Education News Roundup: July 14, 2015

SITLAEducation News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Local media drop in on the school nutritionist convention in Salt Lake. (DN)

and (KUTV)

and (KTVX)


SITLA is trying to deal with trash and vandalism on its land. (SLT)


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks to close debate on the Senate’s ESEA rewrite. (Ed Week)


Education Next study finds that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top leveraged its money well for moving education policy nationally. (Ed Week)

or a copy of the study (Education Next)


Route Fifty looks at the opposite of Utah’s school population: Vermont has really, really small class sizes. How small is too small? (Route Fifty)


Don’t forget to tune in today at 1:30 for the Senate confirmation hearing of Stan Lockhart for the Utah State Board of Education. (Utah Legislature) Or tune in here at 1:30:














School nutritionists look for kid-friendly solutions to school lunch law


Tired of trash, fires and vandalism, BLM aims to give public land to Utah County for shooting range Public lands » The goal is to ensure safety of residents and private property, decrease fire risks.


Utah teen who is ‘allergic to all foods’ sets sights on college


Mom turns in son after seeing him in surveillance footage


Former Felon-Turned-Plumber Helps Kids with Incarcerated Parents Go to College


8 GOP presidential candidates and their views on education








Senate Votes to Build on Utah’s Success in Education Reform


Most boys aren’t ready for early education


Don’t send Brianne Altice to prison


All Arne’s Children

The Education Secretary will send his kids to a Chicago private school.


Will Hillary Clinton Continue Education Reform?


Building Blocks of a GradNation

A Research Brief on Assets for Keeping Young People in School


Growing Together, Learning Together

What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systems








Senate Majority Leader Moves to Set End to ESEA-Rewrite Debate


5 questions on education law overhaul


Amid Cries of Overtesting, a Crazy Quilt of State Responses


Race to the Top Provided Strong Lever for Obama Education Agenda


Teachers’ Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership


Kansas board to vote on unlicensed-teacher idea


Nevada’s Clark County Hopes to Lure Retired Educators Back to Teaching


For Vermont’s Public Schools, How Small Is Too Small?

State officials are trying to curb the high costs of rural school systems in a state with a deep history of community identity.


Judge: Rankin schools violated religion policy, agreement


Archbishop: School that Fired Gay Teacher Showed ‘Character’










School nutritionists look for kid-friendly solutions to school lunch law


SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schools are still searching for ways to serve meals that appeal to young tastes while complying with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which recently mandated periodic overhauls for school lunches.

Since the federal law’s implementation in 2012, students have been required to take a serving of fruit or vegetables with every lunch. In most cases, this led to irked students, higher meal costs and concerned school nutritionists watching students put those higher costs, almost literally, into the garbage.

But thousands of school nutritionists from around the country gathered in Salt Lake City on Monday to find innovative solutions that could help them provide meals that are both nutritious and tasty for students. (DN) (KUTV) (KTVX)






Tired of trash, fires and vandalism, BLM aims to give public land to Utah County for shooting range Public lands » The goal is to ensure safety of residents and private property, decrease fire risks.


Recreational target shooting in Utah County’s Lake Mountains has become a public safety nightmare. Wildfires, stray bullets and damage to ancient rock art have prompted a temporary shooting ban along State Route 68 on the southeastern side of the mountains overlooking Utah Lake.

But now the Bureau of Land Management is considering the county’s request to hand over 160 acres to develop into a bona fide shooting range, where people can fire away without fear of starting a fire or hitting cows or motorists.

The possible land transfer is connected with an expedited revision the BLM is proposing for its Pony Express resource management plan, as it tries to better govern target shooting on public lands so close to a rapidly growing area of the state. The plan amendment affects the 8,124-acre Eastern Lake Mountains Area south of Saratoga Springs.

Other problems include litter and vandalism. Last July, the BLM announced a reward for information leading to the arrest of people who spray-painted targets on 12 rock art panels left by Fremont Indians who inhabited the area between A.D. 400 and 1300.

“Many private land owners in the area have or plan to close access across their property to keep shooters off of their land,” a BLM report states.

One of those property owners is the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which owns thousands of acres interspersed with BLM holdings in the Lake Mountains. Last spring, school kids — joined by Gov. Gary Herbert — removed 20 tons of trash, bullet casings, shot-up appliances and other debris left at shooting areas on school trust lands. To deter abuse, the agency closed access roads affecting about 1,000 acres. (SLT)






Utah teen who is ‘allergic to all foods’ sets sights on college


LEHI — Alex Visker missed more than 300 days of high school, but he still managed to graduate with a 3.6 grade point average.

It took years for his family to find answers to explain why he had been sick for most of his life, experiencing symptoms that included hives, bone pain, brain fog, constant nausea and extreme fatigue. The 19 year old is allergic to the proteins present in food, in addition to environmental factors. (KSL)





Mom turns in son after seeing him in surveillance footage


GARLAND — Two teenagers are in trouble Monday, accused of breaking into Bear River Middle School.

And it was one of the teen’s moms who turned them in.

She saw the surveillance video on KSL on Friday and recognized her son immediately.

The boys didn’t get away with much: some candy and a toy, according to investigators.

But that mom took both of the young people into the police station first thing Monday morning.

The two teens broke into the middle school earlier in the week, according to police Chief Chad Soffe. The two smashed through a skylight using a golf club and lowered themselves through the roof. (KSL)






Former Felon-Turned-Plumber Helps Kids with Incarcerated Parents Go to College


During his 17 years behind bars at the Utah State Prison for shooting and wounding a police officer, Karl “Willy” Winsness watched his two young daughters, Lisa and Jamie, struggle emotionally and financially with his incarceration.

“They hadn’t done anything wrong – they were the victims of my bad choices,” Winsness, 64, tells PEOPLE. “The children of inmates are the forgotten victims of crime and it really bothered me. I wondered for a long time what I could do to help.”

Winsness, who returned to work as a plumber after his release in 2004, came up with a plan to help children like his own.

With money from his own pocket and donations from inmates and local businesses, the West Valley City man started the Willy the Plumber Scholarship program to help children of current and former Utah inmates pay for college expenses.

Now in its fourth year, the charity has handed out more than $10,000 in scholarships to one dozen kids who submitted winning essays, with another 30 runners-up receiving $4,000 in restaurant and entertainment gift cards.

“Karl’s scholarship was a saving grace – it got my education started,” says Marcie Barnhart, 20, of Pleasant Grove, Utah, now set to graduate next year with an elementary teaching degree from Utah Valley University. (People)





8 GOP presidential candidates and their views on education


Some of the Republican Party’s most promising presidential candidates in 2016 are governors or former governors running on their executive experience. Unlike senators, whose experience typically consists of votes and position statements, governors have to govern, leaving a record of hard choices, hurt feelings and other debris behind. That record of choices provides a window into a candidate’s core values and leadership style that is hard to get from a senator.

Education makes a fruitful field for observing a governor’s track record, since education funding and policy is a core function of any state government. Here is a quick look at the education track records of eight former governors who are announced or likely GOP presidential candidates. (DN)










Senate Votes to Build on Utah’s Success in Education Reform Commentary from the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch


WASHINGTON—Following a string of major bipartisan successes in the first six months of the new Congress, the U.S. Senate is now turning its attention to education with the Every Child Achieves Act. This landmark bill drafted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee aims to address the shortcomings of current federal education law and return power to states, school districts, teachers, and parents. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, a longtime member and former chairman of the Committee, won inclusion of several key provisions and amendments that will build on education successes that parents, educators, and policymakers have achieved in Utah. “We should build on Utah’s example and empower all states to implement these important reforms,” Senator Hatch said.

This afternoon, the Senate voted to pass an amendment authored by Senator Hatch that would increase privacy protections for students’ confidential data from abuse. “It is important that Utah parents know their children’s privacy is protected when they are utilizing exciting new tools to learn,” Hatch asserted. That amendment passed with significant bipartisan support by a vote of 89 to 0.

Senator Hatch has also proposed an amendment that would apply Utah’s successful “Pay for Success” program on the national level, providing a flexible funding stream that would allow schools, districts, non-profits, and small businesses to develop evidence-based proposals based on the specific needs of students and the community. “Most importantly, this amendment puts parents and teachers in the driver’s seat, not Washington bureaucrats,” Hatch added. (SGN)






Most boys aren’t ready for early education Salt Lake Tribune letter from Scot Morgan


Regarding “Early schooling pays off,” it was disheartening to see fundamental scientific research about the brain ignored.

We send boys to school in kindergarten and expect them to sit still when their brains are developmentally two years behind girls and not yet developed enough to start learning. Educators are left wondering why our children say, “I hate school,” but parents with a kindergarten-age child bringing home homework every night see a direct correlation. A growing trend across America in affluent neighborhoods is to hold children back and not let them start kindergarten until they are at least 6 years old.





Don’t send Brianne Altice to prison

Salt Lake Tribune letter from Raymond winn


Robert Argenbright’s letter (“Appalling sentence in teacher sex case,” July 13) exactly summarized my thoughts concerning the absolute wrongness of sentencing Brianne Altice to prison after her conviction of sexual abuse.

It is obvious that a prison sentence is a literal ruination of any person’s life on this Earth and therefore should be carefully used — reserved for only those whose lives are beyond redemption, those who must be held in captivity in order to protect the rest of society. Altice hardly sinks to anywhere near that depth.





All Arne’s Children

The Education Secretary will send his kids to a Chicago private school.

Wall Street Journal editorial


Arne Duncan has had his good moments supporting charter schools, but the Education Secretary continues to fight vouchers for private schools. So it’s worth noting that he has decided to send his own children to a private school in Chicago.

During his time in Washington, Mr. Duncan’s two children have been attending public schools in suburban Virginia. But his wife has now moved back to Chicago, and come fall their children will study at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools—which he attended and where tuition runs about $30,000 a year. That’s also where Barack and Michelle Obama sent their children before moving to Washington and sending Sasha and Malia to the tony Sidwell Friends.

Mr. Duncan’s choice is all the more striking since he used to run the Chicago public schools. He also stood aside in 2009 when Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin managed to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington until Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Congress revived it.






Will Hillary Clinton Continue Education Reform?

New York Magazine analysis by Jonathan Chait


In her economic speech today, Hillary Clinton spoke extensively about policies where her party agrees: inequality, social opportunity, public investment, and family-friendly workplace policy. Clinton’s remarks about primary education were almost literally a placeholder. (Those comments, in their entirety: “And in the coming weeks and months, I’ll lay out specific steps to improve our schools.”) Clinton’s position on primary education is the most significant outstanding domestic-policy question of the Democratic primary campaign, precisely because it is something upon which her party disagrees, often bitterly.

For all the attention to disagreements between the party’s centrist and populist wings, which Matthew Yglesias runs through ably, the two visions overlap heavily. The moderates focus their attention on using government to reduce inequality after the market has run its course. Populists want to use government to shape the distribution of incomes before taxes and transfers. The argument between the two is more academic than practical, because both camps favor elements of one another’s preferred policy goals. The centrists support a higher minimum wage, full employment, and opposing Republican plans to roll back collective bargaining. And the populists are happy to endorse a higher Earned Income Tax Credit, taxing the rich, and public investment. What makes the debate almost entirely academic is that, with Republicans in control of the House and highly unlikely to lose it under a Democratic president, neither the moderate nor the populist liberal policies stand a chance of enactment.

Education, on the other hand, is an issue where action remains possible, because the president can use administrative waivers to drive reform, or use the threat of waivers as a lever to force Congress to act. It’s also an issue where two Democratic camps propose to move in diametric directions.





Building Blocks of a GradNation

A Research Brief on Assets for Keeping Young People in School Center for Promise analysis


Much has been written about how to prevent students from leaving high school before graduating, and which life experiences or risk factors may lead a young person to drop out. Less is known, however, about what promotes the attainment of a high school diploma.

In order to help all young people stay on the path to graduation, it is important to consider the influences in their lives that lead to on-time graduation.

The Center for Promise research team reviewed the last 25 years of empirical studies on high school graduation (182 articles in total). Using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological framework as a guide, we looked at five categories, or what Bronfenbrenner refers to as “ecological levels,” that impact a young person’s development – individual (attitudes and beliefs), family, peers, school and community. Within those levels, we identified specific assets which may positively impact a young person’s decision to stay in and graduate from high school.





Growing Together, Learning Together

What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systems Wallace Foundation analysis


With many cities showing an interest in afterschool system building and research providing a growing body of useful information, this Wallace Perspective offers a digest of the latest thinking on how to build and sustain an afterschool system, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this promising work. The report (a follow-up to a 2008 Perspective) focuses on the four components of system building that the most current evidence and experience suggest are essential:

* Strong leadership from major players: There is no substitute for a committed mayor or superintendent, but for a system to thrive long term, city agencies, private funders, schools, program providers and families all need to “own” the effort to some degree.

* Coordination that fits local context: A system’s coordinating entity can be a single public agency, multiple agencies working together, a nonprofit intermediary or a network of partners, depending on local needs.

* Effective use of data: Gathering and sharing data on a large scale takes both technology to track and organize information and a skilled staff to interpret and act on it.

* A comprehensive approach to quality: Cities must decide what program quality means to them, how “high stakes” to make their assessments of it and how to support continuous improvement of programs.











Senate Majority Leader Moves to Set End to ESEA-Rewrite Debate Education Week


Washington – In an unexpected move, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., moved to close debate on the chamber’s bipartisan bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, invoking cloture on the underlying bill Monday evening, which sets up a possible vote on final passage for as early as Wednesday.

Let’s get technical for a second: In invoking cloture on the bill, McConnell essentially set a 30-hour clock during which all debate needs to be finalized. Once that time expires, senators will take an up-or-down vote on whether to adopt the bill as it’s been amended thus far. After that, senators will need to bring the debate to an official halt, which requires the support of at least 60 members. And finally, if that 60-vote threshold is cleared, the senators will have an opportunity to take an up-or-down vote on the bill itself.

So what does all this really mean? Well for starters, it could pose some problems for senators who are still finessing language in their amendments.






5 questions on education law overhaul

USA Today


Congress is working on renewing the No Child Left Behind education law. The GOP-controlled Congress is hoping to enact a six-year renewal of the measure that would include changes to education policy.

Here’s a snapshot of the debate:





Amid Cries of Overtesting, a Crazy Quilt of State Responses Education Week


After years of outcry and intensifying public debate about whether students are overtested, many states are attempting to definitively address the issue this year. But there’s no consistent strategy across the country, and just what the proposed solutions will mean for assessments could vary dramatically.

The Council of Chief State School Officers says that 39 states are examining how to reduce overtesting or cut redundant tests in some fashion, as part of their efforts to “reduce unnecessary burden” from testing.

Yet many states, rather than placing hard caps on testing time or cutting specific exams through legislation, are choosing to hand responsibility for reducing testing to new state commissions or to work directly with local schools.






Race to the Top Provided Strong Lever for Obama Education Agenda Education Week


Education watchers can—and do—argue over whether President Obama’s Race to the Top grants have improved education for American students. But as a straight policy lever, a new study of Race to the Top finds that the competition had a big impact.

In a study released this morning, William G. Howell, an American politics professor at the University of Chicago, and colleagues found that even states that did not apply for, or did not win, part of the $4.5 billion federal Race to the Top pot, were significantly more likely to adopt policies that aligned with the competition’s requirements after 2009.

“This was a small amount of money attending to a lot of policies that were controversial, and the Obama administration saw a huge return on this,” Howell said. “For $4.5 billion dollars you see states all over the country taking up these things.”


A copy of the study (Education Next)






Teachers’ Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership Huffington Post


WASHINGTON — Faced with its gravest threat in years from the Supreme Court, one of the country’s largest labor unions is preparing for a ruling that could make it much more difficult to collect fees from the workers it represents.

This weekend, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution pledging to speak individually with each of its 1.6 million members about getting more involved in the union. According to the resolution, union officials are developing a plan they hope will double the number of union activists in their ranks.

The subtext of the move has to do with Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that the Supreme Court recently announced it will hear in autumn. An unfavorable ruling for public-sector unions could ban what are known as fair share agreements, which require that all workers pay fees to the union to help cover the costs of collective bargaining. A union like the AFT must represent all the workers under a given contract, so the union says it’s only fair that everyone contributes.





Kansas board to vote on unlicensed-teacher idea Wichita (KS) Eagle


The Kansas State Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow some school districts to hire unlicensed people to fill teaching positions.

Advocates of the measure – including the Coalition of Innovative School Districts, which developed it – say relaxing some licensing requirements would help them address teacher shortages and fill slots in hard-to-fill subject areas.

Opponents, including the state’s largest teachers union, say opening classrooms to unlicensed teachers would be bad for students and a slippery slope for education.






Nevada’s Clark County Hopes to Lure Retired Educators Back to Teaching Education Week


After an all-out national marketing blitz to attract teachers to Clark County, the school district is trying a couple of more ways to fill some of its vacant teaching slots: luring back retirees and offering part-time teaching positions.

The district’s school board is expected to take up a proposal this week to approve hiring retirees for teaching positions in elementary schools.  As of July 13, there were 556 elementary teaching vacancies, in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades one through five, according to the district. Of those openings, 108 were in first grade, 105 in second grade and 94 in kindergarten, according to the district.

The district, which includes Las Vegas, is actively courting those who retired since 2011. And the hiring staff is not just looking at former teachers—the district is also hoping that former administrators, including principals, will return to the classrooms, said Staci Vesneske, the district’s chief human resources officer.

The district is also giving principals autonomy to offer part-time teaching positions to those who hold teaching licenses and are looking for work. Part-time teachers will teach the equivalent of about three to four periods instead of five at the secondary school level, and they will qualify for full-time benefits, Vesneske said.






For Vermont’s Public Schools, How Small Is Too Small?

State officials are trying to curb the high costs of rural school systems in a state with a deep history of community identity.

Route Fifty


MONTPELIER, Vt. — For the first time in more than 100 years, Vermont this year is beginning a sweeping restructuring of its elementary and secondary school system.

A bill signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin last month seeks to rein in the high costs of a largely rural system whose administrative structure has not been reduced despite steep declines in the students it serves. Efficiencies could result in lower property taxes and free up resources to address two pressing problems: the academic struggles of low-income students, and the disturbing disinclination among high school seniors to pursue post-secondary education.

Since 1997, Vermont has seen K-12 enrollment decline by 21,000 students, or 20 percent, to a level of just 82,000 today. Per-pupil spending exceeds $16,000, among the highest in the nation, according to federal statistics. That’s in part because a lot of teachers are required to teach small classes in rural schools, and in part because a lot of administrators are needed to run an inefficient system.

So now there are 10 teachers and administrators for every 47 students. Some teachers teach in classes with only five or six students. Statewide, the teacher-student ratio is 1 to 12, low by comparison to more urban states. Teachers aren’t particularly well paid, and turnover is high.






Judge: Rankin schools violated religion policy, agreement Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger


A judge has ruled against Rankin County School District in an order saying the district is in violation of an agreement stemming from a 2013 lawsuit filed by a student who said her First Amendment rights were violated.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves said in last week’s ruling that the district has since violated the policy it adopted to ensure its schools conformed with the First Amendment by holding an awards ceremony where a Christian reverend delivered a prayer and again when it assisted Gideons in distributing Bibles at an elementary school.

In 2013, a Northwest Rankin High School student sued the district and then-principal Charles Frazier over a series of Christian assemblies held at the school. The district agreed it had violated the student’s First Amendment rights and settled the lawsuit by entering into an agreement and paying the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

However, the incidents that took place in 2014 prompted the American Humanist Association to file a motion for contempt, accusing the district of not enforcing its Religion in Public Schools policy and abiding by the terms of the agreement.





Archbishop: School that Fired Gay Teacher Showed ‘Character’

Associated Press


PHILADELPHIA — Roman Catholic school officials who fired a married gay teacher are not seeking controversy but showed “character and common sense” by following church teachings, Philadelphia’s archbishop said Monday.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in a statement, thanked Waldron Mercy Academy leaders “for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented … in accord with the teaching of the church. They’ve shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.”









USOE Calendar



UEN News



July 14:

Charter School Funding Task Force

8 a.m., 445 State Capitol


Senate Education Confirmation Committee meeting

1:30 p.m., 450 State Capitol


Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

2 p.m., 445 State Capitol



July 15:

Education Interim Committee meeting

8:30 a.m., 30 House Building


Government Operations Interim Committee meeting

9:12 a.m., 20 House Building



August 6-7:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



August 13:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City


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