District 2 Debate- Ogden High School October 4

Moderator:

  • Jay Evensen

Candidates:

  • Scott Hansen – Attorney at Scott L. Hansen PLLC
  • Craig Pitts – Elementary school teacher in Weber School District

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Questions and Video Time-slots

  • 0:00- How you feel the board ought to work with the Legislature, and what you would do to help that.
  • 3:35- What can the State School Board of Education can do to make sure schools are following the law?
  • 8:01- What should the State School Board do to help districts and charter schools attract effective and competent teachers?
  • 13:12- What should be the purpose of teacher licensing, and how do you feel about some of these perhaps more unorthodox ways of licensing people to teach in the classroom?
  • 19:44- What’s your recommendation for making sure that we don’t lose the Mrs. Barkers? Because we do not want to lose good teachers, and how do we help these other teachers, help them find a profession that they’re better at?
  • 25:05- Tell me what would you do, or have done, in your manufacturing experience if a load of steel was delivered that was flawed, not structurally sound, when it arrived at your business? And how do we handle students who are flawed?
  • 30:07- What role do you see a State School Board playing in supporting early childhood education?
  • 33:02- What would be your number one priority be for the Legislature, each of you?
  • 34:02- How do you feel we should fund these increases in education?
  • 36:04- Should we allow parents to opt their students out of these tests? And number two, if we if do let them opt out, how do we adequately assess our schools and how well they’re doing, and which ones need extra help?
  • 40:23- Closing statements

Video Time: 00:00

Hansen:

Including appointed boards, appointed superintendents, elected boards, and even partisan elected boards – I’m not saying that those can’t work and I think they are working in many areas – but the system we have is a nonpartisan system, where if elected I would be accountable to the voters in my district. So, I think that’s an element of accountability, and I think if the governor and the Legislature get enough momentum behind it and want to abolish the State School Board, then we’ll find a way to work with the new system that they set together. I’m certainly not advocating that, but I think my energy would be better spent on trying to work with the current system that we have seeing how I can fit into that and advocate for children and really represent the interests of the people here in District 2.

 

Moderator:

Thank you. You may not want the board to be political, but you do have to deal with a very political body and that is the state Legislature, and through the years the relationship between the State School Board and the Legislature has been kind of up and down.I am wondering how you how you feel the board ought to work with the Legislature, and what you would do to help that?And we’ll start with Scott.

Hansen:

Actually, I think back to when I was serving on the Weber School Board and as part of my role there I had a seat on the Utah School Board Association and we saw some great success in getting a lot of the education voices together, so we could present a common agenda to the Legislature. So, we had UEA; we had the Utah State School Board; we had the Utah School Boards Association all coming together and deciding on some priorities that they felt were good for kids and were common goals that we could present to the Legislature. I think that in the past few years that has gotten to be a better and better effort and the Legislature is getting a clear message. I do hope the Legislature can rein themselves in the present. There are way too many bills; it’s very confusing to know what’s going to happen in education each year. Our focus in Utah right now should be getting more money into the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) to get the kids funded and helping our teachers out.

 

Pitts:

As a board member I envision myself being highly engaged with the legislators and the community. For example, when we as teachers go to the Hill on Legislative Day during session, it’s great to go in and sit in on committee meetings and hearings, and I’d like to see that reciprocated. You know, we invite legislators to school board meetings and let’s share our needs and ideas with each other and communicate it. My primary goal is to get as many citizens involved in the process as possible. The more voices that we hear, the stronger outcome we’re going to have for our students. And I think there needs to be a higher level of engagement between legislators and the school board and teachers and parents; all of the stakeholders, not just the Legislature, the legislation, or school board, but let’s get as many involved together as we can and that’s where we’re going to come up with better solutions.

 

Video Time: 3:35

 

Moderator:

About a month ago or so, a state legislative audit came out that was highly critical of the way many public schools in Utah are handling fees for extracurricular activities, and various fees of various kinds, and found that they were not waiving those fees properly in the proper circumstances, etc.I am wondering your feelings on that, and what the State School Board of Education can do to make sure schools are following the law?

 

Pitts:

Sure, and you know as a teacher I can tell you firsthand that there is a need for money and if it’s not going to come from the Legislature, if it’s not going to come from fees, I’m going to go out and get the supplies that I need whether it’s to investigate the life cycle of mealworms or to implement a make station and STEM activities. There is a need for funds and I do disagree with the way some fees have been charged. If we have required courses, our constitution says that our education should be free, and if we have a required course we shouldn’t be charging fees for those. And when you look at surveys and polling, the majority of Utahns agree that we need to raise the appropriate funding for classrooms, but we haven’t been getting action in the Legislature and we need to advocate for raising those funds, which most Utahns believe we need. Go to any classroom and you’ll see what we need, and I think we can fix that problem with the fees issue. You know you can go online and look at how much revenue would be generated with question one on the ballot, and if we were to raise the adequate funds, and you know I just look at my small school that I teach, that’s around $70,000-$80,000 for the school. And that money needs to go to the classrooms in the school.There’s nowhere else where the students are going to benefit from it the most. Thank you.

 

Hansen:

I believe the issue that came up in the state audit had to do with the extracurricular fees for special classes like art things like that that aren’t necessarily required classes, and the free education is certainly part of our Utah State Code, but it doesn’t extend to that area. What happened is back in 1994, I believe there was a case that went to court in Salt Lake, and that the court there found that the fees had to be reasonable. They also found that few waivers had to be issued if kids were eligible for waivers of other school expenses, like free lunch and that sort of thing. And what the audit found is that, that wasn’t being applied in the schools across the state and it was quite widespread. There were a lot of cases where kids who were eligible for fee waivers were paying fees for an extracurricular activity like football or cheerleading, things like that. The other part of that case: Those fees need to be reasonable, and some of the fees were found not to be reasonable. I think I read that in some districts to be a cheerleader is twenty-five hundred dollars, $3,000, something like that. Some of the other sports can be quite expensive. That reasonableness of those fees is another area that needs to be looked at, and I know there’s been some voices come up to say that if we can’t moderate the fees in some of those areas, maybe we need to look at where we should be putting our energies. And maybe not be so involved in some of the extracurricular that build into such expensive propositions. I think that is part of education. I think that as a state school what we need to find a way to do that, but to the point of the question, the State School Board immediately after that 1994 decision should have put rules in place to make sure that the schools were administering those fees properly. And I’m not sure that was done right now. The countermeasure is to go into the schools and do some education right now that probably should have been done years ago.
Video Time: 8:01

 

Moderator:

All right. Thank you. It’s no secret that there is a teacher shortage in the state of Utah. In fact, there is a teacher shortage just about everywhere in the country. How would you – what should the State School Board do to help districts and charter schools attract effective and competent teachers?

Hansen:

I think first we need to rebuild the respect for educators I think existed years ago and has maybe diminished lately in our society. Teaching needs to be a profession that people can be proud to go into and have the respect of the folks in their community because the important job they’re doing for our children – but that’s not enough. We can’t just count on their altruistic goodwill to do that. We do need to get more money to our teachers. Utah ranks dismally, with 46th or 45th, I think, in compensation for teachers, and that just isn’t right. Something needs to be done. We have seen some moves with the Legislature this last go-round and we were able to get more money, I think, through the Legislature for special ed teachers, math teachers and science teachers. Also, because they’re in high demand were able to get an additional stipend. That needs to be built upon so that all teachers are enjoying a decent standard of living for what they’re doing. They’re doing an important job. Also, I think that teachers’ jobs need to be focused on teaching. Craig can probably tell us from firsthand knowledge, but I believe there’s a lot of administrative stuff that they have to do to comply with all the regulations that are here that maybe isn’t part of what they dreamed about when they wanted to be teachers. And I can see how they can get bogged down in that and maybe want to change careers, and we need to put an end to that and streamline things. But, really, it’s about putting the teachers in a position of respect and getting them compensation they deserve.

Pitts:

I agree with you on that. You know, and the compensation needs to be for the workload that is expected of teachers. I’m fortunate enough to work at a school close to the university there, where I get to work with practicum students and student teachers, and we see a lot of enthusiastic people coming into education. It’s great to see them want to come into this field but it’s also unfortunate to know that about half of them are going to leave the profession before their fifth year teaching. And you ask any teacher and it’s because of the pay versus workload versus the high expectations that are put on teachers. And I think there’s some creative things that we can do as a school board to kind of alleviate that. Number one: Well, the school board couldn’t raise salaries, but definitely could advocate for that need. We can look at policy that limits some creative ideas from principals. For example, when I’ve seen schools that departmentalize their elementaries, where they have specialist teachers that teach just the subject. But, in the majority of your elementary schools, you’re going to see a teacher like myself who teaches, you know, anywhere from 18 to 25 different content areas in the classroom; which amounts to an insane amount of work to grade all your math papers and English papers and science papers and spelling tests and everything that we need to do. But, if we could look at maybe tying that one test score at the end of the year to the teacher and maybe make it more of a grade level school, I think there would be a lot more willingness from administrators to try more creative approaches in the classroom; in their schools that could alleviate some of that burnout from teachers. And so, we wouldn’t lose half our teachers within their first five years of teaching.

Hansen:

Part of my one minute just to add something to that. One thing that I saw during my time on the school board was some really excellent teachers that ended up going into administration because that was a way for them to make more money. We really need to keep building on these alternate career paths so that teachers have a way to become a mentor teacher, or a specialist teacher, or I don’t know what we want to call them but somehow capitalize on their experience and stay in teaching so they’re interfacing with our children instead of getting tied down with again that administrative stuff that can really bog things down and probably isn’t their best skillset. They are probably better teachers than they would be administrators and we’re forcing them into administration.
Video Time: 13:12

Moderator:

This is the last question that I will be asking before I turn it over to the audience. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be my last question if we don’t have any questions from the audience, but please be thinking of things that you would like to ask, and that goes for our online audience as well. We will make sure that your questions are posed, and my last question here kind of piggybacks on the last one and it has to do with teacher licensing.There are people out there in various professions who really would like to bring their expertise from the outside world into the classroom and would like to teach. The state board has reformed some of its licensing processes over the past several years, and this has been highly controversial. And my question is what should be the purpose of teacher licensing, and how do you feel about some of these perhaps more unorthodox ways of licensing people to teach in the classroom?I believe we start with Craig.

 

Pitts:

Well the purpose of teacher licensing definitely needs to be that every classroom has a qualified teacher prepared to teach and guide students to access that knowledge. That needs to be the purpose of teacher licensing, and to go along with that we need to set standards that will allow our students to have those teachers, and I’ve seen some great people who came into education from other careers that have great backgrounds. For example, I had a student teacher who came from a career in radio and you know to see him take off and use that background that he had to guide students to access the content standards, it was amazing. And I think we can have some great teachers coming from outside the field. but we need to be careful that we are bringing them in and not setting them up for failure; which I’ve seen a lot of with people who come in with backgrounds other than teaching, without having them prepared to manage a class, without having them prepared to create lesson plans, without having them prepared to interpret data, and divide your class up into groups where you’re going to need to change the material that you teach so that it’s on the level of the student whether it’s advanced and gifted and talented to an English language learner to a student who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). There are so many other factors besides “Oh I know this stuff” to teaching than just knowing the stuff. I have seen a teacher – I’ve seen a teacher who came in with an amazing background in math, but to see the class go on out of control, bouncing off the walls is an understatement, but if we’re going to do that we need to have a system that won’t allow them to be set up for failure.

 

Hansen:

I believe that licensure, the main reasons for that are first to keep our kids safe. There need to be background checks and that sort of thing in place to make sure we’re not putting our kids in danger. Secondly, to make sure a competent teacher in each classroom that our kids can learn from and that is able to teach our kids. I support the changes in licensure requirements mostly because we don’t have enough traditional licensed teachers coming in, and we can’t have empty classrooms. And I think that it’s a much better solution than some of the other things that are proposed: bringing in substitute teachers or parents to fill in spots. You know that sort of thing on a long-term basis just isn’t practical. I don’t believe there are some issues. we have some really smart people who really know their stuff, but probably can’t handle a classroom without some training. And I think that’s where the established teachers can really help us out by providing some mentoring in the classroom, maybe even an apprenticeship type situation where there’s some team teaching going on for a period of time. I don’t advocate handing those nontraditional teachers a license right off the bat. I think there should be a period of time when they are tried and tested to show that they really can do it. We need teachers to do and then have the license come after that period of time, but also the teachers who are helping out, that’s an extra job and they should be compensated for that. Thank you.

 

Pitts:

When you have teachers who are already overworked, overcrowded in the classroom and then say you need you to mentor this teacher, it adds an incredible burden on the process that we already have. I don’t agree with. You know broadening the pool, so I know we’re in a teacher shortage and there’s a lot of teachers out there that have left the profession and we need to come up with ways to bring back. The highly qualified teachers that can manage classrooms that can differentiate and that can teach our students so that they have that strong teacher in the classroom and I don’t, from my experience working with teachers that have amazing content, knowledge, the skill set in managing is going to make or break. And you can be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t manage, you know, sadly, 35-40 kids, then no student is benefiting from that type of situation.

Hansen:

I think if we asked them to do that on top of their current job with no break in that action – yes, I believe we probably are overburdening them, but when I talked about a secondary career track for teachers, I think that making a mentor teacher a role where we reduce their normal workload and put them in that mentor role to help train these new teachers, maybe nontraditional, that are coming in to the profession. I believe that might be very rewarding for them to be able to pass on their knowledge and skills to a new group of teachers that can help us out for the years to come.

 

Video Time: 19:44

 

Moderator:

Thank you.Now it’s your turn to ask questions. Royce has a microphone that he will be handing around. If you’d like to raise your hand he will bring that to you. And then if our online folks could raise their hand if they have anything. I will go to you as well, so yes, we have this gentleman right here.

Audience Member:

My name is Kyle Anderson and I’m from the House of Representatives, so there is one legislator here. My son had a teacher who is worth their weight in gold. Her name is Mrs. Barker, and he didn’t like to read, and he didn’t like school, and she helped him learn to love to read and to love school. And I would do anything to make sure that she doesn’t leave the teaching profession. She’s just that good. I had a call from a constituent who said, “My son did not do well on a test., and the teacher didn’t help him. She made him stay in and just leave his head on the desk from recess from recess. That teacher has no business being here,” is what they said to me. So, my question, you’ve kind of addressed it a little bit, is what’s your recommendation for making sure that we don’t lose the Mrs. Barkers? Because we do not want to lose good teachers, and how do we help these other teachers, help them find a profession that they’re better at? Does that make sense? And I know I’ve talked to teachers about merit pay, which so much of the private world uses, and they seem to be opposed to it.

Hansen:

There’s a real love of learning and I was the first one in my family to go past high school. So those kinds of teachers really had an influence on me. We need to keep them. The teachers who aren’t doing a good job, there are some difficulties now in actually redirecting them, I think I saw that from the school board, and I think that local administrators probably need to have more input and a little bit more freedom on how to help them along. Or as you say if they just can’t do it, help them find something that might work for them because our kids, especially in those formative years, are very precious and we need to take care of them. In regard to merit pay, one thing I learned from my manufacturing days was that it’s hard to improve if we can’t measure something, and that I think is the rub. That’s where we’ve had a lot of debate is how do we measure if our teachers are doing their job. And we tried standardized tests, and we’ve done way too much of that, and probably need to be pulled back. There are a lot of other measurements that are kind of touchy feely but hard to put a number to, so hard to agree on pay – and I think that’s one thing the State School Board could do a lot of good is coming up with, bringing a consensus together, of good measurements that teachers would buy into, administrators could buy into. Parents would think that “yeah, this is what would measure whether my kid is progressing in school the way I want him to,” and then we could have a discussion about basing merit pay on those kind of measurements.

Pitts:

And you know, before we can even begin to discuss merit pay, we have to fix the overwhelming issue, which is the elephant in the room, is the class sizes. And nothing breaks my heart more, as a teacher, when I see students who get to the end of the year and they haven’t maybe made it to where they should be. And when we have such large class sizes I feel maybe we’re setting teachers up for failure when they can’t; I mean there’s been years when I have so many students that if I just want to spend three minutes of conversation per student, there goes three-fourths of my day and I can’t even begin to teach, and I can’t even begin to build connections, and guide them to accessing the core. And then the thing about merit pay is, to me, it’s saying you’re already so overworked now if you feel like you need more money, work harder. Maybe we can get to that point if we address the issue of class sizes and setting teachers up and schools up for failure with these class sizes, and I know it’smillions and millions of dollars just to lower the FTE (full time employee) by one student, but why can’t we look at aids in the classroom? Why can’t we come up with other ways to get that help in the classroom, and then we can look at merit pay? But, I know I can assess my students. I can let them give me an oral presentation. I can look in their journals. I can look in their notebooks. I can have them give a presentation, and I can measure their growth, and I can see how they’re progressing, but then to say we’re going to base it off of one test at the end of the year? That’s a snapshot. When we can’t control any of the outside variables that they come to school hungry; are they living in a hotel? We can’t control that and then to base that merit pay off of that one snapshot, I know that they’re not going to make it.
Video Time: 25:05

Moderator: 

Thank you. Other questions please. Yes.
Audience Member:

Hi, Amy Huntington. I live here in Ogden, have two kids that have graduated from this beautiful high school, and one coming up in a few years. I guess this is mostly for you, Mr. Hansen. It sounds like you want to take some of your experience in business to our schools in Utah. Tell me what would you do, or have done, in your manufacturing experience if a load of steel was delivered that was flawed, not structurally sound, when it arrived at your business?

Hansen:

I can tell you what we would have done. We were building airbags and seatbelts, and we would have rejected the load of steel. We can’t do that with kids. We get flawed kids all the time that come into our schools, and our job is to take them and help them progress as far as they can within the bounds of the resources that we have to help them. That’s sometimes the problem.But, we do have Title I, we have special ed, we have other ways to help those children. Some of the children that don’t fit into those categories who are in mainstream classrooms also need special help and that’s where we run into problems with the classroom size. But our kids aren’t loads of steel. I know kids aren’t widgets and we can’t treat them like that, but we can streamline our processes. We can make sure that our measurements are accurate. We can make sure that we only make mistakes once so that we’re not wasting our time redoing the same thing over and over again. We can have processes and procedures that are tried in one area that work can then spread them throughout the school systems in the state. I think those are lessons we can learn from manufacturing and then we have to have a heart and bring in all those kids that are flawed and do our best.

Moderator:

Yeah if I could maybe just kind of adapt that a little bit to you. How do we handle students who are flawed?

Pitts:

Well first of all, I wouldn’t say flawed, but I believe every student can learn and I want to bring back the merit pay question and tie it to this question. Yes, you said you know in the end in the industrial world there’s a level that you can use measurement, you can develop a merit pay system, but then let’s look at that analogy back to education. We’re coming with students who are broken. We’re coming with students who have challenges, and then to base my worth as a teacher off of “Did I fix that? Are they perfect?” I can’t. Every kid can learn, and they will make growth in my classroom, but teachers need support; teachers need help in the classroom with as overcrowded as they are now, and I’m going to do everything that I can even if it’s by myself. I had a stretch of six years where I did not have a single parent, very little aide time come in and help me with my class of 30+ kids, but I did what I could and I worked hard so that every child came to school with that baggage that they came with and they knew they were accepted. They knew that I’m going to do what I can to help them.
Hansen:

Going back to that measurement. That’s something that I feel strongly about, we should be smart enough to figure out whether a child that comes into our school system from the beginning of the year to the end of the year has progressed, has learned, has gained knowledge. We should be able to find a way to do that. I understand there are issues with the systems that have been tried, but we ought to be able to put our heads together as a group of concerned citizens, educators, legislators, and people in the school board to figure out how to do that so that we can measure that progress. Otherwise how do we know if our school system is doing the things that we want it to? And then the teachers are another part of that. How do we know if they’re being effective with what we’re paying them to do?
Pitts:

You know as a teacher what drives me is data and there’s nothing more that teachers love then data, and I give my students pretests. I give them post-tests. I give them beginning-of-year assessments, middle-of-year assessments, end-of-year assessments in every major content area so that I can track them and make sure that they are learning and progressing. Then I do all of that work, and then at the end of the year I get one score that says, this is your measure as a teacher. We need to move beyond just that measure. Teachers are doing creative things to see that their students learn, and we need to expand on that and realize that is going to be more beneficial than just the one test score.

 

Video Time: 30:07

 

Moderator:

All right, thank you. Any other questions? Do we have anything online yet? We do, great.

 

Online Audience Member:

Yes. This question comes from our live Facebook feed. What role do you see a State School Board playing in supporting early childhood education?
Moderator:

Okay, we’ll start with Mr. Pitts.

 

Pitts:

Well I’ve taught first grade and second grade the last several years, and I can see right off the bat that children that have had a strong foundation in the early years in kindergarten, strong preschool, small class sizes makes such a huge difference that anything that the State Board of Education can do, anything the legislators can do, to enhance early childhood education pays off down the line tenfold.When I get a first-grader who can read on a fifth-grade level versus a first-grader who doesn’t know the alphabet, it’s directly resulted to their access and their experience in early childhood in preschool and in kindergarten.I’ve seen kindergarten class sizes that were huge, and then the first-grade teachers spend the majority of the year just managing behavior because of the skills. I mean, these young kids are learning social skills; they’re there learning how to be a student and if they don’t have that with these large class sizes, then it’s hard to correct as they go down the line.

 

Hansen:

I think with the school district we saw Prosperity 2020.Groups of citizens and business people came together led by Allen Hall, and they pumped quite a bit of money into the Roy area. The Roy Cone we called it. One of the things they did with some of that money was put together a full-day kindergarten where it had been half day. And the administrators there said that third-grade reading scores when those kids came through just shot up phenomenally. I think there’s no question that early childhood education is very important. The problem we have is our budget doesn’t support educating the kids in the grades that we have now. And if we can’t raise the money, I don’t know practically how we spread that to more early childhood education. I’m also seeing the benefits of it in my work with the Head Start group here in Ogden. We take very disadvantaged families and put kids into Head Start, and you see them just grow leaps and bounds through that, so I’d really be an advocate for that. But I think we have to look at the practicalities of the budget. We haveto take care of the programs we have now before we start expanding into lending that money even more. And there may be some data that I don’t have that would change my ideas on priority there, but I really think we have to manage the problems we have now.

 

Video Time: 33:02

 

Moderator:

Any other questions from our live audience? Others online? Okay, I would like to … yes, there’s no limit.

 

Audience Member:

So, you’ve got a magic wand and the Legislature will do whatever you want. What would be your number one priority be for the Legislature for each of you?

Moderator:

Okay,I think we start with Mr. Hansen.

 

Hansen:

I think getting more money into the WPUthat would allow us to work with teacher salaries, would also allow us to cut class sizes, take care of some of the major issues that are facing us, so that’s where I’d direct my attention right now.

 

Pitts:

I’d have to agree 100 percent. Lower the class size or get the help in there to help with those oversized classrooms. It’s about the classroom size.

Video Time: 34:02

 

Moderator:

Okay, maybe I can go back a little bit on that because it’s one thing to ask what would be your wish from the Legislature, but how would you bring that about? What would you like to see; a tax increase? I mean, how would you? How do you feel we should fund these increases in education?

 

Pitts:

The money has to come from somewhere, and I can tell you what the one thing that we hate doing every year in schools is the fundraiser. And, you know, parents want schools to be funded, but you know we’re willing to spend 30 dollars on chocolate and have 10 dollars or 15 dollars of that go to school. Well, why not just give that to the school? I mean it’s needed, and as far as getting the money through the Legislature, then yeah, it’s a tax. And the majority of Utahns want to fund schools adequately. Let’s get some action in the Legislature; let’s get it passed. You know, hopefully we see that support with Question 1 on the ballot that you know we need to fund schools, and the Utahns are willing to fund them adequately.

Hansen:

I think we will see whether Utahns really care about education, have the stomach for it, with Question 1. That’s going to hit everyone who drives; 10 cents a gallon. It will tell us at least whether they’re willing to pay that extra money to get money to kids and be very interesting. I hope that we have a strong response, and that gives the Legislature a signal that we can move ahead and get some more money for kids. There’s been some other creative ways. I talked about Prosperity 2020, where we saw some business people get together and say, “hey, education’s important,” and some of them put together quite a bit of their own money, business money and then personal money to help out. There’s a lot we can do creatively with this private-public partnership with businesses to have them help out. I know the school where we tossed around the ideas of having logos on the school buses and selling advertising. I don’t know that I’d go that far right now, but there are ways to get money into the system if we’re creative. And I think that we’ll see how things go on taxes, but there are other ways that we can explore, and there are people who care about education that if we can get them involved can really help us out.
 

Video Time: 36:04

 

Moderator:

Other questions?Do we have anything else online? Okay, I would like to ask you this. I think it will be the final question.State-mandated assessment tests in the state – we allow parents to opt their children out of those tests if they like. And so thousands of children every year don’t take these tests. My question is twofold. One is: Should we allow parents to opt their students out of these tests? And number two:If we if do let them opt out, how do we adequately assess our schools and how well they’re doing and which ones need extra help?And I forget where we are, is that Mr. Pitts? Mr. Hansen.
Hansen:

Again, I’m a big fan of measurement, and the opt-out rules, a lot of the rules we have with standardized testing just don’t make sense as I understand it right now. The tests can’t be used to score the children as far as their grades. They also can’t be used to score the teachers, and the parents can opt out at will and those tests make it really hard to get a good across-the-board measurement. And since the tests grade the children, a lot of them are just running through them and you know I’ve heard tales of some of them saying “I’ve finished the test in ten minutes – it was supposed to take me two hours – because I knew it didn’t count” on their grade. So, I think as part of this education system we’re putting together, there needs to be a way to measure and that would include standardized testing for everyone. I think that right now the standardized testing has been excessive. We’ve gone way too far and need to pull that back. But there ought to be some standardized tests that everyone takes so we know what’s going on.

Pitts:

And you know the biggest thing that I see from parents who opt their kids out is the opposition to the data collection: where it goes, who sees that, who manages it. We need to have the purpose for assessment to drive our instruction in the classroom obviously. And I think schools and teachers need to be held accountable that they’re doing their job. You know, to tag on to that, we’ve heard horror stories: “I once sent a student down and in the time they left the classroom went to the computer lab took the 72 problem math test and came back to the classroom within 12 minutes.” We know that there was no testing being done there. But as a teacher, like I said, I monitor my students, we keep portfolios, they keep their own data. They watch their growth, they make goals for themselves to become better. They don’t have that with the end-of-year test. I think parents should have the right to opt their student out of that test, and if they want, no one knows the child better than the parent. Some students do not perform under that pressure that they have on the year-end test, and the pressure is put there because of the culture in the school that if you don’t pass the tests, we’re failing. You know, you’re a 1, you’re a 2. You’re not a 3. You’re not a 4. And they carry that with them year after year. Meaning, if there are 1 or 2 they’re not on level; if they’re 3 or 4 then yeah, they pass the test. And we’ve created a culture in schools of pass the test, pass the test. We need to have a culture of wanting to learn. They need to have it. Build the desire to want to learn. They need to have that within them, that they’re in school to become better people, not to pass the test.
Video Time: 40:23

 

Moderator: 

Thank you both. This concludes our questions for this evening. We will now have one-minuteclosing statements from each candidate. We will begin – Mr. Hansen.

 

Hansen:

Thanks. It’s been a real pleasure to be here with you tonight. Thank you for your interest in education. I wish this room was packed, and I wish there were thousands of people on Facebook because we really all need to get behind this. What I need you to know is that I’m asking you to hire me without pay to go down and represent you at the State School Board, and you should do that because I’m qualified, have a broad experience base. I think I can bring to bear to help to solve some of these problems that we’re facing. I spent my career both in manufacturing and also as an attorney and problem-solving, and I think that I can help to do that. I don’t have any preset agenda. I don’t have any special interest groups backing me. I funded my campaign on my own. I just plan to go to Salt Lake, if you’ll send me there, and do my best to represent you in helping our kids get the education they should have to succeed. It’s a big world out there and there’s a lot of competition, not just here locally but internationally, and our kids need to be prepared to face that. I hope we can help do that. Thank you.

Pitts:

Thank you for being out tonight. I’m fortunate enough to go to work every day and look into the faces of the reason why we’re in this business. And I believe the experience that I can bring in the classroom and administration in managing corporate businesses, I can bring a unique perspective to the school board of the heart of education; which is the classroom. It’s about the students. I want to see this position engage as many citizens as we can. Most people don’t know who their school board representative is, and it’s my goal to engage the diverse community that we have all of our stakeholders in education in creating a system that benefits all students in Utah, that they are all receiving an education that is going to benefit them in the world that we’re moving into. There’s a lot of competition outside the U.S. It’s not U.S.-driven anymore, and we need to give these opportunities to our kids. Thank you.

Moderator:

Thank you. I’d like to once again thank everybody who has attended here today and those who are watching online and we know there will be many others who watch this online as we get closer to Election Day. It will be available to you over and over again. I hope that this has helped you to make an informed and educated choice in this important race. I’d also like to thank both of our candidates and would ask you to join me in thanking them at this time.

 

**Audience Applause**

 

Moderator:  

Thank you and good evening.

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