Utah Teachers United, the Utah affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, is asking local school boards to look at restructuring schools before the beginning of the school year.
"We are essentially running our schools in the same pattern as we did at the turn of the century," said Ken Zenger, UTU spokesman. That means a "factory" system that treats every student in the same way with little regard for individual needs.The AFT promotes a system in which teachers and parents within a school are allowed to submit proposals for how they would like the school structured. A "bottom-up" approach would recognize different learning styles among children and could ultimately lead to better results, he said.
Reform movements have not stressed the value of the contribution teachers and parents could make at the local level, Zenger said. "The major problem is that bureaucracy has pushed the decision-making further and further from the public and the teachers. There is a place for some administrative power, but the power is much out of proportion. Some boards of education have been pushed into a rubber-stamp position."
Change is occurring in some parts of the country, Zenger said, with positive results. He believes Utah teachers are ready for the same type of reform.
Changes that aim only to increase time in school and broaden graduation requirements address the concerns for only 10 to 20 percent of students, he said. "But if our goal is to educate all students to the highest standards, we must look to the public and the teachers for an acceptable consensus for change."