A "C" grade isn't good enough for Utah schools, but the median range of scores disclosed in statewide testing gives educators a meaningful target to shoot at, Gov. Norm Bangerter said Monday.
Bangerter responded to 4 inches of reports on the state of education in Utah. The reports, covering minute data on every aspect of education, were presented by State Superintendent Jay B. Taggart."We have a long way to go," Bangerter said, "but this (test results) shows us we know how to do it . . . We've patted ourselves on the back because no one really knew where we are. We're willing to be compared. We can't afford to think we're good if we're not."
The statewide test scores, initiated last fall in grades 5, 8 and 11 in all Utah schools, showed the state near national median ranges in most subject areas. Utah students scored somewhat higher in math and slightly below in language arts.
The scores are being carefully analyzed in many of the school districts as a departure point for improvement, he said.
The governor stressed parental involvement as one of the prime ingredients of improved performance.
"If parents aren't involved, we won't go very far," he said.
While schools cannot pick up and cure all of society's problems, they can be a catalyst for change, he said. Innovation at the local school level, where change occurs "in the minds and hearts," will have more effect than any potential statewide program, he said.
The State Office of Education is working on several initiatives that will help parents contribute meaningfully to their children's schooling, Taggart said.
"We'd like to see Utah with the greatest education system in the world. That is not an unattainable goal. The tests show us areas that need improvement," Taggart said.
He predicted a rise in scores as Utah students take the test from year to year.
Bangerter also told news representatives he supports Utah's participation in nationwide testing. He made a strong pitch for such tests during a national governors meeting recently. Many education leaders are resisting the notion of comparing areas of the country that have significant differences in funding capacity, student mix and other factors.
Utah could learn from areas of the country where schools succeed despite great problems, he said.