Teachers present an innovative new vision for Utah public education

Independent task force members ask lawmakers to consider their education policy recommendations, detailed in a new report

Although her independent teacher task force was charged with making education recommendations to policymakers, Park City teacher Anna Williams has a bold charge for her fellow public school educators. “Teachers must examine current practice, look beyond traditional roles and be willing to courageously take the lead in creating innovative education solutions for our students,” she said.

After 18 months of study, research and deliberation, the Educational Excellence Task Force presented a report detailing specific teacher-developed education policy recommendations to the Utah Education Association and state policymakers for consideration. The report is titled Educators Taking the Lead: A Vision for Fostering Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

“We are committed to a new vision where teachers have the time, support and resources needed to meet the demand of a diverse learning population,” said Task Force Chairperson Williams. “We envision schools rich in learning, where educators and students excel. We choose to transform our profession, knowing that educating our children is the key to creating a healthy, prosperous and compassionate society.”

Thirteen Utah educators who excel in their field and are leaders in their profession participated in the task force. They presented recommendations to UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh at a press conference Jan. 31.

“This report represents a new vision for fostering excellence in teaching and learning for all Utah students,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Our hope is that it will serve as a springboard for dialogue in the education community on strengthening the teaching profession and supporting high student outcomes.”

The report outlines very specific “Call to Action” requests for the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah Legislature, school districts, parents, students and even their own teacher association and fellow educators. “It’s important to remember that education excellence is everyone’s responsibility. We all have a role to play and all must step up for every child to have access to high-quality schools staffed by highly effective teachers,” said Williams. “Every resident of our great state will reap the benefits of investments in education.”

The Task Force began its work in May 2012, organized by the Utah Education Association as an independent group to study and prioritize critical education issues and create a vision of teaching excellence designed and led by Utah educators.

Task Force members represent a breadth and depth of experience in many areas including classroom teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, specialists, elementary and secondary education, diverse curriculum areas and low-income schools.

The Task Force met regularly with the charge to analyze relevant research to identify priorities for the Utah Education Association and public education in Utah; create a vision of teaching excellence that is led by teachers; develop a comprehensive set of policy recommendations regarding teaching quality and effectiveness; and create a report that will engage policymakers, the public and teacher association leadership in the important dialogue of change.

“Teachers are trained education experts and are in the best position to make policy recommendations that impact their individual classrooms and students,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “The teachers on this Task Force represent the very best of Utah education. I look forward to working with all our education stakeholders in using these recommendations to champion a long-term, student-centered, fully funded plan for Utah public education.”