Education News Roundup: Dec. 17, 2015

Education News Roundup/ Artwork by fifth grade students at River Heights Elementary

Education News Roundup/ Artwork by fifth grade students at River Heights Elementary

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Charter Solutions President Lincoln Fillmore will replace Aaron Osmond in the Utah Senate. (SLT)

and (PDH)

and (KUTV)

and (KSL)


Better school bus routes sought in San Juan County. (SLT)

and (DN)

and (KSL)


Ed Week looks at school spending in the federal budget deal. (Ed Week)












Businessman Fillmore defeats legislator to replace Osmond in Utah Senate


San Juan County, Navajo Nation push for funding to improve rural school bus routes


Dee Elementary replacement school named New Bridge


Democrats blast Herbert, GOP on education


Utah’s Employers Say Finding Qualified Workers is an Obstacle to Growth


Senior scholars


Santa’s Helpers

Timpview students volunteer to build wooden toys for needy


Soldier poses as Santa to surprise his kids at school; heartwarming reunion caught on camera


Utah junior high student arrested after making fake bomb threat


Utah man pleads guilty to setting fires in schools


Student again sues against district in Altice sex case


Testing for Alpine’s Advanced Learning Lab set for January


Taylorsville Madrigals bring Christmas spirit to Fox 13’s Good Day Utah






Utah’s charter schools were supposed to be more frugal — not


Utah at a Crossroads


Utah’s unskilled workforce looms as a problem


Thanks, Sen. Hatch, for education bill


Why no snow day, schools?


Bring back freedom of religion in schools


Every Student Succeeds Act and the Utah Data Alliance


Your kids can walk to school alone again


Student Success Takes More Than a Cheerily Named Act


A better discipline policy


Is the first-year teacher in your life crying in the car? Here are five things you should know






How efforts to combine arts with STEM education could improve tech diversity Nettrice Gaskins, who directs the STEAM Lab at Boston’s only art-focused high school, told attendees at an event at Harvard Law School that mixing art with technology could provide an opportunity for students of color that isn’t always discussed.


Schools Are Incredibly Segregated, But Teaching Kids In Two Languages Could Help When kids are bilingual, everyone wins.


Education Spending Slated for $1.2 Billion Boost in Congressional Budget Deal


How Far Should the Education Department Go in Regulating on ESSA?


Will ESSA Trigger Significant Layoffs at the Education Department?


Schools around U.S. receive hoax threats; two arrested in Indiana


School Threats Prompt Proposals for Tougher Penalties


Here’s How Much Closing Schools for a Terror Threat Cost L.A.


Five Factors Leaders Consider Before Closing Schools to Respond to Threats


FAU takes steps to fire prof who said Sandy Hook was a hoax


How to Better Integrate Immigrant Students into the K-12 System There are 2.9 million immigrant children in the U.S., and that number is growing.


Judge Rules Against Catholic School in Gay-hiring Retraction


Experiment with StoryCorps in schools yields more than 50,000 interviews








Businessman Fillmore defeats legislator to replace Osmond in Utah Senate


Republican delegates have picked a replacement to fill the Utah Senate seat in District 10.

After three rounds of voting Wednesday, businessman Lincoln Fillmore won the position, defeating eight other candidates.

Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, came in second despite earning the endorsement of several big-name Republicans, including Gov. Gary Herbert.

Fillmore’s name will now be forwarded to Herbert for certification.

The Senate seat encompassing South Jordan, West Jordan and Herriman became vacant when former Sen. Aaron Osmond announced he would resign to lead the Utah College of Applied Technology, or UCAT. He later decided not to take the job and said he would still resign from the Senate.

Fillmore, president of charter-school-management company Charter Solutions, said his top issue is education. He said he has been involved in politics before, but has never held elected office. (SLT) (PDH) (KUTV) (KSL)




San Juan County, Navajo Nation push for funding to improve rural school bus routes


Within the 1.2 million acres of Navajo Nation land in Utah’s San Juan County are 258 miles of roads used to bus children to school.

But one-third of those roads are dirt, according to county administrator Kelly Pehrson, making access to public education nearly impossible during inclement weather. “Once it rains or snows, they just become a muddy mess,” Pehrson said.

County and tribal leaders hope to convert 87 miles of dirt road to gravel — but the $18 million upgrade was left out of a $305 billion transportation funding bill signed by President Barack Obama earlier this month.

In a statement released Tuesday, San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally said the push for bus-route funding will continue in 2016.

“Navajo students have the same constitutional right to get to school as all other students in Utah,” she said. “These rights can’t be a reality without the building and maintenance of safe roads.”

Children living on the reservation miss between five and 10 days of school each year due to impassable roads, Pehrson said.

Since 2005, San Juan County has contributed about $11 million to maintain bus routes within the Navajo Nation.

The county previously received $500,000 each year from the federal government to maintain Navajo roads, Pehrson said. That funding disappeared in 2005, leaving $90,000 from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and county transportation funds. (SLT) (DN) (KSL)




Dee Elementary replacement school named New Bridge


OGDEN — Ogden School District’s new school, being built to replace Dee Elementary, has a name: New Bridge.

School board members voted for the name Tuesday, Dec. 15.

“New Bridge communicates that it’s a pathway into a new future,” said Zac Williams, district spokesman. “It’s bridging students into reaching their goals, as far as higher education and careers.”

After the old Dee Elementary School closes this summer, students will go to the new building currently under construction between 21st and 22nd streets, just west of Madison Avenue. (OSE)




Democrats blast Herbert, GOP on education


OGDEN — Utah Democrats were sketchy on details for the party’s position on education in 2016, but they were sure of one thing: there’s much to criticize with Gov. Gary Herbert and the Republican majority in the state Legislature.

At a news conference Tuesday, Dec. 15 at the Marshall White Center in Ogden, state party Chairman Peter Corroon said the facts don’t support Herbert’s contention that education is his top priority.

“Utah ranks dead last nationally in per pupil spending in education. We have some of the largest class sizes and insufficient pay for our teachers,” said Corroon. He also criticized legislators for wasting money on “frivolous lawsuits” on election law and public lands disputes. (OSE)




Utah’s Employers Say Finding Qualified Workers is an Obstacle to Growth


Finding qualified workers to fill open positions is among the obstacles to growth for employers in Utah, according to a new report from the non-partisan Utah Foundation, Is This the Place? A Survey of Utah Employers.

The report also shows the wages offered for those skilled positions are often below national median levels.

The survey of more than 150 businesses across the state also shows that Utah’s workforce is recognized for its strong work ethic, and that business leaders feel Utah’s government leaders are strongly supportive of business. Newer businesses, though, are more likely to say they believe Utah is not on the right track compared to more established employers.

The report’s key findings include: (UP) (DN) (KUER)


A copy of the report (Utah Foundation)




Senior scholars


A group of retired community members meet every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Virgin Valley High School. It’s not to play bingo or for knitting class but to work on scholarships for college.

The senior citizens help the seniors in high school write essays, find scholarships and apply for a college of their choice. (SGS)




Santa’s Helpers

Timpview students volunteer to build wooden toys for needy


About 40 Timpview High School students descended upon Rich Lamb’s wood shop on Wednesday to make toys for the needy.

The scene was reminiscent of Santa’s workshop as dozens of pieces of wood were cut, sanded and molded into the finished products.

The wood creations were sent to Timpview’s student government where they will be sold to the public. The students will then donate the money to Sub for Santa, a program that aims to give to those in need during the holiday season. (PDH)




Soldier poses as Santa to surprise his kids at school; heartwarming reunion caught on camera


SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah — Students at Riverview Elementary School in Saratoga Springs gave a standing ovation to a soldier who posed as Santa during a school assembly in order to surprise his children–who were seeing him for the first time since he left for an overseas deployment.

According to a Facebook post from the Riverview PTA, Sergeant Lambert has been deployed in Afghanistan, and recently he returned home and surprised his children. After Lambert’s kids are called up to the front, he sheds his Christmas disguise to the delight of his children. Several hugs later, and the students began to stand and clap for the family reunion and the soldier’s service. (KSTU)



Utah junior high student arrested after making fake bomb threat


A Weber County junior high school student has been arrested on suspicion of making a terroristic threat after he allegedly posted a note about a bomb.

On Dec. 9, the student of T.H. Bell Junior High School, in Washington Terrace, allegedly wrote a note that there was a bomb, said Weber County Sheriff’s Lt. Lane Findlay on Wednesday.

The school resource officer quickly identified a suspect from surveillance footage and determined that the student was joking around, Findlay said. But “in this day and age, that’s really not a joke to anybody,” the lieutenant added.

The student, who was booked into juvenile detention, could be charged with a felony. (SLT) (OSE) (PDH) (KTVX) (MUR)




Utah man pleads guilty to setting fires in schools


A second man accused of aggravated arson and burglary in connection to a rash of break-ins and fires in 2012 at San Juan County schools has resolved his criminal case.

Christopher Scott Stolzer, 25, pleaded guilty earlier this week to second-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated arson and aggravated arson, two counts of third-degree felony burglary and one count of third-degree felony criminal mischief, according to court records.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 before 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson.

Stolzer’s case was delayed for years after he was found not competent to stand trial. He was sent to the Utah State Hospital for treatment in April 2013, and was not deemed competent to face the charges until May 2015.

During that time, his co-defendant, Deven White, now 22, pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to serve up to 15 years in prison and pay $1 million in restitution. He is currently serving time in the Gunnison prison, according to prison records.

Stolzer admitted this week in court records that over a month’s time in 2012, he broke into San Juan High School in Blanding with White “intending to commit crimes including criminal mischief, burglary and arson.”

The duo were accused of six burglaries at the high school, Albert R. Lyman Middle School, and the Zenos L. Black building in October and November of 2012. The pair were also charged with starting fires at the high school on Nov. 15 and 17 in 2012.

The Nov. 17 fire destroyed the high school library and caused an estimated $1 million in damage. (SLT)




Student again sues against district in Altice sex case


SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah teenager who was one of three victims in a teacher sex case has filed a second lawsuit against the school district alleging that officials didn’t do enough to protect students.

The student and his parents filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday alleging that Davis County School District officials knew that 36-year-old English teacher Brianne Altice was behaving inappropriately. The lawsuit seeks at least $1 million in damages. (KUTV) (DN) (PDH) (CVD) (KSL) (KSTU) (MUR) (NY Daily News) ([London] Daily Mail)




Testing for Alpine’s Advanced Learning Lab set for January


AMERICAN FORK — The Alpine School District will conduct eight testing sessions in January for placement in the district’s Advanced Learning Lab classrooms for the 2016-17 school year. (DN)




Taylorsville Madrigals bring Christmas spirit to Fox 13’s Good Day Utah (KSTU)











Utah’s charter schools were supposed to be more frugal — not Salt Lake Tribune commentary by columnist PAUL ROLLY


The Charter School Funding Task Force bill released recently that would push at least $16 million from local school districts into public charter schools is just the latest legislative manipulation to invade the classrooms of traditional schools.

Twists and tweaks through the years have diverted millions of taxpayer dollars from districts to charters, which don’t have the oversight from the districts as traditional schools.

Adding insult to injury, the executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools — who used to be vice president of the business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association, run by the charter champion Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper — says if we thought charters could operate more cheaply that regular schools, we just got it wrong.

Fox guarding the henhouse? • One of the newer members of the Legislature championing the growing appetites of charter schools is Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who was the director of a charter school until she was pushed out by the Charter School Board amid allegations from parents and teachers of low teacher morale and efforts to block parental involvement in the school’s management.

Her story is emblematic of the insider mentality that exists between legislators such as Stephenson and charter school professionals.

Coleman was first placed on administrative leave form Monticello Academy in 2009, before she was let go entirely. She has since sued the Charter School Board for unlawful firing.




Utah at a Crossroads

Utah Policy commentary by Salt Lake Chamber


Governor Herbert released his fiscal year 2017 budget proposal last week. The Salt Lake Chamber lauds the leadership demonstrated by the Governor’s forward-thinking budget.

It’s no secret that Utah’s robust economy is the envy of the nation and strong revenue growth demonstrate our continued economic success and fiscal discipline. This success has come, because at key decision points in the past, we have taken advantage of challenges and opportunities for growth.

Utah is now at crossroads. The path we choose to move down will either stall or sustain our economic momentum. A vibrant economy is placing increasing demands for a qualified workforce. This should also serve as a clear warning sign that underinvestment in education is detrimental to our state’s continued prosperity. Additionally, our state’s premier business climate is increasingly under pressure and we face generationally significant decisions with several capital investments. As a Chamber, we will continue to highlight these issues and the business community’s agenda to solve them  as we approach the upcoming legislative session. The Governor’s budget reflects key steps to addressing some of these challenges and we look forward to working with him and the Legislature, to ensure our state continues to prosper.

Prosperity Through Education – The business community supports Governor Hebert’s thoughtful leadership in making education a priority for increased funding with the recommendation of $422 million in new state funds. This includes funding many of the key programs recommended in the five-year “Prosperity through Education” plan, developed by Prosperity 2020 and Education First. It is imperative that these investments move forward to improve education in our state and meet the goals of having 90% of Utah students reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.




Utah’s unskilled workforce looms as a problem Deseret News commentary by columnist Jay Evensen


Utah’s humming economy carries a certain note of satisfaction to it. The perpetual lifestyle critics who say the state won’t be accepted until it lets liquor flow free or until it keeps people from flocking to Idaho every week for lottery tickets appear increasingly foolish as the long-trending record unfolds.

For the fifth time in six years, Forbes lists Utah No. 1 for business, noting, among other things, its 3.8 percent growth in jobs in 2015. Meanwhile, Fodor’s named Utah the No. 1 tourist destination for 2016 — in the world, that is. That ought to help a tourism industry that already grew 44 percent over the last decade without Fodor’s help.

This doesn’t sound like a state suffering from a debilitating reputation problem.

But while it would be easy to look at all this and envision roses poking their way through the snowdrifts, the state does face real problems it can’t afford to ignore. Two recent reports highlight some of them.

The first is a survey by the Utah Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, released Wednesday. It asked 151 local businesses what they feel inhibits growth in the state. The overwhelming answer? A lack of skilled or qualified workers.




Thanks, Sen. Hatch, for education bill

Salt Lake Tribune letter from Heidi Matthews, M.Ed.


With last week’s passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is much to celebrate. Thank you, Sen. Hatch, for being our lone vote in a sea of universal bipartisan support. A victory for Utahns, the ESSA begins the process of returning trust and professionalism to the classroom.

As a Utah teacher (and UEA Board of Directors member and NEA state director), I see our education system being overrun by partisan and political conversations that seem to be moving further away from schools and classrooms. The voices of teachers and parents — those closest to our students — have been drowned out by political agendas and excessive regulations coming out of Washington. Students have suffered under the impossible mandates and overemphasis on testing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Though not a perfect bill, ESSA changes the federal government’s role in education from one of imposing restrictive mandates to one that empowers decision-making authority to those closest to students.

Thank you, Sen. Hatch, for placing students first.




Why no snow day, schools?

Salt Lake Tribune letter from Andrew Platt


Utah schools put thousands at risk on the morning of Dec. 14. The news kept warning that the roads were dangerous. There was an all-day winter weather alert. Still, those in charge of deciding if to call a snow day dithered.

I teach at a Salt Lake City school, and I spent three hours on the roads trying to get to work Monday morning. I witnessed several accidents and stranded cars. Students told of waiting 30 minutes in the cold for a late bus. Still, no snow day in Salt Lake.

What is going on here?




Bring back freedom of religion in schools

(Logan) Herald Journal letter from Erika Ray


We have written our own declaration of independence as a people, especially in our education. That is a declaration of independence from God. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court voted six to one that they found the use of this prayer in schools “unconstitutional.” The prayer reads: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.” William J. Butler believed that this decision bode well in defense of religious liberty. He thought that anything religious should be left to happen in the home. Yes, religion should be a big part of home life, but how are kids supposed to be taught one thing at home and another at school? A man cannot serve two masters. In 1954 this decision to make prayer illegal in schools shocked the nation. Now in 2015 people haven’t even noticed. In America we should be free to choose whether we worship God or not and we should have the God-given right to worship where and when we want.




Every Student Succeeds Act and the Utah Data Alliance Huffington Post commentary by Oliver Leung, an Economics graduate from the University of Western Australia and is currently a Digital Marketing Consultant at Morfene


Americans spend 6.4% of GDP on education (3rd highest amongst OECD countries), but has one of the lowest participation rates in upper secondary education (19/28 of OECD countries). The cause of this lackluster performance can be attributed to the misallocation of funds. These resources have been deprived from those who need it most – our youth.

The ESSA was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, which supersedes the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002. One of the weaknesses of the NCLB Act was the implementation of a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire public school system. It didn’t work as intended because it had set “unrealistic goals for academic gains.” Under the ESSA, a student’s performance as well as interventions for struggling schools are developed and driven by the state, rather than the federal government.

For the state of Utah, resource allocation will be a challenge because expenditures per pupil are the lowest in America. This puts tremendous pressure on district officials to distribute resources with prudence.

Allocating resources efficiently requires an economic mind and a disciplined hand. School officials need granular information on which programs are effective and which ones need nurturing. Rational decisions are driven by data, which can be learnt and transferred from one legacy to another.

The Utah Data Alliance (UDA) harnesses the wealth of Utah’s educational information. It is a multi-agency collaborative that seeks to improve education and workforce policy and practice through educational research and analysis. The Utah Data Alliance database contains aggregated information related to students’ educational experiences and workforce participation. This feedback is critical for measuring, monitoring, and enhancing key performance indicators to enable schools to make smarter decisions.

Critics argue that the state government is collecting unreasonable amounts of information about its students, and making that information available to private companies as well as the federal government.

This is simply inaccurate. Any organization that receives funding from the federal government is required to comply with Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As many readers may know, FERPA is a law that protects the privacy of student education records. UDA is FERPA compliant.




Your kids can walk to school alone again New York Post commentary by Lenore Skenazy, founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”


It’s now legal for your kids to walk to school.

Yep, it’s right there on page 857 of the gazillion-page Every Student Succeeds Act. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — a fan of the Free-Range Kids movement I started — it states that the law will not “prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when . . . the parents have given permission.”

Furthermore, the parents themselves shall not be exposed to “civil or criminal charges.”

It’s not the Declaration of Independence, but it is legally sticking up for the rights of parents to, well, parent.




Student Success Takes More Than a Cheerily Named Act Nationally syndicated commentary by columnist Esther J. Cepeda


CHICAGO — Don’t you just love the name of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? Let’s see how long before its feel-good, affirmative promise falls from grace and becomes as virulently despised as the outgoing No Child Left Behind Act.

NCLB, as it’s called in education circles, was once heralded as a positive development that stressed accountability. A federal mandate, it promised to ensure that school districts with low achievement scores and high dropout rates would either improve or provide students with additional resources or the opportunity to move into higher-performing school districts.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, NCLB was blamed for the proliferation of high-stakes tests that crowded out art, music and gym classes in favor of more and more test prep.

Now Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called ESSA “a new day in public education” and declared that its passage amounted to parents, students and educators coming together with one message: “Enough with the testing fixation. Let’s bring back the joy of learning.”

Republicans, too, love it because it restores control to local school districts — yes, the same school districts that were unable to provide a high-quality educational experience for their students before, during and after NCLB.

This is an excellent example of the old saw that when it comes to national education standards, Republicans hate the “national” part and the Democrats hate the “standards.”

From the civil rights perspective, it’s worrisome that students in the lowest-income, lowest-performing schools will continue to suffer from poorer schooling than their more affluent counterparts. But there’s no act, policy or law that will fix the fundamental issue at play when it comes to low-performing schools: under-resourced parents.




A better discipline policy

Albany (NY) Times-Union op-ed by Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general


Yesterday, my office announced a groundbreaking agreement with the Albany school district that will reform school disciplinary practices and prevent the criminalization of ordinary school misconduct. By doing so, we’re showing that it’s possible to thwart a troubling national trend toward harsh disciplinary practices that experts have found undermines student development and increases the likelihood of incarceration in the future.

The connection between severe school discipline and future incarceration is so strong that many parents and advocates have given it a name: the “school-to-prison pipeline.” In fact, the American Psychological Association found that harsh discipline policies are linked to an increased likelihood of future behavior problems, academic difficulty, and dropout — and found no evidence they improve student behavior or increase school safety.

One major factor in this growing trend is the rise of severe discipline policies like suspensions, expulsions, and zero-tolerance that push children — especially children of color — into the justice system.




Is the first-year teacher in your life crying in the car? Here are five things you should know Hechinger Report commentary by ROXANNA ELDEN, author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers


An instructor’s rookie year is one of stress and high stakes – so much so that many teachers admit to crying in the car at some point during their first year on the job.

Ever since an NPR story about this phenomenon discussed my free, one-month series of emails meant to coach these teachers through the worst month of their first year, I’ve been hearing from new teachers who — you guessed it — have been crying in their cars. But I’ve also heard from another group that I hadn’t anticipated: the slightly freaked-out family members and significant others of new teachers.

These are people trying to be supportive, and rightfully wondering why their loved ones are snapping or breaking down at their innocent suggestions. In one email, a dismayed wife said she and her husband argued more in the past month than in the entire year before he started teaching. In another, a perplexed boyfriend wondered how he could keep his teacher girlfriend “upright” until the holidays.

With that in mind, here are five facts about new teachers for those of you who want to help but aren’t sure how, or who keep getting in trouble and aren’t sure why. (Or, if you’re the new teacher in this scenario, you can share this with the people who you know are just trying to help).










How efforts to combine arts with STEM education could improve tech diversity Nettrice Gaskins, who directs the STEAM Lab at Boston’s only art-focused high school, told attendees at an event at Harvard Law School that mixing art with technology could provide an opportunity for students of color that isn’t always discussed.

Christian Science Monitor


CAMBRIDGE — The origins of hip-hop culture in New York City in the 1970s and ’80s are often popularly linked with economic malaise – high crime rates, graffiti-lined subways, the seediness of Times Square – perhaps best encapsulated in the New York Daily News’ infamous headline referring to the city’s chances for a federal bailout from the President: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

But for black and Latino youth, the art forms that eventually became hip-hop – graffiti, breakdancing, DJing, and rapping – may have actually been an opportunity to combine art with concepts in science, math, and technology – in scaling a drawing up from a sketchbook to a wall, or creating a DJ mixer capable of seamlessly transitioning from record to record – in a realm far outside the classroom.

Amid ongoing debates about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley and often-dismal statistics on minority students studying computer science in high school and college, links between art and traditional STEM disciplines – such as the technological innovations of hip hop – aren’t always discussed, says Nettrice Gaskins, an artist and teacher at Boston Arts Academy, at an event on Tuesday at Harvard Law School.




Schools Are Incredibly Segregated, But Teaching Kids In Two Languages Could Help When kids are bilingual, everyone wins.

Huffington Post


A walk through Heritage Elementary School in Woodburn, Oregon, can make you feel like you’re touring Europe. In one classroom, a group of third-graders learn to read in Spanish. In another, students recite multiplication tables in Russian. In other parts of the school, students are receiving instruction in English.

Heritage Elementary School isn’t a fancy private school, or even a public school nestled in an affluent suburb where parents pay high property taxes to give their kids a good education. It’s part of the Woodburn School District, which has an expansive dual-language program although the vast majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Many students enter Woodburn schools without knowing any English, but can switch seamlessly between two languages by the time they leave.

And these students are not just bilingual. Woodburn students are also more likely to graduate from high school than students from districts with similar populations and levels of poverty, according to Chuck Ransom, the district’s superintendent. Most importantly, they’re more likely to continue on to higher education, which leads to better job opportunities and, ultimately, a better quality of life.

Woodburn School District’s dual-language model could be a solution to a nationwide problem.




Education Spending Slated for $1.2 Billion Boost in Congressional Budget Deal Education Week


Title I aid for the nation’s neediest students would get a $500 million boost up to approximately $14.9 billion, while state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would rise by $415 million up to $11.9 billion, as part of an omnibus federal budget deal announced by the House appropriations committee early Wednesday.

Those and other spending increases are part of an overall budget increase for the U.S. Department of Education of $1.2 billion. The agreement is expected to move through Congress in coming days and win approval from the White House.




How Far Should the Education Department Go in Regulating on ESSA?

Education Week


Everyone agrees that the brand-new Every Student Succeeds Act includes a ton of provisions that seek to crack down on the U.S. Secretary of Education’s authority when it comes to standards, assessments, teacher evaluations, school turnarounds, and more.

The laundry list of restrictions has been described as everything from political window dressing that may not matter very much in the long run to a K-12 policy straitjacket for incoming acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King and pretty much everyone who comes after him.

So which is it? And how will the prohibitions play out as the department seeks to regulate on the new law? Like a lot of things about ESSA in its very early days, it kinda depends on who you ask.

Advocates for districts say they see a theme in the new law that they hope will be carried through the regulatory process.

“One of the framing principles of ESSA was to rein in the regulating authority of the Education Department,” said Noelle Ellerson, the associate director of policy and advocacy at  AASA, the School Administrators Association, which enthusiastically supported the new law.  “It seems pretty shortsighted that a department would try to regulate to the max on everything they can. Just because they can doesn’t they mean they should.”




Will ESSA Trigger Significant Layoffs at the Education Department?

Education Week


You may remember that back when the U.S. House of Representatives passed its GOP-only reauthorization of federal education law earlier this year, it included language designed to cut staff at the U.S. Department of Education, proportional to the roughly 80 programs the House bill earmarked for elimination.

So how did that effort to give the Education Department staff list a haircut pan out in the Every Student Succeeds Act?

According to the new law, within 60 days of ESSA’s passage, the department must publish the number of full-time equivalent employees working on programs or projects that have been eliminated or consolidated since ESSA became law. And within a year of ESSA’s enactment, the U.S. Secretary of Education must reduce the number of full-time equivalent employees associated with those eliminated or consolidated programs or projects.

In addition, within that same one-year time frame, the secretary must tell Congress how many full-time employees have been let go, as well as the average salary of the full-time equivalent employees who have been let go.



Schools around U.S. receive hoax threats; two arrested in Indiana Reuters


CHICAGO | A rash of email and phone threats of violence hit schools from New Jersey to Florida to Texas on Thursday, but most were deemed to be hoaxes and schools opened.

However, two suburban Indianapolis school districts in Danville and Plainfield shut down due to threats over social media. Overnight, two Danville high school students were arrested, accused of apparently unrelated threats.

Officials were on heightened alertness after the deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2. On Tuesday, Los Angeles shut down schools over emailed threats that later deemed a hoax.

School districts in Houston, Dallas, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami all decided on Thursday that emailed threats were not credible, and were similar to ones sent to schools in New York City and Los Angeles earlier this week.




School Threats Prompt Proposals for Tougher Penalties Associated Press


HARTFORD, Conn. — Taking a harder line on crimes no longer seen as juvenile pranks, state lawmakers around the U.S. are proposing stiffer penalties for people who threaten schools at a time of fears over terrorism and mass shootings.

As demonstrated by Tuesday’s shutdown of Los Angeles schools, threats can cause large, costly disruptions and traumatize students even in cases that might involve hoaxes.

While most states already have laws that allow prosecution of a school threat as a felony, there have been proposals across the U.S. to increase punishments, said Michael Dorn, executive director of the school safety nonprofit group Safe Havens International.

“These things keep happening, and they’re happening too often,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Ed Brooks, a Republican. “This isn’t child’s play anymore. This is serious stuff. Every threat is real until it’s disproved. There’s a high level of anxiety.”

Brooks has proposed legislation that would make a public death threat a medium-grade felony, with more severe consequences if anybody is hurt during an evacuation.




Here’s How Much Closing Schools for a Terror Threat Cost L.A.



An emailed threat that forced the Tuesday closure of all Los Angeles schools cost the school district at least $29 million and also caused the city to take a financial hit, officials said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) shut down more than 1,500 school buildings and told more than 655,000 students to stay home Tuesday over a threat of violence. Schools reopened Wednesday after the FBI concluded it wasn’t credible, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Rep. Adam Schiff said the threat was a “hoax to disrupt school districts in large cities.”

Regardless, the mass closure means the school district could be shorted millions of dollars in state funding. Officials at LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the U.S., put the losses at roughly $29 million. But the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Wednesday that number might actually be closer to $50 million, citing two California law penalties: loss of average daily attendance and loss of instructional minutes.

The final number is “up in the air right now,” a spokeswoman for the state superintendent said. City officials are also unsure how much the unprecedented mass school closures impacted Los Angeles.




Five Factors Leaders Consider Before Closing Schools to Respond to Threats Education Week


The nation’s two largest districts made headlines Tuesday when they responded very differently to similar threats to their schools.

What can other districts learn from this?

New York City, with the assistance of its police force, quickly deemed the threat, sent under the guise of Islamic extremism, to be a hoax and opted to keep schools open. Among the questionable elements of the message was the fact that that Allah was spelled with a lowercase “a.”

Los Angeles Unified, on the other hand, opted to close its 900 schools for the day so that police and district officials could scour every building for signs of explosives or danger. Schools resumed Wednesday after officials determined the threat was not credible.

Closing a school or even a district to respond to a security threat is not completely unheard of, but its rare to see school systems of this size respond to such issues in such a public and conflicting manner.




FAU takes steps to fire prof who said Sandy Hook was a hoax (Fort Lauderdale) Florida Sun-Sentinel


Florida Atlantic University is trying to fire James Tracy, a controversial professor whose conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre and other tragedies brought the school unwanted publicity.

An FAU administrator gave Tracy a letter Wednesday saying he was being recommended for termination. He has 10 days to file an appeal, “after which final action may be taken,” a university statement said.

FAU officials wouldn’t give the exact reason, saying it’s the school’s policy not to comment on personnel matters. But the decision comes less than a week after a public feud between Tracy and the parents of a boy who died at Sandy Hook.

Tracy, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, first received notoriety in early 2013, after he wrote on his private blog, Memory Hole, that the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., was likely staged. At the time, he received a reprimand because the university said he failed to make it clear his views didn’t represent those of the university.

Since then, Tracy claimed that almost every mass shooting or attack in the United States has been a hoax, including ones at the Boston Marathon, the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and the recent shooting in San Bernadino, Calif.

An FAU administrator said in 2013 that Tracy’s actions resulted in a number of negative consequences for the school. But officials determined at the time that he couldn’t be fired for views he expressed on his own private blog and mostly ignored his posts.

However, the issue heated up again last week, when Veronique and Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, died at Sandy Hook, wrote an editorial in the Sun Sentinel accusing Tracy of taunting them.




How to Better Integrate Immigrant Students into the K-12 System There are 2.9 million immigrant children in the U.S., and that number is growing.

U.S. News & World Report


As the number of immigrant children in the United States and countries surges, a new report on global migration and education shows many areas where the U.S. could improve its policies for successful integration into the K-12 system.

In most countries, immigrant students perform worse than students without an immigrant background, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD analyzed data from previous Programme for International Student Assessments, or PISA, an international test administered to 15-year-olds around the world. Second-generation students, or those whose parents are foreign-born, perform somewhere between the two.

“While immigrant students, in general, perform worse in school than their non-immigrant peers, the analysis finds that narrowing the performance gap between immigrant students and students without an immigrant background is not only possible, but it can be accomplished at a remarkable pace,” said Andreas Schleicher, director of the OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills.

A litany of reasons are to blame for their poor performance, the report notes. In many countries, for example, immigrant students tend to be concentrated in the same schools. But it isn’t the concentration of immigrant students at a school as much as the concentration of socioeconomic disadvantage at a school that hinders student achievement.

Even so, the impact of a concentration of immigrant students is real. The average difference in math test performance between students who attend schools where more than 25 percent of students are immigrants compared to students who attend schools with no immigrant students is 18 score points on the 2012 PISA. (Toronto [ON] Star)


A copy of the report (OECD)




Judge Rules Against Catholic School in Gay-hiring Retraction Associated Press


BOSTON — An all-girls Catholic prep school in Massachusetts violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex marriage, a judge ruled.

Matthew Barrett was offered a job as Fontbonne Academy’s food services director in 2013, but the offer was withdrawn days later after he listed his husband as his emergency contact.

Barrett sued, alleging that the Milton school discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and gender. Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins agreed, rejecting Fontbonne’s claim that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage to a man as incompatible with its religious mission.

The judge said Barrett’s duties as a food services director did not include presenting the teachings of the Catholic church. (Reuters)




Experiment with StoryCorps in schools yields more than 50,000 interviews Washington Post


The folks at StoryCorps weren’t sure whether their grand experiment was going to work.

Long known for collecting oral history interviews in mobile recording booths around the country, StoryCorps recently unveiled a new app that let anyone record a conversation at any time. Founder Dave Isay was hoping that teachers would use it in their classrooms, nudging tens of thousands of kids to interview their elders over the Thanksgiving holiday.

By Thursday of that week, just 6,000 interviews had been uploaded. But then Sunday night rolled around, and an avalanche of young procrastinators filed their homework, using the app to send their interviews to StoryCorps and to an archive at the Library of Congress.









USOE Calendar



UEN News



January 6:

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

9 a.m., 445 State Capitol


Utah State Board of Education study session and committee meetings

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



January 7:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



January 13-14:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



January 25:

Utah Legislature

First day of the 2016 general session


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