As Park City state school grades decline, district disagrees
Scores fall while opt-outs for state test rise
September 27, 2017
State school grades are out, and Park City School District's report card is not looking great.
Trailside Elementary School dropped from a B to a C and Treasure Mountain Junior High School went from a C to a F. Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, Parley's Park Elementary School, Ecker Hill Middle School and Park City High School all remained the same while McPolin Elementary School jumped up a grade from a D to a C.
The district explained the decline by pointing to the opt-out rates for the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE), which the state uses to calculate the school grades. Earlier this month, SAGE scores revealed a district average of 51.9 percent and an opt-out rate of 21 percent. At the high school, 47 percent of students chose not to take the exam.
Yesterday, a message was sent to parents from the principal of Treasure Mountain, Emily Sutherland, saying, "I am disappointed to see such a complex school year boiled down to this one school grade, which is an entirely false and invalid measurement of the teaching and learning that takes place in our building."
Grades for schools that do not have a 12th grade are based entirely on SAGE scores, said Mark Peterson, spokesperson for the Utah State Board of Education. ACT scores and graduation rates account for one-third of the scored for high schools.
Melinda Colton, spokesperson for the district, said the problem is not only students opting out, but that some are choosing to "sabotage" the test because they do not see its purpose.
"Some of these SAGE tests should take at least an hour, maybe as long as 80 or 90 minutes, and they were finishing in 10 to 15 minutes," she said. "We even have reports of some students drawing on the back of the tests."
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The high opt-out rates are not common state-wide, but it is a trend that has increased every year, and has jumped exponentially in Park City. Treasure Mountain went from a 4 percent rate to 26 percent in two years, which is part of the reason behind its F grade.
The district instead chooses to measure success with its internal testing, Galileo, which it has used since the 2014-15 school year. School officials hope that the State Board will soon find a replacement for SAGE when evaluating schools.
"We have high-achieving students in the district," Colton said. "We have award-winning elementary schools and nationally recognized high schools. How our students do on SAGE is not reflective of how well they are achieving in our schools. Parents, take it for what it's worth."