Governor relays his plans
On Monday, Dec. 3, superintendents from across the state gathered for their monthly meeting at Utah School Boards Association office in Sandy. Governor Jon Huntsman attended to discuss his plans for the 2008 legislative session.
"I feel good about what his goals are because they’re what I’ve been working for for the past five years," Timothy said. Before becoming superintendent of Park City School District, Timothy was the deputy superintendent of Utah.
Timothy relayed Huntsman’s message in the school board meeting Tuesday. According to Timothy, the governor has five major priorities for the upcoming session:
Huntsman’s goal is to catch Utah up to be at least on average with other Western states. He believes strongly that salaries and supply go hand in hand.
"Here in Park City," Timothy said, "we obviously want to attract and retain the best teachers possible. But there is a continually shrinking supply of applicants, and the major reason for this has to do with the high demand of the job and the low salaries."
"We have high expectations from our patrons, but families step up to help us meet those expectations. They know that there’s a cost involved," he said.
End superfluous testing
Huntsman said he feels like we may be testing students too much. He wants to focus on comparing Utah on an international level.
A press release from Alliance for Education reinforces the governor’s beliefs: "International comparisons are increasingly relevant and important to understand in today’s global environment. No longer do the residents of American cities and states vie only with each other for jobs; their competitors are located in countries around the world. Economists and social scientists agree that, increasingly, the educational abilities of a nation’s workforce will significantly impact its ability to remain economically strong."
One program that does compare students internationally is the Programme for International Student Assessments (PISA), an examination where students are tested in reading and mathematical and scientific literacy. PISA results were presented in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
The PISA has been given to 15-year-old students in 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and in 27 partner countries, every three years since 2000. Tuesday’s event focused on what other countries are doing to improve their systems and rankings, while the United States stays static.
The 2006 results showed that the average combined science literacy scale score and mathematics literacy scale score for U.S. students to be lower than the OECD average. The U.S. ranked, among the 30 OECD member countries, 25th in mathematics and 21st in science.
Improving early childhood programs
Huntsman said he wants to work on closing the achievement gap through programs like all-day kindergarten and the K-3 Literacy program.
At its last November session, Park City school board voted to continue supporting the K-3 Reading Improvement Program. The bill, enacted by the Utah Legislature in 2004, provides matching funds to help districts achieve Utah’s goal of having third-graders read at or above reading level.
With those funds, Park City School District has placed reading specialists and developed reading centers in every elementary school, and implemented a tiered approach to providing students instruction and intervention.
Closing the gap between public education and higher education
Huntsman said he has a vision of continuity and wants to see that a seamless transition from high school to college. He said he wants all students to be able to access higher education in the state.
Part of that priority, Timothy said, is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program. STEM began in 1992 to help under-represented minorities to achieve "academic excellence" through continuous support during their pre-college, undergraduate and graduate years.
Huntsman said he hopes to create high-tech high schools and wants a greater emphasis of technology in the classroom.
Huntsman said he has heard the message loud and clear for the call for technology. A one-time funding was appropriated by the legislature last year of $3 million for IT equipment and 480,000 for IT course management software.
The Park City Education Foundation, heard the call for new technology last year as well when they granted fourth-grade teacher Sam Thompson money for a set of Nintendo DS Game Consoles with the game "Brain Age."
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