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Bill to incentivize year-round school, blended learning clears committee

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 3:23 p.m. MST

More schools may consider implementing a year-round schedule or blended learning in classrooms if a bill advanced Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee becomes law.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — More schools may consider implementing a year-round schedule or blended learning in classrooms if a bill advanced Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee becomes law.

SB79, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, would create a student-centered learning pilot program to incentivize schools and school districts to develop and adopt outcomes-based innovations such as data-driven instruction, competency-based education, extended school years and blended learning.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, spoke in favor of the bill. He said legislators should focus less on trying to administer classroom minutiae and instead set benchmarks and expectations that educators can work toward in the way they best see fit.

By doing that, Reid said, the roles of the Legislature and State School Board would be better aligned, and educators would be more empowered to develop strategies to meet the needs of their students.

"I'm becoming less and less interested in trying to micromanage the classroom from the Legislature," Reid said. "What we really should be looking for is what we want as outcomes in the Legislature and have (educators) determine what the program would look like."

Stephenson compared the pilot program to dual immersion learning, which was initially offered with incentives by the Legislature with the ability for school districts to opt-in. Since then, the number of dual immersion classes in the state has grown steadily each year — climbing to 77 schools in 2012 — and Utah is now considered by many as a national leader in dual language learning.

"Sometimes great things happen," Stephenson said. "Offering incentives and then allowing local school communities to opt in can make a difference."

The bill received only one opposing vote at the committee level. It will now go before the Senate for debate.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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