Education News Roundup: Dec. 21 – 2016



Utah School Districts

Utah School Districts

Today’s Top Picks:


Sen. Hillyard (at Cache Valley Daily) and Gov. Herbert (at Utah Policy) each talk about the education budget. (CVD)

and (UP, video, the education portion begins around the 5:04 mark)


Utah students are getting better at math. (CVD)


Uintah School Board will meet tonight and discuss the superintendent’s contract. (SLT)

and (Vernal Express)


KUER looks at special education in Utah. (KUER)








Hillyard not projecting much money for building or raises in public education


State Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, may have changed assignments from executive appropriations to public education in the Utah legislature, but something hasn’t changed. He is still trying to make money stretch.

Hillyard says that there is $287 million in ongoing money, but almost no one-time money.

“That creates a real problem for buildings and the one-time projects that we like to do. We normally have had $100-$200 million in one-time money that we don’t have this time,” explains Hillyard. “The $287 million in ongoing (money) that you have you look at, first of all, the growth in public education which is about $68 million of that.

“So that leaves you with a little over $200 million to spend and it’s about $52 million for every one percent salary increase for teachers and all the other public employees. So at four percent it’s gone.” (CVD)



Herbert Talks National Monument, Education and Healthcare


Gov. Gary Herbert speaks with Managing Editor Bryan Schott about the possibility of a new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

He also talks about how to improve Utah’s schools and what changes he’d like to see made to Utah’s tax code. (UP, video, the education portion begins around the 5:04 mark)



Higher standards are leading to higher math scores in Utah


Efforts to improve grade-level proficiency across multiple disciplines have been underway for many years in Utah schools. They have taken different approaches and adopted different names over the years. With math education, those efforts seem to be paying off.

According to a recent report, the number of Utah students in grades 3 through 8 on grade level increased 1.5 percentage points in English Language Arts and 2 percentage points in Math, compared to students last year.

Joleigh Honey, President of the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, says these numbers didn’t go up because teachers made it easier on students. It was quite the contrary. (CVD)



Uintah teachers fear lame-duck ouster of district superintendent Education » Discussion about his position seen by some as attempt to dismiss him.


Members of the Uintah School District Board of Education are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss, among other items, the contract and conduct of district Superintendent Mark Dockins.

But some teachers worry the meeting is intended to fire the popular district administrator in the waning days of 2016 before a majority of the board is replaced.

“They’re just trying to make one last effort to get rid of him while the current board is there,” said Heather Heath, a second-grade teacher at Davis Elementary in Vernal.

Wednesday’s agenda includes two items related to the superintendent — a discussion on the costs of an investigation into Dockins’ conduct as superintendent and consideration of a contract renewal. (SLT) (Vernal Express)



Teaching Special Ed Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard


A good special education teacher is hard to find. And even harder to hang on to. Rigorous teaching schedules combined with mounds of paperwork can lead to burnout. And for one Utah teacher, it was almost too much.

This time last year, Stephanie Johnson was miserable.

“I don’t know how to describe it, it’s just so much work. Like I just feel like I cannot do it,” Johnson said.

Johnson was in her third year teaching at a junior high school in Lindon, Utah. And on the outside, it looked like she was doing great.

Her classes ran smoothly. Students loved her. Parents loved her. But in reality, she was drowning. Because special education requires a lot.

“Compliance and laws and paperwork,” said Johnson at the time. “Oh my gosh it’s so much.” (KUER)



Utah spent $4.4 billion in federal funds last year, audit shows


SALT LAKE CITY — Utah spent nearly $4.4 billion in federal funds last year, a new state audit shows.

The figure represents almost 23 percent of all state spending in the budget year that ended June 30, the report shows.

Federal dollars are a major source of funding for the state. The federal government requires Utah to annually audit its financial statements and its federal programs as a condition of receiving federal money. (DN) (KSL)


A copy of the report (State Auditor)



Park City music teacher named Music Educator of the Year Christopher Taylor says he always wanted to be a band director


Christopher Taylor, director of bands at Park City High School, was named the 2016 Music Educator of the Year by the Utah High School Activities Association. He is grateful for the honor, but says its one he shares with everyone associated with the band program.

Christopher Taylor doesn’t believe he could have become anything else.

It was clear from an early age, he said, that teaching music for a living, like his father, was his calling. The decision to follow into the profession was so obvious, in fact, that it was hardly a choice at all.

“It’s one of those things — I didn’t choose to do it,” he said. “It chose me. It’s what I do. … To be honest, I don’t think I knew anything else. My dad was a band director, and I would help him plan the festivals or do the behind-the-scenes stuff for a concert. As my dad says, I knew more about band directing in eighth grade than most college graduates.”

Taylor has proven himself in more than two decades as a music teacher in the Park City School District. Many who have watched him lead the Park City High School band program to statewide and national prominence over the last 15 years say he’s as good as any high school band director around.

The Utah High School Activities Association seconded that opinion recently. The organization named Taylor the 2016 Music Educator of the Year, an honor recognizing his efforts to shape the band into one of the most school’s most successful programs. (PR)



Mountainside students create art out of trash


The art classroom at Mountainside Elementary has been covered in trash for the past three months.

Sixth graders have created packing tape casts of their bodies and stuffed them with with paper towel tubes, shredded paper, empty soda bottles, sour cream containers and milk jugs. Over the next two months, Shannon Erickson’s students will be covering their tape sculptures with plaster and then finishing them off with paint. Students are excited about the project. (LHJ)



Private vision clinic gives Utah International Charter School students ‘gift of sight’


SOUTH SALT LAKE — In the season of giving, Muna Hussein received the gift of eyeglasses, which vastly improved the teenager’s view of her world.

“I can see now things far away. I’m so excited,” said Hussein, 17, a refugee from Somalia.

She was one of dozens of students at Utah International Charter School who on Tuesday received new glasses as a gift coordinated by Eagle Vision Center of Eagle Mountain. (DN) (KSL)



Utah growing faster than any other state

3 million and counting » Utah’s birthrate still leads the nation, and in-migration is another major factor.


Utah is the fastest-growing state, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and not just because it tops the nation in baby-making.

The Beehive State led a surge among key states in the South and West as its population mushroomed by 2.03 percent between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, pushing past the 3 million mark to reach 3,051,217 residents.

Nevada was second fastest-growing state, at 1.95 percent, followed by Idaho (1.83 percent), Florida (1.82 percent) and Washington (1.78 percent).

Officials attributed the growth to a blend of natural in-state population increases (its birthrate, though dipping, continues to lead the nation) and an ongoing spike in net in-migration. (SLT) (OSE) (PDH) (CVD) (KUTV) (KSL) (KUER) (MUR) (USAT)



Former teacher’s aide convicted of sexually assaulting students gets parole hearing


UTAH STATE PRISON — Andrea Billingsley, a former teacher’s aide convicted of having sexual contact with two teenage boys, admits that right up until the time she was sent to prison, she remained in denial.

Earlier this month, Billingsley, 38, who was convicted of three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of rape, had her first parole hearing at the Utah State Prison. She was asked what caused her attitude to change between 2010 and now. (DN) (KSL)



SLC Police Chief Reads to Preschoolers


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown took some time out of his day Tuesday to read to preschoolers.

He stopped by Riley Elementary School and then Parkview Elementary School. (KTVX)



Santa Surprises Orem Kindergartener with Serviceman Brother


OREM, Utah— Santa came early for one Orem kindergartener who had her serviceman brother delivered wrapped up in a bow.

The Deseret News reports that 5-year-old Brisa Ramirez had told her mother all she really wanted for Christmas was a visit from her older brother Army Pvt. Dylan Ramirez, who has been training in Virginia for six months.

Dylan Ramirez was able to secure leave and conspired with Brisa’s principal at Geneva Elementary in Orem to deliver a surprise. (MUR)



Utah Valley Educator of the Week: Kate Elliott


Kate Elliott of Foothills Elementary in Salem was chosen by the Nebo School District as the Daily Herald’s Utah Valley Educator of the Week. (PDH)



Utah Valley Student of the Week: Travis Gervais


Travis Gervais of Art City Elementary has been chosen by the Nebo School District as the Daily Herald’s Utah Valley Student of the Week. (PDH)






Teacher’s positive signage offers message all can embrace Deseret News commentary by columnist Lois M. Collins


“I can do hard things.”

That’s a message printed at least twice on posters on the wall of Leigh VandenAkker’s Techniques for Tough Times class at East High School — a popular elective that fills up quickly with freshmen through seniors.

I visited East because Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hosted a roundtable on suicide prevention there last week. Beforehand, he met with the students in VandenAkker’s class, the emphasis on social and emotional learning skills — which, among other things, are powerful against suicide. Various posters on the wall kept drawing my attention and I realized, reading them, that although not one of them said a negative word, each of us could probably find a personal weakness and a way to fix it in one of the posters’ messages.

The sign that slapped me gently read: “Are you listening? Listening is not the same as waiting to speak.”



Utah school board makes prep transfers too easy Salt Lake Tribune commentary by columnist KURT KRAGTHORPE


Education has changed over the past 50-plus years. I should understand this, as a son of a former Michigan high school football coach who was presented a clipboard by other faculty members upon moving because he had broken a few of those objects over the heads of misbehaving physical education students.

Believing all high school athletes should play where they live is one of those stances that reveals my age. And in this era of open enrollment, having the Utah State Board of Education vote to ease transfer restrictions for athletes below the varsity level seems like only a minor departure from the current standards of the Utah High School Activities Association.

Even so, this move frightens me — and it should alarm anyone who cares about maintaining the values and traditions of high school sports in Utah.



What these teens learned about the Internet may shock you!

Can digital media literacy contend with bogus news?

Hechinger Report commentary by CHRIS BERDIK, a science journalist


When the AP United States history students at Aragon High School in San Mateo California, scanned the professionally designed pages of, most concluded that it was a solid, unbiased source of facts and analysis. They noted the menu of research reports, graphics and videos, and the “About” page describing the site as a project of a “nonprofit research organization” called the Employment Policies Institute.

But then their teacher, Will Colglazier, demonstrated how a couple more exploratory clicks—critically, beyond the site itself—revealed that the Employment Policies Institute is considered by the Center for Media and Democracy to be a front group created by lobbyists for the restaurant and hotel industries.

“I have some bright students, and a lot of them felt chagrined that they weren’t able to deduce this,” said Colglazier, who videotaped the episode last January. “They got duped.”

Or, as one student put it, loudly, “fudge nuggets!”

The exercise was part of “Civic Online Reasoning,” a series of news-literacy lessons being developed by Stanford researchers and piloted by teachers at a few dozen schools.



Schools are failing our boys — but Trump, Dems can bridge the gap (Washington, DC) The Hill op-ed by RICHARD WHITMIRE, author of several education books, including “Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Education System That’s Leaving Them Behind”


Will President-elect Trump champion economic policies that help the white, working class families that elected him? Let’s hope so — sure beats ginning up more tax breaks for the country club set.

Conservative think tankers are full of ideas about how to pursue that goal. Among those speculated about: easier occupational licensing, paid maternity leave, lower payroll taxes and more apprenticeships. All ideas worth considering.

But there’s one policy action that I have yet to see broached, a reform that many Democrats might step up to support: Make schools work for working class white males.

Not until I started researching my book, “Why Boys Fail,” did I realize that rural schools aren’t coming up short with all students — just the boys. Drop into a community college that serves rural students and you’ll find classrooms chock full of women. It’s their brothers who are left floundering.

Actually, the same is true in the cities, where African-American women are proving themselves to be quite capable of both getting into college and graduating within six years. Once again, it’s their brothers who come up short.

A conspiracy against boys masterminded by the mostly female teaching staffs? Not really. What I found in my research was that a key component of the national education reform movement — pushing reading and writing skills into the very early grades — ended up backfiring, at least for boys.

I think of it as a giant “oops.”



Volunteering As ‘Hanukkah Parents’ Lets Schools Off The Hook

(Boston) WBUR commentary by Linda K. Wertheimer, former education editor of The Boston Globe


They carry tinfoil pans filled with steaming latkes and bags of wooden dreidels into elementary schools, as their own children squeal with delight. These Jewish parents tell the ancient story of how a tiny band of Jewish soldiers called the Maccabees defeated Syrian Greeks and stumbled upon a miracle when they found a tiny bit of oil that lasted eight days instead of just one.

It’s a time-honored tradition to be a “Hanukkah parent.” How could it be wrong? Moms and dads can build children’s pride in their Jewish identity by showing them it’s okay to talk about their faith in a Christian-majority school. They can help if the teacher knows nothing about Hanukkah, which starts Dec. 24 this year.  They can counter the anti-diversity message President-elect Donald Trump recently sent when he announced “we are going to say Merry Christmas again” at a rally in Wisconsin. Not all of us do celebrate Christmas, though we still get plenty of Christmas greetings.

But Jewish parents should think twice about bringing Hanukkah to their child’s classroom. I confess, a few years ago, I was a “Hanukkah parent” in my son’s kindergarten room. Another Jewish parent and I told the Hanukkah story and helped students decorate wooden dreidels. As soon as he saw me, my son jumped up and down and rushed over to hug me. He later blurted out things he knew about Hanukkah to his peers, like the names of the Hebrew letters on the dreidel, actually a top. At the same class gathering, a Hindu parent ran an activity on Diwali because both holidays fell around the same time that year.

I loved seeing my son’s enthusiasm about my presence and his Judaism. I don’t regret volunteering. But I wouldn’t do it again given what I know now after years researching how schools can — and should — teach about religions.

When parents offer themselves as instructors of our faith, we let schools off the hook and leave education about religion up to chance. Learning about religion is an integral part of social studies and geography even in elementary schools, and it’s especially critical now with increasing reports of hate crimes based on religion and race.






Ohio to Mine Government Data for Answers to Tough Issues Associated Press


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio is making plans to restructure its vast stores of government data so they can be mined for possible solutions to the state’s most complex problems, an initiative experts say would be among the most sweeping of its kind by any U.S. state.

The administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 presidential contender, has spent months laying the groundwork for the effort. It would mark a new approach to tackling stubborn challenges including infant mortality, opiate addiction, hunger, dropout rates and unemployment.

Could missed appointments for government-funded children’s eyeglasses help explain lagging third-grade reading scores in some areas? Has the guardian of an at-risk child begun living with a new partner, increasing the chance of abuse? Are quicker recovery times for government-covered procedures at some hospitals something that should be replicated elsewhere?

Those are the types of questions that could be investigated using state data, now collected by roughly 120 agencies, boards and commissions and stored in about 1,600 separate electronic information systems.



Summing Up Results From TIMSS, PISA

Education Week


Students in the United States are by and large treading water in the two largest international benchmarking tests in math, science, and reading, which both released 2015 results in recent weeks.

U.S. 15-year-olds did not perform significantly differently in science or reading on the Program for International Student Assessment in 2015 compared with their showing in previous years, and their math performance significantly declined since 2012 and 2009, the last two times PISA was given. That put the United States roughly in the middle of education systems in reading and science on PISA, but below average in math.

In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the nation’s 4th graders scored in the top quarter of all participating countries in those two subjects, though they showed no improvement since 2011, when TIMSS was last held. U.S. 8th graders likewise performed in the top quarter of countries in math and science; they had significantly improved in math but not in science since 2011. TIMSS, run by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, tracks math and science skills in 4th and 8th grades in 55 countries and education systems. PISA, run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, measures critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in math, science, and reading of 15-year-olds in 77 countries and education systems.

The United States also took part in TIMSS Advanced in 2015, for the first time in 20 years. That test gauges 18-year-olds in nine countries and education systems on the most challenging math and science, including calculus and physics. U.S. students showed no improvement in advanced math or science since 1995. They performed above average among the participating countries in math, but below average in physics.



Grading The World’s Textbooks: Making Progress But Needs Improvement NPR


A lesson in leadership illustrated by images of men only. A fill-in-the-blanks test whose “correct” answer is a stereotype: “I am a Filipino. I am a domestic helper in Hong Kong.” A discussion of global warming that highlights potential “positive effects” of climate change, such as “Places that are too cold for farming today could become farmland.”

These are some examples from textbooks around the world included in a newly released study about the role of textbooks by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report.

The report reviewed secondary-school history, civics, social studies and geography textbooks from the 1950s until 2011 to see how they handled issues such as peace and nonviolence, gender equality, human rights, environmental protection and cultural diversity. The information was culled from three large databases that each drew on several hundred textbooks in a variety of categories, encompassing close to 100 countries. The conclusion: Despite some progress, textbooks often continue to minimize, brush aside or misrepresent these topics.


A copy of the report (UNESCO)



Citing ‘legal concerns,’ state education board asks attorneys to analyze House Bill 17 (Raleigh, NC) WRAL


RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Board of Education asked its attorneys Tuesday to continue analyzing House Bill 17, which takes away power from the board and transfers it to the new Republican State Superintendent-elect Mark Johnson, who begins the job next month.

The board opened its meeting at 10 a.m. and quickly went into closed session to discuss the bill, which outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law. The board plans to meet again before Jan. 1.

State Board Chairman Bill Cobey made some brief remarks before going into closed session and said the bill “attempts to diminish the board’s constitutional authority” and “raises significant legal concerns.”



Meet the educators trying to fix California’s “broken” remedial education system (Pasadena, CA) KPCC


Like thousands of other students at West L.A. College in Culver City, Isaac Elimimian had to take a test to help determine if he was ready to do college level work.

“I had no clue it was determining where I would be placed in classes and things of that nature,” he said.

The test’s results, he said, led him to enroll in a remedial class that was one level below what he needed to take. No one advised him otherwise. He was frustrated that he had to take remedial classes that wouldn’t count toward his degree and that he still had to pay for. So he took some time off from college.

But he came back because he has some big career goals. After getting his two-year degree from this campus, he wants to transfer to Tuskegee University.

“I want to be a cardiovascular surgeon – but the residency might be too much – so I might settle for dermatology,” he said.

Elimimian’s struggles are common among California’s community college students, 80 percent of whom are assigned non-credit remedial coursework after taking a placement test when they arrive on campuses. Roughly 40 percent of those students go on to drop out.

But now, his community college and others are leading the charge to overhaul what many observers say is a broken remedial education program. Administrators are changing the placement tests, the weight they give to its results, and the content of the courses students take.

The goal is to stop remedial students from dropping out and to get more of them to transfer to a four-year university.



Mt. View School District closer to guns on campuses Controversial measure still brings questions


GRANGEVILLE – Mountain View School District inched closer Monday night toward adopting a policy that would allow school personnel to carry weapons on its campuses.

But approval of the controversial measure is by no means assured. (Spokane [WA] Spokesman-Review)



After Flint’s lead crisis, the ‘most important medication’ for kids is education NewsHour


There is a well-established link between lead exposure and learning disabilities, but early childhood education has been shown to counteract the effects. In Flint, Michigan, where the youngest residents have been the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, the city has opened a free child care center in an attempt to counteract the harmful effects on developing brains.



Turkey suspends another 2,000 education staff for alleged links to failed coup Reuters


Turkey suspended nearly 2,000 teachers and school employees on Wednesday, an official from the Ministry of Education said, as part of the widening purge that has followed a failed coup in July.

More than 125,000 people have been dismissed from the police, the military, the judiciary, the civil service or the education system, and almost 40,000 arrested, for alleged connections with the coup attempt, during which at least 240 people were killed.

The official told Reuters that 1,980 teachers and school employees had been suspended pending investigation. No other information was immediately available.

Turkey says followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen have infiltrated state institutions and plotted to overthrow the government. On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said that the 22-year-old police officer who assassinated Russia’s ambassador in Ankara this week was also one of Gulen’s followers.


Related posts:

Comments are closed.