Gov. Norm Bangerter outlined five strategies Tuesday that he will pursue to "guide Utah schools into the 21st century."
The governor presented the strategies, which amount to major policy changes, during a "Shift in Focus" conference sponsored by the Utah Board of Education and the state Office of Education. The conference theme refers to a plan adopted by the board this winter to create a student-centered system.Bangerter's five points are school-based management, personalized schooling for every student, creation of performance-based programs, enhanced professionalism for educators and promotion of collaborative partnerships among all those involved in education, including business.
He questioned the effectiveness of the flurry of activity that has surrounded school reform since the Nation at Risk report was released six years ago. Change for the sake of change is not addressing the real needs of education, he said.
"I sincerely question if we have not lost sight of the goal. The goal should be not reform but improved and expanded educational opportunities for each one of our children."
Bangerter's proposed strategies would coincide with the state board's Shift in Focus document, which suggests restructuring of education to de-emphasize the system and re-emphasize the needs of individual students.
The governor acknowledged that change will not be easy may involve redefinition of roles in the system.
"We must acknowledge that there are appropriate roles for all players. The dilemma of state control vs. local autonomy need not be divisive. What it does require is the need for balance between state and local needs," he said. "We must insist on finding ways to create rules for governing bureaucratic behavior without those rules becoming ends in themselves."
The individual school should be the "senior partner" in education, rather than the executor of programs and policies imposed from higher levels of governance, Bangerter said.
"It is my firm belief that the people closest to the children are in a better position to determine their needs than those of us removed from the process."
Parent participation is critical to the success of site-based management, he noted.
Bangerter said he believes the block grant program being pioneered in six districts is one means to implement site-based management and other innovations. He said he will ask the 1990 Legislature to open the option to all interested districts, rather than asking them to wait out the three-year experimental period.
Providing more choice in education through open enrollment is one way to individualize education, Bangerter said. Better use of technology is another.
Competency-based education would give students credit for actual accomplishments, rather than seat time, he said.
The role of state policy-makers in furthering the concept would be to establish goals and standards but not to dictate the means of achieving them, he said.
"This may, in fact, lead to the concept of varying high school diplomas. I would hope that in our future schools we would be able to ascertain the skills and competencies that the students possessed when they graduated with a specific diploma."
A better system must recognize and reward imaginative school leadership, Bangerter said. Teachers must have the opportunity to contribute to classroom decisions and the role of the principal stressed as the demands of leadership change.
Alternative routes to educator certification should be explored. Effective training programs, such as Brigham Young University's program that emphasizes practical experience and mentoring, should be replicated in all the state's training institutions, he said.
Virtually everyone in Utah is concerned with education, Bangerter said, and should be involved in the collaborative partnerships he envisions. "It is imperative that the schools and the business community unite to address and encourage the changes required. As in a partnership, one does not dominate or become superior, but working together, they can solve the problem."
-Implement school-based management in a bottom-up approach
- Personalize education for each student
- Create a performance-based system
- Enhance educator professionalism
- Encourage collaborative efforts among those involved, including business.
"The mission of public education is to empower each student to function effectively in society as a competent, productive, caring and responsible citizen." - mission statement of the State Board of Education's new Shift in Focus document.