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State Board Tables Most of Performance Plus

State Board Tables Most of Performance Plus

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Acknowledging the worries of parents and educators and the unlikelihood of the Legislature providing the necessary funding, the state Board of Education has decided to attempt only a small part of the Performance Plus education reform.

The board had been scheduled Wednesday to give final approval to the far-reaching $393 million plan that proposed advancing students through school by their proven competency.

The board cited constituents' anxieties and practical difficulties in setting aside the bulk of the reforms and said the highest priority right now is to implement literacy and math competency for students performing below the eighth-grade level.

A plan for elementary schools could be implemented as early as next fall.

"Rather than put Performance Plus on the front burner and turn it on high, we will work on it little by little," said board member Laurel Brown of Murray.

Task forces will be assigned to further study implications for students with disabilities and middle and high school students.

The board anticipates developing a plan for implementing competency in the middle grades in 2005-2006.

Public opinion gathered from five summits and 33 hearings statewide during the past few months, will be used to revamp the proposal.

"It's going to take time, and we're going to move a step at a time," said state board Chairman Kim R. Burningham of Bountiful.

"We can start working on a few things," Burningham said. "If we just sit and twiddle our thumbs, we'll never get anywhere."

The Performance Plus proposal aimed to require students demonstrate competency in core subjects before they could graduate. The plan emphasized passing end-of-term tests. Students would have been required to have a course grade of a C or better.

In recent weeks, a number of school district officials have emphasized that these requirements would affect not only poorly performing students but also typical students -- "real kids," one official put it.

The Granite District, for example, noted that nearly three-quarters of its junior high and high school students received at least one grade of C-minus or lower in the last year, which would have meant no credit for that course under the Performance Plus standards.

Meanwhile, legislators were making it clear that there was no way they would come up with all the money state education officials said would be needed to implement the plan mandated by the legislators, who relied largely on what business leaders said they wanted done.

Leaders of parent and teacher groups and school districts applauded the slower pace, saying there were far too many unanswered questions to move forward with such a widespread change.

"We support the approach to explore the issues in greater detail," said Charles Hausman, an assistant superintendent with the Salt Lake City School District.

The action also received support from one of the leaders of the business executives' initiative.

"This program has broad enough implications that we want to take one step at a time," said Fraser Bullock, chairman of the Employers Education Coalition.

"It doesn't mean we should wait two to three years to implement a program. We should begin the work designing the elements immediately, but a full rollout needs to be done on a measured basis at the right time, once we really have all the aspects clearly identified of what's effective and what's not," he said.

The board also talked about giving students a greater incentive to take their senior year seriously. The board plans to work with the state Board of Regents to develop a high school diploma for the college-bound.

The diploma, which would guarantee admission to a state college or university, might require students to earn no grade less than a C and have at least a 2.6 GPA and pass a college entrance test at levels required by colleges including the University of Utah.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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