Education News Roundup: June 15, 2015

American flag in elementary school classroom

American flag in elementary school classroom/Just some dust/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


D-News takes an in-depth look at the future of Utah’s public schools. (DN)


Weber and Ogden districts approve teacher contracts. (OSE)


Waterford School’s Nancy Heuston is retiring. (KSL)


Condolences come in for Utah State Board of Education Member Mark Openshaw. (Governor)

and (Senate President) and (Speaker of the House) and (Stan Lockhart)


The House rewrite of ESEA could make to the floor as early as Wednesday. (Ed Week)















Urgency, apprehension and hope: What education leaders see in Utah’s future


Salary increases coming for Ogden and Weber teachers


Why your tax bill will go up for Ogden, Weber schools


Waterford school leader leaving after 33 years


School counselors can provide a listening ear, guidance


In Utah, troubled teens are taught to turn their pain into art


Officials worry schools will close due to population drop


Syracuse student achiever wins national award


Perfect ACT scores on the rise in Utah


A donation much appreciated


The SAT’s changing, for better or for worse


The school that puts kids in charge of their own education


China uses drones to catch cheaters on college access exams


Refresher: What’s in the House ESEA Bill?








Thumbs up, thumbs down


Faith can move education forward


SITLA land sale near Bryce is a win for Utah school children


Gov. Herbert issues statement on the passing of Utah State Board of Education member Openshaw


On the Passing of Utah State Board of Education Member Mark Openshaw


Speaker Hughes Statement on Mark Openshaw


Mark Openshaw always full of excitement about education


We should value police and teachers more


Voices of school parents unheard


Finnish school system


Thanks, Diamond Valley Elementary


When Guarding Student Data Endangers Valuable Research


When Students Opt Out, What Are the Policy Implications?


Data mining finds lessons about procrastination Highest grades achieved by college students who start their homework at least three days in advance


Nevada Places a Bet on School Choice

Education savings accounts are available to all of the state’s 385,000 public-school students.


The Consequences of Pursuing Personal Opportunity in Public Schools Opponents of elite schools often fail to consider another powerful force of inequality plaguing America’s children. And many of those critics could be the very people enabling this phenomenon.


Jeb Bush On Education: 11 Things The Presidential Candidate Wants You To Know








Skipped tests could hurt Colo. school funding


Teachers evaluations favorable


Education Department to Congress: We Need to Hire More Employees


Education reforms spur N.Y. lobbying ‘arms race’


Obama Kicks Off National ‘Week of Making’


Clinton Seeks ‘High Quality Preschool’ for All 4-year-olds


Tea Party Republicans Criticize Jeb Bush


Idaho per-pupil spending, with inflation adjustment, still 18.6% below ’06 level; also 50th in nation


Americans, their physicians should take sleep seriously: chest doctors


Call to end compulsory worship in schools







Urgency, apprehension and hope: What education leaders see in Utah’s future


SALT LAKE CITY — State education leaders aren’t satisfied with Utah’s place in the middle of the academic pack, and the road to becoming a national leader, they say, is one of “urgency, apprehension and hope.”

Right now, 84 percent of high schoolers in the state say they are college-bound, but only one in four of them scored proficiently in all four areas of the ACT, a national college-readiness exam administered to Utah’s high school juniors.

More than one in four students are reading below grade level in first, second and third grades — a time and metric that together are “perhaps the single most critical marker of any in education,” according to Brad Smith, state superintendent of public instruction.

“I look at our performance and I know that we are not serving the needs of students the way we should,” Smith told the combined editorial board for the Deseret News and KSL. “It’s just that simple.”

But top educators hope a strategic K-12 education plan being developed over the summer will raise expectations for student performance, strengthen instruction and school leadership, and articulate the priorities in funding a student population that grows by 8,000 children each year. (DN)






Salary increases coming for Ogden and Weber teachers


Local teachers and classified employees, as well as administrators, will be getting pay increases.

“This year’s negotiations went very smoothly,” said Robert Petersen, business administrator for Weber School District, introducing the new contracts during a board of education meeting Wednesday at the district offices in Washington Terrace.

Highlights of the agreement negotiated between the Weber School District and teacher representatives include a 3 percent cost of living increase (2.95 percent increase for classified employees), funding of all eligible steps and lanes on the salary schedule, no change to the medical insurance premium, and an additional $100 contributed annually by the district to individual health savings account plans. Teachers will also have three professional learning days, with at least four hours of preparation and planning time. Contract days for elementary school secretaries will be increased by one day, and reduced by two days for classified employees.

The employee contracts were approved unanimously by board members.

Ogden School District’s board members also voted unanimously to approve employee contracts during a meeting Thursday at the district headquarters. (OSE)






Why your tax bill will go up for Ogden, Weber schools


Ogden and Weber school districts are not planning to raise taxes, but will be receiving more taxpayer money as they stay above water.

“Any increase people see in their school taxes this year will have to do with Senator Osmond’s bill that increased the basic levy to generate an extra $75 million statewide,” said Zane Woolstenhulme, business administrator for Ogden School District.

Weber School District’s board approved the district’s final budget for the 2014-15 school year, and the proposed budget for 2015-16, during a meeting Wednesday. Ogden School District’s board members approved their budgets Thursday.

Weber School District’s overall tax rate for fiscal year 2015 was 0.006526. The proposed 2016 budget is based on the same rate, but could change when the district is informed of the basic state levy. (OSE)






Waterford school leader leaving after 33 years


SANDY — When Nancy Heuston founded the Waterford School more than 30 years ago, she quickly learned one thing that would follow her throughout her leadership in education.

“You always have to change,” Heuston said. “Things always change.”

But she didn’t anticipate the rapid shifts in her elementary through high school private school would be largely fueled by challenges and change within families.

“Families are bombarded from outside and within,” she said.

Economic struggles have more parents working longer hours and focusing more on providing for financial needs, along with providing for their children. (KSL)






School counselors can provide a listening ear, guidance


“Talk to your counselor.”

It’s advice junior high and high school students hear time and time again if they have a problem, but what if the issue they are facing is the thought of suicide?

Yes, a school counselor can help a student in such a crisis, but there are limits to what his or her role would be, say Utah suicide prevention experts who work with organizations outside the school system.

A counselor acts as a gatekeeper who can identify a problem and connect the troubled student and his or her parents with needed resources, said Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator for the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in Salt Lake City. (OSE)





In Utah, troubled teens are taught to turn their pain into art


Whenever Amir Jackson encourages troubled young people to use words and images to plumb their pain, he tells his own story, opening a private vein right there in front of them.

As a child, Jackson wrote “dark and melancholy” poems about fleeing an abusive home in Rochester, N.Y. He reluctantly showed them to an aunt, who asked him where they came from.

“From no place,” he told her. “They’re just words.”

“No,” she said. “They come from somewhere.”

She encouraged him to keep writing. Eventually, a once-invisible boy longing to be seen forged an identity by freeing his writer’s voice. Now 35, Jackson runs the Nurture the Creative Mind Foundation in Ogden, encouraging Utah teenagers to follow his lead.

“I try to explain to students where my pain comes from,” he said. “There’s often not a lot of trust at first, so I make myself vulnerable. It’s easier to trust someone who’s vulnerable.” (LAT)





Officials worry schools will close due to population drop


PANGUITCH, Utah— Community leaders in a rural southern Utah county are worried about a steady decline in population that has the school district considering closing schools due to a lack of students.

Garfield County Commission is now considering declaring a state of emergency to call attention to the situation, the Deseret News reported. (PDH) (CVD) (KSL)





Syracuse student achiever wins national award


SYRACUSE — Jill Hess has been a DECA adviser for 15 years and has seen many of her students compete in the national competition, but never has she seen them make it to the top — until this year when Syracuse High School student Christian Silva placed third at nationals in the personal financial literacy event.

Over 200,000 high school students across the country participate in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), which hosts competitions to prepare them for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, management and entrepreneurship. (OSE)






Perfect ACT scores on the rise in Utah


SALT LAKE CITY — More Utah high school students have registered perfect scores on the ACT college entrance exam, diminishing the significance of an achievement that used to be quite rare.

Fifteen Utah students scored a perfect 36 on the test this school year, up from one in 2009, according to figures from ACT administrators. In the previous school year, there were 17 students who notched the perfect score.

The accomplishment is being applauded by ACT officials, but one college professor warns that if perfect scores become too commonplace, the test will lose some value as a tool for university administrators to assess prospective students. An ACT spokesman said there are no changes planned for the test. (PDH) (CVD) (Ed Week)






A donation much appreciated


SUU Head Start was the recipient of generosity from the Silver Stone LDS Ward. The ward provided school kits for each child (about 200) in Washington County’s Head Start program. These packets contain: pencils, paper, crayons, scissors and books. The donations included educational games, homemade comforters, toys and toothbrushes. The estimated value of the donations were about $500. (SGS)





The SAT’s changing, for better or for worse


The SAT, or the Scholastic Aptitude Test, has been undergoing a lot of changes. (DN)





The school that puts kids in charge of their own education


On a recent Friday afternoon in a sleepy suburb just west of Chicago, 5-year-old Zeke Banks faces several teenagers seated at a table.

Attentive but unperturbed, with big eyes and curly blonde hair, he peers up at them, answering questions about how and why his older brother, Ollie, 7, had knocked him off a ball he was sitting on several days ago.

The older students form the school’s Judicial Committee, or the “JC” as they call it here at the Tallgrass Sudbury School in Riverside, Illinois. There is one adult in the room, but she doesn’t speak at all. The JC’s job is to enforce the school rules and to keep peace in the community. (DN)






China uses drones to catch cheaters on college access exams


The world’s toughest exam has driven Chinese students to extremes, including suicide, but cheating will be a little tougher if a plan in Henan province, 400 miles south of Beijing, pans out. (DN)










Thumbs up, thumbs down

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial


Thumbs up: To the Fairfield Junior High Science Olympiad team. Students from the Kaysville school did their city proud, competing well in a national science competition last month at the University of Nebraska.





Faith can move education forward

Deseret News commentary by columnist John Florez


Mark Twain once said, “There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the school boy who said, ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.’”

But Utah’s State School Board Superintendent Brad Smith has a different take about faith and education. “It is to have faith … that we can change this very big, very complex system in a way that benefits our kids,” he said.

Smith must have faith if he believes this can be done; but he has to keep away the state Legislature that is constantly disrupting education — changing requirements and laws — as well as the governor and employers who add to the confusion with another 10-year plan.

Note the superintendent said “to benefit our kids” — not simply Utah’s workforce, as the governor and Legislature keep pushing. Smith is right.





SITLA land sale near Bryce is a win for Utah schoolchildren Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Aaron C. Garrett, school children’s trust specialist in the Utah State Office of Education


I recently read the article “Utah to auction scenic properties near Bryce . . .” (May 30) and the letter “Selling land near Bryce means paradise lost” (June 3). The subject of these two pieces was the auction of school trust lands managed by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA.

SITLA manages the several million acres of school trust lands throughout Utah. The purpose of these lands is to provide money for public education, which is sorely needed in this state. Money from trust lands is deposited into an endowment fund, currently over $2 billion.

Every year, every single public school in the state gets a portion of that distribution. The parents at each school join together with the principal and teachers on a school community council to decide how those funds are spent. Last school year, the program gave out $39.2 million, with the average elementary school receiving $34,989, the average middle school receiving $51,110, and the average high school receiving $61,277. Next year the distribution will be around $45 million, an increase of 15 percent year over year. The endowment continues to grow because of sound land and financial management.






Gov. Herbert issues statement on the passing of Utah State Board of Education member Openshaw


“I am shocked and saddened to learn today of the tragic passing of Mark Openshaw and members of his family. He was a strong advocate for Utah students and exemplary in his service on the State Board of Education. His service also extended to his community and church. He will be greatly missed. The First Lady and I wish to express our condolences to the Openshaw family at this difficult time.”





On the Passing of Utah State Board of Education Member Mark Openshaw Commentary by Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser


Utah lost a strong leader and good man in this tragic accident. Members of the Utah Senate offer deepest sympathy to Mark Openshaw’s close friends and family. His injured son and surviving family are in our thoughts and prayers.





Speaker Hughes Statement on Mark Openshaw Commentary by Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes


I’m saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Mark Openshaw and members of his family. As a member of Utah’s State Board of Education, Mark was a champion of education reform and bringing our schools into the 21st Century through technology and innovation.





Mark Openshaw always full of excitement about education Utah PoliticoHub commentary by Stan Lockhart, Government Affairs Manager, IM Flash


Today my friend and State School Board member Mark Openshaw perished in a plane crash. Literally last night, Mark and I were talking about flying and education in Utah. He had just gotten done baling hay and my call was a chance for him to relax after a physically exhausting day. He was so full of excitement about the future of public education in Utah. Now he is gone. His wife is gone. Two children are gone. I’m in shock and heartbroken.






We should value police and teachers more Salt Lake Tribune letter from Hal R. Frandsen


Few if any professions are more important to a free society than the quality of its police force and its teachers. Not many of us have the education, training, discipline and patience to enter or be accepted into these professions, and yet, despite the dangers and responsibilities, we give them so little respect in contrast to most other free countries.

Sure there are a few bad apples as in all professions, including the clergy, but teachers and police represent some of the best of we have. They are the ones on the front line, not in a supporting role. Next time you have an emergency or are in danger, try calling your attorney or a social worker and see how that works out for you.

As to our teachers, they are given so little respect by our state government and are micro-managed. We spend the least per student of the 50 states to educate our children, and yet with the large number of students per class room our teachers do an outstanding job. Think what they could do with a normal class size.






Voices of school parents unheard

(Logan) Herald Journal letter from Linda Jensen


Now that the kids are out of school for the summer and school is not on the minds of many. I, as a parent of Logan City School District, still have many concerns over our district and especially the direction of Logan High. In the 2013-14 school year, there was an ISQ survey given out to parents, teachers and students. Well, this survey was taken and the results from it were lost. The company folded. $15,000-plus of our tax dollars gone.

Parents and teachers demanded that another survey be done for LHS this 2014-15 school year. There was a survey given in February, and the results were not publicly released until just a few days before school got out. The parent and teacher comments were not released until the second to last day of school at LHS.





Finnish school system

Deseret News letter from Rickie Lacanienta


I recently visited Finland for a work seminar. It was my first time visiting a Nordic country, and I have to say I was enthralled the entire time. The young woman assigned to take our group around explained things about that country that I never would have imagined. Maybe the most memorable thing our guide talked about was the education system.

In Finland, public school teachers all get master’s degrees. Our guide said that because the teachers are so well educated, they are perfectly capable in their profession. No micromanaging from school administration (which was one of the main topics of our work seminar). That means teachers are free to actually teach. This approach churns out smarter students, who will then go on to college and some of them will return to the classroom to teach. What a system!






Thanks, Diamond Valley Elementary

(St. George) Spectrum letter from Maurine Roberts


My youngest grandson, Joshua Teodora Van Dam, had the privilege of attending Washington County’s first Advance Learning Program initiated at the Diamond Valley Elementary in 2012.

Joshua is especially gifted in Science, but he also has talent in Language Arts. This was recognized by Diamond Valley when he won their poetry-writing contest. Next year, Joshua will attend Valley Academy in Hurricane, where he will study another foreign language. He’s already fluent in English and Philippine. Thank you, Diamond Valley Elementary. You are a real diamond.





When Guarding Student Data Endangers Valuable Research New York Times op-ed by SUSAN DYNARSKI, professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan


There is widespread concern over threats to privacy posed by the extensive personal data collected by private companies and public agencies.

Some of the potential danger comes from the government: The National Security Agency has swept up the telephone records of millions of people, in what it describes as a search for terrorists. Other threats are posed by hackers, who have exploited security gaps to steal data from retail giants like Target and from the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Resistance to data collection was inevitable — and it has been particularly intense in education.

Privacy laws have already been strengthened in some states, and multiple bills now pending in state legislatures and in Congress would tighten the security and privacy of student data. Some of this proposed legislation is so broadly written, however, that it could unintentionally choke off the use of student data for its original purpose: assessing and improving education.






When Students Opt Out, What Are the Policy Implications?

Education Week op-ed by Jessica K. Beaver, research associate at Research for Action, & Lucas Westmaas, research analyst at Research for Action


Standardized tests have been battered and bruised lately. In a 2014 Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll, more than half of respondents nationwide indicated that standardized testing was “not helpful.” Some states have stepped away from commitments to tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, while others have experienced disruptions and delays in implementing new assessment systems. Even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, long a proponent of test-based accountability, has lamented that standardized testing can be “a distraction from the work it is meant to support.”

Meanwhile, parents in many states are taking matters into their own hands, requesting that their children be exempt from state tests altogether—a process known as “opting out.” In New York, for example, as many as 165,000 students opted out this year alone. National advocacy groups provide sample letters and state-by-state guides for parents interested in opting their children out of tests. In some cases, including in our own backyard of Philadelphia, pockets of educators have joined the conversation and actively encouraged parents to opt their children out. The Philadelphia school district also makes opt-out information available on its website.

As researchers, we don’t take a position on the opt-out movement specifically or standardized testing more broadly. But, as parents, educators, and others debate the role of standardized tests, it’s important to assess whether test-based accountability holds up in the face of a growing number of opt-outs. In the most practical terms, how sensitive are school rating systems to the opt-out movement? And how many students must opt out before creating too much statistical noise for test-based systems to be useful?






Data mining finds lessons about procrastination Highest grades achieved by college students who start their homework at least three days in advance Hechinger Report commentary by columnist JILL BARSHAY


Students scored 3 percent points worse than the class average when they waited until the last day to start their college chemistry homework. Source: “The Early Bird Gets the Grade: How Procrastination Affects Student Scores,” by Hillary Green-Lerman at Knewton.

Many college students say they procrastinate because they do their best work under pressure. And there’s usually no way to prove that they’re wrong. But now that more college students are logging onto a computer to do their assignments, data scientists can sometimes measure what the actual cost of procrastination is.

In one recent data-mining analysis, researchers from an education technology company found that almost one third of the students they studied waited until the day before the due date to start their chemistry homework  (typically weekly problem sets). And these students scored 3 percentage points lower, on average, than their classmates. In other words, if the class average was 88, the procrastinators scored 85.

Of course, there were individual bright students who waited until the last moment and still scored well. But the average procrastinator did worse.

The sweet spot to start weekly assignments was at least three days before they were due. But fewer than half the students had the discipline to start their work that early in the week. Interestingly, students who began even sooner —  four, five or six days before the due date — scored about the same as the students who gave themselves only three days.





Nevada Places a Bet on School Choice

Education savings accounts are available to all of the state’s 385,000 public-school students.

Wall Street Journal op-ed by CLINT BOLICK, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute


Nevada recently became the fifth state to enact the nation’s most systemic K-12 funding reform: education savings accounts. ESAs allow parents to pull their children out of public schools and put the allotted tax dollars toward an education they prefer. This makes the phrase “school choice” a reality.

Unlike vouchers, which make public dollars available only for private-school tuition, the savings accounts can be used for a range of educational options, for private schools or distance learning, tutoring, computer software, educational therapies, public-school classes and activities, and community college classes. Any money left after graduation can be put toward college. This will give Nevada parents more than $5,000 to work with.

Education savings accounts are an innovation; they harness the capacity of modern technology to deliver high-quality, tailored education to every child in the state. Families can mix and match educational offerings to meet their children’s needs and aptitudes, perhaps combining interactive distance learning with a local high-school chemistry lab and a tutor in mathematics.






Refresher: What’s in the House ESEA Bill?

Education Week commentary by columnist Lauren Camera


House Republicans are hoping to resurrect debate this week on a bill that would overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was yanked from the floor in February after it unexpectedly began losing support from GOP members.

The measure was not on the Majority Leader’s weekly schedule, but sources said it could get called to the floor as early as Wednesday under a new rule that allows members to vote on three new amendments in addition to final passage of the bill.

Sounds like it’s time for a bill review …






The Consequences of Pursuing Personal Opportunity in Public Schools Opponents of elite schools often fail to consider another powerful force of inequality plaguing America’s children. And many of those critics could be the very people enabling this phenomenon.

Atlantic commentary by MICHAEL GODSEY, an English teacher and writer based in San Luis Obispo, California


Imagine you’re at a typical American high school. In one class, students line up at the exit early because they can’t wait to get out. Next door, on the other hand, honors students are engaged in a stimulating discussion until the bell rings. After lunch, a few of those students drive to their class at a local junior college, for which they’ll earn high-school and higher-education credits simultaneously. Some of these high-achievers might return home in the evening only to take another college course—this one a paid online class—that their parents believe will help them get further ahead. Meanwhile, back at the school, the struggling kids are staring at computer screens, taking a remedial class. Maybe some of them lack the Internet connection at home necessary for them to watch the video lesson their math teacher posted for homework. Over the weekend, an advanced student might meet with her SAT tutor while her not-so-fortunate classmate washes dishes at the local restaurant.

Although these students might share a campus and a mascot, they form a distinct population within the public school, as is common throughout the country. This disparity between the relatively advantaged students and their disadvantaged peers often parallels that between wealthy private schools and not-as-wealthy public ones. In fact, the difference in opportunity between those two groups can be surprisingly extreme within a single public school—sometimes even more so than that between the public and private ones.

Just look at SAT scores, which are one of the only measurements available for comparing public- and private-school students. In the middle-class California town where I live, at least, the private school (which charges about $12,700 annually for tuition) and the main public school have almost identical average SAT scores, according to surveys: 1830 and 1820 (out of 2400), respectively. But within the public school where I teach, the gulf between the honor students and the rest of the school population is almost too vast to measure: The seniors taking AP English, for example, reported an average SAT score of 1890, while those in the mainstream English classes reported mean scores of 1590.






Jeb Bush On Education: 11 Things The Presidential Candidate Wants You To Know Forbes commentary by columnist Maureen Sullivan


Jeb Bush announces his run for the Republican presidential nomination Monday in Miami and stakes his claim as the education candidate. The former Florida governor, who started a charter school and launched a foundation to spread his education-reform goals, is one of the few candidates who support the Common Core state curriculum standards.

A year ago I heard Bush speak at the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner and he credited Institute senior fellow Sol Stern with helping to shape his views on education. Bush spoke with great animation on the topic: “There is nothing more critical to our long-term economic security than a wholesale transformation of our education system.” Here are some of his views:









Skipped tests could hurt Colo. school funding Fort Collins Coloradoan


The movement to give Colorado’s testing system a failing grade gained steam last fall, with protests at high schools across the state focusing ever-more scrutiny on the burden standardized testing places on students and teachers.

By spring, with reforms making slow progress in the Legislature, a group of students from Poudre High School added their voices to the cause, protesting at the Capitol for an end to testing.

Statewide, high school students scheduled to take spring PARCC exams for math and English language arts skipped the test in large numbers. The state board of education’s March announcement that it wouldn’t penalize districts or schools that didn’t meet a 95 percent student participation requirement likely added fuel.

Ultimately, the Colorado Legislature broke partisan gridlock to pass House Bill 1323, significantly reducing the amount of time spent on high school testing and guaranteeing the right for students to opt out of exams.

But the fight to reform standardized testing in Colorado isn’t over yet.

Poudre School District, like many others, fell below the 95 percent participation rate this spring. That failure could put in jeopardy federal funding for districts, an amount that can range from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the size and affluence of a district.





Teachers evaluations favorable

(Nampa) Idaho Press Tribune


The way Idaho school administrators reported teacher evaluations to the state makes it impossible to identify the top- and low-performing teachers in more than one-fourth of Idaho’s 115 districts.

Administrators from 32 districts gave every teacher identical, overall scores of “proficient” during 2013-14 evaluations, according to an Idaho Education News analysis of data obtained under the Idaho Public Records Act. No teachers in these districts received scores of “distinguished,” “basic” or “unsatisfactory” — the other three scores within the evaluation system — according to records released by the Idaho State Department of Education.

In an additional 34 districts, nearly every evaluation was returned with a score of “proficient.”






Education Department to Congress: We Need to Hire More Employees Education Week


School’s (almost) out for summer, and the rest of the K-12 world may be heading into the summer vacation season. But the U.S. Department of Education has a ton on its plate, from reviewing NCLB waiver-renewal applications and teacher equity plans to investigating civil rights violations to gearing up for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act.

But, thanks in part to those across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, there are far fewer folks at the department to handle all of that work than there were just a few years ago.

Tucked away in the very back of the Education Department’s budget pitch for the next federal fiscal year (that’s fiscal year 2016) is a request for more money for departmental management, in light of fewer full-time employees and a growing workload.

The department wants to bump its full-time staff from the current 4,025  to 4,328. And the agency wants more money for management, asking for $2.54 billion for administrative expenses, a roughly $280 million increase over current funding, or about 14 percent.

Adding to the department’s burden, according to the budget document? “Implementation of complex new competitive grant programs, like Investing in Innovation” as well as growing responsibilities when it comes to student financial aid, including processing FAFSA forms. The agency even included this helpful chart to show why it’s stretched so thin.






Education reforms spur N.Y. lobbying ‘arms race’

USA Today


ALBANY, N.Y. — Education policy is big business for lobbyists in New York state.

Various education interests have spent at least $124 million trying to influence lawmakers, officials and the general public at the state and local level since the start of 2006, including a record of at least $16 million last year, according to a review of state records by Gannett’s Albany Bureau.

That’s in addition to $45.3 million in lobbying expenses reported by the New York State United Teachers union and its New York City affiliate over the past nine years. They are tallied as labor organizations, not education groups, by the state’s lobbying regulator.

Add in political spending and the numbers are starker: Education interests and teachers unions have spent more than a quarter-billion dollars — $285.5 million — on lobbying, campaign contributions and independent political expenditures over the past decade, according to a report by Common Cause/NY, which the good-government group is set to release Monday.

The spending surge has come amid a growing battle at the state Capitol over teacher evaluations, state aid for schools, standardized testing, charter schools and education tax breaks. And it has led to an “arms race,” as a spokesman for NYSUT put it, between the powerful union and organizations backed by Wall Street activists who are championing more charter schools, a tax credit for donors to schools and more accountability.

The end result has the potential to impact every school, teacher and student in New York — a state that has become a key battleground over education policy nationally.






Obama Kicks Off National ‘Week of Making’

Education Week


Washington – Today President Obama announced the beginning of a National Week of Making, part of a larger initiative to get more K-12 and higher education students inventing, tinkering, building, and creating.

The event will last from June 12 to 18. It coincides with the first National Maker Faire, held here at the University of the District of Columbia.

Maker Faires, the first of which was organized by the publishers of Make magazine in 2006, have proliferated around the country. They showcase the efforts of children and adults who are using a do-it-yourself approach to create projects that bridge art and science, often using new technologies, such as 3-D printers and laser cutters. (Smithsonian Magazine)






Clinton Seeks ‘High Quality Preschool’ for All 4-year-olds Associated Press


ROCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton promised Monday to dramatically expand education opportunities for young children, vowing to make “high quality preschool” available for all 4-year-old children in the next ten years.

The Democratic candidate for president focused the first major policy proposal of her campaign on universal pre-K education – an issue championed both by liberal voices in her party, as well as by more conservative governors in Republican-led states, including Texas.

“You shouldn’t think of childcare as just a place to deposit your kids- a warehouse,” Clinton said while campaigning in Rochester, New Hampshire. “We should invest in programs to address the needs of parents and children.” (Bloomberg)






Tea Party Republicans Criticize Jeb Bush Associated Press


MIAMI — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will enter the 2016 presidential campaign on Monday with a rally and speech at Miami Dade College, joining 10 other Republicans already in the race for the party’s nomination. Here’s the latest on what’s happening in the GOP race.

Tea party Republicans are voicing their displeasure with Jeb Bush in the hours leading up to his 2016 campaign kickoff.

Bush would be the third member of his family to sit in the Oval Office, and tea party leader Mark Meckler says both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were “big-government” Republicans.

The president of Citizens for Self-Governance says they contributed to, quote, “the increase in size, spending and involvement of government in America.”

He also notes that Jeb Bush’s steadfast support for Common Core education standards and immigration reform “is a nonstarter with many conservatives.”






Idaho per-pupil spending, with inflation adjustment, still 18.6% below ’06 level; also 50th in nation Spokane (WA) Spokesman Review


Despite state lawmakers’ move this year to increase state funding for schools by 7.4 percent, school funding remains 6 percent below the 2006-07 level, the Idaho Statesman reports, when measured on a per-student basis, and 18.6 percent lower than 06-07 when inflation is taken into account. “It puts a huge perspective on why school districts in Idaho are struggling like they are,” West Ada School District Superintendent Linda Clark told Statesman reporter Bill Roberts.

Nancy Landon, administrator of budget and finance for the Boise School District, told the Statesman, “Nobody listens about inflation or consumer price index or anything like that. That is why you are seeing those huge increases in those supplemental levies. They had to go somewhere else to get the revenue.”

Roberts’ full report is online here. He reports that state general fund appropriations for K-12 public schools have been rising since 2012-13, but are still below pre-2009 levels when adjusted for inflation, and that’s before accounting for enrollment growth.

Meanwhile, the latest report from the U.S. Census on per-pupil spending by states, which came out June 2 and reflects 2013 data, showed Idaho ranked 50th – next-to-last among the 50 states plus the District of Columbia – for per-pupil spending on public elementary and secondary education, edged out only by 51st-place Utah. (It’s on page 29 of the report, in the fifth column from the left.) The Census showed Idaho per-pupil spending for 2013 at $6,791 compared to Utah’s $6,555. Highest was New York at $19,818; the U.S. average was $10,700.





Americans, their physicians should take sleep seriously: chest doctors Reuters


Getting enough good quality sleep is essential for maintaining health and quality of life, and not getting enough is dangerous to individual health and public safety, according to a new policy statement by the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

The public and their healthcare providers need to be better educated about the importance of sleep, ways to promote good sleep and the consequences of not doing so, the authors write on behalf of ATS, whose members specialize in respiratory and sleep medicine, as well as critical care.

The statement includes a review of the literature on sleep and recommendations for public health education programs, based on the clinical experience of ATS experts like coauthor David Gozal of The University of Chicago.

For adults, less than six hours of sleep per night or more than nine to 10 hours per night may be linked to negative health outcomes, so the sweet spot is somewhere in between, according to the statement published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

But sleep requirements change with age, and differ by individual. Teens require more sleep and operate with a delayed “body clock,” so school start times for teenagers should also be shifted to later in the morning, the authors suggest.

“Later school start times, particularly high school, have shown substantial beneficial effects on absenteeism, aggressive behaviors and bullying, and even on academic performance,” Gozal said. “However, the cost-benefits need to be weighed as far as the implications for the rest of the family, work, commute, etc. such as to generate a compromise in which the school will start as late as possible under the local circumstances.”

Younger children have unique needs as well, and specific age-based sleep recommendations should be developed for them, according to the statement.






Call to end compulsory worship in schools BBC


The requirement for schools to have an act of collective worship should be abolished, says a report co-authored by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

The study argues that the requirement has failed to keep up with changes in attitudes to religion since it was introduced in the 1940s.

Mr Clarke says it is more honest to admit that it cannot be enforced.

But he calls for the compulsory teaching of religious literacy.

A report from Mr Clarke and Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, says there needs to be a “new settlement” in the relationship between religion and schools.

It argues that the obligation for a compulsory act of worship is often not really fulfilled, but there is a “nod and wink culture” about not admitting this.

The report, published as part of the Westminster Faith Debates about religion and values, says that schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to hold such a morning assembly and what should be included.










USOE Calendar



UEN News



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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