Education News Roundup: Aug. 6, 2015

BoarddistrictsEducation News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Community group creates a school orchestra for charter school students. (OSE)

Reuters study finds Utah governmental entities (like, for example, school districts) get a better deal with state-run investment pools than by buying Treasuries with their idle cash. (Reuters)

Ed Week offers a map on who has ESEA waivers and who doesn’t. (Ed Week)

New Jersey judge rules that school district can’t sue parents of bullies for negligence as a third-party claim when the districts are sued by the parents of a bullying victim. (Newark Star-Ledger)










Youth community orchestra fills a school gap


SITLA distributes funds to schools


Resource officers ready to protect and serve in schools once more as summer winds down


Santaquin street turned kid-friendly in time for school


State-run investment pools buy company debt, trounce Treasuries


Utah school boards up property tax for charter school funds


Treehouse Museum holding kindergarten party in Ogden Aug. 8


Canyons School District Hosts Storytelling Showcase







Contribute to the Backpack Bonanza and help kids succeed in school


AP US History still not as rah rah America as we’re being led to believe…


Who Should Be in Charge When School Districts Go into the Red?


Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration







Districts Facing Teacher Shortages Look for Lifelines


Which States Have NCLB Waiver Renewals? And How Long Will They Last?


Tester introduces Native teacher recruitment bill


Authorities worry that many U.S. schools could have dangerous asbestos


Can Chris Christie’s education policies fly on the national stage?

Gov. Chris Christie, a GOP presidential hopeful, sounded off recently about the American Federation of Teachers, but his education policy ideas haven’t always gotten a warm reception, either.


Teachers union demands apology from Chris Christie


State board OKs lower score on new tests for students to graduate


Delegate files another lawsuit against Common Core


Judge says schools can’t sue families of alleged bullies


Anxiety, frustration and incredulity follow suggestion of school sports cuts


The Role Of Politics In The Classroom


Brain scans show why reading to kids is good for them


Study: Most teens start school too early in morning to get enough sleep









Youth community orchestra fills a school gap


KAYSVILLE — Having seen too many charter schools cut their orchestral programs and knowing too many home-schooled children who don’t have access to one, former public and charter school music teacher Carrie Young decided to start up her own youth community group, aptly named Orchestra Adventures.

Numerous students have joined the venture in the last few years since its inception, including 15-year-old Olivia Ness, since the school she attends, Utah Military Academy, doesn’t have an orchestra.

“I hadn’t been able to play in an orchestra for a long time, and I felt like I had lost my confidence and couldn’t express myself through music, so being a part of this orchestra now has been a great experience,” Ness said.

While Young was teaching orchestra at a local charter school a few years ago, she started getting phone calls from home-school and charter students desperately looking for an orchestra, wondering if Young knew of any opportunities. At the time Young was teaching a summer camp orchestra, but decided to expand her offerings during the school year for youth in the community interested in performing with an orchestra.

“I discovered there were too many kids that didn’t have the opportunity to take lessons because their schools were cutting their programs. I felt like there was a need that needed to be filled,” Young said. “It opens up a great opportunity for kids and I want them to have the chance to do it and give parents the confidence that there are opportunities for the kids to do something they can love.”

Now in its third year, Orchestra Adventures helps dozens of kids bring music back into their lives. (OSE)





SITLA distributes funds to schools


Public schools across the state of Utah are slated to receive a $45.8 million infusion for the 2015-16 school year.

The money is the result of interest and dividends from the $2 billion permanent school fund. The fund was created through the state’s school trust lands, and is maintained to help shoulder the cost of education in the state.

This year’s infusion represents a 17 percent jump over what schools received last year from the permanent school fund. (Richfield Reaper)




Resource officers ready to protect and serve in schools once more as summer winds down


  1. GEORGE, UTAH – Teachers, students and parents are getting ready to go back to school–but so are police officers.

The Washington County School District has school resource officers in all of its intermediate, middle and high schools.

It’s a partnership they’ve had with St. George Police for the past 20 years. Police administrators said the day-to-day tasks may have evolved, but the goal is the same: to serve and protect the students.

“Not always are they police issues,” said St. George Police Sergeant Sam Despain. “They’re there to lend advice and support to the administration where needed. And if it does arise to a criminal matter, be able to take appropriate criminal action.” (KSTU)




Santaquin street turned kid-friendly in time for school


A Santaquin road will soon become a one-way street to better accommodate more than 200 children who use the street to walk and bike to Santaquin Elementary School.

Based on the results of various City Council meetings, staff recommendations and a community-wide public meeting held in July, Santaquin’s City Council has decided to turn the segment of 300 West from Main Street to 400 North a permanent one-way northbound street.

In addition, 300 West will become a temporary one-way southbound street on school days between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Main Street to 100 South. (PDH)





State-run investment pools buy company debt, trounce Treasuries


BOSTON | Some of the U.S. state and county-run investment pools that oversee more than $200 billion in local government cash are loading up on riskier corporate debt to produce yields that outpace the industry average by many times over, according to a Reuters analysis of their financial disclosures.

The debt investments made by some of these local government investment pools, or LGIPs, underscore the lengths some treasurers are going to juice up returns that have been stifled by years of near-zero interest rates.

“I don’t want to call it the Wild Wild West, but it sure seems that way sometimes,” said Mike Krasner, the managing editor of iMoneyNet, a money fund research firm in Westborough, Massachusetts.

Filings reviewed by Reuters show a growing reliance on corporate debt by LGIPs in California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah. Though highly rated, corporate debt carries more credit risk, and pays higher yields, than bonds issued by the U.S. government and its various agencies. The current yield on a 2-year U.S. Treasury note is currently 0.73 percent, compared with 1.09 percent on an A-rated corporate issue.

LGIPs invest the idle cash of school districts, small towns and cities in U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, bank certificates of deposit and corporate debt. The pools provide economies of scale that can produce significant savings in money management fees, said Pete Crane, whose Crane Data LLC is a leading money fund research firm. (Reuters)




Utah school boards up property tax for charter school funds


SALT LAKE CITY— Two Salt Lake County school boards have approved a property tax increase to offset funds paid to independent charter schools.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that residents of the Salt Lake City School District will see an annual increase of $4.67 per $100,000 of assessed property value, which is about $9 for the average home. Granite School District residents will see a $860,000 tax increase, or about $5 each year for the average home.

Murray School District is considering a similar tax hike. (PDH) (MUR) (Washington Times)




Treehouse Museum holding kindergarten party in Ogden Aug. 8


OGDEN — Thousands of northern Utah children are heading to kindergarten this fall, but first they’re invited to visit a museum.

Treehouse Museum hosts its second annual “Get Ready for Kindergarten with Miss Bindergarten” celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at 347 22nd St., in Ogden. Admission is free. (OSE)





Canyons School District Hosts Storytelling Showcase


Elementary students from Canyons School District schools had the opportunity to present stories, fairytales or folk tales at the 5th annual district storytelling showcase, Story Weavers. (Draper Journal)











Contribute to the Backpack Bonanza and help kids succeed in school

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial


Weber County unemployment finished at 4 percent in 2014. In Davis County, the jobless rate ended nearly a point lower — 3.3 percent.

Yet in this booming economy, almost half the students attending Weber County schools — 46 percent, according to the Kids Count Data Center — qualified for free and reduced-cost lunches last year. And even in Davis, the number stubbornly hovers at 23 percent.

Those children need our help if we expect them to get the most out of school.





AP US History still not as rah rah America as we’re being led to believe…

KNRS commentary by Rod Arquette


You may have seen the articles trending on Facebook and Twitter, or maybe even seen some coverage on the cable news outlets, that the Advanced Placement US History curriculum has been revised after the college board “caved” to conservative pressure. Which as we all should remember means that the vast right wing conspiracy and the cult of talk radio forced them to white wash everything wrong with America and make it out to be the land of milk and honey, where nothing bad ever happened and everyone here was always a good person. Because we TOTALLY have that sort of power and influence…

In reality it’s not done anything of the sort. All that’s happened is that the phrase “American Exceptionalism” was thrown in as a way to placate critics, while the curriculum continued it’s leftward focus away from the individual, and on the importance of collectivism and being global citizens. Which is what we all know is supposed to be the crux of the course material in a class designed to instruct students on the history of the country they are living in.

So why is it that people get to throw fits of rage over a non-existent controversy, but when we simply raise the issue of the curriculum for a US history course not really having much to do about America, we get turned in to the bad guys? And what is actually now in that curriculum that we may ultimately have to teach our kids isn’t true about this country in order to teach the real fundamentals of what built this nation?




Who Should Be in Charge When School Districts Go into the Red?

Thomas Fordham Institute commentary by Dara Zeehandelaar, Victoria H. Sears, and Alyssa Schwenk


School districts across the land are contending with rising education costs and constrained revenues. Yet state policies for assisting school districts in financial trouble are uneven and complex. Interventions are often haphazard, occur arbitrarily, and routinely place politics over sound economics.

This brief presents a menu of sensible state responses when districts are insolvent or nearly so, arranged into a tiered sequence of interventions.




Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration National Bureau of Economic Research analysis by Shaun Dougherty, Joshua Goodman, Darryl Hill, Erica Litke, Lindsay C. Page


To better prepare students for college-level math and the demands of the labor market, school systems have tried to increase the rigor of students’ math coursework. The failure of universal “Algebra for All” models has led recently to more targeted approaches. We study one such approach in Wake County, North Carolina, which began using prior test scores to assign middle school students to an accelerated math track culminating in eighth grade algebra. The policy has reduced the role that income and race played in course assignment. A regression discontinuity design exploiting the eligibility threshold shows that acceleration has no clear effect on test scores but lowers middle school course grades. Acceleration does, however, raise the probability of taking and passing geometry in ninth grade by over 30 percentage points, including for black and Hispanic students. Nonetheless, most students accelerated in middle school do not remain so by high school and those that do earn low grades in advanced courses. This leaky pipeline suggests that targeted math acceleration has potential to increase college readiness among disadvantaged populations but that acceleration alone is insufficient to keep most students on such a track.












Districts Facing Teacher Shortages Look for Lifelines Education Week


With a new school year approaching, districts around the country are issuing urgent pleas for teachers to come work for them.

The words on many people’s lips are “teacher shortage,” and in some places, they have the ring of crisis to them.

“There are 467 current job openings, and we’re all trying to pull from the same applicant pool,” said Beverly Mortimer, superintendent of the Concordia, Kan., school district. “Out in the rural areas it becomes harder and harder to pull those applicants.”

Regionally, stories of teacher shortages have been prevalent this summer, perhaps best exemplified by the Clark County, Nev., school district’s launch of a nationwide campaign to entice both new and retired teachers with hiring bonuses of up to $5,000.

Districts in California, Arizona, and Indiana, among many other states, are also facing high-profile recruitment challenges.

Yet available data from the National Center for Education Statistics paint a complicated picture of the current supply of teachers: Yes, there are fewer teachers compared to previous years, but nationally, the student-teacher ratio has remained relatively consistent. The problem appears to be that available teachers aren’t always located where they’re needed most.





Which States Have NCLB Waiver Renewals? And How Long Will They Last?

Education Week


A rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act may be making its way through Congress. But for now, the Obama administration’s waivers are the law of the land. They’re in place in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Every state with a waiver applied for renewal, and Nebraska went after the flexibility for the first time. More renewals are expected to roll out this summer.

So far, two dozen states have seen their waivers renewed for anywhere from one to four years. Four years, of course, takes us beyond the end of the Obama administration, and it’s really unclear what the accountability picture will look like at that point.

Having trouble keeping track of which states have been renewed and which are still waiting? We’ve got a map for that.





Tester introduces Native teacher recruitment bill Great Falls (MT) Tribune


U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is introducing legislation to promote more Native American teachers working at reservation schools.

Tester is introducing the Native Education Support and Training Act to establish new scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness plans and develop courses to eliminate teacher shortage on reservations and close the achievement gap for Native American students.

The NEST Act is aimed at prospective and existing educators who commit to teaching at a Native American or Bureau of Indian Education school.





Authorities worry that many U.S. schools could have dangerous asbestos Washington Post


When the Ocean View school district in Orange County, Calif., began to modernize its facilities last year, school officials and taxpayers got an unwelcome surprise.

Workers found asbestos in 11 buildings, triggering a costly and disruptive effort to remove the carcinogen. Three elementary schools had to be shuttered for the year, displacing about 1,700 children. One school will reopen at the end of this month, but the other two remain closed as work continues. The school district had to take out a loan to help cover $15 million in costs.

“Everyone has asbestos, but they don’t want to deal with it,” said Gina Clayton-Tarvin, president of the Ocean View school board. “To abate it is absolutely astronomically expensive.”

Schools built before 1980 are likely to contain asbestos, a fibrous mineral that was widely used as a flame retardant in insulation, roof shingles, tile floors and other construction materials.

Asbestos was heavily used in schools built between the 1940s and the late 1970s, when the federal government banned its use in new construction. Asbestos is not considered a health risk when it is stable and undisturbed. But if asbestos deteriorates and its microscopic fibers become airborne, it can increase the risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma and other lung disease.




Can Chris Christie’s education policies fly on the national stage?

Gov. Chris Christie, a GOP presidential hopeful, sounded off recently about the American Federation of Teachers, but his education policy ideas haven’t always gotten a warm reception, either.

Christian Science Monitor


The education policy ideas of New Jersey governor and Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie are back in the news after he said that one of the largest US teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), deserved a punch in the face.

He made the comment in an interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper. The AFT didn’t take the insult lying down, with its president, Randi Weingarten, calling Governor Christie a “bully” who has “anger management problems.”

However, the interaction between the governor and the teachers unions hasn’t always been a full-out slugfest. In 2012, Christie and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) were able to compromise on reforming teacher tenure protections. Christie even signed off on a contract in Newark, the state’s largest school district, that tied a part of teacher pay to performance – a major sticking point that many teachers unions oppose.

“What a piece of legislation like this is really meant to do is change culture,” Derrell Bradford, executive director of the policy arm of the group Better Education for New Jersey Kids, told The Associated Press when the teacher tenure reforms were being considered. “We’re asking teachers and leaders to focus on something more concrete, which is student achievement, to figure out whether or not they will be rewarded with tenure.”

These new policies in New Jersey are included in a 15-point plan that the Christie campaign released to overhaul America’s educational system. But whereas the policies received bipartisan support in the Legislature, they appear to be getting a rockier reception as part of his presidential campaign.





Teachers union demands apology from Chris Christie Politico


Chris Christie said over the weekend that a national teachers union deserved a punch in the face, and now it would like an apology.

The American Federation of Teachers launched a petition demanding Christie apologize for the comments, grabbing nearly 30,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Teachers unions aren’t some faceless entity — our unions are made up of individual teachers, who go to work every day dedicated to helping children succeed,” the petition said. “Chris Christie seems to think that leadership means threatening violence and creating a culture of intimidation. We couldn’t disagree more.”


A copy of the post (AFT)






State board OKs lower score on new tests for students to graduate (Olympia, WA) Olympian


For now, students taking the state’s new Common Core-based tests won’t have to prove they are ready for college or post-high school careers to earn a high school diploma.

Instead, students will be able to earn a lower score on the new Smarter Balanced tests in math and language arts and still graduate from high school, the State Board of Education decided Wednesday.

The new graduation cutoff scores aim to address concerns that the new tests are more difficult than the state’s previous high school exit exams. The multi-state consortium that developed the tests designed them to measure whether students are college- and career-ready, and not necessarily whether students have met the minimum requirements to graduate from high school, state officials said.

Only about 50 percent of high school juniors who took the Smarter Balanced tests in math and language arts this spring met the career- and college-ready standards, according to data from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. And about half of the junior class opted out of taking the tests entirely, OSPI said.

The new tests, which Washington schools administered statewide for the first time this year, are to be phased in as graduation requirements over the next four years. (Ed Week)




Delegate files another lawsuit against Common Core Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail


Republican legislators are once again attempting to block the use of Common Core education standards in West Virginia, this time asking the state Supreme Court to decide if the Board of Education can legally enter the state into what they’re calling an “interstate compact.”

On Friday, Delegate Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, petitioned the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue, alleging West Virginia’s use of the standards violates state law and the U.S. Constitution, which requires congressional approval of any agreement between two or more states. Common Core has been adopted by 46 states.

Folk filed a similar lawsuit earlier this year in Berkeley County Circuit Court, in which he named Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state Superintendent Michael Martirano, among others, as defendants.     That lawsuit was deemed “procedurally deficient and substantively ill-conceived” by one of Tomblin’s attorneys.

Folk seeks a writ of mandamus that will prevent use of the standards and halt funding of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, an end-of-year Common Core-aligned student test.

He did not respond to the Gazette-Mail’s request for comment Tuesday, but Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, who is serving as counsel for the lawsuit, said they want the higher court to make a ruling before the end of the year.





Judge says schools can’t sue families of alleged bullies Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger


SOMERVILLE — Stating that the actions of students who allegedly bullied another student over the course of several years didn’t prove negligence on the part of their parents, Somerset County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone ruled that the parents couldn’t be held financially liable by two Hunterdon County school districts.

But the judge did rule that one of the school districts could pursue claims against five students, three for assault and battery against the alleged victim and two for battery against the alleged victim.

In those incidents, the parents could be held indirectly liable and thus responsible for any financial compensation awarded the alleged victim.

In a decision handed down Tuesday, Ciccione dismissed with prejudice the third-party complaints filed against the parents of the alleged bullies by the school districts.

The Flemington-Raritan and Hunterdon Central Regional School Districts were attempting to have the families of the alleged bullies held partly responsible for any financial compensation awarded if the alleged victim wins his lawsuit against the school districts.

Ciccone will allow the Flemington-Raritan district to pursue claims against five students for incidents that happened at the middle school.

In a potential landmark case, the school districts had claimed negligence on the part of the parents. Although Ciccone ruled in favor of the parents in this instance, more school districts may opt to file similar third-party complaints when sued by alleged victims of harassment and bullying.




Anxiety, frustration and incredulity follow suggestion of school sports cuts Washington Post


A task force’s suggestion that the Fairfax County school system could cut high school athletic programs to save money immediately stirred anxiety, frustration and incredulity across the community that supports one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Fairfax school officials said that they are facing a potential $100 million shortfall next year, leading Superintendent Karen Garza to create a 36-member task force to search for trims to what is annually a more than $2.5 billion budget. One of the suggestions proved controversial: eliminating sports and cutting other activities, such as drama, newspaper and student government, for a potential savings of nearly $24 million.

In the school system of more than 187,000 students, about 28,000 students participate in sports, at a cost of nearly $11 million. That amounts to about 15 percent of the student body that would be directly affected should the programs be cut, but boosters, players and county elected officials said the impact on morale and school spirit would be far greater because communities rally around the teams.

Some members of the school board and the county board of supervisors — which furnishes most of the school system’s budget — quickly accused the task force of histrionics, saying it was merely a tactic to anger community members in a campaign for more money. Fairfax’s budget season is often marked by tense exchanges and dire predictions as the county prides itself on having a top-tier school system.




The Role Of Politics In The Classroom



The Confederate flag. The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Policing minority communities. Nuclear weapons and Iran. Summer often brings a lull in the news, but not this year. And, come September, students are going to want to talk about these headlines.

But how should teachers navigate our nation’s thorny politics?

Do politics belong in the classroom at all, or should schools be safe havens from never-ending partisan battles? Can teachers use controversial issues as learning opportunities, and, if so, to teach what? And then, the really sticky question: Should teachers share with students their own political viewpoints and opinions?

In their book, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy offer guidelines to these and other questions, using a study they conducted from 2005 to 2009. It involved 21 teachers in 35 schools and their 1,001 students. Hess is the dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and McAvoy is the program director at UW-Madison’s Center for Ethics and Education.

Schools, they conclude, are and ought to be political places — but not partisan ones. I talked with them recently about how, in today’s highly polarized society, teachers can walk that very fine line.




Brain scans show why reading to kids is good for them Healthday via Medical Xpress


Brain scans reveal that preschoolers whose parents read to them regularly show more activity in key areas of their brains.

Reading to young children is well known to have benefits, including better language skills. And experts already urge parents to have a regular story time with their kids, starting at birth. It’s been assumed that the habit feeds youngsters’ brain development.

But the new findings, published online Aug. 3 in the journal Pediatrics, offer hard evidence of that theory.

“It’s often said that reading builds brains,” said study leader Dr. John Hutton, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “That seems obvious, but you want to show that it’s actually true.”





Study: Most teens start school too early in morning to get enough sleep USA Today


Most teens are starting school too early in the morning, which deprives them of the sleep they need to learn and stay healthy, a new study says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics last year urged middle schools and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in order to allow teens — who are biologically programmed to stay up later at night than adults — to get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night.

But 83% of schools do start before 8:30 a.m., according to a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average start time for 39,700 public middle schools, high schools and combined schools was 8:03 a.m., based on data from the 2011-2012 school year.

School systems have debated whether to delay school start times for years. Many parents have asked schools to start later, arguing that their teens have trouble waking up early enough to get to school by 7:30 a.m., let alone learn.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” said physician M. Safwan Badr,  a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake.”

But many school officials have argued that starting class later would make it more difficult to schedule after-school sporting events, which often require teams to take buses to other parts of their district. (NPR) (WaPo)










USOE Calendar



UEN News



August 6:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

3 p.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



August 7:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

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



August 13:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



August 18:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

2 p.m., 445 State Capitol



August 19:

Education Interim Committee meeting

8:30 a.m., 30 House Building


Government Operations Interim Committee meeting

8:30 a.m., 20 House Building



August 27:

Charter School Funding Task Force meeting

1 p.m., 210 Senate Building


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