Education News Roundup: Dec. 29, 2015

"Happy New Year" by M Glasgow/CC/flickri

Education News Roundup/ “Happy New Year” by M Glasgow/CC/flickr

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:


Second federal lawsuit filed by a victim of former Davis teacher Brianne Altice. (SLT)

and (OSE)


Is Google tracking students online? (WaPo)

and (Parenting)


Austin, TX, school district hires a marketing firm to help attract students in response to charter schools there. (Ed Week)


Both Illinois and Colorado are switching from having all juniors take the ACT to having them all take the SAT. (Chicago Tribune)

and (Boulder Daily Camera)


Pediatricians group wants schools to have a plan for dealing with epileptic students. One Utah legislator has a bill about this in the upcoming session. (Medpage Today)

a copy of the study (Pediatrics)

or a copy of HB75 from the 2016 Utah Legislature (Legislature)












New lawsuit filed over former Davis High School teacher’s sex acts with students Courts » Complaint is second in federal court over alleged sex between boys, Altice.


Utah tutor charged with possessing thousands of images of child porn


Should a lunch lady be fired for giving a meal to a student without money?






Why seemingly weird educational innovations matter to the future of learning


The Every Student Succeeds Act will leave children behind


A modest educational goal for Oregon






Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn


Austin Board Hires Marketing Firm to Fend Off Charter Competition


Billionaire’s $50 million contest aims to modernize high schools


State, federal changes leave questions about future of WV education


Cyberthon welcomes student applications


Local schools prep for potential switch from ACT to rival SAT


Boulder County superintendents disappointed in state’s switch from ACT to SAT tests


Bright, Young, In Limbo: Film Sees Migrant Farm Life Through A Child’s Eyes


As Demand Grows For World Languages, State Supervision May Be Required


AAP: Schools Need Action Plans for Epileptic Students And providers should assist schools in developing them








New lawsuit filed over former Davis High School teacher’s sex acts with students Courts » Complaint is second in federal court over alleged sex between boys, Altice.


A second victim of an imprisoned former Davis High School English teacher has filed a federal lawsuit against her, the school and officials over her sexual contact with underage students.

The lawsuit alleges school officials should have known that Brianne Altice had improper relationships with minors prior to Davis High School hiring her as a teacher and seeks unspecified monetary damages. School officials also failed to act when they and teachers knew or suspected Altice was acting inappropriately with male students, according to the complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

Altice, 36, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse in state court in July, admitting she touched the genitals of three boys in 2013. She was sentenced to at least two years and up to 30 years in prison. (SLT) (OSE)




Utah tutor charged with possessing thousands of images of child porn


A South Ogden man who runs a tutoring business from his home has been charged with multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after police allegedly found thousands of images of child pornography on his cell phone.

Jeremiah David Rivera, 25, is charged in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court with 20 counts of second-degree felony sexual exploitation of a minor. Each count carries a potential prison term of up to 15 years.

Rivera runs That Learning Place, which offers tutoring, music lessons and instruction, and educational service, according to a Facebook page.

Rivera was charged last week and made an initial court appearance on Monday. A scheduling hearing is set for Jan. 4. (SLT) (DN) (KUTV) (KSL) (KSTU)




Should a lunch lady be fired for giving a meal to a student without money?


School food service workers come and go, often unnoticed by the students they serve and the community-at-large. But the Idaho State Journal reported this week that a petition is circulating in Pocatello, Idaho, to rehire a middle school lunch lady who was fired for giving a free meal to 12-year-old girl who didn’t have any money but said she was hungry.

Dalene Bowden, a food service worker at Irving Middle School, received a letter of dismissal last week stating she was fired for theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food. The letter was signed by District 25 Director of Human Resources Susan Petit. (DN)








Why seemingly weird educational innovations matter to the future of learning Deseret News commentary by columnist Eric Schulzke


Fifteen years of education reformers trying to enforce conformity has demonstrated that there is something to educational biodiversity. Just as genetic variation can save a species, there is value in letting parents and schools experiment with seemingly odd notions, in acknowledging the “unknown unknowns” of education reform. Pushing the range of what is possible can help hone today’s mainstream and tomorrow’s innovations.




The Every Student Succeeds Act will leave children behind Washington Post commentary by columnist Michael Gerson


The nation’s capital is experiencing something of a thaw in polarization and partisanship. And the largest iceberg that has broken free is the Every Student Succeeds Act, the most consequential education reform in the past 15 years.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate e ducation c ommittee, called it a “Christmas present” to American children. President Obama proclaimed it a “Christmas miracle.” The president of the American Federation of Teachers said the law marks “a new day in public education.”

What does this mean for students? Let’s start, as educators are wont to say, with a review. In 2001, No Child Left Behind, the last major federal education reform, mandated yearly testing in the basics of reading and math for children in third through eighth grades . Schools were required to show yearly progress for students of every background (including every racial background). If a school consistently failed, it was required to implement reforms and, in the worst cases, hire new teachers and reorganize. The law set the utopian goal that every child should be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014.

The whole thing was a mess from the start. Failing schools didn’t like to be labeled failures, because it made administrators feel as though they were, like, you know, failing or something. Many teachers didn’t like the relentless emphasis on testing, which ate into their time for the unmeasurable joys of learning. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) spoke for many when he recalled the formative prep school experience of an exam that consisted entirely of one question, asking students to give their impressions of a green leaf. That question, he said, has “haunted me for 50 years.” “You can’t put that on a standardized test,” he explained.

The Every Student Succeeds Act ends the back-seat driving of the federal government in education policy. State and local officials will be free to set academic goals and to determine if schools are meeting them. While the law still mandates consequences for the worst-performing schools, states will determine what those consequences are. Student testing will still take place, but it won’t mean as much. This, according to Obama, will relieve “undue stress for educators and students.”




A modest educational goal for Oregon

(Portland) Oregonian editorial


Federal and state education officials continue to exchange letters about standardized testing. In early November, the United States Department of Education declared itself “concerned that Oregon’s participation rate” in last year’s Smarter Balanced exams “did not meet requirements” of federal law. What, the feds wanted to know, is Oregon going to do about it?

Salam Noor, Oregon’s deputy superintendent of public instruction, responded earlier this month. Far from exuding optimism, Noor’s letter pointed to a source of “potential risk for participation in the state assessment program” during this school year. The source, he wrote, is a new state law allowing Oregonians to opt their children out of standardized tests for any reason whatsoever.

There is, on the one hand, a same-old, same-old quality to this exchange. The letter from the U.S. Department of Education, for instance, trotted out the possibility that noncompliant states such as Oregon would someday see their federal funding cut. This threat has been made so often that even federal officials probably don’t believe it anymore. Noor, for his part, ignored the threat completely. While the state is working with districts to boost participation, Noor wrote, it will sanction schools with substandard participation by, among other things, adjusting their report cards accordingly. Harsh this is not.

This exchange, we suppose, may signal the continuation of an unproductive stalemate in which federal officials talk tough, state officials insist they’re doing their best and thousands of Oregonians – with the Legislature’s tacit encouragement – exempt their children from Smarter Balanced exams, perpetuating Oregon’s famous educational mediocrity. High participation levels provide the data education officials need to address struggling schools and student groups efficiently.

Don’t despair yet, however. Noor’s response does point to one reason for optimism.











Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn Washington Post


In public classrooms across the country, the corporate name that is fast becoming as common as pencils and erasers is Google.

More than half of K-12 laptops or tablets purchased by U.S. schools in the third quarter were Chromebooks, cheap laptops that run Google software. Beyond its famed Web search, the company freely offers word processing and other software to schools. In total, Google programs are used by more than 50 million students and teachers around the world, the company says.

But Google is also tracking what those students are doing on its services and using some of that information to sell targeted ads, according to a complaint filed with federal officials by a leading privacy advocacy group.

And because of the arrangement between Google and many public schools, parents often can’t keep the company from collecting their children’s data, privacy experts say.

“In some of the schools we’ve talked to parents about, there’s literally no ability to say, ‘no,’” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Google, whose parent company is called Alphabet, pushed back against the criticism, saying its education apps comply with the law. But it acknowledged it collects data about some student activities to improve its products. (Parenting)




Austin Board Hires Marketing Firm to Fend Off Charter Competition Education Week Market Brief


As public school districts lose students to charter schools, one Texas district is trying to fight back—with the help of marketing.

Earlier this month, the Austin, Texas, school board decided to hire marketing firm Sanders/Wingo Advertising, Inc., with the goal of increasing student enrollment, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The decision comes after the district’s traditional public school enrollment dropped by about 3,000 students over the last three years. Meanwhile, charter school enrollment in the area has quadrupled since 2007, increasing to more than 14,000 students attending the independent public schools.

The $350,000, one-year contract with Sanders/Wingo Advertising, Inc.—of which $52,000 will be paid to the firm , with the rest spent to make advertising and media buys—is just one of a number of the district’s efforts to boost enrollment and improve the perception of its public schools.

The school board also plans to advertise on billboards and buses, expand pre-kindergarten to 3-year-olds, and conduct surveys to determine what motivates parents’ educational choices for their children. The 83,688-student district hopes to draw students away from charter and private schools, and to attract students from other districts in order to reverse declines in enrollment.

The school board’s plan comes as the board seeks to combat what it sees as broad outreach by charters attempting to lure students away from the Austin school system.




Billionaire’s $50 million contest aims to modernize high schools San Francisco Chronicle


A national contest with a $50 million prize pool and a billionaire backer has spurred teams across the country to reinvent the American high school, overhauling an antiquated model that hasn’t changed in 100 years.

At least five winners will each get about $10 million over five years to make their schools come to life. The competition hopes to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking, with the eight-figure award luring public, private and nonprofit contestants, including San Francisco Unified School District, to vie for the money offered up by Palo Alto heiress Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

“In towns and cities far and wide, teams will be rethinking and building public schools that prepare students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs, and life,” according to the contest literature from XQ: The Super School Project.

If the sales pitch sounds familiar, it’s because cash-prize contests to spur school reform are not new, having been bolstered by several philanthropic billionaires and a couple of U.S. presidents — often with less-than-stellar results. Yet, the contests continue, with cash-starved schools lining up to compete.

The XQ contest — like IQ, but with an X-factor — is funded by Powell Jobs through her nonprofit Emerson Collective, which advocates for social issues like education and immigration reform.




State, federal changes leave questions about future of WV education Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail


This month Congress passed a bill reducing federal education regulations and the West Virginia Board of Education voted to alter the state’s current K-12 standards and greatly reduce standardized testing, and more big changes could be coming to Mountain State education.

But a new commission’s discussions on one possible area of change — standardized testing — won’t be open to the media or the wider public.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Barack Obama recently signed after both houses of Congress passed it with wide bipartisan margins, will give the state more flexibility in how it holds its schools and school systems accountable. And State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has formed a commission to study and suggest changes to what’s currently a big part of West Virginia’s accountability system: end-of-year standardized testing.

State education officials say the meetings of the 25-member commission won’t be public. Deputy State Schools Superintendent Cindy Daniel said the group has about 25 to 30 members — including parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, local school board members, lawmakers and representatives from higher education and the governor’s office — but state Department of Education spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said the members’ names will only be released when the group makes its final recommendations, likely this spring.




Cyberthon welcomes student applications

Pensacola (FL) News-Journal


Like football players getting ready for a bowl game, Angela Irby’s students at Pine Forest High School Cybersecurity Academy are gearing up for Cyberthon 2016, a competition where students act as information technology professionals fending off simulated hacker attacks.

Between 25 and 35 students from the high school will participate in the event, scheduled to take place from Jan. 22 through Jan. 24 at the National Flight Academy and National Naval Aviation Museum.

Many of her ninth- through 12th-grade students have stayed after school, reviewing different scenarios like operating system defense and port scanning, looking for vulnerabilities.

“CyberThon is going to give them an opportunity to be involved with real world cyber security challenges,” Irby said.

A total of about 60 students will participate in CyberThon 2016, more than double the inaugural cyber security event’s participation of 20. Each will have a mentor to guide him or her through the different scenarios thrown at them. Mentors are civilian and military cyber security professionals, including staff from the Navy’s Center for Information Dominance.




Local schools prep for potential switch from ACT to rival SAT Chicago Tribune


Illinois’s move to begin offering high school juniors the SAT college entrance exam after more than a decade using the ACT added an extra layer of uncertainty for high schools trying to prepare students for spring exams, local education officials said.

The decision isn’t final, however, as the ACT filed a formal protest after the state awarded a bid to the nonprofit College Board, which provides the SAT.

According to minutes from a November State Board of Education meeting, the College Board’s three-year, $14.3 million contract was nearly $1.4 million less than the cost of using the ACT.

Local high school officials said testing was already more complicated this year since the state has not set aside a budget for statewide college entrance exams in 2016. Both exams can be taken for a fee outside school hours.

But before Illinois switched to the new PARCC exams, the ACT was part of the state’s required standardized testing at the high school level, meaning all Illinois 11th-graders had the chance to take a college entrance exam at no cost.




Boulder County superintendents disappointed in state’s switch from ACT to SAT tests Boulder (CO) Daily Camera


School superintendents in Boulder County aren’t happy with the Colorado Department of Education’s recent decision to swap the ACT with the SAT for the state’s pre-collegiate testing program.

The Department of Education last week announced that a selection committee chose The College Board, makers of the SAT, over the ACT testing company, which has been testing juniors in Colorado since 2001.



Bright, Young, In Limbo: Film Sees Migrant Farm Life Through A Child’s Eyes NPR


José Anzaldo is a bright, cheerful third-grader in Salinas, Calif. He loves school, he’s a whiz at math, and, like lots of little boys his age, he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He also entered the country illegally, and his parents are migrant farmworkers who harvest lettuce.

What will become of this promising young boy? That question drives East of Salinas, a documentary premiering Monday on PBS’s Independent Lens. It’s a story we rarely hear about the families who are helping to put vegetables on our dinner plates.

“Farmworkers are also parents, and they’re also struggling with all the issues all parents are struggling with, on top of backbreaking labor: worrying about the grades their kids are getting, and are they doing their homework, and unpacking backpacks and all of those things,” says Laura Pacheco, who co-directed and produced the film with another filmmaker, Jackie Mow.

Pacheco and Mow spent three years following José and his family — through seven schools and several moves from one cramped living space to another (sometimes in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence).




As Demand Grows For World Languages, State Supervision May Be Required Rhode Island Public Radio


The Rhode Island Foreign Language Association is calling for a new post at the State Department of Education to oversee foreign language education in public schools.

Association President Erin Papa points to several districts, including Providence, Pawtucket and South Kingstown, that have recently added bilingual, or dual language programs. She believes there is a need for better coordination of these programs, and a state official who can oversee the development of curriculum, teacher training and quality measures.

“We have a growing demand of dual language programs in the state, and we haven’t had, to my knowledge ever, a state-level world language official, whereas most other states do have such a position,” said Papa.




AAP: Schools Need Action Plans for Epileptic Students And providers should assist schools in developing them Medpage Today


Physicians should work with school officials to come up with individualized action plans to treat students with epilepsy in the case of prolonged seizures, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in the group’s first-ever clinical report on the subject.

Such plans should outline which medication the child will receive, who will be administering it, and when and how to seek other emergency medical care if needed, according to the report authored by Adam L. Hartman, MD, and Cynthia Di Laura Devore, MD, of the AAP’s Section on Neurology and Council on School Health. The report was published simultaneously in Pediatrics.

When a student has a seizure, staffing issues may prevent the school nurse from being able to administer the rescue medication to the child. Therefore, providers and school principals may decide training for other unlicensed assistive personnel is required.


A copy of the study (Pediatrics)


A copy of HB75 from the 2016 Utah Legislature (Legislature)








USOE Calendar



UEN News



January 6:

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

8:30 a.m., 210 Senate Building


Utah State Board of Education study session and committee meetings

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



January 7:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

8 a.m., 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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