New state report cards show Park City School District’s moderate standing
Report cards for Utah schools are out, but there will be no A’s, B’s or F’s this time around.
The Utah State Board of Education recently released the results of its new accountability system, which ranks schools throughout the state on a different scale than the previous report cards and takes more factors into account. Plus, no aggregate grade is given. Schools at Park City School District were given moderate to exceptional ratings in the majority of the categories.
The new system is still mostly representative of the scores from the state’s standardized exam called SAGE. But, since no overall grade exists, the test scores are not the only determinant.
Andrew Frink, director of technology and assessment for the Park City School District, said the new system is more reflective of the district because it uses various indicators for student growth and performance. The system is based on a five-point scale that ranks school performance. Each indicator — student achievement, student growth, English learner progress and postsecondary readiness — is given its own score. The improvement of the lowest performing 25 percent of students and attendance are also taken into account.
Most of the schools in the district were rated as “commendable,” a four on the scale, in the student achievement category and as “typical,” a three on the scale, in the student growth category. Student achievement was “exemplary,” a five on the scale, at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School. Student achievement and growth were both based on SAGE data. Starting next year, the indicators will be based on the state’s new exams, RISE for younger students and the Utah Aspire Plus for ninth-and tenth-grade students.
The district tends to score low on SAGE exams because a high percentage of students opt out of the test. At Park City High School, for instance, the opt-out rate was 34 percent in 2017. District officials have said that SAGE scores and the report cards that take the scores into account are not reflective of the district’s performance.
Frink said the SAGE scores and school report cards at the elementary schools, which have single-digit opt-out rates, tend to be more accurate.
Three of the four elementary schools in the district received top marks in the science category in their school reports. Jeremy Ranch Elementary School was given an 82 percent score in science, Parley’s Park Elementary School scored 63 percent and Trailside Elementary School scored 76 percent. The state average was 52 percent.
Park City High School also ranked as “exemplary” in a new category called post-secondary readiness. The school had 79 percent of its students earning an overall composite score of 18 or higher, compared to the state’s average of 63 percent. It scored 86 percent on advanced coursework, which measures students who earn a C or better in Advanced Placement, concurrent enrollment or international baccalaureate courses. The state average in advanced coursework was 61 percent.
Overall, Frink said the district performed well in the new state reports and is glad the letter grades were not included this year.
“I’m not a fan of the grades, because I don’t think you can capture what a whole school is doing with just one point,” he said.
The new system did not use letter grades because of a legislative decision made last year, said Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association and a former librarian at Treasure Mountain Junior High. She said the Utah Legislature voted to have a hiatus on assigning school grades, which has been a controversial method to evaluate schools, but grades could return next year unless a new bill passes during the upcoming legislative session.
She is in favor of even more indicators going into the school reports.
“That single letter grade does not even come close to representing the complexities of a school,” she said.
She said letter grades were “shortsighted and punitive,” partly because of the connotation associated with getting an F or a D. Now, schools that need help are given a “critical needs” status, and the state will know that the school needs resources, she said.
Frink hopes letter grades continue to be left out and the state leaves the indicators in place as they currently stand.
“Going forward, if this stays consistent, it will be more useful for parents in the community,” he said.
He is also hopeful that opt-out rates will decrease once the new tests are administered, particularly for the Utah Aspire Plus test. It is good preparation for the ACT, he said, because it is administered in a similar way to the college entrance exam.
The arsenic-and-lead-containing soil has been a contentious issue for the district, which piled it onto the junior high campus in actions that were later discovered to be in violation of a covenant with the Environmental Protection Agency.
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