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My view: Utah's handling of education could be a model for the nation

Published: Sunday, Sept. 1 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

There is much brouhaha over the adoption of the Common Core, education curriculum across the nation, including in Utah. (Shutterstock) There is much brouhaha over the adoption of the Common Core, education curriculum across the nation, including in Utah. (Shutterstock)

There is much brouhaha over the adoption of the Common Core, education curriculum across the nation, including in Utah. Mostly, the ruckus is over who controls the content and quality of the curriculum. Utah should step up and become "uncommon" by constructing a curriculum with Utah standards and requirements aligned with the market place down through the entire education system.

Both higher education and Utah Colleges of Applied Technology (UCAT) should respond to the market needs of the economy by aligning their educational standards and requirements accordingly. An effective alignment would better respond to employers' needs and prepare students for the job market, making Utah more competitive and prosperous.

Public education should follow by aligning its education standards and requirements with higher education and UCAT's elevated standards and requirements. This approach would more productively and seamlessly align the three silos of education — creating efficiencies, improving education value, and preparing students to be college and career ready.

To reduce education siloing and reinforce the education and marketplace alignment, the Legislature granted greater authority to the governor in the selection of the leadership of higher education and UCAT. The same needs to be done for public education. Applying a similar approach to public education will help break down conflicting interests among the three education silos for limited resources. Instead, an alignment in governance will be more responsive to student needs and achievement.

Under this new governance model, the Board of Education would maintain its authority to appoint the superintendent, but with the approval of the governor and confirmation of the Legislature. In addition, after consultation with the Board of Education, the governor would have the authority to fire the superintendent, the same authority he now has over the commissioner of higher education and the president of UCAT.

With this new governance structure, the governor would be aligned with the Board of Education and superintendent through appointment approval and firing authority. The Legislature would be aligned through the budgeting and confirmation process. All would align together creating clear responsibilities, making the entire education system more accountable to the public.

A superintendent appointed by the Board, approved by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature could more effectively help coordinate among them, the three education silos and with the public. The superintendent could more effectively help the governing partners develop respect for each other's perspectives and roles, including the professional concerns of educators.

With this alignment in place, a consensus should be developed around the main in-classroom factors that contribute most to student achievement and which outside-classroom factors need to be addressed that diminish student achievement. The contributing factors should then be prioritized and budgeted to help Utah obtain a higher level of success in education. In fact, there should be a consensus for Utah to be among the top 10 states in public education measured by student achievement.

To ensure Utah students are prepared for any university in the nation, the University of Utah should raise its standards and requirements, advancing itself among the top 10 state universities and top 50 of all universities throughout the nation. Its example, coupled with the governor's newly granted authority, would reinforce higher expectations for all three silos of education.

These higher expectations can and should be the impetus for more effective curriculum development, resulting in college and career readiness; responsiveness to parents, students and educators; and ultimately economic prosperity for Utah and its education system.

Utah's way can be the better way.

Sen. Stuart C. Reid is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and represents Utah's District 18.

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