1. What is the purpose of education?
I believe that the purpose of education is to SUPPORT, RESPECT, AND EMPOWER all education stakeholders through engagement, literacy, and inspiration. Through involvement and accountability, stakeholders build positive educational environments for students.
EDUCATING THE WHOLE CHILD is an integral part of our educational system. Providing support and opportunities for student participation in the visual and performing arts, athletics, student government, clubs and service organizations is a necessary and proper function of schools. Schools also are laboratories of society where students learn through modeling character traits necessary to functioning as productive members of society.
2. If you could change only one existing education policy during your tenure on the State Board of Education, what would it be, and why?
Almost every candidate adopts the talking point of local control of education, but in practice that is rarely the case. I recently attended a local board meeting where a member of the board lamented the fact that the new evaluation system mandated by the state was so cumbersome. This current educator evaluation is unwieldy and does not represent local control. It appears that the State Board of Education and Legislature often view themselves as representing local control. The State Board of Education is given “GENERAL” control over education in Utah, but for some reason that general control is most often very specific. One of the most harmful mandates of the legislature has been the school grading system. It is insulting and affixes a label to students, parents, teachers, administrators and the entire community served by the school. Another issue is the politicism of education by making the state Board of Education a partisan position. Education is one area in which partisanship is more harmful than helpful. It is a field in which we should be able to agree more often than we disagree.
3. In your opinion, what relationship should exist between the state Legislature and the State Board of Education in making education policy?
In two years, if a change is not made, the State Board of Education will most likely become an extension of the legislature. I believe this is a mistake. The separation of powers between the legislature and the State Board of Education is important to the non-partisan nature of education that is demanded from the public in the classroom and local school boards. Why did the legislature, against the will of the people, support this change? I believe the current relationship is the correct and proper based on the Utah State Constitution. In 25 years of teaching the stress and workload placed on students, teachers, administrators, and local boards of education have never been greater. The legislature and State Board of Education must either support, respect, and empower education stakeholders or risk an even greater crisis of their own making.
4. In your opinion, what role is the federal government best suited to play with regard to education policy?
There have been times in the history of our nation that the federal government intervened on behalf of citizens to protect civil rights. The 14th amendment to the constitution and civil rights legislation have on occasion required the federal government to intervene on behalf of citizens who were denied equal protection of the law in the school setting. For example, it required federal troops to ensure that James Meredith was allowed to register as a student at the University of Mississippi in 1962. However, such educational mandates of the federal government such as No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act are over reaching attempts by the federal government to control and dictate education at all levels. The issue is further muddled by the stick and carrot enticement of federal dollars that accompany these programs. The State Board of Education must lead by example. This would be best accomplished if the State Board became less controlling and allow local school boards to align with the general supervision of the State Board.
5. What relationship should exist between the State Board of Education and the State Charter School Board?
The State Board of Education is an elected body that has the authority granted by the Utah Constitution for general supervision of education. Since charter schools are also public schools, shouldn’t they naturally fall under the authority of the elected State Board of Education? If the State Charter School Board operates under the authority of the State Board as a recommending body/committee then that might be appropriate. If however, the State Charter School Board operates as a separate and fully vested entity then I believe that is a violation of the Utah constitution and principles of republican government.
6. In 2010 Utah adopted the Utah Core Standards. Recently, some have advocated that Local Education Agencies should create academic standards instead of the State Board of Education. What level of government (local, state, federal) is most appropriate to create academic standards, and why?
Recently Davis School District saved several million dollars in textbook costs by empowering a group of 3rd – 6th grade teachers to develop and pilot a math program aligned with the Common Core. Alignment of curriculum by beginning with the end in mind begins with the question of what the student will be able to do, in other words, what new proficiency will be gained and for what purpose. Teachers will often use phrases such as Standard, Objective, Curriculum, formative assessment, and summative assessment. Using the example from Davis County, a team of teachers that teach grades 3 – 6 were chosen to develop a curriculum that aligned with the Standards outlined in the state core. The core provides the framework but does not mandate the curriculum or methods of instruction. This model has been in place since January of 1984 (32 years). The difference between what has occurred most often and what has been done previously is that instead of attempting to identify an approved textbook, the teachers forming a collaborative teacher team to develop a curriculum that aligned with the state standards that would prepare students to demonstrate proficiency using both formative and summative assessments. Simply, the teachers developed and became empowered in preparing their student for the SAGE summative assessment. The pilot program showed significant proficiency improvement over other student populations in the Davis School District. Below is a small sample of the Utah Core Curriculum for 3rd grade Math.
Strand: MATHEMATICAL PRACTICES (3.MP) The Standards for Mathematical Practice in Third Grade describe mathematical habits of mind that teachers should seek to develop in their students. Students become mathematically proficient in engaging with mathematical content and concepts as they learn, experience, and apply these skills and attitudes (Standards 3.MP.1–8). „
Standard 3.MP.1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Explain the meaning of a problem, look for entry points to begin work on the problem, and plan and choose a solution pathway. When a solution pathway does not make sense, look for another pathway that does. Explain connections between various solution strategies and representations. Upon finding a solution, look back at the problem to determine whether the solution is reasonable and accurate, often checking answers to problems using a different method or approach.
How core competencies are implemented and formative assessments are utilized is totally within the autonomy of teachers, schools, and districts. As a teacher I like having the scope and sequence of the core to give guidance on standards that align with formative assessments, such as the ACT, SAT, SLO or SAGE. The data from these sources is useful to improving instruction in the classroom. The biggest complaint is that there are currently too many assessments taking too much time away from instruction. One of the greatest challenges that the members of the State Board of Education face are mandates from the Federal Government and the Utah Legislature. This is challenging because the State Board must then implement these mandates and pass them on to local school districts. There are many challenges facing Utah and its educational system. It is important to understand the issues, but it is also important to have a clear and practical understanding of how these issues affect students and educators.
7. Utah is suffering from a teacher shortage. What policies would help attract and retain quality public school teachers?
The school is a reflection of society in general and the neighborhood and community in specific. Respect for educators, police officers, and others who serve the public is on a decline and as a result intrinsic motivations for taking on these occupations has dwindled. It feels like educators are in constant jeopardy and are the scapegoats for the general ills of society. Improved compensation is important and would attract more quality teachers, but that alone will not solve the teacher shortage.
It is also important that experienced and master teachers mentor and collegially support less experienced teachers. This should be both a proactive action on the part of districts and a professional courtesy of the school faculty. Administrators can also provide feedback to support continual improvement. Most of all, there are challenges and stresses associated with teaching that can bring down even the most promising of young inexperienced teachers. Encouragement and assistance is necessary to both attracting new teachers and keeping them in the system.
8. Parents, students, and teachers are concerned with the amount of testing that is now required in school. What policies might help address these concerns?
A new educator evaluation system was put in place in conjunction with the implementation of the SAGE assessment. The original intent was that SAGE assessment results would represent a 20% portion of a teacher effectiveness score in the evaluation process. Non SAGE tested teachers would be required to develop a SLO (Student Learning Outcomes) that would be used to evaluate their effectiveness. The legislature then decided that SAGE scores would not be a part of the evaluation process. This was a relief for many teachers, but created three additional summative evaluations, since the SLO exams were to be administered three times a year. For a Junior in High School, this means one attempt administered during a regular school day on the ACT, three SLO assessments per subject, and up to three SAGE assessments depending on the subject. This does not include quizzes or other assessments administered in the classroom making it possible for teachers to assign a grade. SAGE results, by law, cannot be used for grading purposes and as a result some students choose to perform poorly. Now there is talk of doing away with the SAGE assessments in the high school and making the ACT the data instrument from which teachers can inform their assessments. This is all good, but now a new piece of federal legislation called ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) will have its own standards of compliance.
If your head is spinning, you are not alone. Several years ago educators had just started adapting to the UBSCT assessment under NCLB. Utah then opted out of NCLB by adopting the Common Core and implementing the SAGE assessment. TEACHERS ARE EXPERIENCING WHIPLASH! And now ESSA is the next mandate coming down the pipeline.
Yet another reason why there is a teacher shortage.
9. Last year the State Board of Education approved a statewide digital teaching and learning plan called the Essential Elements for Technology Powered Learning. What’s your vision for technology in education?
Several years ago the South Ogden City Youth Council attended a mock debate at the state capital. The topic of the debate was the use of technology in the classroom for instructional purposes. It soon became apparent that students view technology much differently than adults when it comes to education. The overwhelming majority stated emphatically that the number one factor, in their view, was not the use or non-use of technology, but the quality of instruction by the living, breathing, human teacher. Several students stated that some of their best teachers used very little technology in the classroom, while other great teachers used lots of technology. The opposite was also true of less proficient teachers.
As a teacher, I have found technology to create greater efficiency for instruction, attendance, and grading. Technology can be an excellent tool in the hands of teachers and students, but it is not the end all. The social and interactive nature of the traditional classroom, enhanced by technology, is best. If technology alone were the answer, we could just have students sit at home and do all their learning on their computers. It sure would save lots of money. The teacher is the key element in an effective use of technology within the curriculum.
Teachers need to adapt to technology as a tool to enhance learning. It is also important that technology is well supported in the school system, but it does not, or should it ever, supplant the teacher and students in a classroom as the base model of education.
10. Bullying has become a national discussion. What policies would help protect students, inform parents, and help administrators deal with bullying?
As far as I am aware, every school district in the state of Utah has developed policies and relevant training for both students and educators. At the school I teach there is mandatory training given to each student regarding this and other safety protocols.
A big challenge however, is cyber bullying that occurs both in school and out. It has been a long time since I have observed actual physical bullying in the school setting, but cyber bullying has occurred more often. I can think of two incidents that occurred with students during the past year, both of which were dealt with administratively, but that is probably an indicator that other unknown cases have happened. I believe the necessary actions and protocols are place for dealing with this issue.
11. Utah is known for its low per-pupil spending. Each year lawmakers are asked to increase school funding. Others argue the importance of how money is spent. With limited funds, what programs or initiatives would you hope to see funded first?
Well… Umm… Ok… Let me first state… There is always a price to be paid for every decision that is made. My suggestion is that assessments be streamlined to provide the necessary and valid data that can then be used to drive curriculum in the classroom. Teachers want their students to learn and be successful in the classroom and in life, so data should be used as a light bulb not a sledge hammer. Direct resources towards providing extended curriculum development, collaboration, and training for teachers during the summer months. This will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of teachers during the school year. Stop micromanaging schools and free up more resources that directly affect the lives of students.
12. National data suggest that early education has limited, short term effects on student outcomes. Some Utah early education programs have reported success through mid-elementary grades. Utah also uses UPSTART, an online program that allows children to access preschool at home. What is the best way to approach early education in Utah?
This is a complex social, economic, and political issue that has no perfect answer. The question itself is contradictory and limited longitudinally. This is what I do know. Every student that enters my classroom is going to eventually leave school and either be a faucet or a drain on society. Everyone has a responsibility, if they care about the future of our communities, state, nation, and world, to do their part to promote education of the children in our schools.
It bothers me deeply when I hear people complain that they don’t have children, so why should they have to pay taxes to schools. Children are a necessary demographic of a strong and growing economy and nation, and there are some things provided within society that benefit everyone. Education is one of those.
13. Parental rights in education are protected in both federal and state law. What does it look like for the state to play a secondary and supportive role in education?
Choice is a fundamental principle of republican government. As parents with seven children, currently spread out between elementary, junior high, high school, college, and college graduate; as well as a combined 34 years of educational experience between the two of us, we have learned a few things.
We still do not know everything, but we do know that over the years there has been only one time, where we as parents felt that we must take bold action in regards to the education of one of our children. On the other hand, we would both run out of fingers and toes if we were to count the wonderful experiences and educators that our children have had over the years.
We home schooled one of our children for one year because we were certain that it would be in the best interest of that child. This was our choice and we did not expect a voucher, a tax credit, or an educational savings account to support our decision. It was our choice and if we had wanted to enroll one of our children in a private school, we would have paid for it.
I absolutely believe in the principle of choice in education, but not at the expense of the taxpayer.