The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. —Abraham Lincoln
That famous quote by one of our most beloved and respected presidents serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a nation where education is valued as a vital cornerstone of our democracy.
It also serves as a reminder of how reckless we are to ever take such education for granted, and to not hold it close as an essential and fundamental element to our American way of life. Without educated citizens, as other places in the world routinely demonstrate, personal choice and individual freedom are jeopardized — or even worse, oppressed.
Such thoughts come to mind as approximately 15,000 students and more than 700 teachers returned to the classroom this week as the 2014–15 school year officially got underway. What also comes to mind is encouraging the Tooele County School District to continue moving forward on goals the school board adopted last year and still applies today.
One of those goals is to further raise the bar on students’ academic achievement by increasing instructional intensity and student engagement. The goal is intended to improve students’ learning of subjects referred to as STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), and to improve test scores in those areas. The target is to earn an “A” in state grading scores and to be above the state average on the Utah Comprehensive Assessment System at all schools within the district.
Thanks to a $630,000 three-year grant from the Utah legislature through the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiatives Center Program, more funding is now available for the district to raise that bar even further on STEM education with after school math and science activities and tutorials, and increased math and science classes. District officials say the grant will increase the amount of math and science opportunities available for students, and will extend the contract time for math and science teachers at their current rate of pay.
Some of the other goals challenge the district to better promote safety, security and a positive learning environment within schools; consider the “whole child” at all district facilities and activities; further ensure stability, accountability and transparency in all fiscal and general school district operations; to support highly effective teachers and principals through enhanced efforts in recruitment, professional development, evaluation, employee compensation and retention; and to transform communication, customer service and relationship expectations by collaborating with parents, students, staff and community.
All of these goals, and other related goals that are targeted to further improve the school district, are highly worthy to pursue. Even small progress in any one of them will create greater learning opportunities and improve students’ abilities to succeed after high school graduation.
Lincoln’s quote indeed serves as a reminder of how important education is to the continued vitality of our great nation. To students, teachers, administrators and support personnel, to all who are part of the public and private education system in Tooele County, may the 2014–15 school year be filled with sweeping academic achievement. May those victories in the name of knowledge bring growth and success to every student, and likewise for the Tooele County community.