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Long process could lead to huge payday for Utah schools

Long process could lead to huge payday for Utah schools



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Out of the $4.35 billion that will be awarded from the federal Race to the Top Fund, Utah will apply for $400 million. But to qualify, the state has to promise to make some changes.

Utah Superintendent for Public Instruction Larry Shumway explained, "They want us to improve in the literacy and numeracy for all children so that we help struggling schools and students. They want us to ensure that we have high-quality instruction for every student."

Shumway says federal educators also want Utah to have high, "relevant" standards in the curriculum and to have high quality data and assessments to keep students and parents informed, as well as to hold themselves accountable.

If the state gets the money, it could lead to changes in the core curriculum. Students may be allowed to take a different and more coherent group of classes which flow directly into higher education better than current classes do.

Another possible change could come to the state's teaching force. Shumway says it could be strengthened with increased funding, but it's too early to name any specific changes that will happen. The application process is just in the planning stages, and educators will hold summits to pinpoint what the state can improve on.

Since the application is so complex, coordinating all of these efforts will take a massive amount of manpower.

"[The application] includes details of all of the activities that you'll do, all of the resources that you'll bring to bear, who the personnel will be that will be responsible for each part, a detailed budget [and] a detailed timeline," Shumway said.

He says he's heard estimates saying it could take more than 650 hours to finish the plans just for the application.

"We're going to engage lots of people in this so that it's not one person for 600 hours," he said.

Even if state officials finish everything they need for the process in time, there's no guarantee the state will get all the money it's asking for.

"Not all states that apply will receive the money. It's a competitive grant. So, it's not just a matter of meeting the criteria. It's a matter of creating high quality plans to improve the outcomes for Utah students," Shumway said.

Implementing all of the changes the state proposes would happen after the state gets the funding. For now, Shumway says the application deadline is in December, but that could change.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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Paul Nelson

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