Three Bills To Improve Education In Utah
by Aaron Osmond
January 26, 2012
We at the state legislature strongly support public education, and we want to help make it the best it can be. Based on my travels around the state last fall, where I learned from educators what we need to focus on and why, I am introducing three bills this session that would increase accountability of our school administrators, reward schools and teachers for the wonderful collaborative work they do in educating our children, and help legislators become more aware of the challenges and success in our classrooms.
My first bill is a focus on Human Resource Management reform. In order to improve our educational system we first need to have a structure in place to annually assess our administrative leadership. I believe that it is time to expand the focus beyond just teacher performance and look deeply at the impact administration has on the quality of instruction in our schools. This new focus will provided information about our administration, their leadership skills, how well they are managing the quality of instruction in their schools, and so forth. As I traveled the state I learned that most administrators are only evaluated once every three years. I argue that their performance needs to be evaluated on an annual basis to drive improvement in how we manage our schools, our educators, and the quality of instruction in our public education system.
In most organizations, public or private, leadership is measured and held accountable for all levels of performance and success. There should be no difference within Utah’s public education system— this is simply a sound business and management principle. We have to stop trying to find where the problems are in public education by focusing just on teachers, and begin to genuinely hold administrators accountable for the quality of instruction and academic success in our schools. If we focus on leadership first, then the natural result will be an increased focus on student performance and everything that affects it. Part of the bill will also address performance pay for administrators. Over time, part of what we are paying our administrators will be based on the results of these proposed annual evaluations.
My second bill, Collaborative Performance Pay, provides for a collaborative performance pay model for teachers, reflecting the collaborative nature in how they teach. A bonus will be allocated to each school at the end of the school year based on the school’s grade and their accomplishments against their own School Improvement Plan as a collective team. I am proposing this solution based on how important it is for teachers to work collaboratively and be rewarded as a team. The bill will also enable administrators to reward those team members who had the "highest performing" impact in that team effort.
Finally, one of the major issues I came across in my travels last fall was the perception of a broken or strained relationship with the State Legislature. Teachers were surprised I even came as far as their classrooms to hear what they had to say. As such, in my Public Education Engagement Resolution bill, I suggest that the legislature recognizes that public education is the issue in the eyes of most people in our state. We have a constitutional mandate to provide a quality education for every child. I want to bring the legislators and members of the Utah State Board of Education directly into the classrooms to truly observe, in a more meaningful and regular way, authentic student/teacher interactions and the challenges that are directly affecting Utah’s most vital institution--our public schools. Based on what they learn during their visits, legislators will then post their observations on a website that we will set up for that purpose. It is my belief that this gathered information will be vital as the legislature moves forward creating new policies to improve public education in the future.