded scholarships for pioneer spirit


Cedar City Arts Council to host free workshop


Ellis Elementary students get one-time fluoride treatment


High school and college women earn AAUW scholarships


Registered sex offender steals school bus, tries to pick up child in Emery County







Letter: Measurements fall short with standardized tests. Deseret News commentary by Lynn Stoddard


In Our View: Teaching science


How teachers want to evaluate their students. Washington Post commentary by Kathryn Mitchell Pierce






Major Florida school district dumps almost all yearend testing


Helicopter parenting; Dad uses drone to walk daughter to school


New Mexico to spend record $2.75B on public education


Brain science: Should schools teach boys and girls different subjects?










School districts say number of Utah students opting out of SAGE test holding steady Resistance that met the SAGE testing last year seems to have died down, many state educators say.


The debut of Utah’s Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) testing system last year produced a bump in the number of public school students who sat out statewide testing.

But now, with the second round of the computer-based SAGE tests either underway or gearing up in Utah schools, administrators say the number of excused students is holding steady.

As of early this week, fewer than 1 percent of students had opted out of testing in Granite, Canyons, Murray and Salt Lake City school districts.

Those numbers are preliminary and subject to change as SAGE testing continues. But the fervor that accompanied SAGE testing last year seems to have died down, school administrators say.

“We don’t have the noise about it that we had last year,” said Granite School District assessment director Rob Averett. “I think some [parents] are letting their kids come back into the system.”

With hundreds of thousands of students taking the test in 2014, Averett said, Utah parents have seen that SAGE is not the frightening federal program it was often portrayed to be.

Parents object to SAGE for a number a reasons, but chief among them is opposition to the Common Core State Standards — on which the math and English portions of SAGE are based — and a general resistance to standardized testing.

Some school districts’ opt-outs have fallen. (SLTrib)






Photos: Boeing employees help students celebrate Earth Day


Oquirrh Hills Middle School in Riverton got a boost for its greenhouse program on Earth Day. On Wednesday, dozens of volunteers from Boeing Co. and the Utah Society for Environmental Education provided workshops and offered hands-on Earth-friendly learning activities to students. To help the school’s new greenhouse program grow, they also planted seeds and help students design a new irrigation system. (DNews)






Photos: Sharing birthday wishes


Indy and Willa DeBirk are awarded the Granite Gives Back award Wednesday, April 22, 2015, by Granite Education Foundation CEO Brent Severe at an assembly at Oakridge Elementary in Salt Lake City.

Instead of collecting piles of presents for themselves on their birthday, Indy and Willa ask their party guests to bring items that may seem out of place at a birthday celebration — diapers and wet wipes.

Through the example of their parents, the DeBirk sisters choose every year a charitable organization that could use assistance in lieu of personal gifts. This year the two chose to assist the Utah Refugee Center and the Granite Education Foundation by donating items that are often difficult for refugee families to purchase. (DNews)






Water ban issued, schools closed in small Cache County city Nibley residents are being asked not to use water from the city after a city spring was contaminated by a diesel fuel spill.


NIBLEY, Cache County — Nibley residents are being asked not to use water from the city after a city spring was contaminated by a diesel fuel spill.

City officials were notified of the contamination about 2 p.m. Wednesday and worked to find the source of the tainted water. The spring, one of Nibley’s three water sources, was likely affected by a recent diesel spill near its source, the city said in a statement on its Facebook page Wednesday night.

“We just appreciate everybody being patient, and we’ve got some great crews and some great people … doing their best,” Nibley Mayor Shaun Dustin said.

Dustin estimated the water ban would be in effect at least 24 hours.

Residents of the city of about 6,000 were asked to abstain from using water to shower, bathe, cook, drink, give to animals or use around the house. Boiling the water before using it would not make it safer to use because dangerous chemicals will remain, Dustin said, but it was safe to flush toilets.

Nibley and Heritage elementary schools will be closed until at least Friday because of the need for running water in the schools’ day-to-day operations, said Craig Ashton, assistant superintendent for elementary education in Cache County School District. (DNews) (AP) (Cache Valley Daily)   (ABC 4 Utah)






Utah high school students unprepared for college, new state report says


SALT LAKE CITY — Although a majority of Utah high school students expect to attend college, most aren’t prepared to earn a degree, a new state report shows.

The Utah State Auditor’s Office found too many of those students either fail to take the necessary classes to prepare them for the rigors of college or take the recommended courses and are still unprepared.

Findings include:

  • Only 25 percent of recent high school graduates were considered ready to succeed in entry-level college courses.
  • Students taking the recommended college prep courses in high school were more likely to succeed in the same basic college subjects than students who did not take the those courses.
  • While 84 percent of 2013 high school graduates want a college degree, only 40 percent enrolled in college within a year after graduation.
  • Once in college, about 50 percent will graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree, a rate lower than states that have more innovative tracking and assessment methods.

State auditors analyzed 50 million higher education records related to student performance from 1999 through 2014 for metrics that would predict which students earned undergraduate degrees in Utah’s public universities and colleges. (DNews) (KSL) (KUER)






Education Secretary Arne Duncan praises Senate’s effort to reimagine No Child Left Behind


The Senate’s bipartisan effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind is drawing praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who held an informal question-and-answer session with education reporters at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago on Tuesday.

“We are not endorsing or blessing the Senate bill,” Duncan said, “but I just love that we actually have Democrats and Republicans working together.”

The Senate bill co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) passed the Senate Education Committee with a unanimous 22-0 vote.

Duncan was highly critical of the parallel House bill over a provision that would “take resources from disadvantaged districts and move them to wealthy districts,” he said.

“That is something we just cannot support,” Duncan said. “There are such massive inequalities in funding already.”

“The House bill is not even close. At this point it’s just a partisan bill. It’s not policy. It’s politics.”

Duncan also said he was pleased with the Senate’s inclusion of early childhood education provisions, as well as language in the Senate bill supporting innovation at the state and local levels. (DNews)






Three high school students awarded scholarships for pioneer spirit


It’s that season again — the scholarship scramble for college — but three local high school seniors already have a good start.

On April 16, the Timpanogos Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers awarded the Pioneer Values Scholarship of $1,000 each to American Fork High School senior Courtney Nixon, Lone Peak High School senior Bethany Wells and Pleasant Grove High School senior Brad Holden. The students were chosen for the award because they represent pioneer values of faith in God, loyalty to church, country and family, courage in adversity, service to others and hard work.

“Each year, we’re looking for young people with good character, who have dealt with overcoming adversity in their life,” said Daniel Adams, president of the Timpanogos Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

Nixon learned about the scholarship through her LDS seminary teachers. In her submission essay, she explained her effort to overcome anxiety and depression during her junior year at American Fork High. She was completely surprised when Adams called and told her she’d been selected for the scholarship.

“I was so shocked. And they said they were so glad I’d applied,” Nixon said. “You always wonder where you’re going to get the money for college, so it’s such a relief when people want to help.” (DH)






Cedar City Arts Council to host free workshop


The Cedar City Arts Council will host a free workshop, Arts*Lab, on Saturday, May 2, designed to help children ages 11 to 15 explore the creative process through art, dance, music and theater.

The workshop will be at the Cedar City Aquatic Center, 2090 W. Royal Hunte Drive. Class size is limited, and early registration is encouraged at Professional educators Kaer Neumann, Denise Purvis, Nathan McDonald and Melanie Skankey will faciliate the workshop.

“I feel very fortunate to work with the Arts Council to provide Iron County kids the chance to work with such gifted artists and teachers,” said Purvis, education director for the arts council and an assistant professor of dance at Southern Utah University. “We really look forward to working with this population. Our focus is on the creative process, rather than a product, which is very important for budding artists. We can’t wait to share our art forms with a new group of kids.”  (Spectrum)






Ellis Elementary students get one-time fluoride treatment


Students at Ellis Elementary each received fluoride treatment on Wednesday morning as part of a new program to help strengthen their teeth. The treatments began last year at Ellis and save educational time compared to the old system of fluoride distribution.

Now instead of the weekly fluoride rinse, students have the fluoride essentially “painted” onto all the surfaces of the teeth.

“It’s a clear, 5 percent topical thing. It’s not ingested. … It’s painted on all visible surfaces of the teeth,” said Kelly Hansen, the school nurse for the Logan City School District. “The kids can pick a flavor. They spit into a garbage can after they’re done, and they can also drink right after they’re done because of the fluoride that I’ve chosen.”

According to Hansen, the varnish method of fluoride developed last year after a PTA member brought it to Hansen as an alternative to the weekly mouth rinse. Hansen began doing research with the Utah Department of Health Dental Health Division. ( HJNews)






High school and college women earn AAUW scholarships


  1. GEORGE —College scholarships and mentoring for 13 young Washington County women have been announced by the St. George Branch of the AAUW.

They were chosen after an evaluation that included an interview and essay for each candidate and a review of grade point average and attendance for the high school students.

“More than a competition, the selections are a confirmation of young women whom we believe deserve to be encouraged, assisted and guided in reaching their potential,” according to Shannon Andersen, co-chair of the Association’s scholarship committee along with Katy Peterson.

Ten St. George AAUW members worked to evaluate candidates from four community endeavors supported by the AAUW branch. They included: Dixie State University’s Women’s Resource Center dedicated to facilitating access by female students to campus resources, including mentoring to help them achieve their academic & professional goals; eSMART Camps where grade-schoolers are encouraged to study math and sciences; Millcreek High School; Re-Entering Women who have had their studies interrupted and Previous Winners. (KCSG)







Registered sex offender steals school bus, tries to pick up child in Emery County


A convicted sex offender on parole allegedly steals a school bus and drives around town trying to pick up kids.  It happened on Monday in the small rural towns of Emery County.

According to police the suspect is Patrick James Fredricksen, 30, who lives in Emery County but was paroled in the Ogden area.  “It could have been bad,” said lt. Gayle Jensen with the Emery County Sheriff Department.  “I fear just like any other parent the worst would happen.”

It all started on Monday morning in Huntington, which is just outside of price, when Fredricksen was helping to lay sod at a ball field. According to his boss, Wes Ward, he had only been on the job for two days when he suddenly called it quits.  “He just said, ‘I got to quit working,’ and he said ‘I talked my mom and she said I got to stop,’ ” said Ward.

Investigators say he then walked across the street to the Heritage Funeral Home and took the directors red SUV.  He then drove it to the small town of Cleveland where according to the Brewer family, he pulled up and asked for a young girl.  “He wouldn’t tell my dad why he was looking for the girl,” said Sarah Brewer. (KUTV) (ABC 4 Utah) (KSL) (Fox 13)







Measurements fall short with standardized tests. Deseret News commentary by Lynn Stoddard.


Now that the governor has signed the failing schools bill, it will be interesting to see what actions will be taken to turn low-performing schools around.

Inasmuch as school performance is now measured by standardized achievement test scores that are directly related to family income, what will turnaround experts do to help?

Will they, in some magical way, increase the income level in the community so that parents don’t have to work two low-paying jobs, enabling them to spend more time with their children, talking and reading to them, taking them to museums and asking questions to stimulate curiosity? Will they organize and provide parenting classes to improve parenting attitudes and skills? Will they provide low-income homes with children’s books?

On a different slant, what if we were to find that the low-achieving schools were actually educating better because they were emphasizing things that are harder to measure like curiosity, creativity and character? Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Ultimately, we will find that it is impossible to measure student learning, the ability to think, with standardized testing that only measures recall.






Teaching science. The Spectrum and Daily News commentary by its editorial board.


The Utah State Office of Education is looking for public feedback on the state’s standards for science and engineering for the state’s sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders.

They have a website where the standards are available for review and where public comments will be accepted during a 90-day review period that will end July 9. In addition, they are holding a series of public hearings throughout the state, beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Washington County School District Office. Future gatherings are scheduled for Vernal, Provo, Logan and Salt Lake City.

Throughout much of human history, there have been those who felt their faith, and their religion, were threatened by science.

Galileo Galilei was condemned as a heretic in 1633 and spent the last years of his life under house arrest for arguing that the Earth orbits the Sun, in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Pope Urban VIII, who held fast to the belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe.






How teachers want to evaluate their students. Washington Post commentary by Kathryn Mitchell Pierce


I was once advised that if you want to know how well a canary sings, it’s best to start by listening to canaries.  If we want sage advice on how to improve teaching and learning — which requires strong curriculum, well-prepared teachers, and adequate resources to support learning — then we would be wise to turn to our nation’s teachers for suggestions. The NCTE English Assessment Story Project has endeavored to do just that — to gather stories and suggestions from teachers across the country. With nearly 350 responses so far, educators from kindergarten to college are weighing in with ideas about how good assessment works.

Teachers are the most important agents of assessment. What they’re telling us is that they need time and support to use assessments that actually inform instruction.

Consider this full dashboard of tools and techniques that Tiffany, a high school teacher, describes using for every unit she teaches:

  • Pre and post assessments at the beginning and end of each unit •A combination of review skills and mini-lessons to reintroduce topics.
  • Guided practice and then a practice assessment






Parents become supporters of Common Core when they see it in action. Hechinger Report commentary by Jayne Ellspermann.


Dear Carol,

We are finishing our English Language Arts (ELA) testing this week. I am so proud of our students and teachers. They have been positive and focused during the testing. We have not had one student opt out. Teachers are confident in our students’ performance and students feel their daily instruction has prepared them well. We are moving into our math assessments for the next few weeks and I will let you know how that goes.

Our state has been deep in discussion regarding the new assessments. In response to concerns about test validity, state leaders have agreed to a full review of the assessments before the results are used for teacher evaluations or school grades. New limits to ensure that we do not spend more than 5% of our instructional time on state testing have been established and the use of test results in educator evaluations has been reduced from 50% to 33%.








Helicopter parenting; Dad uses drone to walk daughter to school


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – As parents, you want to watch over your children but that isn’t always possible… Until now.

A Tennessee father has come up with a way to watch his daughter walk to school and ensure she safely arrives. His tactic gives a whole new meaning to the term “helicopter parenting.” Dad drone daughter school The father, Chris Early, is a techie; he owns a video production company. When his 8-year-old daughter Katie asked to walk to school alone, he turned to technology.

He fired up his drone to ensure she safely arrived at school.

Early said, “I could see on the monitor that a lot of the kids were looking and pointing up and I’m sure Katie was just like, ‘Aww, it’s my dad.’” So what does Katie think of her eye in the sky?

“I was like, ‘Oh wow,’” she said. “He didn’t tell me then, so I was pretty surprised.”

Some parents might say he’s being too overprotective but Early said it was just for fun and is happy knowing she was safe. (Fox 13)






Major Florida school district dumps almost all yearend testing


The Miami school district, the nation’s fourth largest, said on Thursday it was eliminating most end-of-course exams, including all those for elementary school students, the latest blow to standardized testing in the state.

“We have taken a responsible and logical approach to assessing students, in order to restore valuable teaching and learning time,” Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said in an announcement on Facebook.

The move comes amid mounting statewide pressure to roll back standardized testing in Florida public schools, as well as recent computer glitches on computerized tests.

It is also puts a dent in the educational legacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a possible Republican presidential candidate, who championed standardized testing while in office to grade schools and teachers based on student achievement.

Because of the Miami school district’s size, the decision could have an impact on other districts, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a nonprofit group focused on limiting the use of standardized tests. (Reuters)







New Mexico to spend record $2.75B on public education


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Spending on early childhood programs and public schools in New Mexico will top $2.75 billion in the coming budget year.

That’s the largest amount in state history. It will include funding to implement several new initiatives by the state Public Education Department.

The majority of the budget, $2.5 billion, goes to the schools based on a formula that takes into account student body size, school size and special education needs. The rest of the budget is allocated for specific initiatives.

The other sliver of the budget will be allocated for special initiatives. Some new programs this year include a $100 for teachers stipend to help offset the cost of classroom supplies, solving an oft-heard complaint and costing $2 million in one-time funding. A $2 million mentor program will pair inexperienced teachers with principals and longer-tenured teachers. Another $1.5 million stipend program is aimed at luring special education, bilingual and science and math teachers to schools.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera tells the Albuquerque Journal ( she considers the budget a success since state lawmakers had less money than expected to appropriate for the next year due to dropping oil prices.

“Considering it was a tough time, I think we came out in a really good spot,” she said.

State spending per student has increased over the past five years, with $7,667 spent per student this year.

Still, disagreement persists over whether it will be enough for the state’s 89 school districts to pay teachers and cover costs such as utilities and insurance. (AP)






Brain science: Should schools teach boys and girls different subjects?


Among the more thought-provoking discoveries in the emerging science regarding the teen brain is the fact that the pace of brain development differs in males and females.

In her best-selling book, “The Teenage Brain,” Frances Jensen discusses how the part of the brain that processes information grows during childhood and then starts to pare down, reaching a peak level of cognitive development when girls are between 12 and 13 years old and when boys are 15 to 16 years old, generally speaking.

“The girls have a level of organization where they’re doing complex scheduling and social arrangements, and making lists,” Jensen said. “Meanwhile, boys at that same age, you’re lucky if they remember to bring their books home from school.”

That means boys and girls may be ready for challenging subjects — like complex math and science — at different points. It also could mean that schools are missing the right time to teach those subjects.

Schools ought to consider some gender-based curricula, Jensen said. (WaPo)







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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