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Osmond’s third bill would end the state’s requirement that schools provide 180 days (and 990 hours) of instruction. Instead, parents and districts would decide how much time kids spend in class.
The current system, he said, "focuses on butt-in-the-seat," rather than student outcomes. "We all know, as parents, our kids spend hours in class [when] they are not doing anything productive," said Osmond, who has three children still in public school and two graduates of public schools.
One of his key motives, Osmond said, is to help teachers who lament the high number of aloof parents.
If it takes a financial pinch — in the form of tutoring or remediation fees — to wake up parents, then schools ought to charge it, he said.
"When they [parents] realize there is a consequence," he said, "they will focus."
Stumbling blocks » Spanish Fork teacher John Allan said that while many of Osmond’s ideas seem good "on paper," they could prove unworkable.
For instance, who will punish parents who don’t attend parent-teacher conferences?
"Is there going to be any teeth in this thing? Who is going to be the gatekeeper?" asked Allan, who is temporarily working in the Nebo district office.
And what if a parent protests that it’s the teacher’s fault the child can’t perform up to snuff, and that he or she shouldn’t have to pay for remediation?
"Ultimately a lot of this would end up on the principal’s plate," Allan warned, "and principals are already overwhelmed."
Letting parents have a say over which teacher their child gets, he added, could be a logistical nightmare in the lower grades.
Principals often separate children for good reasons, and they try to strike a balance of high- and low-performing students in each class, Allan said. If parents pick the teachers, it could skew the final results each teacher is judged on: the academic progress of their students.
Lear, the attorney in the state education office, also doubts giving schools a judicial recourse for parents who violate the contract would work.
A new University of Utah study on school truancy found inconsistent enforcement of the laws already on the books.
That’s been the education office’s experience as well, Lear said. "We haven’t had consistent support from district attorneys on compulsory attendance," Lear said. "Some of them will not be bothered. They’ve got serious criminals to deal with."
Tami Pyfer, the new president of the Utah State Board of Education, said Osmond’s proposals would mean little change for home-schooling families.
While Utah law says home-schoolers must study the same subjects as public schools and attend school for the same amount of time, the parents do not have to keep any records of instruction or attendance, nor do they need any certification to teach.
"A lot of people are going to be surprised at how little is required of private or home-schooled students," Pyfer said.
But while she praised Osmond for seeking comment well in advance of the legislative session, Pyfer is dubious about legislating parental involvement.
"To tell parents, ‘Do this or else!’ No one responds well to that," Pyfer said.Next Page >
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