Education Excellence Commission presents plan to improve Utah education

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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Gov. Gary Herbert’s Education Excellence Commission presented their plan to improve the quality of education throughout Utah at a State Capitol news conference on Jan. 26.

This plan is called the Education Roadmap and its vision is to “increase educational achievement and attainment for every learner at each level of education.”

The plan focuses on four priorities: to ensure early learning, to strengthen and support educators, to ensure access and equity and to complete certificates and degrees.

Tami Pandoff wears an astronaut suit while teaching her fifth grade class at King Elementary School in Layton, Utah on August 2016. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

Members of the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents and Technical Colleges Board of Trustees have worked together to create a roadmap to help Utahns achieve their educational goals.

Commissioner of Technical Education Dave Woolstenhulme said it is important for all educational systems to collaborate to make this plan successful.

“It gives an opportunity for everybody to understand what each system is doing,” Woolstenhulme said.

Superintendent for Utah’s Board of Education Sydnee Dickson said they are focused on principles of equity, quality learning and systems values.

“We think these three items are moral imperatives and a foundation to our strategic plan,” Dickson said.

Some strategies provided by the Education Roadmap to improve early learning are increasing high quality pre-school, expanding optional extended-day kindergarten and providing parents with resources for at-home learning.

“Early learning is often overlooked because we have such strong family values and think about children being in their homes,” Dickson said. “But we also have to think about brain development and all the resources that go into the most critical time of a child’s life.”

In order to recruit and retain educators, the commission hopes to invest in the funding of teachers supplies, provide opportunities for educators advancement and invest in school support staff such as counselors and social workers “so each child has access to a quality educator every day in every classroom,” according to Dickson.

Suggested strategies to increase equality and equity include developing a diverse teaching workforce, offering state funding based on student risk factors and increasing outreach to students and parents in underserved communities.

“With Utah’s fast-growing, diverse student population education institutions will need to develop culturally and linguistically responsive services and appropriate systems,” according to the Education Roadmap.

Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden and former president of Weber State University, said the roadmap highlights students as individuals.

“This is about helping every child, every individual, have access to education that will allow them to achieve their goals,” Millner said.

The Commission also wants to increase the number of students receiving degrees and certificates.

Some of the strategies to accomplish this are ensuring Utah high schools prepare students for college, increasing the number of career counseling services available and increasing work-based learning opportunities.

Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler said he was concerned at the number of students leaving secondary education without a degree or credential.

The top priority for this year is to “focus on students who are at risk for academic failure,” the Governor’s Education Advisor Tami Pyfer said.

The roadmap contains plans to improve Utah’s education from 2018-2027. The commission hopes by collaborating and measuring progress they can adjust and improve the plan as it progresses.

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