Minggu, 13 Juli 2014

Education notes: News from schools near you

Education notes


-- Sara Neibergall, a kindergarten teacher at Centennial Elementary, is the teacher of the yearin the Centennial district. She was chosen by the Centennial Education Association for her collaborative spirit, generous nature and dedication to teaching.


-- Inver Hills Community College received a $250,000 grant from the CHS Foundation to fund its agricultural sciences career pipeline program. The grant will help introduce students to agriculture careers.

-- Parents in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district are being asked to update theirstudents' emergency contact information on the SchoolView website between Aug. 7 and the beginning of school.

-- The Farmington school district and city are offering a workshop for residents interested in running for public office. It will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m July 29 at the community education center at Meadowview Elementary.

-- Burnsville High School girls golf coach Alan VanWyngarden is retiring after leading the team since 1991. His teams won 11 consecutive Lake Conference championships and 13 total conference championships.

-- General Motors donated a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado to Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount. The Silverado will be used by technicians in training.


-- The Mounds View school board appointed Jonathan Weinhagen of Shoreview to replace Lisa Sjobeck, who announced her resignation from the board in May. Weinhagen was one of five residents who applied for the position and were interviewed. A graduate of Mounds View High School, Weinhagen is regional director of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

-- After serving as interim principal at Castle Elementary School in Oakdale during the last months of the school year, Bridget Bruner was named principal. Bruner has worked in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district for 14 years as a math teacher, teacher mentor and, most recently, instructional coach at Skyview Middle School. She earned her bachelor's from the University of Northern Iowa and her master's from St. Mary's University. Bruner replaces Allie Storti, who left to become principal of Pinewood Elementary in Mounds View.

-- The annual Family Fun Run/Walk to raise money for North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale schools will be July 26 in the Polar Arena parking lot, 2416 E. 11th Ave. in North St. Paul. Proceeds will support the 622 Education Foundation's teaching grants and Angel Fund, which serves students in need. Registration opens at 8 a.m., followed by a 5K, kid run and toddler trot. Registration fees for the 5K are $15 to $25. For information and a link to online registration, go

-- The White Bear Lake district again has a booth at Marketfest, which takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through July 31 in downtown White Bear Lake. Those who stop by can meet school board members and administrators, get a free pencil and participate in early-childhood activities such as art, fishing or painting.

-- Sara Paul is the new assistant superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools. Paul comes from Minneapolis Public Schools, where she was associate superintendent. She taught for 15 years in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district and was executive director of a youth-focused nonprofit organization. Paul's accomplishments include recognition by the National Institute for Excellence in Education, an Ethics in Education award from the MacMillan Foundation and being named NASDAQ National Teacher of the Year in 2001.

-- Winning writers in the White Bear Lake district's "Bears on Wheels" contest were fourth-graders Julia Covert, Brooke Tjernlund, Shannon Barry, Sandra Sardi, Jayda Collins and JR Vojtech and third-graders Alaera Knutson, Anna Rose and Nathan Greene.

-- Six students from Sunrise Park Middle School, White Bear Lake, placed in the top 10 in their categories at National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland. Terra Sikorski earned a third place for her exhibit "Ryan White: A Boy Without Rights Changes a Nation"; Allison Ackerknecht, Kari Breuer and Margaret Philippi placed fourth with the exhibit "The Americans With Disabilities Act"; and Sabrina Brown and Anna Lee placed sixth with their website Korematsu v. United States: Taking Responsibility for Rights Denied. The website also was judged best project from Minnesota in the junior division.

-- Chris Streiff is the new principal at Willow Lane Elementary in White Bear Lake, coming from a position as an elementary principal for Rochester Public Schools. Streiff has taught at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels and has worked in education administration and as a consultant.

-- Brian Morris is the new assessment coordinator for White Bear Lake Area Schools. He previously spent 17 years teaching math at White Bear high school's south campus, where he also served as a teacher leader and curriculum leader.


St. Paul Public Schools kicked off Freedom School, a summer program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The program includes field trips, culturally appropriate materials and parent involvement, with an emphasis on literacy. It is a collaboration with the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood and Children's Defense Fund.

-- The theater department of Cretin-Derham Hall will present "Pippin" from July 24 through 27 and July 31 through Aug. 3. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

-- All 2014 graduates of the charter Twin Cities Academy will continue on to college this fall. The 31 students have garnered $1.5 million in scholarships from schools throughout the country.

-- Two Harding High School graduates attending the College of St. Benedict were among the U.S. delegates to the seventh annual Korea-America Student Conference. Mai Tong Vang and Tiffany Xiong joined 23 other Americans and 25 Korean undergraduate and graduate students at the cultural exchange conference, held in several South Korean cities.

-- More than 200 volunteers turned out to help build a new playground for St. Paul Music Academy. The school is among the St. Paul district's most diverse, highest-poverty elementaries.


-- Teachers in the Stillwater district will be using construction of the St. Croix River Crossing as curriculum material. Partners in the project are the Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation and the Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University. Engineers and designers will visit classrooms, students will go to the construction site, and interactive learning modules will allow manipulating bridge models and plans. The emphasis during the 2014-15 school year will be on engineering and environmental impacts. Future lessons will cover art, design and civics.

-- Traci Swenson, a language arts teacher at Stillwater Area High School, was selected as a reader for the Advanced Placement program. She will be part of a group that evaluates and scores language arts exams taken by high school students from across the country. Swenson teaches English II, AP Language and Composition and English 12 and is the gymnastics coach.


-- The American Red Cross honored University of Minnesota graduate student Randi De Mel with the 2014 Rookie Volunteer of the Year Award. De Mel, a student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, serves as a case worker with Restoring Family Links, a Red Cross program that reconnects families separated by war or other disasters. She played a key role supporting a team that reconnected two sisters from Somalia who had not spoken in 20 years.

Information for Education Notes may be sent to Mila Koumpilova,, for St. Paul schools; Christopher Magan, for Dakota County schools; Deb Mazzocco,, for Washington County schools; David Knutson,, for north suburban schools; and Andy Rathbun,, for Wisconsin schools.

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Unanimous D.C. Council panel advances special-education overhaul

The D.C. Council’s Education Committee on Thursday unanimously supported special-education legislation intended to speed services to children and give parents more leverage in disputes.

The legislation, which is scheduled to go to the full council for a vote in the fall, is contained in a package of three bills that D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) proposed in March.

The legislation would cut in half the time schools have to evaluate a child referred for services. D.C. schools now have up to 120 days to offer students an evaluation, the most time in the country. Schools would also have to provide parents with information before special-education meetings and develop transition plans earlier to better prepare students for adult life.

Educators would also try to identify and serve children with disabilities earlier and more efficiently to improve their chances of being successful in school. The legislation would expand the number of infants and toddlers who are eligible for special services, building on a program expansion initiated last year by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

Catania, the committee chairman and a candidate for mayor, said the three bills address critical problems in special education. He said families often feel powerless when they try to advocate for their children and seek help for “all-too-often undiagnosed” disabilities.

Special-education services in D.C. long have been in turmoil, and the city historically paid tuition for thousands of special-needs children each year to attend private schools. The school system has been working to build up its special-education programs and reduce the number of private placements.

Federal officials recently noted improvements on many fronts, but they still found the District to be out of compliance with national requirements and in need of intervention. Of particular concern is low academic performance.

Judith Sandalow — executive director of the Children’s Law Center, which represents children with special needs and helped draft Catania’s legislation — also credited public schools with making significant improvements.

“Five years ago, or 10 years go, we would have laughed at this legislation because it would have been so unrealistic,” she said. With a new foundation in place, she said, the legislative package is realistic and could serve to push the schools “to move faster and farther.”

The committee gathered comment from parents, agencies and experts and made revisions to the proposals, including giving the city more time to introduce some major changes.

The earlier deadlines for evaluations would not go into effect until July 2017, because schools officials said they needed more time to prepare. Some schools have struggled to conduct evaluations within the current time frame, although compliance has improved in recent years.

In most cases, the legislation shifts the burden of proof in disputes about special-education services to the schools and away from parents, who typically have less access to expertise and information. But under a revision, reflecting school leaders’ concerns, parents will continue to have the burden of proof in cases in which they seek tuition reimbursement after unilaterally moving a child out of public school.

The revised legislation also seeks to discourage frivolous lawsuits by allowing the school system to recover expert witness fees if it prevails in a lawsuit deemed unreasonable or without foundation. If parents win, they, too, would be able to recover expert witness fees, a provision included in the original proposals.

The committee abandoned a proposal to move the hearing officers who decide such cases out of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Many parents contend that the education office could be biased, but the agency is making changes to the hearing process and sought to retain that function. The revised bill seeks instead to make the process for selecting hearing officers more transparent.

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EDUCATION is a major force in spurring Malaysia’s aspirations to be a developed nation. One of the key challenges facing the country’s education sector is preparing its youth to meet the needs of the 21st century economy, in line with rising international education standards.

It needs a new approach to education, one that will inspire creativity, foster innovation and, ultimately, provide youths with the skills that will allow them to compete in the global labour market.

In the National Education Blueprint, the government has outlined strategic priorities to achieve this. These priorities can be realised by transforming Malaysia’s education sector towards a blended learning environment, where traditional classroom learning will be enhanced and maybe even replaced by immersive, interactive, real-time learning at every level of education.

Efforts over the past decade have been focused on connecting schools and academic institutions to the Internet. The Cisco Visual Networking Index 2013-2018 predicts that mobile data traffic is expected to grow 13-fold from 2013 to 2018. In Malaysia, social media accounts for one-third of all time spent online, as reported by comScore. In March this year, On Device Research published an interesting report on “Mobile Malaysia: ahead of the pack” stating that with 140 per cent mobile penetration, Malaysia has 10 million smartphone users. Together, this has resulted in a significant behavioural change in the way students expect learning content to be delivered and consumed across multiple devices and platforms.

Beyond basic classroom connectivity, academic institutions should enable and encourage students to optimise their time online to foster real-time collaboration with teachers and peers. Learning should no longer be limited to physical classes and interaction with teachers. Using the network as a platform, it can be extended to a great number of educators with the best quality instruction from anywhere in the world and received on any device, at any time.

One-time instructions can be organised into a digital library that allows specific searches through video analytics, and conventional courses and modules can evolve into a dynamic, personalised and collaborative learning process.

Likewise, academicians from higher learning institutions around the globe can foster greater collaboration with one another by sharing ideas, discussing research developments in their area of study and creating increasingly connected communities of practice through the use of video and social networks. Additionally, experts sharing information via live video streaming will also become the norm.

The San Jose State University, serving more than 30,000 students, embraced educational methods that adopted online collaboration platforms and social media to deliver a range of innovative, new pedagogical approaches, including virtual and ‘flipped’ classrooms. The ‘flipped’ classroom methods facilitate production and distribution of video lectures and other online content. This way, students who come to class are ready to engage in productive discussions instead of passive note-taking. This enable better comprehension, improved academic performance and deeper involvement in the classroom, as proved by the increased in passing rate from 51 per cent to 91 per cent.

Putting connected learning into action In Malaysia, CIMB Group was the first in the country to implement Cisco’s immersive TelePresence solutions in 2010 to create a more efficient, productive and interactive experience in the financial services sector. The deployment of video technologies enabled the group to transform the way they communicate and collaborate, resulting in increased efficiency, improved productivity, reduced travel and logistical costs.

The country’s education sector can also see similar benefits. Through collaborative technology, schools can create a fun and interactive learning experience for children while universities can connect undergraduates with globally renowned educators from any location through the comfort and convenience of their tablets or smartphones. By allowing students to then evaluate the speaker through an application or social media channel, academic institutions can also plan for better quality education content in the future.

Malaysia can cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving skills by embracing the power of mobile, visual, virtual and social at public and private academic institutions. These are essential components to integrate the spirit of innovation and creativity into the education system, driving the country towards fulfilling its developed nation vision by year 2020.

To learn more, visit: Chai, country manager for Cisco

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Sleepy campaign for D.C. Board of Education goes national

When Tierra Jolly thumbed through her mail on Monday, she was surprised to see campaign literature touting her bid for a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education.

Jolly, a teacher at a private parochial high school in Maryland, didn’t recognize the mailings, which featured her photograph and images of her students. And she said she’d never heard of Education Reform Now, the group that paid for the glossy literature.

“Without my permission or knowledge, people that I didn’t know took photographs and my life story and took photographs of my students and they used them,” said Jolly, who is running in Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacant Ward 8 seat on the school board.

After researching Education Reform Now, Jolly said she was disturbed to learn the group is connected to Democrats for Education Reform, a nonprofit group created by hedge fund managers to promote charter schools, tenure reform and other policies that teachers unions have traditionally fought.

“I was not pleased,” Jolly said. “I support unions. I’m a member of a teachers union. I support individual charter schools that happen to be good public schools, but I’m not an acolyte of the privatization movement.”

Lea Crusey, deputy director of Democrats for Education Reform, did not respond to questions about how much her group is spending on behalf of Jolly’s campaign or how it learned of her candidacy. It is illegal for groups such as Education Reform Now to coordinate with candidates for public office.

“I’ll just offer this: We were intrigued by Tierra’s profile,” Crusey wrote in a e-mail. “The core of our work is cultivating leaders in our party, and we view her as someone with potentially a strong future in leadership.”

As of Friday, Education Reform Now sent two mailings to residents in Ward 8, the city’s southernmost ward, which covers a swath of Southeast Washington and is home to about 54,000 registered voters.

Jolly, who taught in New Orleans as a member of Teach for America, has received financial support from individuals and groups that share policy goals similar to Democrats for Education Reform.

Campaign contribution records show that about 80 percent of the $9,200 Jolly has raised came from outside the District, including $400 from Leadership for Educational Equity, the political arm of Teach for America. The organization grooms Teach for America alumni to run for office around the country and helps them find jobs in education policy.

Jolly also got $200 from Emma Bloomberg, the daughter of former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Emma Bloomberg is chairwoman of both Leadership for Educational Equity and Stand for Children, an advocacy group that has clashed with teachers unions.

Phil Pannell, Jolly’s opponent in the race, said he believes it is odd that the sleepy race for a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education — a body that lost most of its power when education came under mayoral control in 2007 — has attracted attention from national organizations.

“This election in Ward 8 is basically being used by some national educational advocacy groups to promote a particular agenda,” Pannell said. “I’m not saying there’s anything particularly wrong with their agenda. As a matter of fact, I like Teach for America. Their mission is noble. But it’s clear that Ms. Jolly is not running a grass-roots, homegrown campaign in Ward 8.”

Pannell has raised about $5,600 from donors and donated about $3,000 of his own money to his campaign, according to public records. About 90 percent of his donations came from District residents, including $100 from Cora Masters, the ex-wife of former D.C. mayor and current Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry (D).

Pannell, who is gay, said he declined to accept campaign contributions from the Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports gay candidates, because he didn’t want “to be open to the charge that I was getting help from national groups. This is a local race, and I want it to stay local.”

Jolly said her campaign is focused on Ward 8. “I was born and raised in D.C.,” she said. “I’m a teacher, and one of the reasons I’m running is to include teachers’ voices in our classrooms. I hope that, instead of focusing on things that are frankly outside of my control, I hope we talk about educational equity.”

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AFT calls for Education Secretary Duncan to submit to ‘improvement’ plan or resign

Arne Duncan and President Obama (Yuri Gripas/ Reuters)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s relations with the country’s largest teachers unions — which collectively have more than 4 million members — keep getting worse. Earlier this month, the nation’s largest teachers unioncalled for him to resign. On Sunday, the second-largest teachers union passed a resolution that stopped short of a direct call for him to quit but urged President Obama to put Duncan on an “improvement plan.” If Duncan doesn’t improve, he should resign, it says.

The obvious hitch: Obama hasn’t shown a single sign that he disagrees with Duncan’s education reform agenda, which is largely focused on using standardized test scores to hold educators accountable (a method that accountability experts say is unreliable) as well as implementing the controversial Common Core State Standards and increasing the number of charter schools.

The resolution passed by American Federation of Teachers delegates meeting in Los Angeles for the union’s 2014 convention calls for Obama to set up and implement an “improvement plan” for Duncan to hold him accountable for his job performance. It says the plan should, among other things, require Duncan to enact specific school funding equity recommendations in a report issued by a congressionally charged bipartisan Equity and Excellence Commission, and end the “test and punish” accountability systems of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. If an accountability plan is not put in place and Duncan does not “improve,” then he should resign, the AFT resolution says.

The resolution passed earlier this month by delegates at the National Education Association’s convention in Denver calls for Duncan to resign, saying his “failed education agenda” has focused on high-stakes standardized tests and served to “undermine public schools and colleges.”

The anti-Duncan votes — which were passed by representative assemblies of both unions and not the entire membership — reflect rising anger at the Obama administration’s education reform policies that have led teachers to feel that they were being unfairly targeted by officials. The proverbial last straw for the unions may have been Duncan’s support for the verdict inVergara vs. California, in which a judge tossed out California statutes that provided job protections to teachers. (The judge stayed his decision until an appeal can be heard.)

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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