Op-ed: Keep Utah’s language education momentum going through high school

The Salt Lake Tribune – Johanna Watzinger-Tharp, Ph.D.

“In 2008, with the passage of Senate Bill 41, the state of Utah made a firm commitment to educating its children in the public school system in two languages. Since then, Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Program has grown to include five languages (Chinese, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish) in 138 schools reaching some 29,000 students in grades 1 through 8…Does this work? Can students learn math in Spanish or German or Chinese? Unequivocally, the answer is yes: Students in Utah’s dual immersion programs perform as well or better than their non-immersion peers in core subjects such as language arts and math…Success tends to generate challenges, and Utah’s dual language immersion project faces an urgent one: Students who complete a world language AP course and exam in ninth grade will have no more high school language courses available to them…To bridge the imminent language education gap between 9th grade and enrollment in college, the University of Utah is seeking support from the 2016 Legislature on behalf of a state-wide public and higher education alliance…Now is the time to make sure we don’t squander the opportunity to make our students truly bilingual, biliterate and bicultural global citizens who successfully face the challenges of the 21st century.”(more)

Utah lawmakers eyeing early childhood education

The Deseret News – Morgan Jacobsen

“Lawmakers and education leaders are setting their sights on new funding and policies for early childhood education as they prepare for the 2016 legislative session. Adding to two bills that propose expanding full-day kindergarten, the Utah Legislature is considering a proposal for funding to extend more preschool options to disadvantaged students. Both initiatives are part of a focus state and education leaders hope will lead to better readers and more school-ready children among low-income families, minorities and other at-risk populations. “If we get high-quality (early childhood education) to these kiddos, that is huge for them. It changes their lives,” said Nannette Barnes, assistant director of preschool services at the Granite School District.”(more)

Parents should talk, sing, read and play with children for brain growth, new initiative urges

Deseret News – Katie McKellar

“Pediatrician Kerry Whittemore said she, like many other parents, feels silly when she tells her 10-month-old that there are dinosaurs on his pajamas. “It sometimes feels a little bit strange to having a completely one-sided conversation, but it’s the best thing you can do for your child to learn a language,” she said. That’s the aim of “Talking is Teaching,” a national campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to talk, read, sing and play with their children beginning at birth to enhance brain growth and learning capacity.”(more)

High expectations for STEM education

The Spectrum – Nichole Osinski

“Afterschool programs have recently been linked to the success of science, technology, engineering and math education. According to a survey from the Afterschool Alliance, there is an increasing need for STEM proficiency. Afterschool programs have become a key factor in providing experience in these areas. The report indicates 71 percent of parents in Utah believe students can gain STEM skills from afterschool programs while 76 percent believe STEM should be offered. Within the last couple of years, STEM education within the Washington County and Iron County school districts has begun to grow. Afterschool programs through a grant to Dixie State University can be found in both elementary and intermediate schools within Washington County.”(more)

In Our View: Educate early

The Spectrum – The Spectrum and Daily News Editorial Board

“The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore, “devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes,” recently released the 2015 results of its “Kids Count Data Center” study ranking the states for child and family well-being. The good news is Utah ranked as the ninth-best state in the nation for childhood well-being in 2015. We surpassed Virginia and Nebraska to rise from our 2014 rank of No. 11. The study used statistics in four categories – economic well-being, education, health, and family and community – to determine the rankings. In the category of economic well-being, which considers the number of children living in poverty or in households with parents who lack secure employment, Utah ranked eighth.”(more)

Educators hope U. engineering camp sparks girls’ interest

Deseret News – Nkoyo Iyamba

“Hundreds of high school-age girls are attending an engineering camp this summer at the University of Utah. It’s just one way to get more girls interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The university’s HI-GEAR — or Girls Engineering Abilities Realized — camp is more than a decade old…The camp introduces girls to engineering and computer science careers through hands-on learning and team projects. “Women bring a unique perspective to design and also to the implementation of engineering ideas,” said Dianne Leonard of the College of Engineering.”(more)