There are a few names for what parents and teachers fear will happen to their students over the long stretch of summer. The summer slide, brain drain, and learning loss are just a few the terms referring to the tendency of students to lose ground academically over long school breaks.

But not on Allyn Cau’s watch. This year, the Alta View Elementary parent decided to tackle the summer slide head on and see what she could do to keep the Road Runners reading through the lazy days of June, July and August.

She volunteered to create a program, using the Partners in Dyad Reading method encouraged by the Utah State Board of Education, then worked with Alta View Principal Scott Jameson to develop a weekly opportunity for students to come to school and practice their reading all summer long. The result was a highly-organized community effort to keep students moving forward—not backward—so they could resume school this week without missing a beat.Cau

“We’re always told to read 15-20 minutes a day, but with a little change, you can make a big difference,” Cau said. “I saw students struggling in math and reading and I was just hoping to find a way to help them catch up, or at least not drop.”

Cau learned about Dyad Reading at a presentation at the state PTA convention. While there, she made connections with the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), United Way, Utah State Fair and the Reading Network Group, who each gave her donations, such as notebooks, resources and Spanish and English flyers on how to participate in Dyad Reading. Her initial inroads led to connections with the Salt Lake County library system, which agreed to support the program.

Next, Alta View’s librarians, teachers and reading interventionists were willing to volunteer their time for two hours once a week to help read with the students and allow the children to check out a book from the school library. Principal Jameson used school-based funds to pay for the electricity needed to open the school for the program, and fund the teachers and employees. Librarians from the Salt Lake County system also volunteered at the reading session, as well as other members of the community.

“The program had two purposes, to read with the kids and to train parents in how to be better at reading with their kids,” Jameson said. “This is an example of a way that we can come together and work really well to find the best thing for the kids, and it became a much better program than it would have been if we were working separately.”

Dyad Reading pairs adults and students together as they sit side-by-side and simultaneously read out loud books that are two grade levels higher than the student’s reading group. If the child doesn’t know a word, the adult repeats it, and then the entire sentence, then continues on. According to the USBE, the method can improve reading fluency and comprehension by 1.9 grade levels.

“I think if we teach the parents to do it and get them on board, it’s a win-win situation,” said Tami Malan, a second-grade dual-immersion teacher at Alta View who also wanted to find a way to give students access to the school library during the summer. Students can lose three or four months of reading levels during the summer when they don’t read, Malan said. She’s already thinking about how to improve the program next year—but she says it couldn’t have been done without Cau’s initiative. 

Cau regularly volunteers at the school, belongs to the PTA, and occasionally works as a substitute in the classroom. The reading program was a monumental effort, she says, but in the end, even if only one student benefitted, it was worth it. 

“I say, just do something. Start somewhere. Talk to somebody,” Cau said. “There are always people who are willing to help. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to get the ball rolling and other people will fill in with their strengths and expertise.”

The USBE has an online guide for parents who are interested in trying Dyad reading with their children at home. Here are some highlights:

What is Dyad Reading?

Reading with your children is one of the most important things you can do to help them excel at school. Children access the world of knowledge through reading, and, as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” The Dyad reading method is one way of reading with your child that has been proven to deliver measurable gains. It’s simple, and involves sitting side-by-side with your child, and reading aloud together as you scan the words with your finger. Discuss your child’s instructional level with your teacher. Use grade-level texts for first-graders. For students in grades 2-6, use materials that are about two grade levels above their current reading level.

•  Share one book.
•  Sit side by side.
•  Use one smooth finger.
•  Read with two voices.
•  Keep eyes on words.
•  Problem-solve to break words into manageable chunks.
•  Don’t go too fast or too slow.
•  Write down words you don’t know and look up their definitions.
•  Discuss the characters and plot.
•  Summarize main ideas.
•  Have fun!
The robust cheers heard throughout the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, Aug. 19 were likely from the back-to-school celebrations held at Canyons District schools.   

Per an 11-year tradition, principals rolled out red carpets to welcome students to the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers, principals, and parents, as well as Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and members of the Canyons Board of Education, lined up to snap photos, cheer and give high-fives and fist bumps to the students headed into school for the first time of the school year.

Adding to the festivities were players from Real Salt Lake and Royals FC, the professional soccer players who compete at Rio Tinto Stadium, located within the Canyons District boundaries.  The players, who encouraged all the students to set their sights on reaching their goals, were accompanied by Leo the Lion, who attracted a crowd wherever he went.  

Elementary and middle school students also received a free pencil for their backpacks.  Another tool Canyons District is providing students is “social-emotional” training to make good decision, manage emotions and solve problems. After all, children can’t learn at high levels if they feel insecure, anxious, stressed or scared. 

BJ Weller, Canyons’ Responsive Services Director, appeared on ABC4 and KUTV on the first day of school to talk about how the District is helping children develop the confidence and character traits needed for success in life and school. This includes things like teaching students who to set and achieve goals, make and keep friends, and make responsible decisions.   

“We’re still teaching math, science, reading and writing … but we’re now cognizant of how, say the simple act of reading, can teach children empathy by exposing them to different perspectives or persisting with a math problem can teach perseverance,” he says.  “As a parent, you may hear your teacher refer to this as social-emotional learning. But it’s really best described as life skills, which, research suggests can significantly increase a student’s chances of graduating from high school and college.”

In Canyons District, the Board of Education has invested in the hiring and training of psychologists, social workers and counselors for every school. These professionals are there as a resource for families and to help maintain environments where children feel connected and safe to raise their hands, try hard things, and reach out to new friends. Also, starting this fall, and over the next few years, Canyons schools will be rolling out a new, social-emotional learning curriculum to help teachers and staff speak the same language when talking about things like problem-solving, focusing in class, and working as teams.

“Again, much of this is just part of everyday learning. For example, while reading a book in kindergarten about a boy who loses his dog, the teacher might prompt students to talk about how the boy feels or discuss steps he might take to begin searching for his pet. A failed science experiment can serve as an important lesson about it’s OK when things don’t work as planned, it’s part of the learning process. It’s kind of a new way of thinking about book smarts.”

Parents can support, Weller says, by modeling a positive attitude about education and showing interest in their child’s classes, teachers and friends.
New sixth-grade students descended on middle schools across Canyons District for orientation on Friday morning with excitement, some trepidation—and a million questions. 

For the last 11 years, Canyons’ middle schools have opened their doors a day early to help newcomers navigate the hallways, learn new schedules, explore the cafeteria, open their lockers, and generally get a grip on what it means to leave elementary school.

“At the end of the day, I just really want them to be excited to come back, that they’re not fearful on Monday,” said Draper Park Middle School Vice Principal Jodi Roberts. “Kids are scared of not knowing how to open their lockers, being able to find their classes, not having any friends—these are the things we focus on to alleviate their anxiety.”

Roberts and the other sixth-grade teachers at Draper Park also focused on teaching students the new rules that come with middle school. They greeted students with colorful hats and mustaches as part of the orientation’s theme: “I mustache you if you are excited for the 6th grade” and gently offered guidance in how to navigate school rules and the new expectations of middle school.middleschoolorientation

When Roberts saw a group of newcomers sprinting around the corner toward the lockers, she made a point of teaching them not to run through the wide, sunny hallways. They had to go back to their classrooms and start again, because with 1,640 students at the school, there isn’t room for anything but walking if you want to avoid a collision. “When in your life do you have to learn all of this?” Roberts said, after the students complied. “There is so much to learn.”

In math period, the students solved a problem that involved a gummy peach ring and a gummy worm, but they also learned the right way to participate in class. “Ladies and gentleman, 3, 2, 1,” said sixth-grade math teacher Kim Oldroyd as she worked to get her students to listen. “Why do I want you to clap on ‘1’? Right, to show me your hands are empty. OK, ladies and gentleman, 3, 2, 1 — pretty good. We’ll work on it.”

The students toured the cafeteria and ate popsicles as they learned they’ll have more lunch choices in middle school, but they better not cut the line or they’ll be sent to the end. They learned that all of their sixth-grade core classes are on the main floor of the school, separated from the older students, to give them a little buffer. In social studies class, the students had a question-and-answer period with several of the school’s student council members.

In one class, the students were abrim with questions. 

“How much better is the food?”
“How much homework do we get?”
“How big is this school?”
“What if you forgot your locker code?”

The students took turns asking about everything they wanted to know, then they practiced opening their lockers and headed to the auditorium for an assembly, looking remarkably more confident and prepared to face a new school year.

The first day of school for the 2019-2020 school year is Monday, August 19. Information on bell schedules can be found on each school’s main web page, and the school calendar can be found on Canyons District’s alphabetic directory of parent resources.
On Monday, Aug. 19, tens-of-thousands of students will file into Canyons District classrooms with fresh hopes for a successful school year. They’ll accept new challenges and celebrate new triumphs—and they’ll do it together, secure in the knowledge that school is a place where all learners are welcome, respected, supported and safe.

Such is the commitment made by Canyons District schools, and the promise behind new supports being put into place to help students navigate modern pressures and develop the confidence and character traits that are crucial for success in life and school. Over the past two years, the Board of Education has invested in the hiring and training of psychologists, social workers and counselors for every school. Starting this fall, and over the next few years, schools also will be rolling out a new, evidence-based social-emotional learning curriculum.

The idea is to “be systematic in our approach” to supporting our teachers and staff—not just counselors—in building strong connections with students and talking to them about problem-solving, building relationships and resolving conflicts, CSD Board President Nancy Tingey explained Thursday to 1,000 Utah educators gathered for a symposium on social-emotional learning in downtown Salt Lake. “It’s really about creating the right conditions for teaching and learning.”

Schools have always worked to maintain environments where children feel connected and safe to raise their hands and reach out to new friends, and social-emotional learning is catching on as a proven approach for achieving that. NancyatSymposium

Having evolved from “character or civic education,” it’s building momentum alongside a growing body of research supporting its use, says Utah’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson, who also spoke at the symposium. “We know more about brain research than we ever have before, and social-emotional learning is part of that.”

Whatever the cause, from the omnipresence of social media to increasingly competitive college admission standards, children today are more stressed and anxious than ever. In a recent Pew survey, 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers.

“The issues we face are complex,” says BJ Weller, Director of Responsive Services, which oversees student supports. “But our focus is simple: helping students achieve academically. The fact is, students can’t excel at school if they are anxious, worried, fearful, depressed, or experiencing trauma.”

Weller invites parents to become acquainted with the counseling professionals in their schools and familiar with the resources available to assist students and their families.

Canyons District has embraced a “blended model” for providing supports. “Recognizing these professionals have different, yet equally important skill sets, we’ve worked hard to provide every school with at least one counselor and/or one social worker or school psychologist,” he says. Secondary schools have counseling centers to help guide students not just toward high school graduation but also to having a healthy outlook on life. School nurses also are a part of helping students feel well enough to learn at high levels. 

The “Second Step” curriculum that Canyons is adopting is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). It's lessons are designed to help students from kindergarten to eighth grade manage emotions, solve problems in a positive way, demonstrate empathy, and focus during class. Second Step makes sample lessons and family resources available on their website for parents to explore.

Not only are trained staff members available to aid students, but Canyons was among the first school districts in Utah to roll out access to a mobile app text-and-tip line called SafeUT. This is available for students and parents to use if they need to immediately report a concern, be it about a student’s mental, social or physical well-being. Access to this app, which provides all-day and all-night real-time access to school administrators and licensed clinicians at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, is available to all Canyons school communities.

CSD’s Responsive Services also maintains and online library of tools for parents and educators about a range of topics from suicide and drug- and alcohol-prevention to tips about how to talk to children, adolescents about traumatic events. 

Canyons School District Resources:

Crisis Prevention and Intervention
Suicide Prevention
Bullying Prevention Tips
Drug and Alcohol Prevention Resources
Preventing Gang Involvement
Crisis Services 
Canyons District Family Services 
Community-Based Counseling Services
LGBTQ+  Resources 
Parent Education Services 
Following a three-month public comment period culminating with Tuesday’s Truth-in-Taxation hearing, the Canyons District Board of Education made official its previously proposed plan to give all CSD teachers a $7,665 salary increase. Representing a double-digit increase for every teacher, this puts the starting annual teacher pay in Canyons District at $50,000. The Board unanimously voted to increase the tax rate by 0.000606 to fund the historic pay bump to licensed personnel.

“We consider every dollar received a sacred trust,” said Board President Nancy Tingey who thanked members of the public for taking time to provide input on the salary proposal in person, by email and during phone conversations. “The community benefits when you have a strong and vibrant public education system. …This will bring returns now and for many years to come.”

The new salary schedule was announced on April 23 when a tentative contract agreement was made with the Canyons Education Association (CEA), which annually negotiates the salary and benefits package for CSD educators. On May 6, the Board officially approved the contract, and the CEA announced that members had ratified it. The negotiated salary increase also was discussed in public when the District on May 30 released its proposed budget for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year. A public hearing for the proposed budget, which included a tax rate of 0.007507, was held on June 18, giving patrons an opportunity to ask questions and provide input. At tonight’s Truth-in-Taxation meeting, held in the Board Chambers at the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S 300 East, 36 patrons, including teachers, addressed the Board.

“Research has shown that the most significant impact on a student’s education (that you can control) is the teacher,” said CEA President Erika Bradshaw in addressing the Board on Tuesday. “As you know, we are facing a nationwide teacher shortage that is severely impacting Utah. The tax increase will greatly help CSD in offering competitive salary and benefits, encouraging teachers to choose CSD for their employer. We cannot provide the best education to our most vulnerable population, our students, if we do not have the best educators in their classrooms.”

Of the $19.6 million required for this salary increase, $13.750 million will come from funds generated by the property tax increase. The remainder will come from attrition, cost-cutting, and a legislatively approved 4 percent increase in per-pupil spending. All revenue generated through the tax increase will only be used for teachers’ salaries.

This is the first time in Canyons’ 10-year history that the District has sought to recoup inflation through an adjustment in the certified tax rate. The adjustment of the tax rate will result in a $140 per year, or $12 monthly, increase on a $421,000 home, the average price of a home in CSD.

Tuesday’s vote to fund the compensation package signals the end of salary negotiations for the 2019-2020 school year. If the vote had not passed, the District and CEA would have continued negotiations. Licensed personnel will see the pay raise reflected in their first paycheck for the new contract year. 
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