Education News Roundup: Dec. 28, 2015

LegislatureToday’s Top Picks:

D-News compiles a history of K-12 and higher education in Utah in 2015.
http://go.uen.org/5z0 (DN)
and http://go.uen.org/5z2 (DN)

UEA files suit against the Utah State Board of Education over new educator licensing rule.
http://go.uen.org/5yS (SLT)
and http://go.uen.org/5zF (Ed Week)

Trib takes a look at Utah’s new school turnaround program.
http://go.uen.org/5zE (SLT)

Utah Political Capitol looks at 2016 bills; two deal with Utah State Board of Education elections and one with firearm safety in schools.
http://go.uen.org/5zo (UPC)
or copies of the bills:
SB46: http://go.uen.org/5zp (Legislature)
SRJ1: http://go.uen.org/5zq (Legislature)
http://go.uen.org/5zm (UPC)
or a copy of the bill
http://go.uen.org/5zn (Legislature)

What’s the most likely job title of a local government employee? Teacher.
http://go.uen.org/5yT (SLT)
or a copy of the report
http://go.uen.org/5yU (Census)

Sen. Hatch and State Superintendent Smith discuss the new ESSA.
http://go.uen.org/5yY (DN)

New York Times questions the rigor of high school as high school graduation rates climb.
http://go.uen.org/5yO (NYT)

SAT tries to make up some of the ground it’s been losing to the ACT lately.
http://go.uen.org/5z5 (WaPo)

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TODAY’S HEADLINES
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UTAH

The state of Utah education: A year of gains in grades K-12

2015 brings shift in college enrollment, progress toward state goals

UEA sues state school board over new teacher licensing rules
Complaint says new regulations don’t allow educators to defend themselves.

Struggling Utah schools take first steps in new turnaround program
Education » Schools will work with consulting firm to improve performance.

Flagged Bills: SB 46 & SJR 1 – State Education Governance Revisions & Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – State Board of Education Changes – Sen. Al Jackson

Flagged Bill: SB 43 – Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools – Sen. Todd Weiler

Ever wonder what the average government employee makes? One of every 10 Utah workers is employed by state, local governments

Governor wants state to reduce earmarks

Census places Utah among the fastest-growing states

Utah aims to draw teachers to schools near reservations

4,500-plus books gifted to Utah first grade students through Depend

Christmas adventure creates magical experience for entire school of Utah children

Fourth and fifth grade Nebo students donate thousands to Utah Foster Care

Feds: Polygamous group’s kids worked regularly on pecan farm
Labor » The kids allegedly worked during school hours which violates Utah laws.

Alleged arson causes huge setback for Layton community project

Tactical tour of Richfield High

Better together: Father-son duo share passion for art

Take off with “In Flight: High School Honor Band Concert”

St. George Exchange Club honors December students

OPINION & COMMENTARY

Pre-sliced budget leaves too much time for mischief

What are Utah County’s 2016 issues?

Help a Utah student stand up to the e-cigarette industry

Thumbs Down

The Every Student Succeeds Act: Leaving the old law behind

Hatch’s test-range expansion bill is bad stewardship

Cuomo’s Education Retreat
A case study in how unions undermine teacher accountability.

The good news in D.C.’s test scores

Bill Gates keeps pushing Common Core, with big money (and a bid to get Charles Koch to like it)

The Worst Media Failures On Public Education In 2015

NATION

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short

The SAT, now the No. 2 college test, pushes to reclaim supremacy

California school scores tied to attendance, not proficiency

On Tech, Teacher Doesn’t Know Best
Even if teachers are tech-savvy in their personal lives, that doesn’t mean they understand how to use technology effectively in the classroom.

Schools Evaluate Threats, Questioning When to Shut Down

New Jersey School District Eases Pressure on Students, Baring an Ethnic Divide

How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education

Lunch Lady Who Says Free Meal Led to Firing Offered Job Back

Schools struggle with lunch programs

Lawsuit: Inadequate emergency care caused death of high school football player

How much more do Austin renters pay to live near top-ranked schools?

Schools must teach children that Britain is a Christian country
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, says that there is ‘no obligation’ for schools to teach atheism as part of the religious studies GCSE

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UTAH NEWS
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The state of Utah education: A year of gains in grades K-12

SALT LAKE CITY — In the stillness of empty school classrooms and quiet, snow-covered playgrounds, education leaders this week are looking back and calling 2015 a good year for learning in Utah.
Funding increases, improved student performance and steady advances in graduation rates came as high points that put the state closer to achieving goals of becoming a national leader in public education.
And educators hailed the end-of-year decision by Congress to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act as a replacement of the embattled No Child Left Behind. It returns control of teacher accountability systems to the states and allows each state the ability to create its own assessment strategies.
http://go.uen.org/5z0 (DN)

2015 brings shift in college enrollment, progress toward state goals

SALT LAKE CITY — This year, Utah Valley University became the largest higher education institution in the state.
Public college tuition rates increased by the lowest increment since 1999, but students on average still paid $140 more than last year.
Most colleges and universities felt a wave of students returning from missionary service after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age requirement in 2012, which spurred a drop in enrollment.
Utah remains on track toward its goal of having 66 percent of its working population with a college education by the year 2020.
http://go.uen.org/5z2 (DN)

UEA sues state school board over new teacher licensing rules
Complaint says new regulations don’t allow educators to defend themselves.

Utah’s largest teachers union is suing the state school board over new license review rules it says deprive educators of constitutional rights.
When a teacher is under review for inappropriate or unprofessional conduct, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in 3rd District Court, the new rules allow for a hearing to take place without notifying the teacher of the charges against them or allowing teachers to cross-examine their accusers.
And the changes were made in violation of state law that calls for public hearings on new rules, according to the Utah Education Association (UEA).
“We only filed the complaint after we had made multiple attempts to work collaboratively with the Board of Education to implement rules that comply with state law,” said Mike Kelly, spokesman for the UEA.
http://go.uen.org/5yS (SLT)

http://go.uen.org/5zF (Ed Week)

Struggling Utah schools take first steps in new turnaround program
Education » Schools will work with consulting firm to improve performance.

South Salt Lake • Last year, Granite School District’s Lincoln Elementary received a “D” grade from the state’s school-evaluation system.
The low marks, based on year-end test scores, led to Lincoln being selected to participate in a new turnaround program, which targets the worst-performing 3 percent of schools in the state.
For the next three years, teachers and administrators at Lincoln Elementary will be required by law to work with a consulting firm in an effort to lift test scores and the school’s letter grade.
If the “D” improves to a “C,” the school will receive extra funding and salary bonuses for teachers.
But if the “D” remains or, worse, falls to an “F,” the school could be converted into a charter, taken over by the state or shut down.
Principal Afton Lambson said he welcomes outside help. But he also acknowledges fear of the unknown as private consultants descend on his school.
“I am a little apprehensive,” he said. “We’re still learning what will be required as part of the school’s turnaround plan.”
Utah’s 25 turnaround schools are just now taking the first steps in the three-year effort to improve performance.
http://go.uen.org/5zE (SLT)

Flagged Bills: SB 46 & SJR 1 – State Education Governance Revisions & Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – State Board of Education Changes – Sen. Al Jackson

You may not have known it, but Utah actually has a big problem on its hands when it comes to education. Surprisingly, this problem has nothing to do with teacher pay or per pupil spending…though how the issue is resolved may have just as big of an impact on the education of our children.
In September of 2014, District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that the current selection process of the state school board was unconstitutional, on the grounds that it violates free speech guarantees.
To be sure, the process is a convoluted one. Individuals first submit their name as potential candidates for the State School Board election, these names are then reviewed by a committee and some names are thrown out. Out of all original candidates, three names are forwarded to the governor per seat; from there the governor will choose two names to appear on the November ballot.
Just about everyone agrees that this system prevents the lay person from actually advancing to a State School Board seat; at issue, however, is that Waddoups provided no solution to his finding, and simply told the legislature that they have to figure it out.
Needless to say, opinions abounded during the 2015 legislative session…with no solution.
http://go.uen.org/5zo (UPC)

Copies of the bills:
SB46: http://go.uen.org/5zp (Legislature)
SRJ1: http://go.uen.org/5zq (Legislature)

Flagged Bill: SB 43 – Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools – Sen. Todd Weiler

Times certainly have changed when it comes to school safety, and certainly not for the better. We live in an age where “active shooter” is a part of our vocabulary and it seems that we can not go a week without news of a mass shooting. Even more unfortunate, schools are no longer immune from such tragedies.
Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) is taking a reactionary approach to the issue with SB 43 – Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools.
The bill authorizes the creation of a pilot program to educate 8th graders on firearm safety, teach kids on how to respond when they are made aware of a threat, and engage in active shooter preparedness.
Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) has a proposal to protect our children from mass shootings while in school with SB 43, but is the legislature missing the bigger picture?
The classes are opt-in and require parental consent; furthermore, no actual firearms would be used in presentations. To ensure that education is appropriate and responsive, the Attorney General’s Office and the State Board of Education will sign off on the training materials.
Finally, the pilot program is slated for a one-time cost of $75,000 – though if the program is successful, no doubt the state will direct more funds to the program down the road.
http://go.uen.org/5zm (UPC)

A copy of the bill
http://go.uen.org/5zn (Legislature)

Ever wonder what the average government employee makes? One of every 10 Utah workers is employed by state, local governments

Utah’s state and local governments employed 116,027 people full time last year, plus another 74,392 part time. That means about one of every 10 people in the state’s workforce is a public employee.
That’s according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll Data, which was released this week.
Some interesting tidbits of information from that data:
• State and local governments paid an estimated $499 million a month to their full-time employees, averaging about $4,301 a month per worker, or $51,612 a year.
• A majority of the full-time public employees are in education: 59,326, or 51 percent. Of those, 39,986 are in elementary or secondary education. Another 17,811 are employed in public higher education.
• The average pay for elementary and secondary teachers was $3,995 a month, or $47,940 a year.
http://go.uen.org/5yT (SLT)

A copy of the report
http://go.uen.org/5yU (Census)

Governor wants state to reduce earmarks

SALT LAKE CITY— Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says that the state has handcuffed itself by automatically socking away a portion of public money for things like road projects. For the second year in a row, he’s asking lawmakers to consider chipping away at the increasing amount of earmarked dollars.
The General Fund is expected to grow by about $180 million this year, but $77 million of the money will be automatically earmarked and added to a growing pool of state money, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
“It may be a very good place to put it, but there ought to be a discussion about it,” Herbert said recently, explaining that the account takes away flexibility regarding how the funds are spent. “We’re coming to a point where there’s a crossroads decision, because if we don’t reduce some of the earmarks, we will have a difficult time funding education, particularly higher education.”
He wants the Legislature to take $10 million out of the earmarked funds this year and use it for early interventions for at-risk kids, like full-day kindergarten.
http://go.uen.org/5zh (PDH)

http://go.uen.org/5zj (CVD)

http://go.uen.org/5zk (SGS)

Census places Utah among the fastest-growing states

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah was among the fastest-growing states in the country this year, thanks primarily to its high birth rate, according to data released by the U.S. Census.
The state’s population was 2.96 million people at the report’s July deadline, and state counts show that number hit the milestone of 3 million a few months later.
The census numbers show Utah’s population grew 1.7 percent between July 2014 and July 2015, an increase from last year that made Utah the seventh fastest-growing state in the country, including the District of Columbia.
Most of Utah’s growth came from new babies. While the birth rate has dropped in the years since the recession hit, it’s still the highest in the country at 17.3 births per thousand women, the report released Tuesday shows.
The natural increase of more births than deaths accounted for 70 percent of the state’s growth in 2015, something that makes Utah different from other fast-growing states with population increases powered by people moving in.
http://go.uen.org/5zc (DN)

http://go.uen.org/5zg (PDH)

http://go.uen.org/5zi (CVD)

http://go.uen.org/5zr (KSL)

Utah aims to draw teachers to schools near reservations

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are working on a $2 million pilot program to attract and keep teachers in remote public schools near American Indian reservations, where turnover can top 50 percent.
Grants would help attract or recruit teachers with incentives like signing bonuses or pay increases. Eligible schools must have a student population that’s at least 29 percent American Indian.
“Most of these reservations are pretty remote. Not everybody wants to be five hours from a metropolitan area,” Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, said.
Van Tassell plans to run legislation next year that directs Utah education officials to set up the five-year program.
Officials hope the effort will help improve graduation rates and test scores for American Indian students, which lag behind rates for their white, Asian, black and Latino peers.
http://go.uen.org/5zI (DN)

http://go.uen.org/5zz (Santa Fe New Mexican)

http://go.uen.org/5zG ([Bullhead City, AZ] Mohave Valley Daily News)

4,500-plus books gifted to Utah first grade students through Depend

Students at Spring Creek Elementary come rushing in after lunch once a month spreading the word — “The book lady is here!”
RaDene Hatfield, board member of United Way of Utah County’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), considers her book deliveries to Spring Creek students the highlight of her month.
Hatfield is one of many women in WLC who delivers books to eight schools in Utah County each month. The books are for every student in first, second or third grade to take home and read.
“They are excited to build what we call their “own personal library,” to read and share with their families. Each month I ask the children to tell me something they read in last month’s book. I am impressed with fact that so many eager hands go up and they have tidbits to share,” Hatfield said.
WLC recently partnered with United Way’s EveryDay Learners in a campaign to ensure that by 2020, 95 percent of Utah County children read at grade level by the end of third grade. For many of these children, these monthly book donations are the first step to creating a home library. Having access to books in the home is one step toward improved reading.
http://go.uen.org/5zA (PDH)

Christmas adventure creates magical experience for entire school of Utah children

Eyes sparkled and laughter rang through the air as hundreds of Utah elementary school students enjoyed a magical Christmas experience complete with a ride aboard Heber City’s North Pole Express, a visit with Santa, and a “heart’s desire” gift — all thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers and sponsors from Utah and Salt Lake counties.
The Dec. 17 adventure was “flawless,” according to organizer Rob Corcoran, a Utah Valley University alum and president and owner of Influence Relocation Services. “Everything went as planned, and all 400 children were perfect, absolutely perfect the entire trip. It was amazing.”
The children, comprised of the entire student body of Riley Elementary School, a Title I school in Salt Lake County, knew about the train ride. However, there was much about the experience that came as a surprise to the enthusiastic youngsters, from the bag packed with gloves, scarf, and a blanket to keep them warm to the wrapped present they each received when they gathered with parents, teachers, and volunteers back at the school.
http://go.uen.org/5zD (PDH)

Fourth and fifth grade Nebo students donate thousands to Utah Foster Care

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
A group of 55 fourth and fifth graders changed the lives of many of the 608 children in the Utah Foster Care system. These students donated a grand total of $2,514.80. They earned the money by having donors pledge a penny for each minute read. Students read a total of 18,897 minutes during their week-long “Pennies for Peace” reading marathon.
http://go.uen.org/5zH (PDH)

Feds: Polygamous group’s kids worked regularly on pecan farm
Labor » The kids allegedly worked during school hours which violates Utah laws.

A Utah contracting company frequently used kids from a polygamous group as unpaid workers on a pecan farm during school hours, according to federal labor lawyers pushing back against the company’s contention that the hours were legal because the kids were home-schooled.
The U.S. Labor Department attorneys argue in new court documents that children worked long days harvesting nuts for years, and also did pruning, trimming and watering of the trees and cleaning of the fields.
“Instead of going to school, hundreds — if not over one thousand — of children were performing the duties related to Paragon’s contract,” federal labor lawyers say in court documents. “Some children were taken out of school to perform these duties on a year-round basis to prepare the ranch for the harvest. Other children were taken out of school for weeks at a time to perform these duties during the actual harvest.”
The agency wants a judge to order Paragon Contractors to pay back wages and stop the practices described by alleged former child workers and captured by news cameras during a harvest in 2012. A hearing in the case is set for Jan. 25.
http://go.uen.org/5zJ (SLT)

http://go.uen.org/5zO (PDH)

http://go.uen.org/5zP (CVD)

http://go.uen.org/5zN (SGS)

http://go.uen.org/5zK (KSL)

http://go.uen.org/5zM (KSTU)

http://go.uen.org/5zL ([Phoenix] Arizona Republic)

Alleged arson causes huge setback for Layton community project

LAYTON — A fire police believe was intentionally set in Layton Elementary School’s computer lab didn’t just cause $10,000 worth of damage.
It also set back a year’s worth of fundraising by the school’s parents and students.
Last year, the school community held the “Tech Trek,” a fundraiser aimed at raising money for the computer lab. As the Title 1 school has a high percentage of low-income families, the lab was meant — in part — to give students who can’t afford computers access to them at school.
“We had the Tech Trek last year, and it was really impressive how much money was raised because a lot of the families are lower income families,” said Katelyn Shaw, whose 8-year-old son attends the school.
“So many families and the community pitched in and helped out (with the fundraising),” Shaw said. “It was amazing.”
But tragedy hit when police say they caught two men — Coleman Lowell Harris and David Anthony Teasley — starting a fire inside the portable that houses the computer lab on Monday, Dec. 21. The fire had not spread too far, but it still caused considerable damage, said Doug Bitton, public information officer with Layton Fire Department.
http://go.uen.org/5zd (OSE)

Tactical tour of Richfield High

Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District had to shut down more than 1,100 schools due to a terrorist threat.
After searches were completed, the institutions were allowed to reopen, but the incident left questions for law enforcement across the country to ponder — even in Sevier County.
“I feel bad for those guys in Los Angeles,” said Sgt. Matt O’Brien, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.
For the past several years, area law enforcement has teamed with Sevier School District to train in schools.
http://go.uen.org/5zC (Richfield Reaper)

Better together: Father-son duo share passion for art

For Jeremy Winborg, there really was not another option when he chose to create art for a living. That’s what happens when you’re the son of well-known artist Larry Winborg.
The father-son duo share a studio in Hyde Park, in a second floor loft on the mountain bench with a fantastic view of the Wellsvilles and Cache Valley. The room is lined with windows and furnished in warm colors, with paintings hanging from and lined against the walls. Their work benches mirror each other, and a billiard table takes up another corner.

Jeremy, 36, grew up watching his father do his work as an illustrator for various publications like “Sports Illustrated” and going on trips to do photography for another show or painting. When he started painting in acrylics at age 15, it turned out well. The rights for his first work were purchased by the Utah Education Association, made into posters and distributed to all teachers in Utah. The painting was later put on display at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
http://go.uen.org/5zQ (LHJ)

Take off with “In Flight: High School Honor Band Concert”

When the most accomplished high school instrumental students from across the Intermountain West collaborate with Southern Utah University’s Wind Symphony under the direction of SUU’s Adam Lambert, director of bands, prepare yourself for an energetic evening of music.
Take off with “In Flight: SUU’s High School Honor Band Concert 2016,” a musical journey exploring the brass repertoire.
Scheduled for Jan. 9, at 6 p.m., the concert will be performed at Cedar City’s Heritage Center Theater.
The concert is free and open to the public.
http://go.uen.org/5zl (SGS)

St. George Exchange Club honors December students

The December Students of the Month recipients were recently honored by the St. George Exchange Club, which sponsors the program that recognizes one student from each of the five Washington County high schools.
Dixie State University recently partnered with the St. George Exchange Club and will provide each of the Student of the Month recipients a one-year, full-tuition scholarship.
http://go.uen.org/5zB (SGS)

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OPINION & COMMENTARY
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Pre-sliced budget leaves too much time for mischief
Salt Lake Tribune editorial

Of course it’s easier for Utah legislators if they ride into town each January with a big chunk of their most important decision — the state budget — already made.
That gives members a lot more time to fool around with such pipe dreams and inanities as taking “back” federal lands that never belonged to Utah in the first place, fussing about sage grouse and wolves, micromanaging the sale of alcohol and claiming that some people’s religious freedoms are somehow put upon by the forward progress of human rights.
It would be far better for the lawmakers, and for the people who elect them, if they would argue over something really important, over perhaps the most important decision most lawmaking bodies have before them in all but the most extraordinary years.
And that’s where to put the taxpayers’ money so that it will do the greatest good for the greatest number.
That’s the argument Gov. Gary Herbert is making to members of the Legislature for the second year in a row with his annual budget message. He wants to end the practice of automatically siphoning large amounts of sales tax revenues off to predetermined baskets, mostly the state’s highway and water funds.
When so much of the state’s revenue — an estimated $77 million in sales tax income in the next fiscal year — is routed to highways and water projects before the Legislature even gets organized, there is no real effort to set priorities and distribute limited resources. Which leaves a lot of time for foolishness.
Herbert’s primary concern — other than avoiding the embarrassment of watching lawmakers make fools of us all — is that money automatically diverted to highways and water projects isn’t available for his favorite thing to spend money on, and that’s public education, all the way from pre-K to Ph.D. He rightly sees that as the best investment the state can make in its own future — economic, political and social.
As Herbert is wont to say, when it comes to education, it isn’t all about the money, but it’s some about the money. And education in Utah needs some more money.
http://go.uen.org/5yW

What are Utah County’s 2016 issues?
(Provo) Daily Herald editorial

As we reviewed the top stories that emerged throughout Utah County during 2015, there were some promising trends amid news of shootings, death and discrimination.
Among the top news stories, one major trend emerged. In 2015, from northern to southern Utah County cities, there seemed to be a marked increase in resident involvement on various issues.

So as the New Year approaches, where can Utah County increase involvement in during 2016?
As the population grows and school districts and universities attempt to absorb more students, education funding is one issue Utah County will continue to battle, as will the rest of the state. Recent data affirmed Utah County is No. 1 in the U.S. with the highest percentage of children in its population.
http://go.uen.org/5z3

Help a Utah student stand up to the e-cigarette industry
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial

And a little child shall lead them.
Or, if not a little child, a high school senior.
Cade Hyde, student body president at Davis High School, knows kids who use e-cigarettes. “They’re struggling,” he says.
So he’s standing up to the industry on their behalf by organizing a statewide coalition called Students Against Electronic Vaping.
Hyde picked the right fight at the right time.
Rep. Paul Ray, a Clinton Republican, plans 2016 legislation making it more difficult for teenagers to buy e-cigarettes, restricting ads for vaping products and slapping a hefty sales tax on supplies. Hyde wants to build a statewide coalition of students and parents strong enough to ensure passage of Ray’s bill.
http://go.uen.org/5zf

Thumbs Down
(Ogden) Standard-Examiner editorial

THUMBS DOWN: To the arsonists who torched Layton Elementary School’s computer lab.
Layton Elementary is a Title 1 school, meaning it serves a lot of children from low-income families. Parents and others in the community spent last year raising money to build the lab for students who didn’t otherwise have access to computers.
Somebody set it on fire Monday, Dec. 21, causing $10,000 in damage. Police arrested two suspects, ages 18 and 19, on charges of aggravated arson.
Katelyn Shaw’s 8-year-old son attends Layton Elementary. When she told him about the fire, he asked, “Why do bad guys do stupid things?”
That’s a good question, young man — a very good question.
http://go.uen.org/5ze

The Every Student Succeeds Act: Leaving the old law behind
Deseret News op-ed by Sen. Orrin Hatch and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brad Smith

No Child Left Behind was a setback for Utah. It subjected our children to excessive testing, stripped our schools of critical decision-making authority and ceded too much power to the federal government. After 13 years of frustration and disappointment, Utah families have rightly been clamoring to leave this law behind.
That’s why we supported the opportunity to scrap No Child Left Behind and give Utahns a fresh start. This week, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a massive education overhaul that the conservative Wall Street Journal called “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”
Leaders and organizations across our state — including Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah commissioner of higher education, the Utah Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association — agree that ESSA is an essential step towards effective state and local education policy. Recognizing that this bill will benefit not only schools but also our state’s economy, leaders of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Utah Technology Council have also voiced their support. These organizations understand that ESSA is a victory, both for our state and for our nation.
http://go.uen.org/5yY

Hatch’s test-range expansion bill is bad stewardship
Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Jen Ujifusa, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Sen. Orrin Hatch recently introduced a bill to create a “withdrawal zone” across Bureau of Land Management lands, effectively expanding by 625,000 acres the operational footprint of the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah’s West Desert. The bill in its current form is completely unacceptable.
In 2014, Hatch attempted to stick similar legislation on a national defense package, but was rebuffed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was alarmed by the environmental effects of the legislation. Unfortunately, the latest version, S. 2383, is worse than before. It abandons bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, imperils future wilderness designations for incredible places like the Newfoundland Mountains, Deep Creek Mountains and Dugway Mountains, facilitates a land exchange accelerating development in proposed wilderness areas, and eviscerates the legal process for making rights-of-way claims over federal lands by instead simply handing them to counties.
Notably, none of those things have been requested by the military.
By granting rights-of-way directly to Box Elder, Juab and Tooele counties, the bill reveals itself for what it is: a massive land grab disguised under vague, feel-good rhetoric about our armed forces. These counties, along with the state of Utah, are using taxpayer dollars and an obscure law known as RS 2477 to sue the federal government over thousands of miles of supposed “state highways.” In reality, many of them are merely streambeds, cowpaths or fading two-tracks — not highways by any straight-faced definition. But in this legislation, rather than bear their heavy burden to wrest title from the United States, the counties skip away with bogus claims in hand.
Meanwhile, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration asserts the bill is a win for kids because it swaps lands within the proposed expanded test range for exploitable federal lands without. The money from future development then goes to a special fund, a small percentage of which is given annually to Utah schools. But large chunks of the land SITLA now seeks are in proposed wilderness, a line the agency has avoided crossing for more than 20 years. There is a right and a wrong way to do these exchanges, and it is cynical and wrong to destroy our children’s wilderness birthright and tell them it’s for their own good.
The right way to proceed would be to use the usual SITLA standard to facilitate a land exchange that does not imperil proposed wilderness, to remove the egregious road giveaways to counties, and to use the legislation to protect important wilderness areas, which would actually benefit the test range.
http://go.uen.org/5yV

Cuomo’s Education Retreat
A case study in how unions undermine teacher accountability.
Wall Street Journal editorial

The latest federal education reform sends more power back to states and local districts, but that poses risks to the extent they are captured by teachers unions. Witness New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo is retreating on teacher accountability.
In a bid to snag Race to the Top funds in 2010, New York adopted Common Core standards and required that 20% of teacher evaluations be based on student scores on state tests and another 20% on local objective measures of student learning. Student scores on the tougher new tests plunged. Proficiency dropped to 31% in reading and math in 2013 from 69% and 82%, respectively, in 2009.
Yet even as student measures plunged, local school districts in cahoots with the unions rigged evaluations to ensure that nearly all teachers got good marks. One tactic: Unions collectively bargained for easier local tests to be part of their evaluations. Lo, 96% of teachers statewide were rated “effective” or “highly effective” last year while only about a third of students passed state reading and math tests.
http://go.uen.org/5z4

The good news in D.C.’s test scores
Washington Post op-ed by Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio, president and vice president, respectively, of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

District parents and taxpayers recently received some sobering news: Only a quarter of D.C. students are on track in math, reading and writing. The numbers were even lower for the District’s African American and Latino students. Only 12 percent of African American and 21 percent of Latino sixth-graders were proficient in reading . And 9 percent of African American and 23 percent of Latino sixth-graders were proficient in math. Though these scores will likely shock many, let us explain why people shouldn’t shoot the messenger.
In 2010, the District — joined by more than 40 states — adopted the Common Core’s tough new standards in reading and math, setting dramatically higher expectations for students. Now we’ve reached a critical milestone in this effort, as the public is, for the first time, seeing the scores on the new tests aligned to the standards.
It’s critical to remember why so many states adopted higher standards in the first place. Under law, every state must test children every year in grades three through eight and once in high school to ensure they are making progress. This is a good idea. Parents deserve to know if their children are learning, and taxpayers are entitled to know if the considerable funds we spend on schools are being used prudently.
But it is left to states and the District to define “proficient.” Unfortunately, most set the bar very low. This “juking of the stats” misled students and parents alike. As late as 2014, the District was reporting that 50 percent of its fourth-graders were “proficient” in reading, whereas a national assessment put the number at 25 percent.
This huge honesty gap had detrimental consequences.
http://go.uen.org/5z6

Bill Gates keeps pushing Common Core, with big money (and a bid to get Charles Koch to like it)
Washington Post commentary by columnist Valerie Strauss

You can say this about Bill Gates: When he likes something, he sticks to it (at least for a while, until he decides he doesn’t like it anymore).
Through his exceedingly wealthy foundation, Gates has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create and promote the Common Core State Standards over the years. When the initiative ran into opposition from critics across the political spectrum, Gates remained steadfast. Not only did he continue to pour money into Core implementation and promotion, but, according to a new article in Fortune, he dined with conservative billionaire Charles Koch in February 2014 to try to persuade him to stop funding tea party groups that were fighting the Core. Koch didn’t budge, but Gates has kept up his support, and in 2015, he donated more than $42 million to several dozen organizations to support the Core.
In October 2015, Gates made a speech in which he said he was pushing on with his controversial education initiatives, on which he has spent several billions of dollars since 1999. He has funded a number of efforts, including a small-schools initiative in New York City that he abandoned after deciding it wasn’t working, controversial teacher-evaluation systems that use student standardized test scores to determine the “effectiveness” of educators, and the Core. As the world’s biggest philanthropist, Gates has been at the center of a national debate about whether democracy is well served when private individuals fund pet projects with so much cash that public policy is affected — without real public input.
http://go.uen.org/5zs

The Worst Media Failures On Public Education In 2015
Media Matters for America commentary by columnist PAM VOGEL

2015 was an important year in education policy, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the beginning of the 2016 election campaigns, and local fights for teachers and public schools making national headlines. In an important year for students and teachers across the education spectrum, however, some media outlets used their platforms to push falsehoods. Here are five of the worst media failures on public education this year.
http://go.uen.org/5zv

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NATIONAL NEWS
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As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short
New York Times

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”
By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.
But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college­level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need.
It is a pattern repeated in other school districts across the state and country — urban, suburban and rural — where the number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy.
“Does that diploma guarantee them a hope for a life where they can support a family?” asked Melanie D. Barton, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee in South Carolina, a legislative agency. Particularly in districts where student achievement is very low, she said, “I really don’t see it.”
http://go.uen.org/5yO

The SAT, now the No. 2 college test, pushes to reclaim supremacy
Washington Post

The SAT, once the nation’s dominant college admission exam, fell behind the ACT in recent years after its rival locked up huge swaths of the market through contracts to provide testing in public schools and more students in the Washington area and elsewhere realized that top colleges and universities would accept either test.
Now the SAT’s owner, the College Board, has mounted a comeback in its bid to regain supremacy as a new version of the venerable test is about to be rolled out nationwide in March. The competition between the ACT and SAT — two tests of similar length, nearly four hours long (counting essays), but with significant stylistic differences — affects millions of college-bound students who slog through the grueling ritual every year.
This month Illinois and Colorado took steps toward awarding contracts to the College Board to give the SAT to 11th-graders in public schools, at no charge to the students. Michigan will give the SAT to high school juniors statewide in April for the first time, also for free to the students. Previously, the ACT had a virtual lock on testing in all three states through contracts.
“This is significant,” David Coleman, the College Board’s president, said this week. “These are states that for a very long time have been working with an alternative.”
http://go.uen.org/5z5

California school scores tied to attendance, not proficiency
San Jose (CA) Mercury News

For more than a decade, the release of federal scores indicating California public school students’ progress — or lack of it — has incited alarm, anxiety and anguish among educators.
But when those marks were ever so quietly posted this month, barely anyone noticed. And it seemed few cared. For the first time in years, California schools met federal standards — but only because the yardstick had been replaced with an easier-to-meet measurement.
It’s the sign that the federal No Child Left Behind law, an effort to hold schools accountable for students’ failure to learn, has lost its muscle a year before it expires. That retreat enrages reformers like former state Sen. Gloria Romero of Los Angeles. “There is an effort to minimize, whitewash and scrub the file so that parents don’t have information,” she said. “If you can kill the data, you can’t have the reform.”
Since 2002, No Child Left Behind tied schools’ federal grades to students’ proficiency in math and English. But now, under a waiver granted in June, California bases those grades solely on attendance, test participation and graduation rate — which itself has been inflated with the demise of the state high school exit exam.
Those are much easier bars to hurdle — and achieved by most California schools.
http://go.uen.org/5zx

On Tech, Teacher Doesn’t Know Best
Even if teachers are tech-savvy in their personal lives, that doesn’t mean they understand how to use technology effectively in the classroom.
U.S. News & World Report

Teacher preparation and professional development programs are failing to prepare teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom.
That’s the big finding out of the recent National Education Technology Plan, a report published every five years by the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology that lays out a path for teachers, policymakers, administrators and teacher preparation professionals for 2016 and beyond.
The report notes the importance of closing the “digital divide” between students with access to technology in the classroom and their often disadvantaged peers who don’t. But it argues that the focus on providing Internet access and devices for learners should not overshadow the importance of preparing teachers to teach effectively with technology.
Since the report was last published, the conversation over education technology has shifted significantly, from whether it should be used in learning to how it can improve learning.
Notably, technology increasingly is being used as a tool to create personalized learning – an umbrella phrase referring to a way of teaching that’s tailored to students’ individual needs and that allows students in the same classroom to work on different content at different paces, depending on their levels of ability.
In addition, over the last five years, progress has been made toward ensuring that every school has high-speed classroom connectivity, and the cost of digital devices has decreased dramatically.
Even still, the report emphasizes, many schools do not yet have access to or are not yet using technology in ways that can improve learning, and research on the effectiveness of technology-enabled programs is still limited.
Most troubling of all, the report implies, schools currently can’t always rely on teacher preparation programs to ensure that new teachers come to them prepared to use technology
http://go.uen.org/5z8

A copy of the plan
http://go.uen.org/5z9 (ED)

Schools Evaluate Threats, Questioning When to Shut Down
New York Times

Mark Conrad, the superintendent of schools in Nashua, N.H., got the chilling news last Sunday morning. An email sent to a school board member threatened a lethal attack on multiple schools, naming the sites, how students would be harmed and the date, Dec. 21 — the next day.
“It was a first for us, in terms of the breadth of the threat and the specificity,” Mr. Conrad said. On Sunday evening, after consulting with the police, Mr. Conrad did something that, as far as officials in Nashua knew, had never been done there before: He ordered that all schools stay closed that Monday because of the fear of violence.
The previous week, the Los Angeles school system also shut down for a day, in the face of a threat of terrorist attacks against multiple schools. Last month, the University of Chicago canceled classes and activities for a day, after discovering a social media post that talked of killing “16 white male students and or staff” and “any number of white policemen”; Western Washington University suspended classes after a post suggested lynching a student leader; and Washington College in Maryland closed for several days after a distraught student disappeared with a gun.
But for every such reaction, there have been decisions not to lock down campuses in the face of a threat. To name just a few, school officials in New York City, Houston and Miami received emails similar to those received in Los Angeles and Nashua, and two social media users last month wrote that they wanted to kill African­Americans at the University of Missouri, including one who stated a plan to “shoot every black person I see.”
None of the threats, it seems, were serious. Threats of mass violence on campuses have proliferated through social media, educators say, but most are hoaxes — in fact, most are never made public.
Yet school officials and campus safety consultants say they have to take threats more seriously than they did a decade or two ago, given the history of campus massacres like the one in October at an Oregon community college and the public’s heightened fear of terrorist attacks like the one this month in San Bernardino, Calif. And they said they could not recall anything like the recent spate of class cancellations and school closings.
http://go.uen.org/5yP

New Jersey School District Eases Pressure on Students, Baring an Ethnic Divide
New York Times

This fall, David Aderhold, the superintendent of a high­achieving school district near Princeton, N.J., sent parents an alarming 16­page letter.
The school district, he said, was facing a crisis. Its students were overburdened and stressed out, juggling too much work and too many demands.
In the previous school year, 120 middle and high school students were recommended for mental health assessments; 40 were hospitalized. And on a survey administered by the district, students wrote things like, “I hate going to school,” and “Coming out of 12 years in this district, I have learned one thing: that a grade, a percentage or even a point is to be valued over anything else.”
With his letter, Dr. Aderhold inserted West Windsor­Plainsboro Regional School District into a national discussion about the intense focus on achievement at elite schools, and whether it has gone too far.
At follow­up meetings, he urged parents to join him in advocating a holistic, “whole child” approach to schooling that respects “social­emotional development” and “deep and meaningful learning” over academics alone. The alternative, he suggested, was to face the prospect of becoming another Palo Alto, Calif., where outsize stress on teenage students is believed to have contributed to two clusters of suicides in the last six years.
But instead of bringing families together, Dr. Aderhold’s letter revealed a fissure in the district, which has 9,700 students, and one that broke down roughly along racial lines
http://go.uen.org/5z7

How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education
New York Times

DOTHAN, Ala. — On a humid summer day in 1972, Hillary Rodham walked into this town’s new private academy, a couple of cinder­block classrooms erected hurriedly amid fields of farmland, and pretended to be someone else.
Playing down her flat Chicago accent, she told the school’s guidance counselor that her husband had just taken a job in Dothan, that they were a churchgoing family and that they were looking for a school for their son.
The future Mrs. Clinton, then a 24­year­old law student, was working for Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and prominent advocate for children. Mrs. Edelman had sent her to Alabama to help prove that the Nixon administration was not enforcing the legal ban on granting tax­exempt status to so­called segregation academies, the estimated 200 private academies that sprang up in the South to cater to white families after a 1969 Supreme Court decision forced public schools to integrate.
Her mission was simple: Establish whether the Dothan school was discriminating based on race.
http://go.uen.org/5yR

Lunch Lady Who Says Free Meal Led to Firing Offered Job Back
Associated Press

POCATELLO, Idaho — A southeastern Idaho cafeteria worker said she was fired for giving a student a free meal costing $1.70, but the school district offered her the job back after a national outcry.
Dalene Bowden received a termination letter from the Pocatello School District last week after she gave a tray of food to a 12-year-old student who said she didn’t have money for the meal.
The letter cited theft as the reason for her dismissal. Bowden says a supervisor placed her on leave after witnessing what she had done.
http://go.uen.org/5zu

Schools struggle with lunch programs
(Pocatello) Idaho State Journal

Public school hot lunch programs are in place at all Southeast Idaho school districts, and problems with following federal guidelines on student payments come with the territory.
“Federal guidelines are strict and we are audited frequently,” said Marsh Valley Superintendent Marvin Hansen.
Hansen said he understands how dealing with the restrictions led to the controversy in Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25, where Irving Middle School lunch worker Dalene Bowden was reprimanded and dismissed for giving a student a free lunch this month.
“We try really hard to let students and parents know before they run out of money,” Hansen said.
If a student shows up for lunch without funds, Hansen said they are given an alternative lunch — a sandwich, apple and milk — to tide them over. The superintendent said the process is handled as discreetly as possible.
http://go.uen.org/5za

Lawsuit: Inadequate emergency care caused death of high school football player
Staten Island (NY) Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Curtis High School football player who died after collapsing at a pre-season workout last year, would be alive today if a defibrillator had been readily available and if the first responding ambulance crew was better prepared to handle the emergency, alleges a recently-filed lawsuit.
Miles Kirkland, 16, a junior, died of a heart attack on Sept. 1, 2014, during a varsity training session at Curtis High School’s football field, according to Advance reports.
The wrongful death suit, filed by his parents, Tanza L. Kirkland and Jamar Thomas against the city, the Department of Education, the Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Services Bureau alleges the defendants “failed to provide adequate and appropriate emergency care” and “failed to adequately and appropriately place, secure and use a defibrillator” at the field.
The boy’s parents, who are administrators of his estate, seek unspecified monetary damages.
http://go.uen.org/5zt

How much more do Austin renters pay to live near top-ranked schools?
Austin (TX) American-Statesman

Renters who live near an exemplary school in the Austin area pay about $365 more a month than those who live near a struggling school.
This is according to an analysis by RENTCafé, a real estate website whose sister company Matrix performs apartment-market analysis. The company recently looked at rents near schools in Texas’ largest cities and determined that the long-known link between desirable schools and pricier homes holds with rents, as well.
The research has its limits. It does not take duplexes, single-family rentals or small apartment complexes into account when calculating rental costs near each school, relying instead on the prices at apartment complexes with more than 50 units. Such large complexes account for about 65 percent of the rental market in Austin, a city where more than half of the residents are renters.
Still, the correlation held broadly enough across Texas’ largest cities to suggest renters pay a significant premium “to live near an award-winning public school,” according to RENTCafé.
http://go.uen.org/5zw

Schools must teach children that Britain is a Christian country
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, says that there is ‘no obligation’ for schools to teach atheism as part of the religious studies GCSE
London Telegraph

Schools must teach pupils that Britain is a Christian country and are entitled to prioritise the views of established religions over atheism, the Education Secretary has said.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, today publishes new guidance to non-faith schools which makes clear that they do not need to give “equal parity” to non-religious views.
It comes after humanists won a landmark High Court victory which found that the Education Secretary had unlawfully excluded atheism from the school curriculum.
Mrs Morgan is concerned that humanists are using the courts as part of a “creeping ratchet effect” which will ultimately see primary schools forced to teach children about atheism.
The new guidance states that there is “no obligation for any school to give equal air time to the teaching of religious and non-religious views” or even cover atheism during GCSE religious studies lessons.
However the guidance suggests that non-religious views can be taught in other lessons, a decision described as “significant” by the British Humanist Association.
http://go.uen.org/5zy

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CALENDAR
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USOE Calendar
http://www.schools.utah.gov/main/CALENDAR.aspx

UEN News
http://www.uen.org

January 6:
Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting
8:30 a.m., 210 Senate Building
http://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2016&com=APPPED

Utah State Board of Education study session and committee meetings
3 p.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda.aspx

January 7:
Utah State Board of Education meeting
8 a.m., 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda.aspx

January 13-14:
Utah State Charter School Board meeting
250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City
http://go.uen.org/1pn

January 25:
Utah Legislature
First day of the 2016 general session
http://le.utah.gov/

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