Radical thinking needed to improve Utah's graduation rates

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  • lfrickey Seattle , WA
    Dec. 5, 2012 3:04 p.m.

    Radical thinking indeed!! We need a paradigm overhaul. What if schools are held accountable for knowing, and growing, student engagement-which ultimately drives everything related to school success? What is being done now is not working to identify students at risk of dropping out. We need a new paradigm-STUDENT ENGAGEMENT! The bottom line is any student who does not graduate is a travesty! We can give our at-risk students a voice by tapping into the reasons "why" a student becomes disengaged and provide interventions to support students to reengage or increase engagement to pursue an educational goal. I have been a teacher for 28 years and I've developed the Scale of Student Engagement/Disengagement(SOS ED), which empowers students to self-identify their level of school engagement by responding to items that are scored and converted into an engagement score. In a university research study, the SOS ED was reliable and valid in identifying student engagement levels. Please check out the video explaining the SOS ED and how it works at YouTube Scale of Student Engagement or visit www.scaleofstudentengagement.com. Please email me at: lfrickey@scaleofstudentengagement.com for more information.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Dec. 2, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    Utah has 3 Massive problems in our schools:

    1) To many young, inexperienced teachers. We hire them because they are cheap, not because they are effective. When we lived back east, the best school systems had mostly highly qualified, experienced teachers. The few young teachers were mentored by the best, most effective teachers.

    2) Too many students per classroom

    3) Too low of expectations from parents and the schools for our children

    The first two problems will require more money. We are not in Iowa where land, homes and the cost of living are substantially less. Utah has skimped by for too long.

    The last problem requires zero dollars to solve. My friends back East, in Asia and Europe all have SUBSTANTIALLY higher expectations for their children's educations than I have seen here in Utah. Maybe it is the large families, maybe it is other priorities, and maybe it is cultural. I don't know exactly. But I see less expected of children in terms of effort, quality of work and actual learning by both parents and schools/teachers.

    We need to do better - or the next generation will not be able to compete globally or maintain their standard of living.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 7:29 p.m.

    In Finland, they do have two qualified teachers in most classrooms, they attract and maintain the best teachers through higher salaries and teachers are RESPECTED professionals vs. the derision and poor pay they get now. They have smaller class sizes. I think those two things require investment of MONEY! Now to save money, also do what they do in Finland, end these ridiculous standardized tests. That would save huge money to do the other things.

  • freedomworks Provo, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 4:13 p.m.

    OK, here is your radical idea: Try freedom.

    Compulsion-based education can only take us so far.
    1. Compulsion kills incentive - the old Soviet Union's economic planning should have taught us this. Research shows that an alarmingly high number of high school and college graduates never read a book from cover to cover for the rest of their lives!
    2. Compulsion fosters amorality - cheating (and its twin, lying) are all-pervasive in today's schools. The kids don't see it as immoral, it's just how you play the game.
    3. Compulsion is efficient, but not effective. You can no more force a child to become educated than you can force him to become an artist or an engineer.

    So, the radical idea is that we try a PROVEN method of education based on freedom and self-government (how did America have any other kind?) Google "freedom-based education and America's blind spot" and watch the half-hour video explaining this in much greater detail.

    We American's just TALK about freedom, we don't really want it for ourselves or our children. Your response to the above video will prove my point.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 4:01 p.m.

    I'm not sure if this is "radical" but I think if class sizes were smaller that the students would do better...

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 1:44 p.m.

    The editorial board said that money is not an issue. I disagree. Money is an issue. If it wasn't, then the per pupil spending would be $1 per student. The question should be: At what point does money no longer become the issue? In Utah, I believe that money has become an issue. When many teachers have classes of 40+ students, something is wrong. When class sizes reach a certain point, it becomes crowd control, not teaching. When teachers only have class sets of reading material(novels texts, etc), obviously money is an issue. When teachers do not have access to technology, money is an issue. Utah is expected to be below Puerto Rico (a 3rd world U.S. protectorate) in student spending in the coming years, and that is downright scary and it signifies that money is an issue.

    I do agree that we need need radical thinking to solve education problems in Utah, but the best radical thought in Utah would be to provide more money to education. That is such a radical notion, that the state will never do it, and the editorial board will trivialize it.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 30, 2012 9:02 p.m.


    No doubt there are plenty of examples (private and public) where there has been little ROI. But there is certainly a correlation between investment and outcomes. Don't believe it? Then cut the funding to zero - if there is NO correlation, you will get the same results as now, right? Of course not. So we know there is a correlation. But that correlation is loose.

    To make valid comparisons we need to look at similar states where costs and urbanization are not so different as to defeat the comparison. Once you have that data pool, THEN we can begin looking at what affects results and what does not.

    So, more money obviously does not always mean better results. But if we find (as seems logical) that more staff helps, that means money. Or that we want better trained staff who are more results oriented, that means we are going to have to pay those folks more (they have more at risk and have a greater educational investment).

    The oft repeated economic mantra is "there is no free lunch". If we want more, it is probable that it will require more resources (AKA money). Just the way it is.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 4:53 p.m.

    The lack of correlation between money spent and graduation rates underlies the problem that the educational establishment ignores. Comparing the US (large heterogeneous population) to Finland (small homogeneous population) is an exercise in futility. We are focusing on the wrong issue and as long as that persists, things will not improve. Spending more on education is worthwhile as long as we have an evidence-based oversight of how effective the programs were. We have had enough of cash for clunkers and other "good ideas" where the federal government wasted billions of our tax dollars. Utah should do better.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 3:09 p.m.

    bossysheryl: "Graduation rates aren't an education problem - they're a parent problem"

    I agree. But non-HS graduates become a societal problem, so maybe society has an interest in finding out ways to improve the situation(?).

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 3:01 p.m.

    Look at Finland for answers on improving academic achievement. The Finns are regularly in the top 3 internationally, along with South Korea and Singapore, but they approach education quite differently than the "tiger mom" / maximum discipline approach.

    First of all, there are frequently two teachers in each class, and they keep the same kids for Kindergarten through the 6th grade. Teachers are expected to be professionals, masters in educating, and they alter their teaching style to fit the learning styles of their students.

    Class sizes are a lot smaller, kids get focused attention. Interestingly, they do very little testing, which means teachers aren't incentivized to "teach to the test". Kids actually learn.

    Utah would need to devote a lot more resources to emulate the model of Finland, but it's a system that works exceedingly well. What exactly are our priorities?

  • non believer PARK CITY, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 12:54 p.m.

    Less students per classroom and more spent per student would be a good start! We rank last in per student spending and have one of the largest number of students per classroom. Does not take a Rocket Scientist to see the problem!

  • bossysheryl Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 12:52 p.m.

    "It may mean changing how students are advanced through the system, basing advancements on performance and mastery rather than on time spent in a classroom"

    So, not RADICAL thinking--RATIONAL thinking. You're not going to get ANY parents to sign off on that. It would mean that as parents, they would actually have to take a daily interest in their child's schooling process. As a former teacher, I guarantee you that not going to happen for these students.

    For students who need the most help it's always, regardless of background/race/age, ALWAYS those parents who shows up in the classroom saying, "That's not my job. You're the teacher," and "My kid doesn't listen to me. You're the teacher." But they'll also be the first one petitioning the principal or the school board if you hold their kid accountable and fail them/hold them back.

    Graduation rates aren't an education problam--they're a parent problem

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 10:33 a.m.

    Thinking in general may help. We need to stop villifying education and knowledge, and trying to replace it with superstition.

  • Mom of Six Northern Utah, UT
    Nov. 30, 2012 10:29 a.m.

    The problem has more to do with attitude and perception than anything else. How do we change the attitude of Latino parents and students that education is important? How do we change the perception in the Latino community that parental involvement is the key to a successful education. Unless we can change this....money will be thrown at the wall with very little results.

    Our American society rewards "celebrities and sports heros" we do not reward scientists, teachers and engineers. Quite the contrary. Teachers are some of the lowest paid college grads. Until society decides that teachers should be rewarded for the jobs they do with a better wage than managers an McDonalds,nothing will change.

  • LiberalEastCoastMember Parkesburg, PA
    Nov. 30, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    Radical thinking? In Utah? Really?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 30, 2012 7:01 a.m.

    I agree that this requires not doing more of the same. I further agree that per pupil spending can be a difficult measure to apply. Comparing the state with Iowa might be reasonable (but the article did not do so directly). Comparing it with Washington DC (which is not a state and has only an urban population) is ridiculous.

    As to where to go next? Other articles in the DN have cited success in other countries. Certainly there are states that do better as well. So, before we rush off to develop new and untried programs, why not spend a bit of time looking at what is working right now elsewhere? And, if that requires more money to implement, then let's be honest and say so.

    Starting with the concept that more money is not needed but "disruptive" technologies and methods are is foolish. First, let's assess the problem fully, see how others have successfully answered similar questions, and then handle the budgetary issues.

    It's not really so complex (unless we already know the answer we want to end up with).