Saturday, February 28, 2015

Show Me the Study

UT STOYS: Allison Riddle ('14) Mohsen Ghaffari ('15) Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh ('09)

THIS was supposed to be THE YEAR.

Governor Herbert's proposed budget last fall gave hope to thousands of Utah teachers.  After more than five years of trying to dig out of a weak economy, our government had a surplus.  Governor Herbert's proposal offered $500 million to public schools and a 6.25% increase in the WPU.

As I spoke with several members of the Utah House and Senate Friday, it became alarmingly apparent to me that the governor's proposal was, in their eyes, not plausible.  Not even close. After years of being told Utah's schools must be patient with the bad economy, now that we are out of the slump and have a surplus, Utah educators are being told the very same thing.  The budget cannot sustain a healthy increase yet again for Utah's public schools.  

As a mentor of teachers, reflective questioning is a powerful tool.  I have a few reflective thoughts for members of the legislature.  I'm not asking for money, rather, I would like to focus on the expected outcomes of the budget.  As an educator, I am immersed in academia.  Every strategy I use in my instruction is backed by research and data.  And so, to the members of the Utah Legislature - to those who publish and grade me on my students' test data - I ask you to...


Show me the study that connects high class size to greater achievement on standardized tests.

Show me the study that reveals increased class time in front of a computer screen strengthens a student's development of critical social-emotional skills.

Show me the study that supports low pay and a lack of proper mentoring as proven methods for recruiting and retaining strong teachers.

Show me the study that concludes a simultaneous implementation of more rigorous standards and computer adaptive testing will improve instruction and student performance.

Show me the study that justifies the solitary use of standardized test results as a reliable source for the evaluation of a public school.

It's time for Utah to pull out of last place in per-pupil spending and to concede the top honor of highest class size in the nation.  It's time to invest in Utah's communities, businesses and families. 

I am proud of what I do each day in the classroom.  Teaching is a complex craft, and I will continue to reflect on my own instruction and mentor other teachers.  While I am discouraged by the lack of support our public school system has, I have enough grit and perseverance to stay in a Utah classroom. 

Ironically, that may be exactly what policy makers are counting on.