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Senate committee approves English teaching technology bill

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would provide English and writing teachers with supplementary instructional software designed to give faster feedback on students' coursework.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would provide English and writing teachers with supplementary instructional software designed to give faster feedback on students' coursework.
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SALT LAKE CITY — English and writing teachers in Utah may get more resources to help them give faster feedback to their students.

HB69, which has already passed the House and its education committee, was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, was an English teacher for more than 30 years. She said teachers in the subject are struggling to provide quick correction and guidance as class sizes increase and as the amount of papers to grade stacks up.

"It's the dilemma of all writing teachers — to get feedback to students in a timely way," Moss said.

The bill would appropriate $1 million in ongoing money from the education fund to license software that can give individualized feedback to students on technical components of writing, such as capitalization, spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Moss said teachers could participate on a voluntary basis and use the program to provide supplementary instruction. She estimated the fund would be sufficient to allow half of all Utah students in fourth through 12th grade to participate.

"We don't want this to be pushed on anyone," Moss said. "This would be schools and districts that really, really want this."

Sydnee Dickson, deputy superintendent of the Utah State Office of Education, said one benefit of the bill is that it does not designate one specific software provider, but that it allows schools to find a program that best works for them so long as it meets certain criteria.

"I appreciate that there are opportunities out there for multiple providers to enter into this technology portion of the bill and that we might be looking at writing in a different way so that we're not only getting better writing out of students, but immediate feedback," Dickson said.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is the floor sponsor of the bill. He expressed confidence in education leaders to find programs that will work most efficiently for students and teachers.

"I look forward to what this is going to do for writing and literacy and fluency," Stephenson said. "It's just really exciting."

The bill now awaits approval in the Senate.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MorganEJacobsen