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  • Writer's pictureLeAnn Wood

Random Perspectives from the Back Row …

August 2022 USBE held their monthly board meeting on August 4, 2022. It was so nice to be back in person after way too many online meetings. Board Member Norton opened with a message on puzzles. I loved the thought she shared at the end of her message: Deepak Chopra stated, "There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle." I think it's so important for our students to know they belong and they have a place to fill. Six schools were recognized as Purple Star Schools. These are schools that have made an extra effort to support our military families.

I appreciate those from the public that are willing to come and share their concerns and feelings about Utah's public education system. Comments were provided on the elementary social studies curriculum, student privacy, use of early learning reading software, human trafficking and child abuse prevention curriculum, and a request for a waiver from USBA to delay the implementation of R277-628 School Libraries for one month.

USBE is the School Board for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. I might have a soft spot this for school. My sister lost her hearing at 13 months old from spinal meningitis. I was only three years old and this was in the 70's when resources were not as easily accessible. We lived in Idaho, but I remember many trips where we would stop at the Utah school to learn about new technology to support my sister (TTY's, caption machines, light alarms, etc.). Today's board meeting included a presentation by three blind students who had recently participated in a 70 mile canoe trip through the Puget Sound. Check out the following link to watch a video of their adventures. It may cause a tear or two when you think about the challenges they had to face. My favorite part of the discussion was when one of the students was asked if they had learned any thing and the student said she had learned that independence doesn't mean you can't ask for help.

Superintendent Dickson reported that there have been no single audit findings for USBE this year. She also spoke to the importance of leadership and the role it plays in our schools. She honored the Utah Principals of the Year and the Utah Assistant Principals of the Year.

The consent calendar involved some discussion on contracts with various Early Intervention Software providers. In the 2012 General Session, the legislature passed HB 513, Early Intervention Program which required USBE to select one or more technology providers to provide software for literacy and numeracy instruction for kindergarten and first grade. During the 2013 Session, SB 260 narrowed the software to literacy instruction only and expanded the program to students in K-3. Since then the program has continued to be funded through legislative appropriations. ($12.6 million) During the 2022 Session, SB 127 Early Literacy Outcomes Improvement (Sen. Millner, A.) required changes in how the technology could be used as curriculum. Students who are below or well-below in reading proficiency are required to use technology that is aligned with "The Science of Reading" and is evidence-based materials that have been proven to work. 13 vendors applied however only a handful fit the requirements of the RFP. I find it interesting that our LEAs are able to use technology that doesn't have the evidence that it works.

During the Chair's Message, Chair Huntsman acknowledged the amount of time that our educators spend learning and preparing for the new school year during the Summer "Break".

The Board is beginning its work on requesting statutory changes for the 2023 Legislative Session. Those decisions will continue as they prioritize business cases and policy requests.

I appreciated the discussion on removing the requirement that requires students to declare intent to graduate early if they want to take additional credits through SEOP. Currently our schools do not generate ADM (funding for that student) unless the box is checked that says a student is graduating early. This code change would allow students to take extra courses (up to the statutory limit). The discussion will have to be is what will the financial impact be to our schools and does this generate a fiscal note.

Did you know there was a mission for public education in Utah Code? It currently does not match the Mission and Vison/Strategic Plan of the USBE. Should the USBE Mission and Vision be put into code?

53E-2-301. Public education's vision and mission.

(1) The Legislature envisions an educated citizenry that encompasses the following foundational principles:

(a) citizen participation in civic and political affairs;

(b) economic prosperity for the state by graduating students who are college and career ready;

(c) strong moral and social values; and

(d) loyalty and commitment to constitutional government.

(2) The Legislature recognizes that public education's mission is to assure Utah the best educated citizenry in the world and each individual the training to succeed in a global society by providing students with:

(a) learning and occupational skills;

(b) character development;

(c) literacy and numeracy;

(d) high quality instruction;

(e) curriculum based on high standards and relevance; and

(f) effective assessment to inform high quality instruction and accountability.

(3) The Legislature:

(a) recognizes that parents are a child's first teachers and are responsible for the education of their children;

(b) encourages family engagement and adequate preparation so that students enter the public education system ready to learn; and

(c) intends that the mission detailed in Subsection (2) be carried out through a responsive educational system that guarantees local school communities autonomy, flexibility, and client choice, while holding them accountable for results.

By now, I'm not sure that anyone has read this far - two more items. During a discussion on the Utah Effective Teaching Standards, there was a motion to remove the word "centered" from the line: "Effective teachers create academic, physical, social, and emotional environments to support student-centered learning ..." to make it say "support student learning". The glossary defined "student-centered" as

Student Centered: Referring to instructional methods that recognize students as active participants in learning by attending to their interests and abilities while providing opportunities for them to access, represent and demonstrate their learning.

Originally, the motion passed, but then a board member asked to reconsider the vote. I was happy to see the motion reconsidered and fail. I appreciate the fact that our education system is becoming more focused on the individual learning of our students. Having five children go through the Utah public education system, I have seen how each one had different interests and abilities and that has shown as 4/5 have gone on to college and career options.

Finally, the Board voted to approve the 3 Strands Global Foundation Human Trafficking and Child Abuse Prevention Curriculum. This means that Districts MAY use this curriculum if they choose. Comments were shared that Granite School District is prepared to use the curriculum. I hope that they will find ways for parents to look through the curriculum before a District approves it, as it is copyright protected. I think it's an important topic, but I also know that some parents may have concerns and would like to know what is being discussed.

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