Children are the reponsibility of their parents. Schools are there to help.
And parents and schools should work together to make education effective for children, said members of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Education Friday. The group of teachers and school administrators discussed how the Shift in Focus, a proposed new direction for education, will be implemented."Have we as a system created that perception, sent a message to parents that we'll take care of their kids?" Gov. Norm Bangerter asked rhetorically.
Without the support of parents, the new educational philosophy will fall short of its potential, the panel agreed. The shift proposes to create an individual education plan for each child and develop strategies to assist each child in reaching his full potential.
Susie Seehafer, a fifth-grade teacher from Westridge Elementary School in Provo, outlined that school's progress toward creating a student-centered program.
Steps that have been undertaken, she said, include a thorough study of the Shift in Focus document by the school's personnel, measuring its present system against the shift and identifying areas in which changes need to occur.
The school asks parents and students to participate in a process to develop an individual education plan and holds periodic meetings to see how well objectives are being met.
Westridge also has sponsored parenting classes to help parents improve their skills.
"Ideally, we would reach people before they have children," Seehafer said. "We can see a difference in our kids as teachers and parents work more closely to develop and carry through an education plan."
The school also is using computer technology to free teachers to spend more time with individual students, she said.
Jay Taggart, superintendent of the Weber District, reported on his district's efforts to establish site-based management. The district is one of six experimenting with block grants, a concept that puts fewer state restrictions on their money, allowing them to be more flexible in their own budgeting.
Taggart said the attempt to move budgetmaking to the school level has been a learning experience. Teachers and others who are being asked to help in the process need better preparation, he said. Many of the schools participating in the Weber trial of local management are finding they need to allow themselves room to revise budgets, he said.
"There will be some errors made," Taggart said. In the actual practice, "it isn't so wonderful. It doesn't happen overnight and we learn as we go."
Districts need to set some parameters, he said. Total freedom with budgeting at the school level has produced some hard-learned lessons for the district.
Bangerter said the painful experience at the school level might increase awareness among teachers, administrators and patrons about the financial realities the state faces. He said he will encourage implementation of block grants systemwide.