Some 270 teachers and administrators from 15 Utah school districts went back to school in Richfield, completing a weeklong concentrated effort to become better educators and relay the nation's best teaching concepts to their students.
"It's the first time in 34 years that I have seen school districts working so cooperatively for a common purpose," said Carl Tuft, recently retired Sevier District Superintendent who serves on a regional planning team that is committed to comprehensive school improvement.Work sessions that concluded Friday were supervised by educators from New York and Texas, and from Brigham Young University, Southern Utah State College and the State Office of Education.
The program is centered around results of nationwide research and then introduced into the school districts of the state.
"It's a `how-to' workshop," commented Lyle Wright, education specialist with the state office, and liaison for four regional service centers. "The state requires the core curriculum, that workshops such as this instruct teachers and administrators how to best implement and teach it from what is learned from extensive research."
Teachers and administrators from Morgan, San Juan, Tintic and Millard school districts joined those from the Uinta Basin in listening to more than 50 instructors who suggested the best ways to teach. These ranged from such topics as management and instructional processes to problem solving, classroom practices, staff development and behavior.
The Outbased Education program is meeting with great success in Utah and is spreading nationwide, Utah educators agreed at the session. It is based on a concept emphasized at the workshop that includes developing such traits as self-esteem among students, thinking skills, concern for others, communications, decision making, accountability and getting along with people in groups.
"We believe all students can learn," said Harold Shaw, Central Utah Educational Services regional representative. He cited Richfield High School's successful change over to a trimester system as one of the accomplishments of the program.
"That idea came out of such sessions as this one. Some teachers and administrators are just beginning in the program this year, but those at the Richfield session have been involved for two and three years," he said.
What is taught at the session is developed through a consortium of the local districts. Registration fees are paid by the district and some of the expenses are paid by a grant from the state.
Officials said Outbased Education had its beginning at it meeting in Moab about four years ago. It could be defined as a district's designs on what outcomes are needed to improve education and "learning how to do it."
"It's an instructional strategy that has been proven throughout the country. The program and work session are designed for what districts need rather than by some college professor," he said.
Most of the teachers attend the sessions without receiving stipends to do so. They are continually looking for professional improvement, and this will be to their benefit through the state's career ladder program, Tuft said.
The career ladder program is based on teachers improving themselves.
"We hear a lot of criticism about administration and a need for consolidation of school districts, but programs such as these will save a lot more money in the cost of education," he claimed.
"It's a people's program that directly benefits students, parents, teachers and the community."
Shaw added that if any education program doesn't point directly to the education of the students, it shouldn't be funded.
There are three other regions in the state which correlate many of the programs in rural school districts, such as is done by the Central Utah Education Services. That region and the Northeast region combined their efforts for the Richfield session.
The regional concept started out strictly as a move for school districts to consolidate their purchasing power, but now serves to correlate many educational programs.