Education News Roundup: Sept. 22, 2015

Artwork by Riverton High School students in Jordan School District.

Artwork by Riverton High School students in Jordan School District.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Salt Lake mayoral candidates discuss education. (DN)

and (KTVX)


Davis District looks at a bond. (SLT)


Ed Week columnist Tom Vander Ark gives some props to Park City schools for their using of coding. (Ed Week)


And Harvard Business School gives some props to the public-private partnership for preschool in Granite District. (Boston Globe)

or a copy of the report (Harvard Business School)












Becker, Biskupski grapple over plans to equalize education


As classrooms overflow, Davis district asks for $298M for 3 new schools Education » If approved, projects include a high school in Farmington, a junior high in west Layton and an elementary school in Davis County.


Local resident recounts WWII service, hiding from Nazis


Utah schools going after bugs the old-fashioned way to cut down on chemical killers  ‘Doing it the right way’ » Salt Lake City School District’s pioneering method becomes mandatory statewide.


SETDA publishes OER case studies from 3 states Online case studies highlight OER implementation in schools


White Utah teen with dreadlocks claims discrimination over hairstyle


Protecting America’s Children


Decades of Granite High alumni take last photos at school


Why it is so important for kids to be on time to school


Students sought to compete in Cheese Making Challenge






How to write a check using Common Core…


Utahns want to invest in education


Utah spends too little on public education


Corporate Support for Coding


GOP education reform gets trampled by Trumpmania






Colorado’s education formula that cuts funding ruled constitutional Colorado Supreme Court says ‘negative factor’ for school financing follows Amendment 23


Dispute Over Validity of Common-Core Exam Ignites New Florida Testing Fight


Harvard report calls for more investment in education, infrastructure


Common Core under review in NY


Proposed Budget Cuts Set Sights on Education Research IES ‘Took a Hit’ in House, Senate Proposals


NC Senate looks to shift public school money to charters


5 Years After Facebook Pledge, Newark Schools Struggle


PD Challenge: First to Reach 1 Million Online Hours = $100,000 Prize


Ahmed Mohamed is VIP at Google Science Fair


Family: Ahmed withdraws from Irving ISD, eyes trips to United Nations and Mecca


How TV Can Make Kids Better Readers








Becker, Biskupski grapple over plans to equalize education


SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker and challenger Jackie Biskupski sparred over Salt Lake City’s education issues Monday.

In his campaign for a third term, Becker held a news conference to feature his “blueprint” for improving education in Utah’s capital city. He championed past accomplishments while sharing his plans to continue an “aggressive agenda” to help underserved students.

“When it comes to the needs we have around the diversity of students and the achievement gap between those that are poor and often minorities, versus those that come to school much more privileged, (the state) has not directed the resources,” the mayor said. “If the state won’t step up, we as a community need to.”

If he’s re-elected, Becker said he plans to expand access to pre-K classes, add more community learning centers in Salt Lake City, and shrink the digital divide with the installation of Google Fiber in the city.

Biskupski said the mayor is “interestingly” mirroring the plans she has been discussing throughout her campaign. She said in an email Monday that she plans to work with the Salt Lake City School District to create an education program that provides data-driven services for at-risk, low-income and below-grade-level youths. (DN) (KTVX)





As classrooms overflow, Davis district asks for $298M for 3 new schools Education » If approved, projects include a high school in Farmington, a junior high in west Layton and an elementary school in Davis County.


A new high school, junior high and at least one elementary school are on the menu for Davis School District if voters approve a $298 million bond in November.

The bond is expected to cost between $1 and $2 in additional property taxes each year for the average $240,000 home, according to district administrators, or $7.49 per average home over the life of the bond.

If approved, new debt will be issued as old bonds are retired, Davis Superintendent Bryan Bowles said Monday, to avoid a spike in costs.

“Our plan has always been to add a little bit over time so we can maintain the burden on the taxpayer,” he said. “We don’t do all the projects at once.”

Those projects include a high school in Farmington, a junior high in west Layton and an elementary school in the northwest portion of Davis County, Bowles said. An additional grade school could be built in north Davis County, Bowles said, if required by enrollment growth.

The bond would also pay for remodels and additions at five schools, including Viewmont High and Woods Cross High. (SLT)




White Utah teen with dreadlocks claims discrimination over hairstyle


PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – A mother in Pleasant Grove is speaking out after her daughter was reprimanded for wearing dreadlocks to the charter school she attends.

The Lincoln Academy has strict policies and guidelines for their dress code. But her mother says she wears them for religious reasons.

“I guess it’s just like representing like me turning over a new leaf and like trying to find myself,” said eighth-grader Caycee Cunningham about her dreadlocks.

After studying abroad in Guatemala, Cunningham at Lincoln Academy grew dreadlocks as part what she calls a spiritual journey in her Hindu beliefs. (KSTU)





Local resident recounts WWII service, hiding from Nazis


He still laughs and cries when talking about World War II.

Spanish Fork resident Arie Noot addressed a packed auditorium of school children Wednesday after Hale Center Theater Orem presented its latest production, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as part of its student education program.

Local students from throughout Utah Valley turned out for the event and heard the 91-year-old veteran recount experiences as a young Christian boy living in Holland during World War II.

Noot went into hiding after being summoned and interrogated at a local Nazi office at age 17 — just a few years older than most of Wednesday’s student audience. He began operating in the underground resistance within occupied Holland while attending college, constantly ducking the notice of the Germans. He has a photo of himself as a young man dressed and disguised as a woman during his early college career to avoid persecution during his academic exams. (PDH)





Utah schools going after bugs the old-fashioned way to cut down on chemical killers  ‘Doing it the right way’ » Salt Lake City School District’s pioneering method becomes mandatory statewide.


Ricky Martinez stopped to adjust his protective suit before crossing a line of yellow caution tape at Beacon Heights Elementary School.

An assistant custodial supervisor for Salt Lake City School District, Martinez was preparing last week to bag a bald-faced hornets’ nest in a tree a stone’s throw from the school’s playground.

His suit was crudely patched together by long strips of duct tape on the chest. But it was the zippers around his neck that concerned Martinez the most.

“They go for the face,” he said. “They’re smart.”

In past years, Martinez and his team would have sprayed the nest with pesticide from a safe distance rather than physically handle a swarm of wasps.

But since 2005, Salt Lake City School District has used a pest-control practice known as integrated pest management that sees pesticide as a last resort. (SLT)





SETDA publishes OER case studies from 3 states Online case studies highlight OER implementation in schools


SETDA has published a series of case studies focused on the implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) at the school level.

The online resource, OER in Action: Implementation Highlights, examines the definitions and parameters of OER, includes a variety of resources, and provides an in-depth look at the implementation of OER in New York, Utah and Washington.

“This critical work highlights the ability to personalize instructional opportunities for learners,” stated Lan Neugent, Interim Executive Director, SETDA. “SETDA encourages state, district and school leaders to leverage this work as they launch and expand OER initiatives.”

“The Utah State Office of Education is proud to be a state leader in supporting OER for our schools and districts. OER materials provide our teachers with the ability to customize content for the specific needs of their classes. The use of OER encourages collaboration among educators and is often more cost effective than traditional textbooks,” said Brad C. Smith, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Utah. “SETDA’s OER in Action Case Studies demonstrate how OER policies and practices at the state level have provided the avenue for continued implementation in schools and the opportunity for other states to develop similar models,” Superintendent Smith said. (eSchool News)




Protecting America’s Children


School shootings shock us because schools are supposed to be safe havens from guns. Bold signs in school zones declare they are “Gun and Drug Free,” but as we know, signs and laws don’t stop criminals. That’s what makes them criminals.

So why don’t we arm our teachers to protect our children?

27 year old Kasey Hansen is a special needs teacher, working at multiple schools throughout the Granite School District around Salt Lake City, UT each day, and she proudly carries a concealed weapon. Additionally, all of her students have hearing aids or a cochlear implant, which could make an emergency situation more imperative for her to handle swiftly.

“I never really thought about it before Sandy Hook,” says Hansen, who was in a classroom teaching when she heard news of the school shooting. “It just killed me. It’s something personal when you mess with students or children. …It’s as if you were messing with one of our own.”

Hansen got her concealed-carry permit and took advantage of a free training course which was offered to teachers. She then bought a Cobra 380 handgun which she named Lucy and started carrying it in K-12 classrooms. (Bearing Arms magazine)




Decades of Granite High alumni take last photos at school


SOUTH SALT LAKE — Nearly 70 years’ of alumni gathered at Granite High School Saturday to capture one last memory at the red-brick school they attended.

Participants who graduated between 1940 and 2009 came to the school — some dressed in school T-shirts, letterman jackets and cheer uniforms — to take photos before the more than 100-year-old building is demolished.

Alumni representing each class apart from two participated in the event, and alumna Merili Carter took photos of individual classes and decades. (KSL)





Why it is so important for kids to be on time to school


Aaron Hunter from Jordan School District is the Assistant Principal at the Joel P Jensen Middle School. He explained why being on time is so important for kids at school and how it has made a difference at his school. (KSTU)





Students sought to compete in Cheese Making Challenge


Registration is under way for students seeking to compete in the Oct. 20 Cheese Making Challenge at the Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus in Sandy.

“For some students, cheese-making is as competitive as anything academic or athletic,” Lisa Cohne, community partnerships manager for Utah Education Network, said in a statement. “This annual event gives high school and culinary arts students a welcome opportunity engage in some in-state culinary rivalry.”

The event also supports STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and is part of the Utah Education Network (UEN) Cheese Science project with local industry, higher education and the Utah State Office of Education (USOE). Registration is open until Sept. 30. Visit to register and for more information about prizes and related events. (SLT)










How to write a check using Common Core…

KNRS commentary by Rod Arquette


We all know it, and most of us hate it. The federal standards forced upon us by an ever intrusive department of education have resulted in no shortage of controversy and has become an albatross around the necks of many a governor who agreed to adopt the system. A few weeks ago we reported on the first wave of numbers being reported on the effectiveness of the system, and they aren’t anywhere even close to what was promised. So yea…sold a bill of goods and nothing to show for it.

But one dad has decided to show everyone the absurdity of the whole process by writing a donation check using the very same math he watches his son struggle with every night.




Utahns want to invest in education

Salt Lake Tribune letter from M. Donald Thomas


It is satisfying to read a letter to the editor based on simple logic and common sense (“Utahns have spoken,” Nov. 20) as written by Alan E. Hall.

The key point is that the people of this state understand the value of investment (tax effort) in education in order to attain economic and social benefits in the future.

It is time for the Legislature to exhibit its moral courage and increase financial support for our schools to the level it was in the 1980s. And among the top priorities should be an expansion of early education for disadvantaged children.




Utah spends too little on public education

(Ogden) Standard-Examiner letter from Jennifer Baker


As a parent of two children in Davis School District, I share concerns of the enormous expense it requires to send a student back to school in Utah. As a public school teacher, I wanted to make the public aware of the reason for the increasing student fees.

All of the state’s property taxes go into the Uniform School Fund. However, there have been changes in state policy that have decreased the amount of money that K-12 schools receive from that fund. In 1996, higher education began to be allowed to have access to the Uniform School Fund. This has reduced the funds that go to K-12 education.




Corporate Support for Coding

Education Week commentary by Tom Vander Ark, author of Getting Smart: How Personal Digital Learning is Changing the World


After a degree in information systems, Grant Smith worked in Silicon Valley. Responding to a calling to teach, Grant became an Arizona Teaching Fellows, an alternative certification program sponsored by The New Teacher Project.

His first assignment in a high poverty south Phoenix school was supposed to be teaching finance but just before school started the principal looked at his resume and asked him if he could teach coding. “There are not many people like me that have a degree in IS or computer science, have worked in Silicon Valley, and who change careers to become teachers,” said Smith.

After a successful year, nearby Avondale School District asked Smith to bring the program to their nine schools. The K-8 schools replaced an existing 40 minute typing and computer applications class with a focus on coding. Many teachers were involved including the PE and art teachers. The key, according to Smith was weekly professional development.

Smith created a curriculum guide that draws from one hundred open resources including and Khan Academy. The sequenced K-8 lessons are aligned with Common Core and next-gen science standards.

Avondale produced a short promotional video about the importance of coding:

Ari Ioannides, president of Emerald Data Solutions, provider of BoardDocs, read about the Avondale coding program in Edutopia. Ari had learned to code at a disadvantaged school and it proved to be his pathway to a successful career. He called Grant and invited him to Park City, Utah.

Park City superintendent Ember Conley was enthusiastic when she heard about the program. Her team worked with Grant to launch a daily first grade coding program. She said, “We have a team of instructional coaches, gifted and talented specialists, and instructional technology coaches incorporating these lessons.”

Next year the program will expand to K-3. The high school will add coding electives.





GOP education reform gets trampled by Trumpmania (Washington, DC) The Hill op-ed by Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute


Six months ago, it looked like conservative education thought would enjoy a renaissance in the race for the GOP presidential nod. Education was the signature issue of early front-runner Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, who always returned to his gubernatorial school reform record when making the case for brand of can-do, conservative leadership. Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.) and Chris Christie (N.J.) pointed to their fights with the teacher unions as evidence of their willingness to do the hard stuff. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) talked about school choice in urban centers as a way to explain the relevance of conservative solutions for low-income and minority communities. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) made reforming higher education an emblem of his focus on middle-class concerns. Contestants seeking to be the face of a sunnier conservatism viewed education reform as the perfect way to talk about their ideas for expanding opportunity and promoting inclusive growth.

Last winter, the race was shaping up to be an upbeat contest to see which conservative reformer could put forward the most compelling approach to expand opportunity. Education has always been the essential foundation for any vision of opportunity-expanding conservatism. Rubio and Bush have called for taking on the higher education cartel, while the Republican field features governors who have championed a slew of interesting school choice proposals. This is all accompanied by important questions about how much of this a conservative president should take on from Washington and what to do about the cost of college and the Common Core.

All of this has been drowned out by the ascendance of Donald Trump. Two major GOP debates have now passed, and education has barely made an appearance. More tellingly, the very tenor of the GOP race has shifted in a way that has made such appeals seem quaint. Amidst Trump’s bombast and the “hell-with-’em-all” frustration that has propelled outsiders, measured talk about education improvement can seem out of touch, like the candidate is missing the big picture.










Colorado’s education formula that cuts funding ruled constitutional Colorado Supreme Court says ‘negative factor’ for school financing follows Amendment 23 Denver (CO) Post


The state Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 4-3 decision that the state’s funding cuts to education of nearly $1 billion per year since 2010 are not violating the state constitution.

The court ordered a dismissal of the Dwyer lawsuit, which was filed by a group of parents and school officials in June 2014 claiming the state is unconstitutionally cutting school districts’ funding by going against Amendment 23. Colorado voters in 2000 approved the amendment, which requires an annual increase of “statewide base per-pupil funding for public education.”

The court ruled that the cuts the state is making are not affecting the base funding per student and that the language voters approved in the amendment does not prevent cuts from total education funding.


A copy of the ruling (Colorado Supreme Court)





Dispute Over Validity of Common-Core Exam Ignites New Florida Testing Fight Education Week


After high-profile controversies about the Common Core State Standards, PARCC, testing disruptions, and the number and length of tests, Florida has another assessment squabble on its hands. This time, it’s a dispute over how well the Florida State Assessment matches Florida’s standards, and Florida’s students.

On Sept. 1, the state education department released a study conducted by Alpine Testing Solutions and edCount of the state assessments given in the spring of 2015. The study was commissioned by the state legislature to determine whether the Florida State Assessment was, in short, “an accurate way to measure students’ knowledge of the Florida Standards,” as well as whether results could be used as a factor in teacher evaluations and school accountability. The state test Florida used this year was originally created by the American Institutes for Research for Utah.

While the study identified problems with the state’s administration of the test due to technological issues, as well as the late delivery of some training materials related to the test, the Alpine and edCount study also gave general approval to the test items themselves, as well as how the tests were constructed and how they were scored.





Harvard report calls for more investment in education, infrastructure Boston (MA) Globe


Government and business should team up to invest in infrastructure to create middle-class jobs, according to a new report from Harvard Business School.

The university on Monday released conclusions from a June meeting in which 73 business leaders, state and local elected officials, and academic and policy experts discussed how they could address the challenges facing the US economy. One of the event’s core focuses was on public enterprises, such as schools and roads, that business groups say are in dire need of improvement.

“Leaders of all stripes understand that our best bet is for all sectors – including business, government, education, nonprofit, and labor – to work together to rebuild the commons,” said Jan Rivkin, a professor at Harvard Business School who co-chairs the school’s US Competitiveness Project.

Congressional gridlock has scuttled the prospect of boosting funding for infrastructure projects such as ports and public transit, and economic pressures from globalization have hurt the US’s skilled workforce, the report said. But companies and governments can combine their resources to improve those situations on a local level.

The report highlighted several projects the private and public sectors have rolled out locally. In Salt Lake City, the report said, the local government is expanding preschool education through pay-for-success contracts with education providers. The group also cited the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center — which provides tax incentives and other support for biotech and pharma companies — as a positive example.


A copy of the report (Harvard Business School)




Common Core under review in NY

Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle


ALBANY – Shorter tests. A pair of substantive reviews. And after some changes, maybe a name change, too.

New York’s take on the controversial Common Core education standards is getting its most-significant examination yet, with two high-profile reviews promised over the coming months and some changes likely to follow, along with a possible re-branding.

The separate reviews — one by a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the other by the state Education Department — mark the best chance for substantive tweaks to the more-stringent standards since the state adopted them five years ago.

But they also come as tension continues to simmer between the state Board of Regents, which sets education policy in New York, and the inhabitants of the state Capitol: Cuomo and the state Legislature.




Proposed Budget Cuts Set Sights on Education Research IES ‘Took a Hit’ in House, Senate Proposals Education Week


Education research advocates took it as a hopeful sign in June when the U.S. House of Representatives’ education appropriations panel marked up its first bill for education spending in six years.

“And then we see it,” said Juliane Baron, the government-relations director for the American Educational Research Association. “Be careful what you ask for. IES really took a hit.”

The Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm, faces a $10 million cut in the Senate bill and a whopping $164 million cut in the House appropriations measure, from its current fiscal year budget of $573.9 million. Coming on top of years of uncertain funding, the reductions could stymie the agency’s recent attempts to bring a new and more diverse generation of education researchers into the field.




NC Senate looks to shift public school money to charters Charlotte (NC) News & Observer


RALEIGH — N.C. Senate legislation introduced Monday would divert some funding for traditional public schools to charter schools.

The proposal first became public at a Senate Finance Committee meeting where it was approved minutes later. The legislation replaced language in a House bill that originally addressed the use of school playgrounds. The “gut and amend” approach allows legislators to introduce new proposals in the final days of the General Assembly’s session.

Traditional public schools share funding with charter schools based on enrollment numbers. But some public school funding is kept separate from the money that’s split with charters. Under the new Senate bill, public schools would have to share additional federal funding, gifts and grants, sales tax revenues and other funding.

Also, supplemental school district taxes would have to be shared with charters – even if a child from the supplemental tax district is attending a charter outside that tax district. That change would likely affect the additional property tax paid in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, which is used to boost school funding beyond what Orange County provides.

“These moneys should follow the child” who attends a charter school, said Sen. Chad Barefoot, the Wake County Republican who presented the legislation. “They shouldn’t stay somewhere just because.”

But Katherine Joyce, director of the N.C. Association of School Administrators, said her group strongly opposes the change. She said the bill would have a “significant negative impact” on public school budgets.





5 Years After Facebook Pledge, Newark Schools Struggle Associated Press


NEWARK, N.J. — When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show five years ago this week to announce a $100 million donation to remake education in Newark, it was presented as an effort to make a struggling city a national model for turning around urban schools.

Advocates see success in the most visible result so far – many more students in charter schools. But the exodus of students and the public funding that comes with them from the Newark Public Schools has deepened a financial crisis in a district that still educates most of the children in New Jersey’s largest city.

A big part of Zuckerberg’s mission was also to improve the traditional public schools. While there have been major changes there, too, indicators such as student test scores have been mixed.

Add to that frustration that the reformers weren’t using input from the people of the city, and it’s safe to say that the awe of Zuckerberg’s high-minded intentions for using his first major foray into philanthropy to try to effect sweeping change has receded.

So has Zuckerberg’s donation, which was matched with another $100 million from other donors, shown that big-scale philanthropy guarantees quick change?

The answers vary. (CSM)


Sidebar story (AP)




PD Challenge: First to Reach 1 Million Online Hours = $100,000 Prize Education Week


A technology company called Shindig is challenging school districts and other education entities to be the first to deliver 1 million hours of online professional development to teachers on the company’s platform, and win $100,000 for their organization.

Schools, districts, associations, and non-commercial organizations that want to take the challenge will be able to access the company’s online video chat technology for free, according to Shindig founder and CEO Steve Gottlieb. Once registered, they can then begin collaborating and training; the website’s analytics will keep track of hours.

Shindig, which has been used for online events by Facebook, the American Museum of Natural History, the Harvard Graduate School of Education,, and #PTchat, provides a technology that helps people engage, face-to-face, via video.





Ahmed Mohamed is VIP at Google Science Fair USA Today


Young scientists showed off projects that are finalists in the Google Science Fair on Monday.

But the teen who captured the most attention of all never even entered the competition.

Google’s surprise guest was Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old high school freshman from Irving, Tex., who made headlines last week when his homemade clock alarmed a teacher, getting him suspended from school and detained by police officers.

Mohamed visited the booths of finalists whose faces lit up when they recognized him. He also mingled with local students visiting the science fair being held on Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif. Exclaimed one student from Oakland, Calif.: “We learned about you in school!”





Family: Ahmed withdraws from Irving ISD, eyes trips to United Nations and Mecca Dallas (TX) Morning News


This afternoon—while Ahmed Mohamed was enjoying California at Google’s invitation—his father drove to Irving ISD’s headquarters and formally withdrew the teen from the school district that inadvertently made him famous.

Not only is Ahmed leaving the district, a week after his English teacher reported his homemade clock to police, but his younger brother and sister are pulling out of other IISD schools, according to the father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed. (AP)




How TV Can Make Kids Better Readers



Tap, Click, Read is a new book out this week that attempts to offer a third alternative. It tells the stories of educators and parents who are trying to develop media, and ways of interacting with that media, that encourage literacy and critical thinking skills in young children, while reducing inequity.

Lisa Guernsey is the author of Screen Time and director of the Early Education Initiative and the Learning Technologies Project at New America, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; her coauthor is Michael Levine, founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in New York City, which focuses on educational media.

We used Google Docs to work on this Q&A collaboratively, just as the authors did when they were writing their new book. That book, fittingly, is not just a text; it comes with associated video content as well.









USOE Calendar



UEN News



October 1:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



October 8-9:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



October 20:

Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

2 p.m., 445 State Capitol



October 21:

Education Interim Committee meeting

8:30 a.m., 30 House Building



October 29:

Charter School Funding Task Force

1 p.m.,  445 State Capitol

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