The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $1 million to Utah to match a state effort to bring school administrators and superintendents up to speed on the possibilities of electronic education.
The state share was provided through SB61, which earmarked $1 million to train high-level educators. That will provide leadership that will "lift the whole system," said Gov. Mike Leavitt. Efforts to train teachers are fruitless, he said, unless school administrators have the vision of technology-supported education. "It's a way to improve the learning environment" across the board.
The announcement followed close on the heels of an earlier disclosure that the U.S. Department of Education will provide $10 million over five years to upgrade teacher education across the country via the Western Governors University. That Monday announcement included a Utah initiative to provide scholarships and other enticements to get more teachers into fields that are short of instructors — math, reading, science and instructional technology. Those who choose to participate will earn 140 points toward relicensure requirements set by the State Board of Education.
Tom Vander Ark of the Gates Foundation, who joined a media breakfast in the Governor's Mansion Tuesday to announce the $1 million for administrator training, said Utah's plan is among the most innovative the foundation has found among the 50 states. He praised the online, competency-based approach to upgrading training for school administrators and district superintendents.
The plan will provide $3,000 toward the costs of training for each administrator who chooses to adopt the challenge of bringing their skills up to set standards in 12 competencies, said WGU President Robert Mendenhall. WGU is working with educator-training programs at Utah State University and Southern Utah University to develop those competencies, he said.