Education News Roundup: June 12, 2015

Utah State Board of Education member C. Mark Openshaw

Utah State Board of Education member C. Mark Openshaw

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Terribly, terribly sad: Utah State Board of Education member C. Mark Openshaw and three of his family members were killed Friday morning in a small plane crash in rural Missouri. (SLT)

and (DN)

and (OSE)

and (PDH)

and (LHJ)

and (CVD)

and (AP)

and (KUTV)

and (KTVX)

and (KSL)

and (KSTU)

and (KCSG)

and (USBE)

and (Springfield [MO] News Leader) and (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and (Springfield [MO] KYTV) and (Springfield [MO] KSPR)


Sen. Lee backs religious protection bill. (SLT)

and (DN)

and (KUTV)

or a copy of the speech (Senate)


Sen. Stephenson discusses Utah’s per-pupil funding. (Utah PoliticoHub)















Utah Board of Ed Member, Wife, 2 Children Die in Plane Crash


Mike Lee urges local, federal laws for religious protection in coming gay-rights fights Religious liberties » LGBT advocates say broad exemptions would OK discrimination.


Sixth-graders moving on from Guadalupe School ready for academic success


Utah teen accused in hazing incident settles criminal case


Lawsuit filed by student in teacher sex case dismissed


Former teacher’s aide sentenced for sexting with student


Local teachers receive grants from Utah credit unions


LUSD gives students ‘second chance’


Attending a graduation? Keep your cheers to yourself








Who should pay for charter schools?


Teacher retention — a major concern for Utah


Why Utah’s rank on per student spending is just one data point – not a vice


Let’s make schools a higher priority than prisons


Senate approval of opt-out bill shows leadership vacuum on education


Let Rich and Poor Learn Together


Privatize the College Board!


The Brawl Over Tax Credits for Religious Schools Such state aid to poor families doesn’t violate the separation of church and state.


Exams Around the World

Pen, paper, and a time limit








Oregon Senate votes to help students, schools avoid Common Core tests


Should the state change its standardized test policies?


Union-backed group calls for pause in federal money for charter schools


Colorado Board of Education chair Marcia Neal quits, slams colleagues


Board of Education: State exam is our decision to make


What is making one first-year teacher reconsider her future? Lots of testing.


Charters Look to Change Perceptions on Teacher Turnover


States at Odds With Feds on Data Breach Proposals


From ‘Dropout Crisis’ To Record High, Dissecting The Graduation Rate


Turnaround Trends: More States Consider Creating Their Own School Districts


Michigan senator backs bill to require school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies


Ed. Dept. Announces New Grant for Social and Emotional Learning


Transgender student files lawsuit against schools over bathrooms


Jailed Youth With Disabilities Face Poor Treatment and Support, Report Says


School officials: Lunch rules driving kids to pizza


Colorado Schools to Track Marijuana Offenses by Students


Keep Fidgeting! Movement Helps Improve Focus in Kids With ADHD










Utah Board of Education member, 3 family members killed in Missouri plane crash


A member of the Utah State Board of Education and three of his family members were killed Friday morning in a small plane crash in rural Missouri, authorities said.

The victims were identified as C. Mark Openshaw and his wife, Amy, both 43, of Provo, and two of their children, 15-year-old Tanner and 12-year-old Ellie.

The only other passenger, the Openshaws’ 5-year-old son, survived the crash and was flown to a hospital in Springfield, Mo., with serious injuries, Sgt. Jeff Kinder of the Missouri Highway Patrol said.

Kinder said a witness told investigators that a Beechcraft plane piloted by Mark Openshaw took off shortly after 7 a.m. from a private runway at a residence near Success in rural Texas County in southern Missouri. A witness said that when the aircraft reached about 100 feet, “the plane stalled and fell out of the sky,” Kinder said.

The Openshaws, who have two other children, had been visiting family in Missouri, Kinder said. (SLT) (DN) (OSE) (PDH) (LHJ) (CVD) (AP) (KUTV) (KTVX) (KSL) (KSTU) (KCSG) (USBE) (Springfield [MO] News Leader) (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) (Springfield [MO] KYTV) (Springfield [MO] KSPR)





Mike Lee urges local, federal laws for religious protection in coming gay-rights fights Religious liberties » LGBT advocates say broad exemptions would OK discrimination.


Advocates for same-sex marriage may be winning the debate in America, but those who support only heterosexual unions still need to fight to protect themselves from government intrusion, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, argued Thursday in calling for a movement to pass religious-liberty legislation in cities, states and Congress.

“This is a crucial point for those of us who work in capitals and county seats across the country,” Lee said in Washington. “If the coming conversation about religious freedom is left to the judicial and executive branches of our government, all Americans — whether they know it or not — will lose that debate before it even begins.”

Lee, a first-term Republican, says he will reintroduce legislation – dubbed the Government Non-Discrimination Act – that would protect religiously affiliated schools from mandates to recognize gay marriage and prevent any government agency from denying tax exemption, grants, contracts, accreditation, licenses or certifications based on a belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Lee introduced similar legislation in 2013, though it was never heard in committee. (SLT) (DN) (KUTV)


A copy of the speech (Senate)






Sixth-graders moving on from Guadalupe School ready for academic success


SALT LAKE CITY — Inventor, comedian, doctor, nurse, computer programmer, professional soccer player and robotics engineer. Those are just a few of the careers that the recently graduated sixth-graders from Guadalupe School are pursuing.

“Today is one of those occasions where we celebrate our young people — their achievements, their perseverance, and their successes as they grow up,” said Vicki Mori, the retiring executive director of the school, at the graduation commencement held Thursday.

Mori has devoted her four-decade career in education to serving families, students and communities through education in the hopes that those who learn English as a second language can live productive and successful lives. (DN)






Utah teen accused in hazing incident settles criminal case


A Utah teenager accused of hazing members of the Bountiful High School wresting team — of which he was an assistant coach — has resolved his criminal case.

Lamar Allen Gimmeson, 19, was charged in Farmington’s 2nd District Court with one count of class A misdemeanor sexual battery and one count of class B misdemeanor hazing. He was one of two teens charged criminally after the December hazing incident, while six other students were suspended from the high school.

Earlier this week, Gimmeson entered into a plea in abeyance to the hazing charge — meaning if he commits no new crimes in the next year, pays a fine and completes community service, the case against him will be dismissed. The sexual battery charge was dismissed Monday as part of a plea deal, according to court records.

Another teenager, Christopher Brooks Fletcher, is facing two counts of sexual battery and one charge of hazing. He is expected to be in court on June 22 for a scheduling call hearing. (SLT)





Lawsuit filed by student in teacher sex case dismissed


FARMINGTON — A judge agreed Thursday to toss a lawsuit filed against the Davis School District by a teenager who was one of three victims in a teacher sex case.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office says there was no settlement in the suit. Mark Carlson, a lawyer for the student and his parents, moved to withdraw the lawsuit but declined to comment on the decision. (DN) (PDH) (KSL)






Former teacher’s aide sentenced for sexting with student


WEST HAVEN, Weber County — A former teacher’s aide has been sentenced to jail for sexting with a 14-year-old student.

Zachary Arrington, 21, was sentenced Tuesday in Ogden to six months in jail, the Standard-Examiner reports. He can begin work release after 20 days. (DN)







Local teachers receive grants from Utah credit unions


Two local teachers have received grants of $3,000 each through the 100% for Kids Utah Credit Union Education Foundation.

Mountainside Elementary fourth grade teacher Lauri Anderson requested funds for Chromebooks for her classes. She received $3,000 toward this purchase. (LHJ)






LUSD gives students ‘second chance’


Only 10 of 13 Beaver Dam High School students who were denied graduation last month because of “scoring irregularities” in an online class connected to their high school years are planning to take a course this summer to make up the class, the Littlefield Unified School District board of governors learned Thursday night.

Mark Coleman, BHDS principal and LUSD superintendent, told the board during its regular June meeting that the other three students are refusing to take the make-up course this summer. They claim they were not responsible for any “irregularities” Coleman told the board he found in an investigation of their course work.

“I couldn’t prove they changed their scores but we had proof their scores were changed,” Coleman told the board. “The other 10 acknowledged what they did and how they did it. I think we did the best we conld to identify the students (involved).”

Those students are planning to finish the make-up course by fall, Coleman said. (SGS)





Attending a graduation? Keep your cheers to yourself


Three people in Mississippi faced charges of disturbing the peace, with possible $500 fines and even six months in jail for shouting a graduate’s name at a Senatobia High School graduation last month. (DN)











Who should pay for charter schools?

Salt Lake Tribune editorial


In public education, charter schools are the disrupters. Designed to be autonomous, charters are public schools overseen by their own boards and the State Office of Education, not local school boards. Free from the constraints of school districts, charters have blazed new trails.

Not all of those trails have led to success, but enough have succeeded that there are 100 charter schools with roughly 10 percent of Utah public-school students. They are now hitting a scale that makes it more difficult to fly under the radar as experimentalists. It seems the disrupters are becoming part of the mainstream, and that is putting charter-school funding on a crash course.

Charter schools receive most of their funding directly from the state, but part of their money comes from the local school districts where their students reside. That makes sense in that it takes away some of the money that would have gone to educate the students in public schools and sends it to the charters that actually do educate them.

But that has set up a taxation-without-representation dynamic. The districts collect the money without any say in how it’s spent by charters. That issue is getting new attention because of a legislative change in the funding formula that has some Utah school districts looking at property-tax increases to fund new charter-school expenses. Those increases are sure to bring complaints from property owners.






Teacher retention — a major concern for Utah Deseret News editorial


High school graduation rates in the United States are at 81 percent. It’s an admirable statistic to be sure, but another number that should be higher is lagging: Only about 70 percent of new teachers stick with their profession for at least five years.

This is an issue anywhere schools can be found, but it’s particularly problematic in Utah, where the most commonly held degree is elementary education. What is it that keeps new teachers from continuing their one-time profession of choice? Is it even a major concern?

The answer to the latter question is yes. Retention of quality teachers should be a priority because, as Brown University’s John Papay and Matthew Kraft seek to prove in a new study, teachers improve with age.






Why Utah’s rank on per student spending is just one data point – not a vice Utah PoliticoHub commentary by Sen. Howard Stephenson


When State School Superintendent Brad Smith spoke at the recent Utah Taxes Now Conference on May 28, he struck a nerve with protectors of the education status quo when he said that a high ranking on per student spending is not a virtue and Utah’s ranking at 50th place is not a vice.  “It is simply a measure of input variables and it is one input variable, and that’s all,” he said. Smith had been

“The critical shift we must see in education is an emphasis on output variables.” He suggested Utah’s ranking as 50th in funding is of secondary importance.  “It’s being 27th in the nation in student performance that concerns me, because we can be so much better. . . So the single data point I want to leave with you today is this: . . . Only 1 in 4 of Utah’s graduating seniors are fully prepared to succeed in college,” Supt. Smith said.

I feel compelled to give the hard facts as to why Superintendent Smith is exactly right about Utah’s consistently low ranking in per student spending being just one data point.






Let’s make schools a higher priority than prisons Salt Lake Tribune letter from Mary C. Barnes


In response to “Utah last again in per-student spending” (June 3), I just don’t understand why our leaders keep “putting the cart before the horse.” I mean, gee, I’m not the smartest egg in the crate, but I can see that education is last while prison building is first in this state.

If we want children growing up healthier, the result just might be a smaller prison population.





Senate approval of opt-out bill shows leadership vacuum on education

(Portland) Oregonian editorial


To those who need proof that Oregon suffers from a leadership vacuum on education, we offer the sucking sound that emanated from the state Senate Thursday as spine after spine disappeared.

All but six Oregon senators voted in favor of a bill that not only undermines the state’s push for higher standards, but also could cost Oregon’s poorest schools millions of dollars in badly needed federal funding. Instead, the chamber bowed to the teachers’ union by overwhelmingly passing House Bill 2655, which allows parents to opt their students out of statewide standardized testing for any reason at all. The bill also requires school districts to send notices to parents twice a year about the test along with access to an opt-out form, practically inviting families to join the anti-testing rebellion.

Why the backlash? The surge reflects Oregon’s switch this year to the tougher Smarter Balanced exam, which is designed to measure how well schools are teaching students to the Common Core standards adopted by Oregon in 2010. In addition, the tests eventually will be used for school report cards and as a factor in teacher evaluations, a provision that has generated immense pushback from the Oregon Education Association.

Although promoted as a student’s “bill of rights,” the Senate’s approval of HB2655 is a win for the OEA, which can claim the mantle as the de facto leader in Oregon education. But make no mistake: Students, who have been shortchanged for years by low investment coupled with even lower expectations, are the ones who will continue to pay the price for an education policy that pursues the path of least resistance.





Let Rich and Poor Learn Together

New York Times op-ed by CLARA HEMPHILL, editor of at the New School, and HALLEY POTTER, a fellow at the Century Foundation


THE mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, campaigned on a promise to provide free universal pre­K classes to more than 70,000 4­year­olds. The city is now poised to meet this ambitious goal.

“This is a proud moment for us all,” Mr. de Blasio said earlier this week. “‘Pre­K for All’ is the centerpiece of our agenda to confront inequality in our city.”

Mr. de Blasio is right to be proud, but more must be done to ensure that pre­K classrooms deliver the results the mayor wants. Unfortunately, in cobbling together different funding sources and different types of preschools, the city has unintentionally reinforced barriers that keep rich and poor children apart, even in economically mixed neighborhoods.

Economic segregation is a problem in preschool classrooms across the country. Decades of research show that poor children do much better academically in economically mixed classes than they do if they attend school only with other poor children. Research also shows that well­off children are not harmed academically by going to school with poor children.

Yet the funding sources that support public preschool often come with restrictions that undermine economic integration.





Privatize the College Board!

Wall Street Journal commentary by columnist Dan Henninger


Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger explains how the higher-education membership organization promotes anti-market, anti-conservative views—and what to do about it. (video)






The Brawl Over Tax Credits for Religious Schools Such state aid to poor families doesn’t violate the separation of church and state.

Wall Street Journal op-ed by AVI  SCHICK, former deputy attorney general for New York


Before New York legislators return home next week, they will decide the fate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide tax credits to parents who send their children to parochial schools. On cue, opponents have trotted out trumped up criticisms that the credits violate the separation of church and state, among other dubious contentions.

Approximately 15% of New York families educate their children in private and parochial schools. These schools must comply with state mandates, including those governing curriculum, testing and attendance. Yet their students receive only about 1% of the state’s roughly $26.5 billion education budget.

Enter the Parental Choice in Education Act, which would provide tax credits worth $500 a child to low-income parents who pay tuition to send their children to nonpublic schools. The legislation also offers a 75% tax credit for donations to scholarship funds that help mitigate tuition costs for low- and middle-income families.

Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been at the forefront of the effort to enact the education tax credits. “All we are fighting for,” he recently explained, “is fairness for parents who want a choice for their kids and are waiting to hear whether they can get a scholarship.”






Exams Around the World

Pen, paper, and a time limit

Atlantic commentary by columnist TERRANCE F. ROSS


Examinations, tests, assessments—whatever the nomenclature, it’s hard to imagine schooling without them. Testing is the most popular method of quantifying individuals’ knowledge, often with the intention of objectively measuring aptitude and ability.

Test-taking is a dreaded experience that the country’s kids and young adults share with their counterparts across the globe. The ritual at its core doesn’t vary much: Students sit at a table or a computer desk (or sometimes, as shown below, on the floor), pencil and/or mouse in hand, the clock ticking away mercilessly. America for its part is home to what The Atlantic has described as an “alphabet soup” of standardized tests, including: the NAEP, SBAC, PARCC, ACT, and, of course, SAT. Testing has become increasingly notorious in the U.S., to the point that tens of thousands of parents across the country have opted their kids out of standardized tests.

In America, perhaps all the testing helps explain why “all-nighters” and Adderall abuse are the norm on many college campuses. But there is an unhealthy obsession with acing the test abroad, too. Fraudulent college applications are reportedly rampant among students in China—the birthplace of the standardized test—aspiring to attend school in the U.S. And hundreds of people in India were recently arrested in connection with a massive cheating scandal. (Many of those arrested were believed to be family members of the 10th-grade test-takers.) Meanwhile, as NPR has reported, “the relentless focus on education and exams is often to blame” for suicide among teens in South Korea, the leading cause of death for that demographic.

Test-taking appears to be more prominent in certain parts of the world, such as Asia, than in others.










Oregon Senate votes to help students, schools avoid Common Core tests

(Portland) Oregonian


A bill to allow Oregon parents to opt their children out of new Common Core  reading and math tests — and protect schools from some repercussions of not testing all students — cleared the Oregon Senate on Thursday.

Several senators made note of the federal government’s warning that enacting the legislation could jeopardize $140 million a year or more in federal education money. Most of them voted for the bill anyway, saying that they doubt the feds would actually dare to withhold the money.

The vote on House Bill 2655 was 24-6, with four Democrats and two Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, voting no.

The bill would allow parents to opt their children out of taking Smarter Balanced reading and math tests for any reason. Those tests are much harder and take longer than Oregon’s previous tests and have generated controversy as a result.

HB 2655 also would shield schools from some consequences. Normally, schools have their performance rating downgraded if fewer than 95 percent of students take the tests. But the bill would require the state to issue two performance ratings: The regular one plus a second, higher rating without any penalty for incomplete testing.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle, in an email to Oregon schools chief Rob Saxton, characterized the Oregon bill as one of the most extreme opt-out measures in the country. She characterized the bill as “proactively encouraging parents to opt students out of assessments and failing to hold districts and schools accountable.” (Eugene [OR] Register Guard)






Should the state change its standardized test policies?

Boston Globe


Parents, teachers, education advocates, and legislators from across Massachusetts called Thursday for a shift away from high-stakes standardized tests that they said waste class time, stifle creativity, and create anxiety even in very young children.

About 200 people — many wearing stickers with the rallying cry “Less testing. More learning.” — packed a hearing room at the State House and had to move to a larger auditorium for several hours of testimony before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education.

Many expressed fervent support for bills that would limit the use of test scores, allow families to opt out, and either eliminate or impose a moratorium on requiring that high school students pass a test to graduate, which they said disproportionately affects poor and minority teens.

“The overuse and misuse of high-stakes testing has resulted in the denial of diplomas [to] economically disadvantaged children who desperately need a high school diploma to access a pathway out of poverty,” testified Barbara Fields of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts.

Some argued, though, that the tests reveal existing disparities and empower educators to act to address them.

“Blaming the test for inequality is like blaming the doctor for the illness that she diagnoses,” said Lindsay Sobel, executive director of Teach Plus Massachusetts.






Union-backed group calls for pause in federal money for charter schools Washington Post


A labor-backed group is objecting to an U.S. Education Department proposal to expand federal funding for public charter schools, after the agency’s inspector general issued a scathing report that found deficiencies in how the department handled federal grants to charter schools between 2008 and 2011.

Among other things, the inspector general discovered some charter schools received federal dollars but never opened their doors to students, and the agency could not say where the money went.

The U.S. Department of Education has given $1.7 billion in grants to charter schools since fiscal 2009, according to an agency spokeswoman. In its budget request for 2016, the administration is seeking $375 million for the program — a 48 percent increase over current funding levels.

Public charter schools are funded by tax dollars but managed privately and are often not unionized. Duncan has been a strong advocate for charter schools, a position that puts him at odds with teachers unions.

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which includes the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union, wrote to Duncan on Monday, asking how his agency could seek to expand the charter schools program “despite mounting evidence of significant fraud, waste and abuse within the charter sector, and despite the warnings of your own office of inspector general that federal charter start-up and expansion funds are not adequately monitored or accounted for.”


A copy of the report (ED)





Colorado Board of Education chair Marcia Neal quits, slams colleagues Denver Post


Colorado Board of Education chairwoman Marcia Neal announced her resignation Thursday in a blistering letter blaming board dysfunction and baffling decisions, behavior she speculated is driving an exodus of top talent from the state education department.

Neal, a Republican and retired teacher from Grand Junction, was re-elected in November.

In her resignation letter, Neal cited her frustrations with the board overreaching, sowing confusion and failing to communicate. “Sadly, our current board has become dysfunctional,” she wrote.

Neal cited a number of recent developments:

  • The board’s vote to grant school districts waivers from a portion of state tests this spring. The board backed down after the state attorney general found it lacked the authority to do so.
  • Another months-long debate over a student health survey. The board was considering requiring written parental consent for kids to participate, but the attorney general found that was not required by law, and advocates of the survey lobbied hard against the change.
  • Another argument over a scoring system for high school science and social studies tests last fall. The board signed off on the science results but only agreed to release them to students and schools. But it refused to take any action on the social studies tests even though state law requires the board to set scores that place student performance in categories ranging from “distinguished” to “limited command.”





Board of Education: State exam is our decision to make Des Moines (IA) Register


An analysis by the Iowa Department of Education says the Iowa Board of Education has the authority to determine the next state standardized exam, a conclusion that brings the board one step closer to adopting the controversial Smarter Balanced tests.

The question of authority comes after state lawmakers did not pass legislation on the issue of testing this session. And according to Iowa law, exams that reflect what’s currently being taught in the classroom are required to be implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

“I firmly believe the Iowa Code gives the state board the authority to make the selection,” Board member Mary Ellen Miller said during an annual board retreat in Ankeny.

No vote was taken Thursday, but the analysis gives Board of Education members greater confidence in making a decision to act on their January recommendation to lawmakers to select the new Smarter Balanced exams.






What is making one first-year teacher reconsider her future? Lots of testing.

Washington Post


Kimberley Asselin sits in a rocking chair in front of her 22 kindergartners, a glistening smile across her face as she greets them for the morning. Even at 9 a.m., she is effervescent and charismatic.

Yet behind Asselin’s bright expression, her enthusiasm is fading. Asselin, 24, is days away from finishing her first year as a teacher, the career of her dreams since she was a little girl giving arithmetic lessons on a dry-erase board to her stuffed bears and dolls.

While she began the school year in Virginia’s Fairfax County full of optimism, Asselin now finds herself, as many young teachers do, questioning her future as an educator. What changed in the months between August and June? She says that an onslaught of tests that she’s required to give to her 5- and 6-year-old students has brought her down to reality.

New federal data that the Education Department released in April shows that about 10 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first year on the job, and 17 percent leave within five years. Although far lower than earlier estimates, it still means that many young educators bail from the classroom before they gain much of a foothold. For Asselin, testing has been the biggest stressor.

The proliferation of testing in schools has become one of the most contentious topics in U.S. education. The exams can alter the course of a student’s schooling and can determine whether a teacher is promoted or fired. In Virginia, schools earn grades on state-issued report cards based on the scores students earn on mandatory ­end-of-year exams.






Charters Look to Change Perceptions on Teacher Turnover Education Week


After developing a strategic plan earlier this year in part to address a dip in scores at her school, Brittany Wagner-Friel faced a challenge.

The principal of the elementary campus of the pre-K-12 E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington knew that teaching talent was crucial to realizing the plan, but one of her star teachers was on the fence about returning in the fall.

The key to getting the instructor to commit to coming back, Ms. Wagner-Friel said, was promising her more opportunities to hone and share her expertise on project-based learning, one of the main teaching methods in use at E.L. Haynes.

It’s a single example, but one that hints at a rising theme of the charter school sector: making the schools places where teachers want to stay beyond a few years.






States at Odds With Feds on Data Breach Proposals Stateline


As Americans’ personal information continues to move online, everything from medical records to mothers’ maiden names, Social Security numbers and fingerprints are increasingly up for grabs. And the states and the federal government are at odds on how to respond.

Since California first began enforcing data breach reporting requirements in 2003, 46 other states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have implemented varying degrees of regulation, including requirements to provide free credit monitoring to victims, quickly notify consumers of a breach and tell state attorneys general or other agencies about compromised records. States are toughening their laws by broadening the definition of “personal data,” requiring timelier reporting and expanding the number of people or agencies companies must notify of a breach.

In contrast, Congress is just now coalescing around federal standards. Pending legislation would preempt the collage of state laws and enforce a definition of personal information that is narrower than what many states use.

Caught in the middle are businesses, which would prefer a single federal standard to the different state requirements, and consumers who must scramble to protect their bank accounts, credit cards and credit worthiness from thieves who steal their identities to attack their assets.





From ‘Dropout Crisis’ To Record High, Dissecting The Graduation Rate NPR


In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama had some sure-fire applause lines: “More of our kids are graduating than ever before” and “Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.”

Which raised some interesting questions: “Is that really true?” and “Why?” and “How do we know?” and “So what?”

A seed was planted that grew into our project this week examining that number. Our reporting shows many of the individual stories behind a single statistic: 81 percent, the current U.S. graduation rate.

But in the course of pulling this project together, our team fell into a rabbit hole over something that doesn’t often get attention: the origin of the statistic itself. It turns out to be a fascinating story, and not just for data wonks. It’s a story of collaboration across the political aisle, heroic efforts and millions of dollars spent by state governments, and dogged researchers uncovering new insights that arguably changed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.

Many individuals worked hard, and worked together, to make the nation do a better job counting high school graduates. The effort had complex — sometimes contradictory — results.





Turnaround Trends: More States Consider Creating Their Own School Districts Education Week


More states are getting into the school turnaround business by setting up their own districts.

A brief released today from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute details the trend as well as policy and management recommendations based on the experiences of established state-run turnaround districts.

Such entities are set up to take over and turn around failing schools through a variety of measures, including handing the schools over to charter operators. Called ‘achievement’, ‘recovery’ or ‘opportunity’ school districts, they are so far operational in three states: Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan.


A copy of the brief (Fordham Institute)






Michigan senator backs bill to require school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies MLive


LANSING — A federal bill co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters could require all schools and districts that receive funding from the federal government to pass policies prohibiting bullying and harassment.

Peters, D-Michigan, announced Wednesday that his name is attached to legislation he believes would help end bullying and harassment in schools. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require districts come up with local anti-bullying policies and report data on bullying and harassment incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.


A copy of the bill (





Ed. Dept. Announces New Grant for Social and Emotional Learning Education Week


Noncognitive skills are all the rage these days and now the U.S. Department of Education is getting in on the action.

The Obama administration has created a new competitive grant program called “Skills for Success” aimed at helping middle school kids to develop strengths like grit and resilience and to adopt  “growth mindsets” (the new buzzword for believing that you can make progress in a tough subject, instead of just throwing up your hands and saying “I’m bad at math.” Or writing. Or whatever.)

School districts, universities, or non-profits who are interested in pursuing the grants will have to address two main areas in their applications (or “absolute priorities” in federal register speak). They must pitch projects that build on existing programs aimed at beefing up students’ non-cognitive skills, and their programs have to support high-needs students (including low-income kids or traditionally low-performing populations, such as students in special education or English Language Learners.)

The grant program is financed at just $2 million, which is basically peanuts as far as the Education Department’s budget is concerned. The awards will likely range from $400,000 to to $600,000, which means there will likely only be four or five winners. But presumably, if this competition goes well, the administration could ask Congress for more money to continue and grow the program.


More information on the grants (ED)






Transgender student files lawsuit against schools over bathrooms Washington Post


A 16-year-old transgender student has filed a federal lawsuit against a Virginia school board, calling its policy on school restrooms discriminatory.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Gavin Grimm, contends that the policy violates the constitutional rights of the student, a rising junior at Gloucester High School, about 65 miles east of Richmond. In court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Newport News, the ACLU alleges that the policy discriminates against transgender students such as Gavin by forcing them to use “alternative” restrooms, not the communal facilities available to their peers.

The Gloucester County School Board’s “policy is deeply stigmatizing and needlessly cruel,” said Joshua Block, an ACLU lawyer who filed the lawsuit. “Any student, transgender or not, should be free to use single-stall restrooms if they want extra privacy. Instead of protecting the privacy of all students, the School Board has chosen to single out transgender students as unfit to use the same restrooms as everyone else.”

The case stems from a School Board decision in December that created a policy limiting the use of girls’ and boys’ bathrooms to students of “the corresponding biological genders.”






Jailed Youth With Disabilities Face Poor Treatment and Support, Report Says Education Week


Young people with disabilities who end up in the juvenile justice system are too often denied the educational, mental health, and re-entry services that can help them avoid jail in the future, according a report from the National Disability Rights Network, in Washington.

Released this week, the report “Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This?” notes that studies suggest that 65 to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disabilities. The report contains several suggestions for lawmakers, communities, and schools, such as:

* The Departments of Justice and Education must fully enforce laws such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act for youth in correctional facilities;

* Schools with high school-based arrest rates should lose the ability to use federal funds to employ school resource officers;

* School resource officers should not be used to enforce non-violent school code violations;

* States should develop individualized reentry plans for youth that include academic instruction, and vocational and life skills training.


A copy of the report (National Disability Rights Network)





School officials: Lunch rules driving kids to pizza (Washington, DC) The Hill


Strict school lunch regulations, administrators say, are pushing kids to order fast-food and run to 7-Eleven for Big Gulps at the end of the school day.

As Congress considers reauthorizing the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, members of the School Nutrition Association (SNA) took to Capitol Hill on Thursday to urge lawmakers to roll back provisions of first lady Michelle Obama’s prized healthy school lunch requirements.

Under the act, schools are forced to serve 100 percent whole grain bread and pasta, require students to take a half cup of fruit and vegetables with every meal and reduce sodium levels in elementary, middle and high schools to 935 mg, 1,035 mg and 1,080 mg, respectively, by 2017.

As a result, officials say student participation in school lunch programs has declined, with more food is going to waste and, in some districts, students are ordering in.

“We have a new problem where we have to police the front doors,” said Debbie Beauvais, district supervisor of school nutrition services at three school districts in the Rochester, N.Y., area. “Security is turning into a concierge because fast food trucks are pulling up. Kids are texting the local pizzeria and pizzas are showing up at lunch.”






Colorado Schools to Track Marijuana Offenses by Students Associated Press


DENVER — Colorado schools will begin compiling data on students who get busted for using or distributing marijuana, an effort aimed at gauging the effects of the drug’s legalization in the state.

The new requirement is an addition to a 2012 law directing law enforcement and district attorneys to collect information on how students are punished and whether they’re being arrested or ticketed when they should be disciplined by educators for minor offenses.

Schools have been tracking all drug offenses involving students, but marijuana has not been separated on its own.





Keep Fidgeting! Movement Helps Improve Focus in Kids With ADHD NBC


Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, notoriously fidget in the classroom. That disruptive behavior likely isn’t just a symptom, but may actually boost cognitive performance, a new study finds.

Physical activity, like bouncing on a ball chair or even chewing gum, seems to allow these children to focus on difficult tasks, according to research from the University of California Davis MIND Institute, published Thursday in the online journal Child Neuropsychology.

“It’s not anything conscious, but you see children use hyperactivity to boost their attention,” said study co-author Julie Schweitzer, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and head of the UC Davis ADHD Program.

“They go up and down the room, and jump on chairs and dive under the tables when something is very demanding or boring,” she told NBC News. “When they are concentrating hard, their tongues are moving. There is always movement.” (Fox)











USOE Calendar



UEN News



June 10:

Public meeting on secondary math standards

6:30 p.m., 3659 W 9800 South, South Jordan



June 16:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

2 p.m., 445 State Capitol



June 17:

Education Interim Committee meeting

9 a.m., 30 House Building


Government Operations Interim Committee meeting

9 a.m., 20 House Building


Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee meeting

2:30 p.m., 20 House Building



June 18:

Utah State Board of Education workshop and committee meeting

2:30 p.m.250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



June 19:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

8 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



June 23:

Legislative Management Committee Audit Subcommittee meeting

9 a.m., 250 State Capitol



June 24:

Charter School Funding Task Force

8 a.m., 445 State Capitol


Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee meeting

1 p.m., 30 House Building


Public meeting on secondary math standards

6:30 p.m., 960 S Main St., Brigham City



July 9:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City




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