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Public education system role expands to include provision of school services, support for students

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Testing is an important part of the schools obligations, but there is much more than just learning that goes on on campus'. Over the years the schools role in the lives of students has changed dramtically.

It's easy for people to remember the good old days. But when they do it with education, it tends to be a tainted memory that paints things with a rosy hue.

Comparing today's education system with that of 30 to 40 years ago is like trying to compare satellite radio in a car with an eight-track tape player. It's like putting a slide rule up against a graphing calculator. It's like using a typewriter instead of a desktop computer.

"Education has changed a great deal in the last three or four decades," pointed out Debbie Blackburn, a member of the Carbon County Board of Education. "People just don't realize how different it is from when they went to school."

Many people think school is easier and education is not what it was.

But based on information from the state and Utah School Boards Association, teachers, administrators and students have a lot more rope to pull than they did in 1970.

"Many things have changed, including the requirements for credits and graduation," said Blackburn.

In 1970, high school graduation requirements in Utah included three credits in English, one in math with algebra as a minimum, one in science and two in social studies.

Students could substitute speech, drama or debate for English classes.

Today, Utah students must have three credits in English with no substitutions allowed, two in math with geometry being the minimum, two in science and two in social studies in order to graduate from high school

While the state requires three English credits, most of local school districts require four for graduation.

In 1970, the only advanced placement courses offered by the majority of high schools were in English and United States history.

Today, the districts offer up to 32 AP classes.

In addition, career and technical education has taken a higher priority.

In the late 1960s, counselors downplayed technical education and tried to funnel students into four-year university academic tracks.

And the advanced placement classes include courses in subjects that would never have been considered for public education 35 years ago. Examples include classes in art history, calculus, computer science, economics, environmental science, human geography and psychology.

Another thing that is different for many students in the Carbon area is concurrent enrollment at the high school and college levels.

More students are taking the concurrent enrollment track, gaining a good grip on a college education before finishing high school.

One of the most important factors in education has been the changing role of the public school system in the last half of the 20th century.

It has evolved from primarily teaching the three Rs to becoming a support system for students and even families.

Public education systems currently delve into many types of support and school services that would have been unheard of several decades ago.

Beyond the newest types of requirements (No Child Left Behind and the Utah Basic Skills and Competency Testing) are many other services schools must provide. They now provide adult education programs, allow early graduation, must teach English as a second language, must provide special education, must adhere to Title IX equalization and have to provide translation and interpreting services, along with many other responsibilities.

In areas related to education, but not directly connected to it they must deal with the Americans with Disabilities act, must do asbestos abatement, provide transportation, provide CPR training, must comply with health regulations, do vision and hearing screening and follow up, provide staff training and take care of health insurance mandates and Medicaid services, along with many other programs.

The above responsibilities, along with the things like securing funding and block grants, working to provide choice/charter schools and dealing with the legalities and technology of a more advanced, modern world, have made education more complicated than ever.

And each year it gets ever more so.

During the past four legislative sessions, 176 education bills have passed.

And those increasing demands on education have come at a time when per pupil spending is at it's lowest point ever in the state of Utah.

Editors note: Today's story is the second in a series of three articles highlighting the facts and misconceptions about public education.

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