What should define a successful educationsystem? The numbers of graduation that it produces or the level of preparednessprovided for those that do graduate? Are we sacrificing quality for the pursuitof quantity? While Utah may produce a high number of graduates among publichigh schools, the nationally lowest per pupil spending and excessive student toteacher ratio makes the Our Schools Now Initiative one that should be seriouslyconsidered. Not only would the initiative invest more in teachers, reduce classsizes, and aid in classroom support, but it would also increase the access andability of early learning and educational technologies that could take studentachievement to the next level. First, it might be helpful to discuss why the Our SchoolsNow initiative is important for Utah schools. Utah has been dead last in perpupil spending in education since 1988.
According to the U.S. Census Bureaureport on June 14, 2017, between 2014 and 2015, a 1% increase inflation rateshowed Utah spent 6,575 compared to 6,500 the year before. Unfortunately, the1% increase was not enough to beat Idaho for the 49th spot (U.
S. Census Bureau2017). Despite the Utah legislature’sboost to “state education funds by 3.
75 percent; a higher increase than thenational increase of 2.7 percent, the ranking remained the same it had for manyyears” (Salt Lake Tribune 2016). Moreover, While New York spends the most perstudent at 1$9,818, Utah spends only $6,500 per student, the lowest rate in thenation; Utah has still managed to maintain the 10th highest percentage ofstudents with a high school diploma while New York has the 35th highestpercentage but these numbers don’t paint the full picture or take into account allof the differences, both economic and socially between the two states. Thisdead last ranking for the State of Utah will eventually lead to greaterdifficulty in maintaining that 10th highest degree rating as the State of Utahis faced with a growing student population of 633, 900 and largest populationof under 18 year olds. TheOur Schools Now initiative can be effective in increased student learning andsuccess because it looks to increases teacher performance and satisfactionwhile decreasing the burnout rate. It increases teacher performance andsatisfaction with the help of a proposed tax increase that would allow forfurthering teacher salaries and expanding programs used to aid in teacherworkload. According to a “draft plan by organizers behind the Our Schools Nowballot initiative, performance measures like student proficiency and improvedtest scores should play a role in how Utah allocates any new funds generatedthrough a proposed income tax increase” (The Spectrum 2017).
By “increasing thestate income tax by 7/8 of a percent, it will benefit the state’s publicschools and raises per pupil funding” (The Spectrum). The “estimates suggestthe tax proposal could raise some 750 million annually or about 1,000 perstudent which could be 7,500 per student instead of the 6,500 of the past year”(The Spectrum). Also,with the proposed tax increase it could help supply teachers by increasingeducational funds that could go into teacher salaries, hire more qualifiedteachers, and have more room for promotion. These increases in teacher pay andcareer development are aimed at keeping current and qualified teachers whichwould reduce the costs needed in hiring and training new teachers after theunsatisfied and burnout out teaching corps fade away due to insufficientfunding and salaries.
The initiativealso aims to help decrease class sizes and ease the heavy burdens laid onteachers with overly large class sizes. As Bob Marquardt, an executivecommittee member of Our Schools Now reiterated, “Low teacher salaries and largeclassroom sizes are significant roadblocks to delivering high-quality educationto every Utah child, and that requires greater education funding” (TheSpectrum). A Logan School District teacher said, “Class sizes of 40 and 38 canfrequently interrupt with management and behavioral issues.
” A study of CSR isthe Student Teacher Achievement Ratio or STAR, which was conducted in Tennesseeduring the late 1980s where “students and teachers were randomly assigned to asmall class, with an average of 15 students, or a regular class, with anaverage of 22 students. This large reduction in class size (7 students, or 32percent) was found to increase student achievement by an amount equivalent toabout 3 additional months of schooling four years later” (Chingos andWhitehurst 2011). Smaller class sizes can lead to higher test scores. Alan B.
Krueger, author of Economic Journal, found large estimates of class-sizeeffects on students who are in classes of 7 to 8 students smaller on averagethan regular-sized classes performed about 0.22 standard deviations better on astandardized test (Krueger 1999). Meaning students perform about 3 percent of astandard deviation better for every one student less in the class (Krueger). Also,Alan B.
Krueger found some long-term effects made by class-size reductions inkindergarten (Krueger). He began bytaking an effect by 5th grade to be half the size of the kindergarten effect,then a reduction in 1 student per class and would ultimately generateapproximately 1.5 percent of a standard deviation difference in achievementscores in 5th grade (Krueger). The increase in funding that would allow for thehiring of more teachers would not only help with teacher satisfaction andretention rates but also clearly has a definite impact on test scores andstudent achievement (Krueger). Astatewide assessment such as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, orTAKS, which has a mean of about 700 and a standard deviation of about 100 at5th grade for mathematics, a reduction in class size by one student wouldgenerate an improvement of 1.5 scale score points (Krueger). Overall, smaller class sizes can leadstudents in getting higher test scores and standardized tests like the ACT andSAT. Thisincrease in performance is based on the more localized and specific teachingthat is available in smaller class sizes.
Individualized attention given tostudents, as well as a lowered ability to “blend into the crowd” of a largerclass allows students and teachers to better interact on a one-on-one level andfurther establish better communication and understanding of course materialsbeing taught. The reduction of class sizes not only helps teachers manage classbehavior more effectively but also allows for educators to develop a morepersonal relationship with students and better tailor individual education toeach respective student. As common sense would dictate, it is easier to manageand interact positively with a handful of students than it would be for oneperson to attempt to manage a mass where students can unfortunately “slipthrough the cracks”. Our Schools Now can be beneficial in classroom support bycreating strategies for teachers to help differentiate instruction forstudents. Differentiate instruction means teachers focus on learning how tomeet every student’s needs. Based on a book by Carol Tomlinson, she states onthe importance of a student and teacher relationship. The responsibility of theteacher is to connect the content, process, and product that they are trying toteach to students when differentiate instruction (McCarthy 2014).
First, let’s start on how teachers start ondifferentiate content in the classroom (McCarthy). Content includes skills,knowledge, and concepts that students need to learn based on thecurriculum. Students get theopportunities to choose which format like watching videos, reading, lectures oraudio to learn a particular lesson based on their interests (McCarthy).
Second,differentiate process is how the student understand the content. It givesteachers a chance to create a workshop or a formative assessments for studentsto reflect on the content they’ve learned while providing feedback for teacherson how the students are progressing. Third, differentiate product is teachers lettingtheir own students choose their own academic criteria that aligns with theirlevel of academic. With the tax increase the Our Schools Now initiative isproposing will open more doors for students to get the opportunity to createprograms like these that will ensure a more quality education for the students.The ability of students to take a more active role and better focus theireducation on their respective learning abilities and interests will greatlyincrease the success of the education systems by getting students and teachersto “buy in” or put their own personal interest into the education. The Our Schools Nowinitiative is beneficial in classroom support by helping fund classroom typeservices for students with learning disabilities (Csillag 2017). Fundingclassroom type services for students like speech language therapy, andSpecial Education Itinerant Teacher or SEIT (Csillag).
It could provideaccommodations like assistive technology tools for learning disabilitiesstudents to gain better access to audiobooks and help progress along with theirfellow peers in their studies (Csillag). Due to a low per pupil spending inUtah, the small amount public schools have to work with can prevent theadequate services that must be provided for these students. It can minimize theopportunity students with learning disabilities can achieve and progress intheir studies. The advances intechnology for those with learning and physical disabilities has made it suchthat failing behind socially and academically in school should no longer be aproblem in our school systems. The technology is out there and available andthe increase in funding generated by this program will allow more schools andstudents the opportunity to utilize these technologies and further theireducation beyond the previous limitations of their disabilities.
Otherprograms that would receive funding through the initiative are those such asthe student tutoring program that would allow struggling students more of anopportunity to receive that needed one on one time with teachers in order tobetter grasp the content that may be missed in a larger classroom setting. Thisprogram allows teachers to work more hands on with students and use content andtools better suited for the individuals needs instead of trying to send out ablanket lesson for an entire class to understand. Even one tutoring session oneon one with a struggling student that enables the teacher to better identifythe students strengthens and weakness and help create a study plan or strategycan be enough to turn a struggling student into a successful one. Theinitiative would also enable funding for more tutor specific programs that notonly allow the student to hear the material or learn from another source ormedium but also helps ease the burden of the teachers tasked with the entireclass.
Handing a struggling student to someone who can better assist on a oneon one level and come at the material from other ways frees up teachers tofocus on the majority of students instead of limiting their time and attentionto just a few. Otheravailable programs to better assist students that would become more widelyavailable with funding from the initiative are those that involve gettingstudents together in academic based clubs that not only bring students togethersocially but also help cement the content and course material that they arelearning throughout the day. Clubs such as robotics and Science Olympiad areexamples of academic and school sponsored clubs that allow students a area forcompetition and camaraderie in a scholarly and academic area.
These clubsenable students to put their education into practical application and to betterestablish material in hands on way. The social and competitive aspect of sportshave been acknowledged for the benefits they give to young adults going throughhigh school and these academic based clubs with faculty and industryprofessionals serving as mentors have the same potential for positive impact onstudents’ lives and development. TheOur Schools Now initiative can help provide educational technologies for allstudent success by opening access to more technology that can have the power totransform teaching by ushering in a new model of connected teaching (U.
S.Department of Education 2017). A model that connects both the teacher andstudent together with their own professional content, resources, and systemthat could improve their own instruction and personalize learning (U.
S.Department of Education). Finding a way that could link the student and teacherby creating a relationship for the teacher to further understand the level the studentneeds or how accelerated their learning is. To know the acceleration rate oflearning, the usage of online learning opportunities and open educationalresources can increase educational productivity (U.S.
Department of Education). Technologyis a best way to support both teaching and learning, it infuses classrooms withdigital learning tools, such as computers and hand held devices (U.S.Department of Education).
It helps increase student engagement and motivationby expending course offering, experiences, and learning materials (U.S.Department of Education).
While the initiative will be bringing extra moneyfrom the proposed tax increase to help fund newer technological advances toprogress a student education; it can reduce costs associated with instructionalmaterials or program delivery and can better utilize teacher time (U.S.Department of Education). This generation of children rely more on technology whenit comes to play, to challenge their creativity, imagination and to achievetheir sensory and motor development. So, why not integrate technology intotheir education? The integration of technology into their educational time atschool can be beneficial for the child because it keeps their attention and canaccelerate their progress through a device they use every day and their brainis used to.
The integration of technologycan be beneficial for the parent as well because it can provide such feedbackto the parents in how fast their child is learning every content and whatcontent needs to be practiced more on. In conclusion, a great education isn’t defined by thequantity but the quality. While Utah may produce a high number of graduates andhas a 10th place highest degree rating doesn’t prove that the numberof graduates were provided a high quality education and can achieve higher educationthat can ultimately end up as a career.
The Our Schools Now initiative can bethe leader in providing a high quality education for the future children in theState of Utah by increasing the per pupil spending, be effective in learning byincreasing teacher performance and satisfaction and decrease the burnout rateby raising teacher salaries. Also, provide classroom support and help fundeducational technologies. Like the mantra of Our Schools Now believes in andstand for: Every Utah child deserves a high-quality education.