The Employers Education Coalition has issued its report which, if implemented by the legislature in its entirity, could drastically change education into a market-driven, responsive, accountable, system that ensures Utah’s place in the New Economy.
Last May Governor Mike Leavitt met with business and education leaders in a series of meetings to encourage formation of an “Employers Education Coalition” which was to create solutions to the malaise in Utah public and higher education. The coalition was also to focus on what it takes to get Utah’s public and higher education systems to respond more effectively to the staffing needs of Utah’s employers.
Fraser Bullock, COO of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee chaired the coalition’s steering committee, assisted by Project Coordinator John Bennion, who had served as Managing Director of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee. Members of the steering committee included Paul Ross, CEO, ATK Alliant Techsystems; Teresa Beck, former CEO, American Stores; Fred Lampropoulos, founder and CEO of Merit Medical; Kelly Matthews, Sr. Vice President and Chief Economist for Wells Fargo Bank; and Dinesh Patel, Partner, vSpring Capital. The steering committee was assisted by a diverse group representing seventeen employers and business organizations and ten education leaders.
The major conclusions of the Employers’ Education Coalition are:
• Utah’s Public Education (K-12) system faces an impending crisis driven by funding shortages, an enrollment boom, and general employer dissatisfaction with high school graduates entering the workforce.
• Public Education (K-12) needs to refocus on core academics.
• Student progress should be measured more on competency and less on “seat time”.
• Increased accountability needs to be implemented for students, teachers, and administrators, based on annual progress in core academics, on an individual student basis.
• Management of public education should be modified to better align accountability, responsibility, and authority with the execution of the strategy.
• Funding of public education needs to be stabilized in the short term and increased in the long term. Education funding must be the state’s top priority.
• School choice should be expanded to better allow parents to choose the school best suited to their child’s needs.
• Higher education institutions (colleges, universities) should have differentiated roles within a comprehensive strategy, with funding tied to the strategy and administered by the Board of Regents.
The full 38 page report is available on the web at www.utah.gov, under “Utah News”.
Just Another Report on Education Reform?
While there have been countless well-meaning plans for education reform produced over the years which have gathered dust on a shelf, the Coalition recognized that in order for this report to avoid the fate of so many other attempts at educational reform, positive action must be taken by the Utah Legislature during the upcoming session. Within the 38-page report, the Coalition specifically suggests the following major areas for legislative action:
• The State Board of Education (SBOE) must be selected by the Governor with consent of the Senate.
• SBOE continues to appoint State Superintendent of Public Instruction
• Authorize SBOE to centralize functions which have economies of scale including purchasing, curriculum, “best practices”, teacher training, etc.
• Authorize SBOE to use incentives and other business management tools in support of accomplishing the revised and focused core mission.
Focus on core academics
• Tie focused mission statement to other legislation working on definition of what constitutes “free public education”. Suggested mission statement:
• “Prepare each student for his or her choice of higher education or gainful employment, focusing on the core academic skills of reading, writing, science, and mathematics, balanced with exposure to the arts. Furthermore, train students in selected key attributes required for successful living: integrity, dependability and teamwork.”
• Increase high school graduation requirements per EEC report and “A Nation at Risk”.
• Introduce competency-based educational processes
• Key to Governor Leavitt’s support
• Can mitigate any potential adverse effects of increased graduation requirements
• Every student tested every year in core academics (minimum English and math).
• Tests must be benchmarked to national standards (SAT-10 or other selected by SBOE).
• Test scores must follow the student.
• Districts, schools, and teachers assessed on progress made (“value-added”)
• Expansion of charter schools
• Expansion of New Century schools
• Reduce restrictions on inter-school transfers
• Tuition tax credit
• Private schools must benchmark test to same national standards as those selected by SBOE for public schools.
• SBOE to report annually to Legislature,
• on accomplishment of core mission
• results in past year
• plans for coming year
• using above mentioned assessment tools
• $90 million contingent upon passing the above items. All incremental money above maintaining the basic Weighted Pupil Unit is to be controlled by SBOE, contingent upon their producing a plan on how it will be spent to implement the strategy of core academics.
• Plan must include details of implementation of assessment mandate.
• Plan must include pilot program for competency-based process and measurements.
• Plan must include at least $30 million of internal re-allocation of resources towards core mission.
• Plan must include remediation.
• Plan must be approved by Legislature prior to funds being released.
• Funding authority delegated to Board of Regents
• Board of Regents accountable to the legislature for accomplishment of mission:
• broad access to low-cost general education
• specific roles for specific higher education institutions
• increased quality at University of Utah, Utah State University
• 4-6 world-class excellence centers at University of Utah, Utah State University
• Utah tuition must increase to median of 15-states belonging to Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education before incremental taxpayer funds provided