State Board will Decide Tuesday Whether to Revise Reform Plans

State Board will Decide Tuesday Whether to Revise Reform Plans

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- After conducting five summits and 33 hearings and receiving more than 1,000 comments from the public, the state Board of Education is set to decide Tuesday whether it needs to revise the sweeping plans for education reform.

The state plan to raise academic standards and establish competency-based graduation requirements, called Performance Plus, is projected to cost $393 million.

Some recommendations from the public, politicians and educators include scaling back student testing or delaying full implementation for 12 years.

The board's committee on graduation requirements will sift through summaries of public comments and recommendations, and then settle on a few recommendations of their own. The full board expects to adopt formal changes Tuesday afternoon.

No matter what the board plans, the implementation will depend on how willing the Legislature is to provide the funding.

"Even though we're going to vote on a final proposal, no way do we believe it's final," said committee Chairwoman Theresa Theurer.

The most drastic change in the plan is a shift toward competency-based education, where students advance through school when they demonstrate their skill mastery rather than by grade level or the amount of time they spend in class. Middle and high school students would achieve competency by earning a C or better and passing year-end standardized tests in core classes. D grades would be eliminated.

State officials say the plan would enable students to move through school at their own pace and get extra help if they begin to fall behind.

Under the current Performance Plus proposal, this year's eighth-graders, the class of 2008, would be the first required to meet competency standards to graduate.

Many parents, teachers and district leaders said it was unfair to impose such strict standards on students who haven't had the benefit of extra assistance to help catch them up.

"If you don't start back in kindergarten, you have your work cut out for you," said Wayne Gurney, superintendent of the Uintah School District.

Changing the effective date would require legislation. This year's Senate Bill 154 requires increased graduation requirements to be effective for the class of 2007. The state board postponed the date by a year because students in the class of 2007 had already registered for their ninth-grade classes when the law was passed.

The $393 million cost estimate includes $203 million in new funding and $190 million in existing education funds. Of the new funding, $150 million would need to be ongoing, and $52 million would be one-time.

State board member John Pingree suggested devising several reform packages of varying comprehensiveness and cost, arguing the strategy would give lawmakers a better sense of the board's priorities and their associated price tags.

Gov. Mike Leavitt and Lt. Gov. Olene Walker have said Performance Plus likely will have to be phased in over several years.

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

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