EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Study looks into Utah voters’ opinions on curriculum transparency in schools

Mar 27, 2024, 1:55 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2024, 2:02 pm

A green and brown sign hangs on a brick wall. It reads "The future of the world is in this classroo...

The entrance to a first grade classroom is pictured at Hawthorne Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Sutherland Institute study found that a majority of Utah voters support curriculum transparency. However, fewer of them support mandating it with legislation. 

Curriculum transparency aims to keep parents informed about the topics their children are learning in school. 

The study revealed that respondents favored the idea of rewarding teachers for curriculum transparency. 

Christine Fairbanks, an education policy fellow with the Sutherland Institute, said there have been several methods proposed for implementing curriculum transparency. 

“So that sort of suggests that Utah voters know it’s important. [But] they [also] believe teachers have a key role, but they’re also sensitive to how it might impact them in their profession,” said Fairbanks. 

How does curriculum transparency impact teachers? 

Teachers must manage a long to-do list each day, often working more than a 40-hour workweek. The National Education Association said teachers work an estimated 53 hours a week. 

A survey found that teachers feel unsatisfied with their base pay, the NEA said.

“In this discussion of curriculum transparency, there’s obviously been concern over the workload and the burden on teachers,” said Fairbanks. 

Some teachers may worry that they will be the subject of controversy or a social-media rant, but curriculum transparency may help protect them, Fairbanks said. 

Providing access to the curriculum upfront gives parents time to ask questions before it is presented, which Fairbanks said has shown a potential benefit.  Other data suggested that sharing their teaching methods could help teachers with professional development. 

“If the materials are universally accessible online, other teachers can learn from it. They can collaborate one with another,” said Fairbanks. Doing so has also motivated some teachers to evaluate their assignments to align with learning outcomes. 

Curriculum transparency is more than just “smoking out the bad guys.” It has the potential to challenge teachers to consider the best teaching methods for their subjects, she said. 

What about students? 

Fairbanks said that when university students had prior access to a course’s curriculum, they felt more confident. 

“Specifically [they saw] larger gains for first-generation, low-income or underrepresented students,” she said. 

A study found that students feel more included and better understood what was expected of them, she said. 

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Study looks into Utah voters’ opinions on curriculum transparency in schools