Education News Roundup: Oct. 8, 2015

Farm Field Day at Riverside Elementary in Jordan School District.

Farm Field Day at Riverside Elementary in Jordan School District.

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


The New York Times reports on Goldman Sachs’ local investment on preschool costs for students. (NYT) (Reuters)


The Utah County Farm Bureau sponsors event to teach students about food. (DH)


This raptor mom helps kids get excited for National Walk to School Day. (Fox13)


Publisher promises stickers, changes for textbook that called slaves ‘workers.’ (Reuters)









Canyons School District accepting applications for dual language immersion programs


Finnish schools might understand something about childhood that America has lost


Local districts detail preparations after Oregon school shooting


New Ben Lomond pool coming along swimmingly


Firearms training: Some teachers prepare for the unthinkable


Local Title I schools earn recognition


Study says Utah is 14th best for teachers


Connecting students to Cambodia


High school marching band’s trip a reminder of instructor killed while trying to protect students


Raptor mom helps kids get excited for National Walk to School Day


Local schools see gains in standardized testing scores


Natural History Museum of Utah to Launch Innovative Digital Program for Middle Schoolers


Where does your food come from?





Letter: School Trust Lands


Start simple to protect schools: Lock all the doors


How a billionaire is trying to control Los Angeles public schools


Serve healthy school lunches but be flexible: #tellusatoday


How Duncan increased education access for poor students





For Goldman, Success in Social Impact Bond That Aids Schoolchildren


Dual-Language Programs Are on the Rise, Even for Native English


Delaying kindergarten until age 7 offers key benefits to kids — study


Publisher promises stickers, changes for textbook that called slaves ‘workers’


EX-Chicago Public Schools Leader Charged with Corruption


A technology team from Facebook works to serve classroom teachers







Canyons School District accepting applications for dual language immersion programs


SANDY — The Canyons School District is accepting applications to its dual language immersion programs for the 2016-17 school year.

The deadline to submit an application is Nov. 20.

The district is home to eight elementary dual language immersion programs: Mandarin Chinese-English programs are at Draper, Lone Peak and Ridgecrest elementary schools; French-English programs are at Butler and Oak Hollow elementary schools; and Spanish-English classes are taught at Alta View, Silver Mesa and Midvale elementary schools.

All programs except for the Midvale program are for students entering first grade for the 2016-17 school year. The Midvale Spanish-English dual language immersion program is for students entering kindergarten for the coming school year.

A lottery will be held to determine entrance into the programs if the number of applications is greater than the number of space available in the classes. (DNews)




Finnish schools might understand something about childhood that America has lost


Finnish kindergarten students don’t even try to learn to read, noted Tim Walker, an American who lives and teaches fifth grade in Finland, in The Atlantic. Kindergarten in Walker’s adopted country is largely devoted to play, discovery and socialization.

“Just before lunch, a kindergarten teacher took out a basket brimming with children’s books,” Walker wrote. “But for these 5- and 6-year-olds, ‘reading’ looked just like how my two toddlers approach their books: The kindergartners, sitting in different corners of the room, flipped through pages, savoring the pictures but, for the most part, not actually deciphering the words.

Anni-Kaisa Osei Ntiamoah, one of the teachers, told Walker only 1 in 15 of her students could read. “We don’t push them but they learn just because they are ready for it. If the child is willing and interested, we will help the child,” she told him.

The notion that Finnish schools might understand something about childhood that we have lost is not new. Deseret News National noted last year how seriously Finnish educators take recess time, reinforcing Walker’s experience. (DNews)




Local districts detail preparations after Oregon school shooting


OGDEN — In the wake of another mass shooting at an academic institution, school districts in Weber and Davis counties are once again reminded that student safety can never be taken for granted.

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shocked the nation in December 2012, security measures have ramped up in local K-12 school buildings to include surveillance systems, strict visitor sign-in policies, the presence of armed school resource officers and well-established emergency protocols.

The Umpqua Community College rampage Thursday, Oct. 1 in Roseburg, Ore., where 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer shot and killed nine students and wounded several others, was one more warning of what can happen when an armed individual comes unhinged.

“I think that everyone’s worst nightmare is an armed intruder,” said Weber School District spokesman Nate Taggart.

After Sandy Hook, Weber upgraded its video surveillance systems district-wide to use digital cameras, use the same software program and feed into a central location that is accessible by school administrators, law enforcement and the Ogden Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center.

More recently, Weber handed out school keys to local police, along with current maps of their buildings. The district also began including cops in practice lockdown drills. (OSE)




New Ben Lomond pool coming along swimmingly


OGDEN — There’s a big hole where the swimming pool at Ben Lomond High School used to be, and it’s filled with machinery and parts instead of water — but progress on the new pool is being made.

The Ogden school board toured the construction site, at 1080 9th St., on Thursday, Oct. 1. The tour allowed board members to take a close look at the pool area, as well as the new locker rooms and pumps.

Board members selected a Myrtha Pool because of the Italian company’s reputation for creating a low-maintenance product with a long lifespan. The modular pool system has walls made of buttressed laminated stainless steel panels, which have already been installed in the northwest corner of the pool.

“It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle,“ said Ken Crawford, director of support services for Ogden School District.

Above the pool level, board members could see new paint on the walls, and where expanded seating will be installed for spectators.

The lifeguard locker room has been modified so it’s not as compact as it was before. The main locker rooms have been designed for more privacy, Crawford said, with individual instead of communal showers. (OSE)




Firearms training: Some teachers prepare for the unthinkable


OGDEN — In the fall of 2013, Weber County law enforcement professionals launched a 28-hour class over seven weeks to train teachers and school administrators in the use of deadly force against armed intruders.

While any school district employee can “pack heat” if he or she complies with Utah’s concealed weapons permit laws, knowing what to do in those intensely stressful situations requires more specialized instruction.

“Right now we’ve had about 60 go through the course,” said Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson. “It’s all about our mutual concern and efforts to protect those kids.”

According to Thompson, the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 children and 6 adult staff members served as the game changer that drove home the need for such training.

“We really had an influx of teachers and administrators asking for help,” Thompson said. “Morally they were feeling the responsibility to protect their students … they felt the urgency to be as prepared as possible.” (OSE)




Local Title I schools earn recognition


A handful of local schools serving low-income families are striving for success and getting noticed.

The Utah State Office of Education released its data last week identifying the Title I Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools for the 2015–2016 school year, and six of the 48 Reward schools from the state are located in Utah County.

In the Alpine School District, Central Elementary in Pleasant Grove and Greenwood Elementary in American Fork were the two top performers. In the Provo City School District, Provo Peaks Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, Sunset View Elementary and Timpanogos Elementary were recognized as Reward schools.

To earn the honor of being a Reward school, these Title I schools had to show the highest levels of student proficiency and/or achieved high levels of student growth, according to the schools’ Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) test scores.

“We looked at both the SAGE test scores for the past two years and each school’s growth performance over the past two years,” said Jackie Perkins, administrative secretary at the Utah State Office of Education. (DH)




Study says Utah is 14th best for teachers


Utah doesn’t score well in the amount of money spent on its public school students. It’s also no secret Utah classrooms have some of the highest student-to-teacher ratios in the country.

Despite those factors, in a recent survey by WalletHub, Utah ranks No. 14 in the nation for the best state to be a teacher.

Other items considered were the average teacher starting salary, school systems ranking, teachers’ income growth potential, unemployment rate, safety of schools, average commute time and ranking for underprivileged children.

Massachusetts was ranked the top place in the country to be a teacher.

Utah’s ranking was 20th for the average starting salary for teachers, which was $33,081 for the 2012-13 school year. The highest annual salaries adjusted for the cost of living were in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Massachusetts. The lowest were in Hawaii, South Dakota, Arizona, Maine and West Virginia.

Other Utah rankings included 14th for school systems, sixth for teachers’ income growth potential, 13th for the projected number of teachers per student by 2022, fourth for unemployment rate, eighth for safest schools, 13th for average commute time and seventh for underprivileged children ranking. (DH)




Connecting students to Cambodia


About 6,000 students within the Washington County School District are coming together to make a difference on the other side of the world in Cambodia.

Red Mountain Elementary, Coral Cliffs Elementary, Dixie Sun Elementary, Arrowhead Elementary, Santa Clara Elementary, Lava Ridge Intermediate, Snow Canyon Middle and Snow Canyon High will be participating in a project to both educate students while raising funds for Sustainable Cambodia.

The nonprofit organization sends all funds donated toward the needs of Cambodians in rural areas with the goal of providing more sustainable and self-sufficient villages.

Greg Bozarth, Lava Ridge Intermediate assistant principal, came up with the idea for the extended project in June while watching children taking selfies on their phones.

He said he decided he wanted to start an initiative to encourage students to be more selfless and more service oriented.

“It was just a thought that hit my mind: What can I do to make our kids look outward?” Bozarth said. “Then it was a matter of organizing it in our schools and getting them to catch the vision, to have their hearts and their minds all kind of touched and connected to Sustainable Cambodia.” (TS)




High school marching band’s trip a reminder of instructor killed while trying to protect students


AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Six years to the day from an accident that claimed the life of woodwind instructor Heather Christensen, the American Fork High School marching band is headed back to Pocatello, Idaho.

It was coming back from the same competition in Pocatello in October of 2009 when one of the band buses, with 55 kids on board, rolled after the bus driver blacked out due to a medical condition.

Christensen jumped into action, trying to gain control of the bus after it left the road.

“She just steered that bus right through, if it had been three feet one way or three feet the other it would have hit an embankment, it would have flipped and according to the sheriff we would have had many more fatalities,” said John Miller, Director of Bands for American Fork High School.

He credits Christensen with saving lives and being an inspiration.

“I have her picture on my desk, I see it everyday,” he said. “I’ve tried to emulate a little more of Heather into what I do as a teacher.” (Fox13)




Raptor mom helps kids get excited for National Walk to School Day


SALT LAKE CITY — It’s National Walk to School Day, and one local mom went out of her way to create the coolest walking school bus!

She wore a dinosaur costume because her daughter’s school mascot is a raptor, and Brittney Lafitaga guided about 30 children to Roosevelt Elementary School Wednesday morning.

Lafitaga said she likes getting the children excited about being healthy and walking to school. This is her third year dressing up to help the kids get excited for National Walk to School Day, which she turns into a week-long event.

The school is counting how many children are walking, and at the end of the week the classroom with the most kids who walked will get a party. The goal is to keep children healthy and teach them about exercise, and it also reduces carbon emissions by getting cars off the roads.

Third-grader Brynlie Chadwick said: “It was so fun walking to school. I’ve never really done anything like that before. It was just so much fun.” (Fox13)




Local schools see gains in standardized testing scores


Moab’s public schools showed overall improvement this year in core subjects under a new standardized testing system that began during the previous school year.

“Everybody in the district had good gain,” district assessment director and Helen M. Knight Elementary Principal Taryn Kay said. “Everybody came up in all subjects.”

Grand County Middle School received a “B” grade, and the elementary school earned a “C” – both the same as last year’s grades – although both schools earned higher percentage scores that reflect growth in each of the subjects.

Grand County High School saw the most significant improvement, with a letter grade of “C” – up from a failing “F” grade the year before. GCHS Principal Stephen Hren attributes the higher grade in part to a more serious effort this year by students. He also cited his teachers’ more focused instruction to better prepare students for the standardized tests. (MSN)




Natural History Museum of Utah to Launch Innovative Digital Program for Middle Schoolers


This month the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah will launch a new digital program called Research Quest that will give middle school students across the state of Utah the chance to explore some of the museum’s paleontology collections through in-depth, classroom-based investigations. After two years of prototyping the program with 250 students across seven of Utah’s Title I schools, museum researchers have found the program to be effective in increasing students’ critical thinking skills.

Research Quests is funded by the Joseph and Evelyn Rosenblatt Charitable Fund through an initiative called Advancing Critical Thinking, which strives to develop an innovative approach to enhance critical thinking skills in young people. The Wagner Foundation, the Utah State Legislature and the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership also support the project.

Working closely alongside the U’s Instructional Design and Education Technology program and the U’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, the museum delved into its extensive paleontology collection for the focus of its first Research Quest. In the future, the museum hopes to develop additional Research Quest programs. Each Research Quest will include online investigations for teachers to implement in their classrooms. (Newswise)




Where does your food come from?


A few thousand wide-eyed children have the opportunity to pet a sheep for the first time as part of the Fall Farm Field Days in Highland.

The Utah County Farm Bureau is sponsoring the event through Friday at the North Utah County Equestrian Park, with 4-H and Future Farmers of America volunteers and farmers teaching second-graders about what they produce and why.

“They’ve been doing this for about 20 years now,” said Matt Hargreaves, Utah Farm Bureau Federation vice president of communications.

More than 3,500 students from elementary schools in the Provo and Alpine districts have attended this year’s event already.

“I think the reason why they do this is because they want kids to make a connection between their food and where it comes from,” Hargreaves said.

On Wednesday, children gathered around a large corral sitting on upside-down five-gallon buckets to watch a border collie herd a small group of sheep.

“I like it,” said Quin Brown, a second-grader from Barratt Elementary School in American Fork.

“It makes it so the dogs can move the sheep. The sheep are afraid of the dogs.”

Rylan Jensen, also a student at Barrett Elementary, thought the sheepherding demonstration was “cool.” (DH)






Letter: School Trust Lands

Deseret News letter to the editor from Assad Raffoul


In a recent editorial, it was asserted that Utah’s schoolchildren were cheated of some money by having the Grand Escalante National Monument designated as such (“Antiquities Act and underwater monuments,” Oct. 6).

This same assertion is repeated by Utah politicians now and then, one of them being Rep. Mike Noel. It is often repeated that school sections belonging to the School Trust Lands have been cheated of the coal value on those sections. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the time of the monument designation, the School Trust Lands received in exchange for the school sections in the monument more than an equivalent amount of sections containing the largest-producing coal bed methane field in Utah, plus an unknown hundreds of sections spanning the whole state.

The School Trust Lands have been compensated with largesse by the federal government for their sections in the monument. Since that exchange, the School Trust Lands have been swimming in money they never dreamed about getting. They obtained huge amounts of gas still being drilled today. Also, they obtained all that coal being degassed.



Start simple to protect schools: Lock all the doors Standard Examiner commentary from Meg Sanders


No need to worry about the little things like homework, popularity, or language immersion when we drop our children as school anymore. Now we can focus on whether or not a deranged gunman will orchestrate a killing spree through halls decorated with bright art and children’s handprints.

It’s more than rough to think about; I would say unimaginable. That’s the problem, though, you don’t need to imagine, it’s been done. It’s going to happen again.

Education’s never been a cut and dry topic, no clear trajectory of good versus bad teachers; instead it’s a constant subjective discussion over curriculum, reward, and consequences. There are no clear answers on what makes a school excellent, a teacher effective, or a lesson worthwhile, there’s only opinion and debate.

Never would I think the safety of kids would fall into that abstract column. In fact, sparring over school safety is as hazy as it gets.



How a billionaire is trying to control Los Angeles public schools Washington Post c commentary from Valerie Strauss


Eli Broad is a housing and insurance tycoon whose  California-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has poured hundreds of millions into “transforming” K-12 urban education by training administrators and supporting charter schools, merit pay and other market-based reforms. And now, Broad wants to do even more, trying to lead a campaign to raise nearly half a billion dollars to open enough charter schools to enroll nearly half of the students in the country’s second-largest school district.

Broad, according to various reports, wants to open 260 new charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District over the next eight years — effectively doubling today’s number.

Whether the plan will ultimately be approved by the city’s officials is unclear, but the idea is clearly spelled out in a 44-page memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times. It names other foundations and wealthy philanthropists who could be involved, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Hewlett and Annenberg foundations. Individuals include Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk and entertainment magnate David Geffen. (Note: The Broad                 Foundation has partly funded the Los Angeles Times’ new digital initiative to expand education coverage.)




Serve healthy school lunches but be flexible: #tellusatoday USA Today letters to the editor


If schools are allowed to count pizza as a vegetable, then they may as well be allowed to count cherry Coke as a fruit (“Healthy school lunches under attack: Our view”).

Schools have a responsibility to help keep our kids lean and healthy and teach them smart eating habits. They can best do this by serving nutritious — and tasty — vegan meals, such as veggie burgers, black bean and corn chili, hummus and veggie wraps, and vegetable soup.

Just because kids like gummy boogers and candy bugs doesn’t mean that we should feed them gross, unhealthy foods such as mystery meat and greasy chicken nuggets.

Heather Moore; Sarasota, Fla.




How Duncan increased education access for poor students Hechinger Report commentary from Karen Gross


Aided by a White House strongly supportive of vulnerable-student success, Education Secretary Arne Duncan accomplished a great deal for low-income students during his tenure.

But not every initiative has been a success.

First, let me highlight four particularly noteworthy areas of achievement.

At the top of the list, the Pell program has grown substantially under the secretary’s watch; with the help of his team, approximately four million more Pell eligible students receive these grants.

The amount of money available for individual Pell recipients has increased as has the overall government expenditure. The improved and pre-loaded FAFSA form has contributed to this growth by encouraging more low-income students applying to college. Without access to these grants, many low-income students would not be able to afford post-secondary education, whether an AA degree, a BA/BS degree or a certificate program. The Pell expansion also speaks directly to the early stated and continuing goal of the president to get more and more individuals to and through post-secondary education to augment our nation’s educational attainment level by 2020.








For Goldman, Success in Social Impact Bond That Aids Schoolchildren


Financial results at Goldman Sachs are going to look a little bit better this quarter because of the educational success of 100 or so kindergarten pupils in Utah.

The students were part of a relatively new financial experiment in which Goldman put up money to pay preschool costs for students who had been expected to need special education services.

When the students were tested this year — after a year in preschool — and found not to need extra help, the State of Utah paid Goldman most of the money it would have spent on special education for the children.

The payment represented the first time a so-called social impact bond paid off for investors in the United States.

The idea of social impact bonds is still very new. The first one was started in England in 2010; Goldman started the first in the United States in 2012.

The bonds are already being talked about as one of the most promising ideas to come out of finance recently — providing a new way to fund social programs in an era of government budget cuts.

But the effectiveness of the bonds has been unclear. Only one of the British efforts has returned results so far. (It was a success.) Goldman’s first social impact bond to publish outcomes — a program that attempted to reduce recidivism among inmates on Rikers Island in New York — failed this summer.

For people studying social impact investing, the results in Utah are exciting — even more so given the children’s success. Among the 110 students who had been expected to need special education had they not attended preschool, only one actually required it this year. (NYT) (Reuters)




Dual-Language Programs Are on the Rise, Even for Native English Speakers


On one of the first days of class at Dos Puentes Elementary School in Upper Manhattan last month, a new student named Michelle peered up through pale blue glasses and took a deep breath.

“Can I drink water?” Michelle, 6, said.

“Diga en Español,” her first-grade teacher, Rebeca Madrigal, answered.

Michelle paused.

“Can I drink agua?” she replied.

It was a start.

Dos Puentes, a three-year-old school in the Washington Heights neighborhood, is a dual-language program, which means that subjects, like reading and math, are taught in two languages with the goal of making students bilingual. Once seen as a novelty, dual-language programs are now coming into favor as a boon to both native and nonnative English speakers, and in areas around the country their numbers have been exploding. (NYT)




Delaying kindergarten until age 7 offers key benefits to kids — study


A new study finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.

The study, titled “The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health” and published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that these benefits — which are obviously important to student achievement — persist at least until age 11.  Stanford Graduate School of Education Prof. Thomas Dee, who co-authored the study with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Center for Social Research, was quoted in a Stanford release as saying:

“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.” (WAPO)




Publisher promises stickers, changes for textbook that called slaves ‘workers’


The publisher of a textbook criticized for a glaring error that glossed over the topic of slavery has offered stickers with a new caption to schools that will cover up a caption describing African slaves as “workers,” a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

A World Geography textbook by McGraw-Hill Education was published in Texas earlier this year and says in a caption about immigration that the Atlantic slave trade “brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

Changes will be made in the digital version of the textbook that clarify the arrival of Africans was a forced migration and print editions will soon follow, the publisher said, adding a sticker will be sent to paper over the error for books currently in use.

“We are deeply sorry that the caption was written this way,” Chief Executive Officer David Levin said in a memo to employees provided by the company. “While the book was reviewed by many people inside and outside the company, and was made available for public review, no one raised concerns about the caption.” (Reuters)




Ex-Chicago Public Schools Leader Charged with Corruption


CHICAGO (AP) — The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools was indicted on corruption charges Thursday in an alleged bribery and kickback scheme to steer $20 million worth of no-bid contracts to education companies.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted about four months after she resigned amid the investigation into the contract was between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. She was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead the nation’ third-largest school district in 2012.

Byrd-Bennett, 66, of Solon, Ohio, is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud in the indictment. If convicted, she could face a maximum 20-year prison sentence on each count.

Phone and email messages seeking comment from Byrd-Bennett and the mayor’s office weren’t immediately returned. A school district spokeswoman didn’t immediately have comment.  (AP)




A technology team from Facebook works to serve classroom teachers At a California school, 20 Facebook employees built a software program that could eventually be used in any public school that wants it — free


If an education technology solution it to have any chance of success, it must first be embraced by teachers, students and parents.

A logical way to achieve this is to allow educators to take the lead on the development of high-tech tools. That’s what happened at Summit Public Schools, a California-based charter network, where teachers created a prototype of a new tool that would enable them to customize each school day for each student.

Then, to strengthen the software and make it more effective, Summit invited in a team of developers from Facebook. Once the enhanced software had been used for a year, the Summit leaders and Facebook agreed to try a larger pilot, with the goal of developing a program any school or teacher could use.

Today, the Summit-Facebook partnership announced the 19 schools from around the country that have been chosen for this larger pilot. They represent traditional public schools and charter schools, spanning rural, urban and suburban communities. (HR)






USOE Calendar



UEN News



October 8:

Utah State Board of Education study session and committee meetings

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



October 9:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

8 a.m., 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



November 12:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

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