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In our opinion: Enhancing academic performance is about more than just money

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  • Surfs Up Huntington Beach, CA
    Feb. 10, 2014 5:23 a.m.

    I had a conversation recently with a man who was raised in the khmer rouge concentration camps. He made his way out and is now teaching in a California school. He says the reason foreign schools do so much better is the motivation the families and the students have because they know that if they don't make it in school they are going to the rice patty or something equal to it. We throw so much money towards education and we take little account into the motivation of the students. Parents tend to put all the blame on the schools and take little responsibility on themselves.

    Another problem is the administrators that we choose to manage teachers. Little of them rarely know how to teach themselves... So when they are the ones evaluating teachers THAT IS A BIG PROBLEM!!!

  • dyc Vernal, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 6:23 a.m.

    I don't disagree that Utah does a better job with their per pupil spending. We do. My concern with this editorial is that it talks about our failures without listing possible solutions. If you are going to complain about something, give a solution of how to make it better.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 6:35 a.m.

    Do you really want to throw more money at charter schools? The sad truth is that very few of them have been effective, and they are proving to have the same or even worse results than the regular public schools. Instead of throwing more money away by creating these faux private schools for parents who seem to move their children from one school to another each year, let's find ways to encourage our neighborhood schools to be innovative, find specialties, and get the community involved in improving the education of their children.

    Why is it that we want to continue to pull money from existing schools to build new buildings for new charter schools that have no guarantee of solving our current problems? Yes, we need to find new solutions, but those solutions should be to help improve the schools that already exist.

  • On the other hand Riverdale, MD
    Feb. 10, 2014 6:42 a.m.

    More spending may not always yield better education, but this editorial is so flawed that little can be concluded from it.

    For some reason, the article singles out high school graduation rates as a measure of success. Aside from the fact that this is a questionable metric for assessing how school funding impacts quality of education, the facts presented are misleading at best.

    The article claims that Utah "has one of the country's highest graduation rates". But the Deseret News reported in Nov. 2012 that Utah lags behind 31 other states in its high school graduation rate.

    The article goes on to compare Utah's per pupil spending to Alaska's. Having lived in both of those states, I can tell you that it costs considerably less to heat a school in Ogden than it does to heat one in Fairbanks, and a teacher in a remote Alaskan village would need to earn two to three times as much as a teacher in Springville in order to have a comparable standard of living.

    School funding is an important issue. It deserves a more rigorous examination than the editorial board has given it here.

  • TrySomethingDifferent Herriman, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:09 a.m.

    The world has changed much in the past 60 years, yet our K-16 educational system remains fundamentally unchanged. Even charter schools, the supposed bastion of innovation, remain mired in mediocrity. I know of only one school who is doing something fundamentally different: the Wasatch Institute of Technology.

  • Jamescmeyer Midwest City, USA, OK
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    Childen don't excel at subjects by going to school, learning with a bunch of money thrown at the system, then clocking out and coming home in the afternoon. The excellence forms when their parents sit at home with them and work alongside them in study and homework, instilling a sense of importance and pride in learning. Like so many problems, this is fixed with stronger communities, not more expensive government.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:40 a.m.

    Yesterday, we had family over for dinner. Three grandchildren, told us about their favorite subjects. One 3rd grade granddaughter likes math. She especially likes "times tables". I asked her what 12 X 11 was. She thought. Her lips moved. Her eyes moved back and forth. Then she said "132". I asked her how she knew and she explained the process of multiplication. She understood the foundation that makes multiplication possible.

    Another granddaughter likes "reading". I asked her to tell me what makes a book "good". She told me that it has to have a good story, then she added, "the sentences have to be just right". I asked her what made a good sentence. And she said, "sentences are tools and good writers know how to use their tools".

    I am proud of those granddaughters. They are learning how to learn. They are learning why we learn. They are learning the tools that should be taught in the classroom.

    I learned those same tools in the 1950's when I was a student. Core courses taught in secondary schools remain basically stable. Why does the "system" tell us that students can't learn unless funding is increased?

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:41 a.m.

    Isn't it interesting Israel ranks about 49th yet probably has the highest innovation and inventive rate. INtellectual prowess to understand quadratic equations is not necessary in many jobs that pay well, auto mechanics, electricians, brick layers, etc. But employees do like people like "good old boys" that are willing to work, do not spend all their time protesting and trying to unionize, get along with their peers, and don't take drugs. In Canada today a brick layer can make $130,000 a year.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:56 a.m.

    IMO it's about more than $$$. But there are some who will not acknowledge ANY success... until they win the $$$ battle.

    We can try to help the UEA win the $$$ battle (and we do every year). But I fear they will never be happy (no matter how much $$$ we give them). They will always want more.

    Think about it... when would YOU say "Stop sending us more money"?

    ===

    I say they need to set a goal, and then we can work towards that goal.

    Right now we have no idea what would make the UEA happy.

    And the goal should be based on the $$$ amount it would take to do the job right (not fix where we stand compared to other States).

    If our goal is... "not be last in per-pupil spending"... we have a moving target and no control over our target. If we dump money into the bucket so we are not last... whoever becomes last will dump money into their bucket so we are last again. So it just escalates spending (but no way to see if it is actually improving education).

    Tell us the $$ amount you need to do your job...

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    This is a very poor article supported with weak facts and comparisons. To use Alaska as a comparative on per student spending is ridiculous. My family has taught and supervised in Alaska for over 25 years. The cost to educate a population spread out over a land mass as big as our United States is enormous. Additionally, there is a lot of challenges with educating the native Alaskan that Utahns don't have.
    It's ironic that arguments like this always surface when the legislature is in session. It will take funding to reduce our classroom sizes to a point where our educators can spend their time teaching instead of baby sitting. Utahns are not dedicated to reducing classroom size and because of that fact alone are not serious about solving our educational challenges. It's time to admit we should consider us hypocrites more than educators.

  • Nan BW ELder, CO
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:23 a.m.

    This article brings up excellent points to consider. There is a huge amount of waste of resources in our schools, at least in the three states where I have taught at some time. As someone else mentioned, administrators are often a joke, except that their pay is not a joke. I agree that throwing Alaska in the picture didn't make sense, but the concept of using money better instead of wanting more is certainly valid.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:41 a.m.

    The overall point, anecdotes aside, is that the US has the highest funding and yet lags terribly in performance. My wife, who is foreign born, is constantly amazed at how little school demands here. In her native country, you either pass the test or you do not move on - and eventually you are pushed out of the system. Here we bend over backward to push kids through high school so it takes effort not to graduate. When parents take education seriously, their children will as well and we will have ample funds. Expectations are key - and we do not expect much from our students.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 10:12 a.m.

    From my mission to Japan in the 70's... Compulsory school was just the beginning of a child's school day in Japan. They would stay after school for clubs or study groups they were interested in, or they would go directly from school to expensive tutors where they would spend the rest of the day (until late into the evening). Or they would go home and study all night.

    That may have changed since then. Japan seems to have gotten caught up in pop-culture a lot more since then. So just playing and watching TV after school may be the norm now.

    ===

    This was good for the child's education (IF the family could afford it). But it brought about a huge disparity in education (between the haves and the have-nots).

    People who could afford the top pre-schools got accepted to the top elementary, and if they did well... to the top college-prep high-schools (the rest go to vocational high-schools which had a totally different vibe learning basics and a trade).

    This was good for the winners. But the loosers often commit suicide very young (If they don't get into the right school).

  • open minded Lehi, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    Money does matter in education, it just depends on how it's spent. Private schools spend a ton of money per student so money does make a difference if used correctly. Schools are not to blame on the spending of money either. When legislators, who are paid lobbyists of software and online companies, mandate education money be spent on Pet Projects then the money is misspent. If you want to see legislators in action attend any Education Appropriations Committee meeting, you'll see money misspent that counts against "education funds."
    Money spent on class size reduction does matter. International schools do not even come close to Utah's huge class sizes; neither do most US states that outscore us. Money spent on teacher development makes a big difference. When nations that outscore us attract the top 1/3 of college graduates or require master's degrees, we must train and continue the education of teachers. Money spent on technology devices and technology infrastructure (not specific software) helps.
    Charter schools without accountability or vouchers for homeschooling or private schools without any accountability further exacerbates the money problem in education.
    Utah needs to accept the legislature is the single greatest problem in Public education.

  • Steven S Jarvis Orem, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    @Try Something Different

    Charter Schools often innovate simply by going back to the basics of RRR and Direct Instruction. There are quite a few different Charters that emphasize Special Education (Spectrum) or the Arts (DaVinci, Hollywood High and others). There are so many Charter Schools out there serving around 45K students its easy to loose track of who does what.

    @Really

    Prove your point. There are countless studies that have proven just the opposite of what you have said, but none so far done in Utah. Charter Schools do not "pull money" from the Districts, and the State pays much less for a child to be educated in a Charter than at a District. Compare ANY school in your hometown of Kearns to a Charter school in the area. The scores in Kearns are extremely disappointing and are not getting any better despite all the extra funding from programs like title one propping them up. Add in the gang and bully problems and its plainly evident why people look for educational alternatives.

  • teachermom6 Northern Utah, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 11:35 a.m.

    Throwing money at the situation will not help. The only reason Utah does fairly well with little money is the predominant culture that knows of the importance of education and strong families. Without these Utah would probably be among the bottom in school performance.

  • Mom of Six Northern Utah, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    Nothing in education in the United States will change unless we quit blaming teachers for the shortfall of our students. Are there poor teachers out there, sure, but you will find that in almost every profession. What is needed is accountability of teachers, students, AND PARENTS! If your child falls behind they should not be allowed to move forward....period! What hurts teachers the most is trying to accommodate every learning style, and level of child. When you teach a class of 3rd graders who are on a Kindergarten reading level, as a teacher you focus on those who are terribly behind. The same thing goes with 6th grade teachers trying to teach students who do not know how to read beyond a 2nd grade level and don't know their times tables. This happens so often it is ridiculous! Focusing on our weakest makes everyone's learning fall behind. As a parent YOU should be held responsible if your child can't read or do basic math. It is time PARENTS step up to the plate too....blaming teachers for everything will make our society stagnant.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Feb. 10, 2014 12:21 p.m.

    Once the word "money" was used, the same arguments appeared.

    Here is the problem. Other countries spend less on education per pupil, yet get better outcomes. Why are we not asking what is the difference?

    Here is why most do no ask what the difference is. Typically, the nations that do better than the US do a couple of things that we either no longer do or else won't do.

    First, we no longer have the emphasis coming from the homes of the children to get a good education. The parents don't care, so the children don't either. Just look at Korea and Japan, in Highschool they have between 35 and 45 kids per classroom, yet are able to do better than their US conterparts. This is because their parents demand that their kids work hard in school.

    The other problem is that we educate all kids through the end of Highschool. If we did like many other nations do, by age 16 we could send the kids with no motivation or desire to learn to trade schools or turn them out to the labor force.

    If the US wants to improve their schools, improve the attitudes of parents first.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Feb. 10, 2014 12:50 p.m.

    This is a poorly reasoned editorial. Yes, AK spends a lot of money and gets weak results, but Alaska is a huge economic outlier. Everything costs a lot more there. The states that lead the nation in education all spend twice as much per pupil as Utah does. With our last-in-the-nation spending, we manage to get up in the middle ranks on educational performance. We could lead the nation if we spent what is necessary to get great results. But Utah is unwilling to pay the price.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 12:51 p.m.

    Mom of Six,
    I haven't read all the comments yet. But I haven't seen people blaming teachers.

    But we need to get away from the false assumption that money will fix the problem also.

    Teachers are doing what they can with the constraints they are given (what they can/can't teach, can/cant discipline, can't push johnny or it may hurt his self-esteem, etc).

    Like you pointed out... it's not the teacher's fault. My kids have proven that IF you WANT a good education... you can find one. But if you want to AVOID getting a good education... you can do that too (in the same school).

    We all know you can't force a horse to drink. And you can't force a kid to learn. But that doesn't mean you quit giving the horse water, or quit trying to teach the kid.

    But a bucket load of money for education will NOT make Johnny want to learn more. And THAT is what is needed (for Johnny to want to learn more and look for every opportunity to learn more (not look for every opportunity to get out of class).

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    Why are we comparing Utah to Alaska instead of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada?

    Ah yes. Because those findings wouldn't support the pro-voucher argument.

    Got it.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 2:58 p.m.

    Maverick,
    Nobody said anything about vouchers... don't be so paranoid.

    This is about improving public education (not vouchers). We don't need to bring vouchers into it. Vouchers are a different topic.

  • shark Buena Vista, VA
    Feb. 10, 2014 3:13 p.m.

    I've heard that Washington DC has one of the highest, if not the highest, rate of spending on education, but has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, results. Maybe this would have made a better comparison than Alaska.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 4:20 p.m.

    It's about family, emphasis on family, expectations and support, a curriculum that teaches real academics rather than a experiential education and an educational system that demands excellence from student and teacher. It is not about schools that pass incompetent students on to the next grade, aim at the lowest common denominator or parents that expect the schools to teach honesty, manners, hard work and ethics.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 5:10 p.m.

    Money used for education in the United States is not a good tool for measuring educations. The reason is that too much of the money goes for things that have little to do with education, like fancy new buildings, computers, too many administrative employees and non educational activities like sports.

    I think the reason for better educational performance if foreign lands is mainly due to the incentive of living. In foreign lands, education is more important to success in their lives. Americans are having the problem with the local world where education doesn't have much effect on whether they will succeed or fail. Not only due they have to compete with automation and technology, they need more money than the cheaper foreign person with the same or better education.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:06 p.m.

    From the article: “More money doesn’t seem to correlate with better student performance.” Then the article goes on to compare Utah with Alaska. That’s not comparing apples and oranges, it’s comparing apples and pumpkins. Try comparing similar states.

    Nice that Utah has high graduation rates. But I have read other articles in this paper noting a slippage in Utah’s performance.

    No business, no enterprise succeeds without resources. That means man-hours, equipment, and facilities. Unless you are in a volunteer organization, you have to pay for those.

    Do more resources translate to better results? Not unless they are properly allocated and aligned.

    But, when you have an organization that is (more or less) properly aligned with the resources available and you want to now improve your results that will VERY likely mean more resources will be needed. At least it has in every organization I have ever been a part of.

    Seriously, you don’t budge an organization based on what money is there now. You do a realistic review of the needs balanced against the revenue streams available. Then to blend and balance these into the best available mix.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Feb. 10, 2014 7:47 p.m.

    Each country and in this country each state, each school district and even each school to a degree determines what "education" looks like. It is ridiculous to create oversimplified comparisons using test scores. I am very confident that if we want the same test scores that other countries are getting, we can achieve that if we use a model that is the same or similar to those used in the "good" countries. But as Redshirt pointed out, we need to be ready for not only the positives that come with that method, but the negatives. We need to be ready to create competition in elementary schools, because not every student will be advanced to the academic oriented jr. high schools, and high schools. We need to be ready in the eight grade to tell our kids sorry but you can't be a doctor or an engineer. We need to be prepared to "weed out" those little 6th graders who are not serious themselves nor are their parents about their education. If those test scores are that important, we can get them, but there will be plenty of carnage along the way.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    Feb. 10, 2014 8:07 p.m.

    Money will help if used in the right places. One would be higher teacher salaries so we could once again attract graduates from the upper third of the class, not the middle. Many men who would consider teaching as a profession go elsewhere because they can't support their families.

    Secondly, besides good teachers, we need to emphasize good teaching methods. Updated methodology workshops could be funded on a regular basis (every 2-5 years?) to keep instructors on their toes. Research indicates that these two things would greatly improve our schools.

    Also, comparing our students with foreign students is not comparing apples with apples in many cases because European schools weed out slow or unmotivated students (who usually cause all the problems) by testing them at 14 and sending them to vocational schools. It greatly improves the high school scores.

  • TrySomethingDifferent Herriman, UT
    Feb. 11, 2014 4:58 a.m.

    @Really - Charter schools do not take money from neighborhood schools for their construction. On the contrary, charter schools must miraculously come up with their own funding to build their building well in advance of receiving any money from the state. Sadly, nearly every charter school ends up turning to a developer, which quite literally charges an arm and a leg for the "risk" of building and leasing back to the charter school a building. "Risk" is a misnomer, since charter schools have been in Utah since 1999 and have a 100% success rate (success meaning one has not failed financially). What impact does this have on the children? A $4M construction project ends up costing the school $5.2M to buy the building, let alone the years of money wasted in paying property tax and leases (with annual 2-4% escalators). Welcome to the reality of charter school construction!

  • Sal Provo, UT
    Feb. 12, 2014 10:07 a.m.

    We lag behind when compared with international students because they only score their college-bound students. We score all students! We aren't really behind; we are ahead.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 7:37 a.m.

    "Prove your point."

    A review of CREDO Charter School study by the National Policy Center shows that there are no significant differences between the performance of students at charter schools and those at traditional public schools. In fact, the study showed that there is less than 1/100th of a percent difference in test performances between the two types of schools.

    Also, while charter schools deny the practice, many have discovered ways to cherry pick the best students to remain in their schools. Each fall, students leave their neighborhood schools for the greener grass of the new charter school. The parents and students soon discover that the new school isn't better, and, in fact, the neighborhood school offers more programs. The charter director convinces the parents to keep their children enrolled in their schools until the WPU is distributed in October, and then they release them to go back to their neighborhood school. Unfortunately, that funding for the child remains at the charter school--it doesn't follow them when they transfer back to the school that offers the child more options.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 7:52 a.m.

    "Sadly, nearly every charter school ends up turning to a developer, which quite literally charges an arm and a leg for the 'risk' of building and leasing back to the charter school a building."

    Oh, and who are those big developers? Oh yeah, they happen to be our legislators or have close ties to our legislators who continually push for more charter schools.

    "Charter schools have been in Utah since 1999 and have a 100% success rate (success meaning one has not failed financially)."

    Is that why many charter schools ask to be allowed to increase enrollment to meet their building finance needs? Is that why many charter schools find themselves underwater when they can't meet their facility needs based on the recommended 22% budget expenditure on building costs and maintenance?

    Let's be honest here; if we allowed every public school to set up charters and work in the same way, we would solve our educational problems and not find the need to spend this additional money opening new schools that have not made a significant difference on the overall education of the children in our state.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 7:59 a.m.

    What we really need are alternative schools at the middle/junior high level to separate those kids who require teachers to spend too much time on discipline matters that should be spent actually teaching.