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PARTNERSHIP WOULD BOOST TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS

SHARE PARTNERSHIP WOULD BOOST TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS

An ambitious business/education partnership that would infuse $220 million in private and state money into education over three years was outlined for the State Board of Education Thursday night.

The Utah Technology Partnership Initiative would provide a hefty technological boost for schools in exchange for a commitment from educators to produce better reading and math scores, said John Bennion, superintendent of Salt Lake School District."This would be technology for a purpose, not for the sake of technology only," Bennion said. The proposal would be a good start toward implementing the state board's new Shift in Focus principles, he said.

While some educators could be intimidated by the promise of increased student performance, "It's an idea whose time has come," he said.

The proposal for three-year funding would require $60 million in state money, $100 million from technology vendors, $40 million from the private sector and $20 million from internal education sources.

The technology vendors' share of the package would be 80 percent in discounts on technological equipment and 20 percent in actual financial contributions. Their participation would allow schools to obtain hardware and software and train teachers in the use of technology. Districts would be able to tailor their own programs and would not be locked into any technological plan.

A number of large companies has expressed willingness to participate in the project, Bennion said.

While math and reading were targeted for the initial emphasis, other objectives could be developed over time, Bennion said.

The commitments proposed in the plan would include:

Mathematics:

-Increase district and state ACT scores to equal or exceed national averages by the end of the third year with yearly goals toward that end. Utah students now score slightly below national averages in math.

-Increase math skills as measured by both nationally normed tests and state-developed testing based on state curriculum guidelines.

-Increase enrollment in higher math classes, especially among female students and minorities. Utah's female students lag considerably behind their male counterparts and national averages.

-Bring all elementary school students to state achievement levels.

Reading:

-Bring all elementary school students to desired state levels.

-Improve reading skills of high school graduates.

-Increase state and district achievement as measured by the usual tests.

-Decrease the percentage of students scoring below the 30th percentile by 30 percent in three years on nationally-normed tests.

-Increase the number of correct answers on the state test by 10 percent.

-Achieve reading proficiency among 95 percent of all high school graduates.

In all cases, severely handicapped students would be excepted.

The board did not officially act on the presentation Thursday, but board member M. Richard Maxfield said he was extremely pleased with the concept.

"I have been waiting seven years for education to commit to improved performance," he said.

The partnership request for funding, however, will vie with other education needs now being developed as the annual budget process begins.