Education News Roundup: Jan. 26, 2016

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas/Education News Roundup

Education News Roundup

Today’s Top Picks:

Speaker Hughes discusses the legislative session. (UP)

and (UP) video

or a compendium of budget information (Legislature)

Poll finds support for early childhood education in Utah. (UP)


Utah State Board of Education First Vic Chair Thomas makes his case for limiting the state’s education fund surplus to K-12. (SLT)


Ed Week presents a bevy of reports on teacher recruitment. (Ed Week)













2016 Utah Legislature Gets Underway


Speaker Greg Hughes Discusses the 2016 Legislative Session


Sizable Majority of Utahns Want Lawmakers to Boost Early Childhood Education


Fredonia, Kanab Elementary Schools receive grant for fourth graders


Stock market game teaches kids and adults lessons on investing






All of income-tax surplus should go to public ed, not higher ed


Utah’s surplus


Marco Rubio and Education: Five Facts to Know Before the Iowa Caucuses


Desegregation Since the Coleman Report

Racial composition of schools and student learning


Learning Tools For Microsoft OneNote May Be One Of The Most Disruptive Education Technologies Yet


Analysis of the stability of teacher-level growth scores from the student growth percentile model






Teacher-recruitment Challenges: A Special Report


Why private school leaders are glad No Child Left Behind is no more


New analysis of math, reading scores ‘very disconcerting’


New Passing Score for the GED


How Fears of Deportation Harm Kids’ Education The threat of raids could be preventing some undocumented immigrants from sending their children to school.


Schools Must Do More to Combat Obesity Among Hispanic Kids: Report Researchers call for policies promoting exercise, good nutrition


Trump slams America’s schools and vows to kill one of the most controversial aspects of US education


Christie floats nixing Dept. of Education


The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools Accusations, beatings, even death threats—that’s life for Muslim kids in America.


K12 Launches Foundation for Blended and Online Learning


Alternative, virtual schools lower Idaho’s graduation rates


Once-lagging neighborhood schools now drive improvement at St. Louis Public Schools


Pro-voucher group suing Springfield schools to get student list


Tampa Christian school asked not to pray before championship files legal action


House passes bill to set up school-funding task force


Education official fired over Facebook posts


Girl on the gridiron changes how her team sees gender


Enfield High Students Won’t Perform Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’


UNICEF Seeks $2.8B to Help Kids in World Emergencies in 2016


Cafeteria Crackdown Prompts Cries of Bean Counting in Italy








2016 Utah Legislature Gets Underway


Well, the Utah Legislature got going Monday morning with what must be honestly called the longest speech by a House speaker in modern history.

But that’s OK.

The first day of the 45-day general sessions doesn’t see a lot of action, anyway.

Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, talked for…well…who was counting the minutes.


Hughes invited members of the State Board of Education and the Canyon School District School Board to attend Monday, and they did.

There needs to be a collaboration between the Legislature and the state and local boards, said Hughes.

The Legislature “can’t be a super school board,” said Hughes.

But neither should lawmakers just bloc-grant funds to locals, either (as one House member proposes in a pilot program).

The 2015 Legislature gave more money to public education than any time in the last decade, and more will be done this year, as well, said Hughes.

A new technology funding for schools will be discussed this year; he said, and he hopes it will pass. (UP)


Compendium of budget information (Legislature)




Speaker Greg Hughes Discusses the 2016 Legislative Session


Speaker Greg Hughes sits down with Contributing Editor Bob Bernick to discuss the 2016 Utah Legislature.

They talk about budget items, tax cuts and a possible suite of bills targeting economic development through tax relief for businesses.

Hughes also addresses Medicaid expansion, spending for technology in Utah’s schools and water policy. (UP) video





Sizable Majority of Utahns Want Lawmakers to Boost Early Childhood Education


Nearly three-fourths of Utahns want the Legislature to extend early education efforts, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

But they are less certain about extending the current half-day kindergarten to a full day, finds pollster Dan Jones & Associates.

The Legislature has been talking for years about the benefits of early education, with most local and national experts saying some children are ready for formal education at 3 and four years old while others say five-year-olds can take a full day of kindergarten – now offered at half-a-day in most Utah public schools.

Jones finds that 73 percent of Utahns want early childhood education programs at least offered.

Twenty-two percent oppose that idea. (UP)




Fredonia, Kanab Elementary Schools receive grant for fourth graders


FREDONIA, Ariz. – Fredonia Elementary School and Kanab Elementary School are each one of 186 sites recently selected to receive a field trip grant from the National Park Foundation for the 2015-2016 school year in support of the White House youth initiative Every Kid in a Park.

Leading up to this year’s 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS), President Obama announced the Every Kid in a Park initiative in 2015 as a call to action to get fourth graders outdoors spending time with nature, family and friends. ([Williams, AZ] Grand Canyon News)



Stock market game teaches kids and adults lessons on investing


SALT LAKE CITY — With the stock market experiencing particularly volatile swings of late, being able to claim 12 percent returns in this kind of unpredictable environment would be a laudable achievement for any investor.

Imagine how proud you would be if you could make that claim and you were not even in junior high school yet.

Those are the “virtual” bragging rights for two 11-year-old elementary school students who were among the winners of a statewide competition called the Stock Market Game. Winners were honored during a recent event at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.

Sixth-graders Ryan Post and Grant Andrus, both 11, won the elementary school division of the contest that pitted students against each other in a contest to determine who could achieve the best returns on a fictional $100,000 investment over a prescribed period. The pair grew their initial fund to $112,746. (KSL)










All of income-tax surplus should go to public ed, not higher ed Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by David L. Thomas, first vice chair of the Utah State Board of Education


Utah’s Education Fund, once dedicated solely for public education, has a projected $488 million surplus for fiscal year 2017. This year, the Utah State Board of Education has requested the entire surplus be put toward better funding our public school system.

This, however, is unlikely to happen if the Utah Legislature follows the same funding patterns it has for nearly two decades and adheres to Gov. Gary Herbert’s budget request, which would send $140 million of that Education Fund surplus to higher education.

I do not begrudge higher education increases in funding, but I am concerned about the continued erosion of the Education Fund.

Utah’s government is financed through two primary funds: Education Fund and General Fund. All income tax revenues flow to the Education Fund. Prior to 1996, the Education Fund could only be used to fund public education. We were not last in per-pupil funding among the states in 1996, and the difference in per-pupil funding between Utah and the national average was just over $2,000. That year, an amendment to the Utah Constitution allowed the Education Fund to be used for higher education. It was argued that such would allow flexibility between the funds, but that the intent was not to fund higher education principally from the Education Fund.

Unfortunately, as new projects, such as Interstate 15 reconstruction in Utah County, took center stage, there was insufficient money in the General Fund to finance these new projects. The practice of supplanting General Fund monies in the higher education budget with Education Fund monies became common practice. This practice freed monies in the General Fund for other high-priority projects.




Utah’s surplus

Deseret News letter from Moriah Wardle


Utah has a budget surplus of $517 million. We are one of only seven other states that have a surplus. And Utah’s is a fairly large one. Why don’t we use this money to give our schoolteachers a pay raise? The national average starting salary for teachers is $36,141. Utah’s starting average for teacher salary is $33,081. Nebo School District is the largest district in the state. The average pay is about $31,512. Our teachers are educating the future of Utah. They are teaching smart, capable, creative and brilliant minds of the future. These students hold the greatest potential of this state, nation and world, and teachers touch the loves of each student and inspire them to pursue their dreams. It is great that Utah has a surplus, but I feel we need to give more credit and resources to our education. We can start by giving our teachers a pay raise.




Marco Rubio and Education: Five Facts to Know Before the Iowa Caucuses Education Week commentary by columnist Alyson Klein


There’s less than a week less before the Iowa caucuses, the very first contest in the 2016 presidential race. And, according to polling, just three candidates have a shot at winning the state on the Republican side (mega-real estate developer Donald Trump, who is at the top of polls, plus U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Marco Rubio, of Florida).

On the Democratic side, two candidates seem to have a good chance: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.

So what kind of a record do each of these candidates have when it comes to education? And what have they been saying about the issue on the campaign trail? We’re going to spend the next week telling you.

First up is Marco Rubio, third place in the polls in Iowa, according to the realclearpolitics average. So what’s his edu-record and where has he been on K-12 on the campaign trail?

Here’s your rundown:




Desegregation Since the Coleman Report

Racial composition of schools and student learning Education Next analysis by Steven Rivkin, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago


The aim of racial integration of our schools should be recognized as distinct from the aim of providing equal opportunity for educational performance. To confound these two aims impedes the achievement of either.

–James S. Coleman,

“Toward Open Schools,” The Public Interest (1967)

Equality of Educational Opportunity, also known as the Coleman Report, sought answers to two burning questions: 1) How extensive is racial segregation within U.S. schools? 2) How adversely does that segregation affect educational opportunities for black students? In answering the first question, James S. Coleman and his co-authors documented the de facto segregation found in all parts of the United States, including the South, where the Supreme Court had declared de jure segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Regarding the second question, Coleman reported that families were more important for learning than were school resources, and, further, that school resources varied more by region than they did by a school’s racial composition within any specific region. Yet Coleman also noted that the composition of a student’s peer group was more important for learning than any other school-related factor, a finding used by the Johnson and Nixon administrations to reinforce their strenuous desegregation efforts in southern states.

Today, questions about the effects of changes in housing patterns and recent Supreme Court decisions that weaken desegregation efforts remain central to discussions of educational opportunity and racial achievement gaps. On the first issue, more specifically, have changes over time in housing and school attendance patterns reduced the isolation of black children in the public schools? The answer depends on the specific way progress is measured. If we ask whether the average black student is exposed to more white students in public school today than a half century ago, the answer is yes, although fewer than in the 1980s; after rising in the 1970s, the rate of exposure has declined markedly since 1988. Another measure of progress toward integration is the dissimilarity index, which measures how much the racial composition of the schools would have to change for each school to have the same percentage of whites and blacks as these groups constitute in the school-age population as a whole. By this measure, schools are closer to complete integration than ever before, and thus racial composition would have to change less now than when the report was released. How can two questions that seem so similar have such different answers? The explanation is in the changing demographic composition of the schools: the percentage of students who are white has declined dramatically over the past 50 years, while the percentage of students who are black has changed very little.




Learning Tools For Microsoft OneNote May Be One Of The Most Disruptive Education Technologies Yet Forbes commentary by columnist Jordan Shapiro


Last week, Microsoft quietly released a public preview of “Learning Tools for OneNote.” This Microsoft hackathon winner is an add-in for OneNote designed to improve the reading and writing experience for students. When Jeff Petty, the accessibility lead for Windows for education, showed me the tools, I was blown away. Learning Tools for OneNote was originally created for dyslexics, but it is game changer for everybody. It illustrates just how powerful the education technologies of the future can and will be.

Just about every day some entrepreneur or their PR/marketing person sends me notice of some new education technology. Sometimes it is a game, sometimes an adaptive learning engine, sometimes a tool for quizzing, or polling, or managing data. Most of these are really just digital versions of traditional classroom tools and practices. They are more efficient iterations of technologies that already exist. Consider for example, smartphone-based classroom polling platforms. While they certainly add speed, ease, anonymity, and instant data analytics, they are hardly innovative: children have been raising their hands for decades.

Learning Tools for OneNote, however, is an example of that rare piece of edtech that actually promises to bring something new to the learning experience. And ironically, it does it by leveraging a variety of already existing Microsoft technologies like Bing’s speech recognition, simultaneous audio text playback, and natural language processing. It uses these technologies to make reading and writing more accessible to all students.



Analysis of the stability of teacher-level growth scores from the student growth percentile model Institute of Education Sciences analysis by WestEd


Some states that evaluate teachers based partly on student learning use the student growth percentile model, which computes a score that is assumed to reflect a teacher’s current and future effectiveness. This study in a Nevada school district finds that half or more of the variance in teacher scores from the model is due to random or otherwise unstable sources rather than to reliable information that could predict future performance. Even when derived by averaging several years of teacher scores, effectiveness estimates are unlikely to provide a level of reliability desired in scores used for high-stakes decisions, such as tenure or dismissal. Thus, states may want to be cautious in using student growth percentile scores for teacher evaluation.










Teacher-recruitment Challenges: A Special Report Education Week


This special report explores the factors behind the recent teacher shortages in many areas and highlights initiatives designed to improve district hiring processes and tap new pools of prospective educators. Intended to give education leaders actionable intelligence on the teacher-recruitment landscape today, the stories examine both larger policy issues and more discrete school human resource practices.




Why private school leaders are glad No Child Left Behind is no more Washington Post


When President Obama signed a new federal education law to replace the much-reviled No Child Left Behind last month, there was a whole lot of cheering in public education circles.

But they weren’t the only ones celebrating. Advocates for private schools also were pleased.

As it turns out, deep within a law usually debated for its effects on the nation’s public schools are provisions that dictate what resources private schools will receive to serve their most vulnerable kids and train their teachers.

Those lobbying for private schools on Capitol Hill say the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA — restores what they say was the intent of the original 1965 law: Poor kids should get the extra help they need, regardless of where they go to school.




New analysis of math, reading scores ‘very disconcerting’

USA Today


We’ve become accustomed to bad news about our kids’ reading and math skills — decades of bleak results from standardized tests now seem almost routine.

But what if we scratched beneath the surface and figured out just how many students can actually read and do math proficiently? A new report attempts to paint that picture.

Researchers at the Center for American Progress, the left-leaning Washington, D.C., think tank, gathered demographic data about the current crop of students in 21 metropolitan areas and combined it with recent results on a federally administered test of math and reading skills.

The results, out today, are sobering.

If all of Detroit’s fourth-graders took the well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, just 120 African-American fourth-graders across the entire city, by researchers’ estimates, would score “proficient” or above in math.

“This is not a misprint,” the authors warn.


A copy of the report (Center for American Progress)




New Passing Score for the GED

Inside Higher Ed


The GED Testing Service today announced that it will lower the passing score for the GED, a test that serves as the equivalent of a high-school degree. At the same time the service, which Pearson and the American Council on Education own jointly, said it was adding two new, optional levels above the passing score (and the previous passing level) that will allow students to signify college readiness or to earn ACE recommendations for college credits.

The testing service said it decided to “recalibrate” the GED’s scoring after comparing the educational success of GED program graduates and high school graduates. The GED two years ago unveiled a new computer-based test. It also has faced new competition.




How Fears of Deportation Harm Kids’ Education The threat of raids could be preventing some undocumented immigrants from sending their children to school.



For many, the New Year represents new beginnings, a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. But this was not the case for hundreds of undocumented adults and children swept up in deportation raids in the first days of 2016. Federal authorities, stepping up immigration enforcement, fanned out primarily into Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas to take unauthorized immigrants with deportation orders into custody. Immigration officers are focusing their efforts on some 100,000 families that flowed across the U.S. border in 2014, reportedly in an attempt to escape violence in their home countries like El Salvador, the current murder capital of the world.

To casual observers, this might appear to be just another flare-up in the firestorm over national immigration policy. Yet a primary focus of the Obama administration’s latest action is on the most vulnerable of immigrant groups—mothers and children—at a time when Latinos, who make up the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants, represent the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. public-school population. With raids and deportations aimed largely at Central American children, the debate is extending beyond the divisive issue of undocumented immigrants. Educators, advocates, and community and elected leaders are questioning the untold hardship on schoolchildren as America limps along with seemingly complex, confusing immigration laws and regulations.

About 50 million students were enrolled in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools in 2012. Of those, 7 percent (3.5 million children) had at least one undocumented parent, according to data from the Pew Research Center for Hispanic Trends. While most of the children with unauthorized immigrant parents were born in the U.S., the remainder, about 49,000, are undocumented themselves. This kind of data underscores the striking fact that immigration policy is education policy. Specifically, as current immigration policy separates families and leaves children parentless, the educational and emotional impact on even U.S.-born students can be staggering.




Schools Must Do More to Combat Obesity Among Hispanic Kids: Report Researchers call for policies promoting exercise, good nutrition HealthDay


Exercise and healthy nutrition can be hard to come by at U.S. schools that serve mainly Hispanic students, according to a new report.

This increases kids’ risk of obesity, researchers say.

“Healthy school environments are paramount for the proper development of Latino kids, given the rising percentage of Latino students enrolled in public schools and their high rates of obesity,” said Amelie Ramirez, of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Ramirez is also director of Salud America! — a national Hispanic child obesity prevention network.

For the study, Ramirez and her colleagues reviewed research published since 2008 and found that schools with a majority of Hispanic students tend to offer fewer physical activity programs or facilities than schools where white students are in the majority.

Also, Hispanic children are less likely than other kids to take part in organized sports or after-school programs, and are more likely to be inactive, the researchers found.

In addition, compared to white-majority schools, Hispanic-majority schools tend to have weaker rules on school snacks and drinks, are less likely to implement nutritional guidelines, and are more likely to be surrounded by fast-food restaurants and stores that sell snacks, the study found.


A copy of the report (Salud America)




Trump slams America’s schools and vows to kill one of the most controversial aspects of US education Business Insider


In a video he uploaded to Facebook on Tuesday, Donald Trump vowed to end the controversial nationwide education standards known as the Common Core.

“Common Core’s a total disaster,” he said. “We’re going to end Common Core.”

Since it was adopted in 2010, the Common Core has been attacked by some opponents who say it imposes a one-size-fits-all approach to education in the US. The goal of the Common Core was to raise education standards across the country.

Trump’s position against the standards isn’t surprising, as there is near universal opposition to the Common Core among Republican politicians.




Christie floats nixing Dept. of Education (Washington, DC) The Hill


Chris Christie floated eliminating the Department of Education during a campaign stop in New Hampshire Monday.

The New Jersey governor laid in to the agency under President Obama for its implementation of Common Core State Standards, which he claimed “perverted” the true intent of the education standards. He also accused the department of putting states in a “straightjacket,” forcing them to jump through hoops to earn federal dollars.

“I would not be in favor of the Department of Education conducting itself the way it is now,” he said at a town hall in Hooksett, N.H., according to video captured by the Democratic opposition research group American Bridge.

“As far as the elimination of those departments, everything would be on the table, as far as I’m concerned, when you have to balance the federal budget.”

Christie’s response came to a question about both the Common Core education standards as well as whether he’d shutter the departments of Education and Commerce as president. While he’s criticized the agency in the past, he’s been loath to go as far as to float pulling the plug. His campaign platform on education doesn’t mention getting rid of the agency.




The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools Accusations, beatings, even death threats—that’s life for Muslim kids in America.

Mother Jones


“WHAT DO YOU MISS about Syria the most?” I ask Nour on a rainy December afternoon in 2015, as we board a train after school. The soft-spoken 17-year old has invited me to join her at “I Stand with Arabs and Muslims,” a rally in San Francisco organized in the wake of the biggest spike in anti-Muslim violence in a decade, following deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

“Everything,” Nour answers. Dressed in a black “Youth Power” T-shirt, black jeans, and white sneakers, she hesitates to find her next words. “I miss the sense of community, family togetherness.” She begins to list off details from the life she used to live in the rural town of As-Suwayda, about an hour south of Damascus: the sound of the fire in the small, propane stove in their living room; the smell of hot mate tea; the cracking of sunflower seeds; her aunts’ chatter. She misses the big fig tree in her grandmother’s backyard and all the books they had in their house. They were mostly novels. Nour’s mother and father taught Arabic literature in local public schools. Nour was a carefree, bookish teenager in Syria—one of the top students in her school, stressed out about exams and grades.

“It’s strange for me to think of myself as an activist now,” says Nour. “But there is a growing tension I feel at school, after Paris, especially toward two girls from Yemen who wear headscarves over long, black dresses. Students often ask them, ‘Why do you wear this? Can you take it off? I want to see your hair!’ I want to help them feel safer and more included at school.”




K12 Launches Foundation for Blended and Online Learning THE Journal


K12 has launched The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning, an independent charitable organization designed to advance online and blended learning opportunities and outcomes.

The foundation will have three goals:

* To offer scholarships for post-secondary students;

* To offer grants for individuals and organizations advancing online and blended learning; and

* Bringing together stakeholders for collaboration.




Alternative, virtual schools lower Idaho’s graduation rates Associated Press via (Boise) Idaho Statesman


Idaho officials say alternative and virtual charter high schools are dragging down the state’s graduation rate.

State Board of Education President Don Soltman told a legislative budget writing committee Monday that alternative schools have a 36 percent graduation rate. Meanwhile, virtual charter schools have a 20 percent graduation rate.

Soltman says those low numbers are the main reason why Idaho’s overall high school graduation rate had recently plummeted from roughly 83 percent to 77 percent.

Public schools still maintain an 88 percent graduation rate, and district-authorized charter schools boast the highest graduation rate at 91 percent.




Once-lagging neighborhood schools now drive improvement at St. Louis Public Schools St. Louis Post-Dispatch


For decades, children who have fared the worst academically in St. Louis have been those in its neighborhood schools.

They tend to come from unstable housing situations, from the deepest poverty. Most don’t qualify for higher performing choice or magnet schools, or they have parents who didn’t try to enroll them. They end up in classrooms with high concentrations of children with skills below grade level, who bounce from school to school, with the smallest chance of graduating.

Some of this appears to be changing.

Last year, gains made in the city’s neighborhood schools were so significant that St. Louis Public Schools experienced its best performance in more than a decade, as measured by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Those gains were primarily in academics and attendance. And they occurred at schools that have long been considered some of the district’s most troubled ones, such as Oak Hill Elementary in the Bevo Mill neighborhood, at Yeatman-Liddell Middle School in Penrose, and at Roosevelt High School in Tower Grove East.

At some schools, progress can be fragile — made one year and lost the next.

But at Mann Elementary in Tower Grove South, improvements that took root under a new principal in 2010 continue to carry the school forward.




Pro-voucher group suing Springfield schools to get student list Associated Press  via Columbus (OH) Dispatch


A school district is wrongly shielding names and addresses of students from an organization that promotes options to traditional public schools, according to a lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court attracting interest from several statewide education groups.

Columbus-based School Choice Ohio says it has long obtained the information through public records requests to districts around Ohio. It then uses the data to alert parents to scholarships — sometimes referred to as vouchers — that poor students and others can use to attend private institutions in the state.

After providing the information in the past, Springfield city schools is now refusing to hand over the data. The Supreme Court planned a hearing Tuesday.




Tampa Christian school asked not to pray before championship files legal action (Tampa Bay, FL) WTVT


TAMPA (FOX 13) – Cambridge Christian School announced Tuesday it will be filing legal action against the Florida High School Athletic Association because the school was prohibited from praying over the loudspeaker before their 2015 championship game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Attorneys for the school are demanding the FHSAA apologize for censoring the school’s private speech and are asking that the organization acknowledge the students’ right to pray in public. “In the football program, we are working to raise godly young men that can make a difference in the world. Prayer is a big part of that. It’s central to who we are as a school and a team,” Tim Euler, the Head of School, said in a release




House passes bill to set up school-funding task force Associated Press via Seattle Times


The Washington House passed a bill Monday that would instruct the 2017 Legislature to finish repairing the way the state pays for public schools, another step toward answering a state Supreme Court decision and ending $100,000 a day in fines.

The measure would set up a task force to find a solution to the state’s overreliance on local school levies to pay for basic education. It also would ask school districts for more details about the way they spend their local tax money to help lawmakers determine how much of it is paying for things like teacher salaries that the state should be covering.

The levy issue is the last hurdle to bringing lawmakers into compliance with the Washington high court’s so-called McCleary decision, in which the justices said school funding was not adequate or uniform. It’s also what lawmakers call the most challenging part of the work, and they have said they do not have the capacity or political will to finish it during this year’s legislative session.




Education official fired over Facebook posts Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Georgia education official who posted online about race, religion and partisan politics was fired Tuesday.

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods issued a statement saying he was “disgusted” by the Facebook posts of associate superintendent Jeremy Spencer and that, as of Tuesday, he was no longer a Department of Education employee.

The announcement came within an hour of a call at the Capitol for Spencer’s termination.

Jeremy Spencer posted a political cartoon about President Barack Obama, to which a Facebook “friend” added a photo of a lynched black man. Spencer left the image up until contacted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The state school superintendent fired Spencer Jan. 26 from his $138,000 a year state job.

Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat, called on the GOP school leader to fire Spencer, saying in the well of the Senate that “Mr. Spencer has crossed the line.”

Spencer frequently posted his thoughts and news accounts about blacks, Muslims, partisan politics and other topics that would be dangerous territory for a teacher. His Facebook site was taken down Monday after inquiries by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Before that, though, he’d allowed a picture of a lynching that was posted by a “friend” to remain on his site for more than two months.




Girl on the gridiron changes how her team sees gender NewsHour


It started as a bet with her mom, but Lexi Dressing won a spot as starting kicker on her South Carolina high school football team. Our Student Reporting Labs report as part of Outside the Box, a series on the ways that young people are challenging traditional gender stereotypes.




Enfield High Students Won’t Perform Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’

Hartford (CT) Courant


ENFIELD — A decision by Enfield High School staff not to allow a student production of Green Day’s rock opera “American Idiot” drew an online response from the band’s front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, on Monday that quickly spread over the Internet.

The high school’s drama club, the Lamplighters, will not perform “American Idiot” this spring, despite fliers recently posted at the school encouraging students to audition. Instead, the group will perform “Little Shop of Horrors,” according to drama club director Nate Ferreira.

“I know that Mr. Armstrong posted something in support of our intention to do the show but in fact it wasn’t the school board as he thinks that forced us not to do the show,” Ferreira said. “It was a decision that the principal and I arrived at together because there were some kids in the group whose parents didn’t want them involved.”

Armstrong posted a photo of the “American Idiot” logo on the social media site Instagram with a letter to the school board:

“I realize the content of the Broadway production of AI is not quite ‘suitable’ for a younger audience. However there is a high school rendition of the production and I believe that’s the one Enfield was planning to perform which is suitable for most people. It would be a shame if these high schoolers were shut down over some of the content that may be challenging for some of the audience. But the bigger issue is censorship.”




UNICEF Seeks $2.8B to Help Kids in World Emergencies in 2016 Associated Press


GENEVA — The U.N. children’s agency is launching a $2.8 billion appeal to help children caught up in humanitarian emergencies this year.

UNICEF Geneva’s director of emergency programs, Sikander Khan, says about a quarter of that appeal will target education, which the agency considers a “life-saving measure for children” when war has shuttered many schools.

The appeal is part of a broader funding drive led by the U.N. humanitarian agency, OCHA, which targets 76 million people in 63 countries.

The largest single chunk of UNICEF’s appeal – $1.16 billion – targets Syria and neighboring countries that have taken in millions of refugees from Syria’s war. The appeal hopes to help some 6.7 million Syrian children inside and outside Syria, including 5 million who would receive educational support.




Cafeteria Crackdown Prompts Cries of Bean Counting in Italy New York Times


CORSICO, Italy — After being elected last year, Mayor Filippo Errante found that this town, abutting Milan, had accrued an “alarming” debt of more than a million euros in unpaid school lunch fees. So he decided to take what he called an iron­fist approach.

Children whose parents were up to date on payments would be allowed to eat cafeteria­prepared meals. Children whose parents had not paid would not.

“The era of the ‘furbetti’ is over,” Mr. Errante said in a statement on social media last month, using a term that translates to cunning, akin to gaming the system.

Some called the decision a form of blackmail. Others criticized it for creating what they said was a schoolroom apartheid, where some children ate hot meals while the others snacked on homemade panini or a slab of cold pizza.











USOE Calendar



UEN News



January 26:

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

8 a.m., 445 State Capitol


Senate Education Committee meeting

2 p.m.,  210 Senate Building


Senate Business & Labor Committee meeting

2 p.m., 215 Senate Building


Retirement and Independent Entities Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

5 p.m., 20 House Building



January 27:

Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

7:59 a.m., 30 House Building


House Education Committee meeting

2 p.m., 30 House Building



January 28:

Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting

8 a.m., 445 State Capitol


Utah State Board of Education legislative meeting

Noon, 210 Senate Building


Executive Appropriations Committee meeting

5 p.m., 445 State Capitol



February 4:

Utah State Board of Education study session and committee meetings

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



February 5:

Utah State Board of Education meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City



February 11:

Utah State Charter School Board meeting

250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City

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