What is a quality education, and does Utah provide it? Utah spends less money then almost any other state per student and yields, on the whole, higher averages on SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement tests than the national averages.
Where can improvements be made? Students and teachers both agree that changes in the system would make learning more effective. The most common suggestions were fewer students in each class and more individual interaction between the teacher and students.Vocational teacher Howard Bezzant concludes that more applied classes would help students be more prepared for life. More hands-on activities would illustrate how a subject fits into the real world. The problem with more active learning is the limitation on resources. There never seems to be enough money or there are too many legal restrictions to make such activities practical.
Teachers' biggest complaints with the system have to do with the number of students who slip through high school without really understanding basic reading and writing concepts. Both skills are vital to getting through life.
"We underestimate what the student is capable of and often set expectations too low." Connie Coyle, Bingham High language and computers teacher, believes that students will reach higher and achieve more if it is expected of them.
A student's attitude in a particular class seems to revolve around whether the student believes the class is important or worthwhile. Bingham teacher Janice Voorhies' fourth period senior English class discussed this educational topic. Class members said students seem to do well in difficult elective classes (extra math and AP classes) when it is something they have decided to enroll in themselves.
Options such as internships are becoming rapidly more available. Programs through the school provide opportunities for students to learn law enforcement, nursing, cosmetology and more. Through AP or other college classes, a student can actually graduate high school with a year or more college credit depending on the amount of semester hours accumulated.
Talk of longer school days and tougher requirements brings up the issue of having to do away with other things to provide more time for school. Would time spent with family be cut out, or would the job have to go?
Maria Bessey, Spanish teacher, said "There is more to life than school and homework." She believes that other forms of education are just as important as school.
Extracurricular activities like jobs and service groups help students learn responsibility and leadership, but most importantly how to unite a group to accomplish a common goal. Some of these skills simply do not fit in with school curriculum and need to be acquired elsewhere.
Several teachers believe that foreign languages should be studied at a young age or at least stressed in high school. A social studies teacher said foreign language would help to make students more aware and understanding of other cultures.
When asked about foreign languages, math teacher Angela Harris said "Math itself is a language. Any exposure a students gets can help." Besides being a requirement for several colleges, languages and math make students more employable. The fact is that society is based on many types of communication, and those who have the skills are more likely to get the good jobs.
Teachers and students both feel that more computer and vocational classes should be made available but not required. If a student does not like the classes, he or she would not excel so the minimum of one semester for computers and two semesters for vocational is probably in the right place.
English teacher Loftin Harvey said, "Students who do not take the time to learn computer skills will have limited opportunities in the future."
Much like Darwin's theory of evolution, the smartest, more advanced students will be the ones who will make it farthest is life. The smartest students are not always the brightest, but they are the ones who continually work hard and fight to achieve.
Harvey said, "Our students have wonderful imaginations and creativity. They are not limited by the restrictions of reality, they believe that they can do anything."
Nothing can ever fully prepare a student for life after high school, but offering chances to gain needed skills and abilities is important. As with everything, there can and needs to be improvements in the education system. Change is often slow in coming, but at least this change is in sight.