Senator, teachers ask for parent involvement in education

From KSL
by Molly Farmer

SALT LAKE CITY — When Liz Holloran asks one boy in her classroom why he does so well on tests, or why he’s so responsible at studying and homework, she always gets the same answer: “My Mom.”

 

Holloran, a fifth grade honors teacher at Westland Elementary, sees first-hand how important parental involvement is in producing successful children — a topic one Utah senator is planning to take on during the 2012 Legislative session.

 

Parents and communities — not just schools and teachers — have a responsibility to educate children, according to Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay. The assistant minority whip is drafting a resolution that would encourage parental engagement in hopes of highlighting her belief that it takes a community to truly educate a child.

 

“One of the common things that I hear (from teachers) is parents really are not taking the responsibility that they should be taking,” Jones said. “We need to engage parents and the community in getting them involved.”

That includes adequately preparing students for kindergarten, helping them with homework, reading aloud to them, volunteering in the classroom and more. She said her resolution is based in part on studies that show schools with active Parent Teacher Associations have higher student achievement than those who don’t.

 

Margaret Wahlstrom, spokeswoman for the Utah PTA, said her organization definitely supports the message of the resolution, but has not taken a formal position since it isn’t completed and filed.

 

“If the whole family is committed to the education of the children, there are beacoup studies that show students are more successful,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s just a win for everybody. … It is a no-brainer.”

 

Holloran said parents, regardless of their work schedule, would benefit from knowing the positive impact they have by following through with their children at home.

 

“I get to teach those kids,” she said. “When they are inspired and when they are motivated … I’m a teacher now, I’m not a disciplinarian.”

 

Jones said it troubles her that so often schools and teachers are maligned when students fail, when parents shirk their responsibility at home while “letting the schools pick up the pieces.”

 

Jones said she understands the challenges parents face, especially since many work long hours, or have long commutes, leaving little time to spend with their children. In those situations, Jones said community members need to step in to help.

 

“(It’s about) extending their arms to other kids that might not have that parental support,” she said.

 

Teachers have to fulfill tertiary roles as stand-in school nurses or counselors in addition to providing instruction and need all the support they can get, she said.

 

Kory Holdaway, government affairs director at the Utah Education Association, said Jones’ effort is something teachers will get behind.

 

“When we have the number of students that are being put into classrooms as we do… it just stands to reason that the more support that we can offer in the classroom the better services we can provide,” Holdaway said.

 

Beyond being attentive at home, Holdaway said parent volunteers who help out in the classroom regularly mean a lot to teachers, who have taken on more responsibilities in the last 20 years. He said he’d like to see the number of parents who volunteer in secondary schools match the number who spend time in earlier years.

 

“There’s a good part of that that goes on in elementary schools but it begins to diminish when we get into junior high and high school,” he said. “I think we need to figure out a way to keep those parents engaged.”

 

Holloran said she’s seen how successful children can be when parents and teachers work together.

 

“You do need that parent piece,” she said. “It’s very difficult to legislate parenthood, though. People have to know for themselves.”

Email:mfarmer@ksl.com

 

Utah State House & Senate Democrats Unveil the Best Schools Initiative

The future of Utah’s children is in danger as we let the quality of our Neighborhood Schools slip. Utah has allowed itself to become not only the 50th ranked state in the nation for how many resources we are willing to put towards our children’s education, but also 42nd in quality.

The teachers in Utah are the finest in the nation, but they are not miracle workers. If we truly wish to leave the next generation of Utahns a better world than the one we were given, we must immediately work to ensure that they are given the tools for success.

This year we are introducing the Best Schools Initiative, a product of months of work by both Utah State House and Utah State Senate legislators, to ensure that our children are able to perform and compete with the rest of the nation.

The primary focus of the Best Schools Initiative is to provide every Utah child with 4 things:

  • A Great Teacher
  • Individualized Attention
  • A World-Class Curriculum
  • Family and Neighborhood Support

For years, Utah has worked to make our state #1 in business, economic development, technology and tourism. As a result, we now have the resources to make our neighborhood schools #1 in the nation as well. As caretakers and stewards, why wouldn’t we use these resources to work on the long-term security of our future? The Best Schools Initiative is designed to wisely plan for the future – to bring in new jobs, businesses, economic strength and prosperity.
“The Best Schools Initiative has the potential to change the future of our neighborhood schools,” added Representative Carol Spackman Moss. “No less than the future of Utah depends on our willingness to take the appropriate steps now in our schools, to ensure the economic strength and prosperity of tomorrow.”“The teachers in our schools plant the seeds in our children’s hearts and minds that will last throughout their lives.” said Senator Ben McAdams. “We must ensure that those seeds are nurtured and allowed to grow.”

 

 

Summary of Bills in the Best Schools Initiative:

Class Size Reduction in Grades K-3
SB31
Senator Karen Morgan

SB31 is a five year plan to limit the number of students in academic classes. The caps would be asfollows:18 in kindergarten, 20 in first grade, 22 in second grade and 24 in third grade. Or, it wouldrequire teachers’ aides, known as paraprofessionals, in larger classes. 

Paraprofessionals for Struggling Schools

Not yet numbered
Senator Karen Mayne
Under the proposal, struggling schools would be able to hire additional paraprofessionals to assistteachers in the classroom and work individually with students who may not be receiving the attentionthey need.

Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Parental Engagement in the Education of Children
Not yet numbered
Senator Patricia Jones
A key to children doing well in school is for parents to be involved in their education. This concurrentresolution will encourage parents, communities, and neighborhoods to be engaged in Utah’s schools sothat our children may have every opportunity to succeed.

Publication of Education Fund Revenue Reductions
SB117
Senator Ben McAdams
SB117 introduces a plan to restructure our education fund by prioritizing growth.

Targeted Help for Underachieving Students
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Brian Doughty
Designed specifically to increase academic achievement, this bill will create additional assistance forscholastic after-school programs such as tutoring.

Teacher Mentoring Bill Summary
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Carol Spackman Moss
This bill would appropriate funds for a school district to implement a program called Peer Assistanceand Review using expert teachers to conduct regular evaluations for novice teachers andunderperforming veterans. Although it places much of the evaluation responsibility on peers, it requiresa team of teachers and administrators to manage it. It would address two problems: (1) Nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within five years (2) The growing concern about the continuedemployment of ineffective teachers. This program would also provide struggling teachers withintensive assistance and assessments of progress.

College and Career Counseling for High School Students
HB65
Representative Patrice Arent
Appropriates new funding to create the College and Career Counseling for High School Students PilotProgram. The goal of the program is to increase the number of students pursuing post-secondaryeducation by having a counselor who is a specialist in the college admissions process and scholarships.The State Office of Education will provide 18 specialists using interns who are students in collegemasters programs studying high school counseling. These students will be given special training onadmissions and scholarships, then placed with high schools. This program is necessary because Utah’shigh school counselors have some of the highest workloads in the nation. On average, Utah high schoolcounselors work with over 360 students, well above the recommended number. Many high schoolcounselors are barely able to keep up with making sure their students are registered for the right classes and deal with problems that occur on a daily basis. With respect to college counseling, students getlimited help. It takes specialized knowledge to understand the complexities of the college admissions process and identify scholarship opportunities, particularly for some of the very competitive collegesoutside our state. High schools that have these specialists are much more successful getting their students into post secondary programs and obtaining scholarships. The pilot program will utilize the resources of Utah’s new online program – utahfutures.org

Quality Teachers
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Brian King
This bill will put into place a more fair and streamlined process for identifying and either remediatingor terminating teachers who fall below accepted performance standards.

Resolution on World-Class Curriculum
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Marie Poulson
While we recognize that competency in reading, writing and math is the foundation for all other learning, and that these core subjects must be a major focus for schools, a quality education goes far  beyond competency in these core subjects. For Utah’s children we want to have quality education, nottest-orientated education.
Our public schools must have a rich and diverse curriculum that allows students to soar and not just to score–a strong core curriculum, along with a wide variety of electivesand broad enrichment opportunities that include the arts, music, science, history, literature, foreignlanguages, physical education, career and technology training.
Narrowing the curriculum in responseto grading schools and evaluating teachers has already prompted some districts to drop art, physical education and other non-tested subjects. It is imperative that Utah’s children have a rich, diverse,world-class curriculum to provide them with the tools to be creative, innovative, and critical thinkers–the most sought after assets in the 21st century.

Resolution On Student Health and School Efficiency
HJR 001
Representative Mark Wheatley
This resolution encourages the Utah State Board of Education to consider the broader application of thedesign and construction practices for green schools, both for new construction and major renovation projects undertaken with school district funds in order to increase the health and well-being of studentsand faculty, as well as greater efficiency in schools.

Professional Preparation
Not Yet Numbered
Representative Joel Briscoe
Rep. Briscoe’s bill will provide every Utah teacher an additional day to prepare for school. Professional preparation days were cut in almost every Utah school district the past three years as school districtstruggled to balance budgets. Additional time to prepare for the school year is an important part of supporting quality teachers.

Senator Karen Morgan talks about The Best Schools Initiative…

… and class size reduction.

Senator Karen Morgan met with KSL’s Doug Wright today at his “Capitol Town Hall Meeting”  to discuss upcoming bills dealing with public education.

On the following clip, Representative Patrice Arent leads off with Doug, followed by Senator Morgan.

Senator Morgan is about 21 minutes into the clip.

http://pandora.bonnint.net/audio/2012_01_19_noon_news.mp3

“Women of Distinction” Award for Senator Mayne

Senator Karen Mayne received the “Women of Distinction” Award from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.  This fine group helps adults and children cope with chronic disease.  The group helps fund a camp for children with colon issues where they can be comfortable with kids who are experiencing the same health challenges.  It’s a wonderful group of caring individuals, and Senator Mayne wishes them great success. 

Congratulations, Karen!

Governor Herbert, Veto this Bill

On Monday, fulfilling its redistricting responsibility, the Utah Legislature passed SB3002, 19th Substitute, a new four-district congressional map for the next decade. It was a disappointing finale to a six-month process.

Some unfortunate results of the congressional map are that four counties (Davis, Utah, Juab, Sanpete) are split two ways and Salt Lake County is split three ways, with no concern for maintaining the integrity of communities. Several cities/communities in Salt Lake and Utah Counties were split. (Salt Lake County: Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Kearns, Sandy, Draper, Bluffdale, South Jordan, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek. Utah County: American Fork, Springville, Spanish Fork, Payson, and Santaquin.) The Daily Herald stated about the map, Opinion:  Utah Legislature Commits Crime Against Humanity.

Keeping communities of interest together should have been the guiding principle. Instead, roads form the boundaries of the four districts–nothing logical like city boundaries, school district boundaries, county boundaries, or geographical boundaries.

Contrary to the claims by some of an open and inclusive process, the process must be judged by the final results. Ultimately, the lines of the final congressional map were drawn behind closed doors at the eleventh hour.

In addition, there was no need for all four congressional districts to have an urban/rural mix since that was not an adopted redistricting standard, and looking after all the state’s differences is the job of our United States senators. By passing what we did, we failed to make our representatives experts in any particular issues and generalists in all. We failed to honor the requests of many participants who gave testimony this summer who asked that rural Utah have its own representatives and urban have its own representatives. In our haste to complete the redistricting process, while we got it done, we failed to get it right.

In the floor debate on the bill (35:15 minutes into recording), I called on Governor Herbert to veto the bill.  Apparently, the Daily Herald agrees with my call for a veto, Opinion:  Governor should veto the map.

GOVERNOR HERBERT, VETO THIS BILL.

Modified Garber Map

The Utah House has proposed a substitute congressional boundaries map.  The map is based on a submission from Utah County resident David Garber.   The revised version of Mr. Garber’s map is shown below.  The red lines indicate the original boundaries as proposed by Mr. Garber.

This map is clearly not a modification.  It is a new map presented to the public for the first time, less than an hour ago.  In fact, the new map moves 60% of the population to a different district than was in Mr. Garber’s original proposal.

Even Mr. Garber says “Newbold’s proposal is clearly not a variant of my concept,” as stated on Twitter.


“Best Schools” Initiative


The Utah House and Senate Democrats officially launched their “Best Schools” Initiative at a press conference last Tuesday at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake.  Senator Karen Morgan organized and chairs the “Best Schools” Coalition, a group of House and Senate Democratic legislators committed to the objective of making Utah’s public schools #1 in the nation.  Senator Morgan emphasized that Utah is #1 in so many different areas, so why not be #1 in education, too.

Upcoming legislation sponsored by Senate and House Democrats will feature the three areas of focus adopted by the Coalition:  (1 ) Great Teachers, (2) Individualized Attention, and (3) World-class curriculum.

1.  Great Teachers — Teachers who bring strong skills and enthusiasm for learning to the classroom.  They are committed to helping each child reach his/her highest potential.

2.  Individualized Attention — Small class sizes, tutoring, reading and math specialists, and teachers’ assistants bring about higher student achievement and higher graduation rates.

3.  World-class Curriculum — A strong core curriculum, along with a wide variety of electives and broad enrichment opportunities such as arts, music, career and technology education, physical education, etc.

Read more about the “Best Schools” Initiative in the Tribune, Deseret News, and Fox 13 News.

Stay tuned for more information on the Coalition’s proposed legislation for the upcoming 2012 General Session.

Senator Morgan -- "Why not make Utah's public schools #1 in the nation?

Rep. Brian King speaks about Great Teachers

Sen. Karen Mayne speaks about Individualized Attention

Rep. Marie Poulson speaks about her teaching experiences

Rep. Carol Moss speaks about a World-class Curriculum

World-class Curriculum

Sen. Ben McAdams speaks about funding ideas

Rep. Joel Briscoe speaks about his teaching experiences

Rep. Christine Watkins speaks about her teaching experiences

Rep. Karen Morgan says, "Stay tuned."

Continuing the Legacy of #1

America’s Back to School Program was founded in 1999 as part of the Trust for Representative Democracy at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  “Just in” results indicate Utah is #1 in the country again with 90% of legislators visiting schools in their districts during the 2010-2011 school year.  Congratulations to our 104 legislators and to Shelley Day in the Office of Legislative Research and General Council who oversees the program for the Utah Legislature.

Slated to “kick off” the third week of every September and run through the school year, America’s Legislators Back to School Program gives elected officials in all 50 states the opportunity to teach young people–the nation’s future voters and leaders–what it’s like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate, negotiation and compromise that are the very fabric of representative democracy. The program is emphasized as a bipartisan event. Legislators of both political parties are urged to participate in this national event and help bring civics to life for young people.

For complete national results, click here.