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Comments about ‘Letters: Politicians trying to prove we deserve to be the lowest funded state’

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Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Before congratulaing ourselves on being tops in ACT scores, we should remeber that only a few states focus on the ACT. Most states go with the SAT.

2 bit
Cottonwood Heights, UT

I don't think they are trying to prove we deserve to be the lowest funded state in the union. They're trying to prove that you don't have to be the highest funded to get good results. I think that's something worth investigating.

Some people keep beating the INCREASE FUNDING drum. Yet they can't prove that more funding automatically means better results (because it's a statistically provable fact that the highest funded schools in the nation are NOT providing the best education).

IMO the increase funding agenda should not be the major focus of the UEA. The first focus should be on providing the best education you can with the $$ you have. Increasing funding doesn't automatically improve education (especially when any funding increases are immediately eaten up by management before they get to the classroom or the teachers).

Utah is already one of the highest taxed States. And most of our taxes go towards education (which is appropriate). But do we need MORE taxes? Or can we find a way to maximize the education we can deliver for the $$$ we already allocate to education?

The ACT scores indicate that we can.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

2 bit is wrong. The highest funded schools in the US ARE getting the best results. The New England states and New Jersey spend the most and also get the best outcomes. Conservatives point to DC as the highest funded, but DC is a true outlier. Its culture is unique. Look instead at entire states and regions, such as VT, NJ, MA, CN, etc.

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

I think the whole question is backward today. No one, not even liberals want to pay high taxes. What people want are outcomes or results. What needs to be done first is to decide what service level society reasonably expects... THEN... decide how to fund activities to achieve these ends... and focus on doing so at the lowest and most efficient cost.

It is how business works. They have an idea of the service levels people expect. They also know how much the public is willing to accept in cost. Good businesses work to fit cost into those expectations while meeting SLAs that customers expect.

Politicians have it all backward... on both sides of the isle.

RWSmith6
Providence, UT

Some folks have it right, some wrong. Utah, in Peter Cooke's words last year, is "the bottom of the bottom" in per pupil funding of K-12. Quite right. And we're slipping nationally while the U.S. is slipping internationally in assessments of K-12 outcomes. More and more countries have passed the U.S. by because education has been a national priority in them, a greater proportion of their GDP behind their successes.

Leaving such an important national matter as education to the states, an uneven bunch in their abilities to fund, seems a foolish strategy when the last 12-15 years are looked into and when successes like Massachusetts' during that time stand out in that time. MA has the resources and the resolve many other ststes don't, Utah included. Putting the best and brightest, most classroom-worthy teachers in classrooms here is increasingly impossible with the word out that those who teach in Utah are comparatively undersupported in every way, overburdened with students, underappreciated as professionals, and, in the bargain, relentlessly micromanaged from above. Not a very good way to advertise job openings in K-12, don't you think?

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Just to be clear. In 2012, 22 states (including Utah) had at least 70% of their students take the ACT. Ten of those states tied or beat Utah on the ACT. Utah's performance was about average for states where a high percentage take the test.

procuradorfiscal
Tooele, UT

Re: "Before congratulaing ourselves on being tops in ACT scores, we should reme[m]ber . . . ."

Yeah, yeah. UEA/NEA wants us all to look, and look real hard, for the cloud they insist MUST be hiding behind ANY silver lining regarding Utah education.

It's what we've come to expect of teachers' greedy, gritty trade union, and indeed, of all trade unions.

They'll dispute anything suggesting it's not required that taxpayers shovel large piles of cash in their direction.

Doesn't mean they have a point, however. Facts are a stubborn thing.

Steve Cottrell
Centerville, UT

Dear procuradorfiscal:

Do you expect to get an average bag of groceries at the store for 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country just because you live in Utah?

Do you expect to get an average car from your dealer for 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country just because you live in Utah?

Do you expect to get an average home at 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country just because you live in Utah?

Why do you expect to get an average education for 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country?

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Irony,
You are partially right. I used to live in Vermont and they fund education differently there. They fund it mostly on a LOCAL basis (not the huge district funding model we use in Utah).

They have low taxes in general, but HUGE property taxes (which are almost exclusively used to fund education, and your property taxes are used to fund your LOCAL school, not a huge group of schools).

It works like this... when a school in Vermont needs more money they call a community meeting (small community) and the people served by that school show up and vote on increasing funding. If they do... their property taxes go up, but their kids get a better education.

So in a way Vermont schools are a little like private schools (compared to huge district model we have in Utah). Which is good and bad. People in some neighborhoods have good schools (and huge property taxes), and some communities have poor schools (and low property taxes). It's a huge factor when buying or selling a home. Some people shop more for the school than they do the home. It's a huge selling point (but you pay).

OC Guy
San Diego, CA

When comparing test scores between states, one must first know the percentage of students who take the exam. Utah has a high percentage of students who take the ACT, which is required by major universities in the state. As the percentage of students taking the test grows, the average score approaches the "true" average score which would result if ALL students in the state took the exam.

Conversely, the percentage of Utah students taking the SAT is rather low. Reason? Only elite out of state schools require it, and Utah students taking the SAT tend to be those applying to elite schools like the Ivy League or Stanford. This cohort tends to have higher academic skills than the average student, and consequently Utah's SAT scores look quite good versus other states---until you compare the percentage of student who took the exam. The lower the percentage, the more likely the students represent "the cream of the crop". SAT scores in Mississippi and Alabama are quite high, but only a low percentage take the exam.

Likewise, the National Merit qualifying score for Utah (based on 99th percentile PSAT score in each state) is below the national average.

OC Guy
San Diego, CA

The 2013 National Merit Semifinalist cut off score in 2013 was 205 in Utah. In California, it was 220. In Alabama, 210. Wyoming and West Virginia were lowest at 200. Several Northeastern states (NJ, MA) were 221. These scores represent the combine Math + Verbal + Writing scores for the PSAT exam. To prevent high-scoring states from claiming all the Semifinalist spots, each state is apportioned its share of Semifinalists in proportion to its share of the high school population. The qualifying score is the point at which 99% of the students score below, and 1% score at or above, in each state. On this basis, Utah ranks in the bottom quarter of the nation.

What these stats don't tell though is the percentage of students in each state who take the PSAT. In states where the public universities require the SAT, most college bound students take the PSAT as practice for the real SAT. Students in states where most eventually take the ACT might find less incentive to take the PSAT, since they would be taking it primarily beacuse of the the test's secondary role: as a primary means of selection for the National Merit Scholarship competition.

procuradorfiscal
Tooele, UT

Re: "Why do you expect to get an average education for 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country?"

Dunno. But it sure seems to be working. And has for many, many years.

OC Guy
San Diego, CA

Just found the National Merit cutoff scores for students who took the PSAT last fall. The scores to which I referred above are for students who took the exam in 2011. Utah's qualifying score is now 208, placing it seventh from the bottom of the fifty states. California's cutoff score is now 223, with Massachusetts and New Jersey now at 224.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

In the latest grading of school results, one school did surprisingly well in spite of its socio-economic situation. That is Northwest Middle School. Their leadership touted resources as being the big difference. Resources that came from the federal government mostly that brought tutors to the school, aides for teachers, along with state of the art technology. So in this case, a school that would have got an F based on its socio-economics (if it followed similar results in Utah) actually graded out a B. This is what MONEY/RESOURCES can do. But where we educate on the cheap, well we got predictable results in our lesser advantaged schools.

mark
Salt Lake City, UT

"Re: "Why do you expect to get an average education for 58% of the average cost for the rest of the country?"

Dunno. But it sure seems to be working. And has for many, many years."

It sure seems to be working, that we get an AVERAGE education. 'At a boy, why would we want more then an average education for our children. Lets not strive to be number one.

Some people here are presenting some rather good evidence that we are hardly even average in our state education. I wonder if that's why we are such a conservative state?

"Doesn't mean they have a point, however. Facts are a stubborn thing."

I keep seeing this poster claim how stubborn facts are, yet consistantly he does not present ANY facts. Hmnn. . .

redshirt007
tranquility base, 00

Cherry picking facts about Utah is a time honored tradition.

You hardly ever see the negative issues being brought up by these people because rather than solve problems they would rather believe they don't have any problems.

So many Utahans believe they are the best in education when it simply doesn't hold true when scrutinized. This only keeps Utah from improving. I( find that Utah has much more faith in conservative philosophies than they do in anything else.

There You Go Again
Saint George, UT

"...teachers' greedy, gritty trade union...".

Juxtaposed against greedy/gritty banksters/hedge fund operators on main street/wall street...

I think I'll stick with the teachers association.

procuradorfiscal
Tooele, UT

Re: "I keep seeing this poster claim how stubborn facts are, yet consistantly he does not present ANY facts."

Uh . . . the fact we were discussing was the one mentioned in the article -- Utah leads the nation in ACT scores, at least among states with a sufficiently large sample size to draw inferences from the scores.

That's the stubborn fact UEA/NEA shills keep bumping up against, as they disparage their own membership, suggesting Utah education is in such horrible shape.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

procuradorfiscal,

Please see my prior post.

Using states with 70% or greater participation in the ACT, Utah ranks average (actually very slightly below if the actual mean score of the group).

So Utah is not getting phenomenal results. Not bad results necessarily. But not awesome results either.

OC Guy
San Diego, CA

@Twin Lights: agree. And based on PSAT performance, the top 1% of Utah scorers ranked 43rd in the nation, with only seven states having lower cut-off scores.

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