Park City School District elementary principals present school improvement plans |

Park City School District elementary principals present school improvement plans

Douglas Greenwood, of the Record Staff

Closing the achievement gap is one of the most challenging responsibilities the Park City School District faces, according to administrators.

To face the challenge, elementary school principals strive to reach the district-wide goal of increasing language and math Criterion Referenced Test proficiency scores by 20 percent. The majority of native-English speakers who attend the schools scored close to or more than 90 percent proficient, which means such progress will only come by addressing the needs of students who speak limited English.

Administrators create achievement subgroups based on socio-economic status and native-language criteria. The performance difference between the high and low achievers establishes the gap. The gap is most-often represented by comparing test scores of native-English speakers and English-language learners at the schools.

Three of the four elementary schools in the district saw improvement in language and math test scores between spring 2009 and spring 2010. In some cases, the improvement was significant. Test scores for students in third, fourth and fifth grades were presented to school-board members.

Students who speak limited English at Parley’s Park Elementary showed a 25 percent increase in math proficiency, going from about 25 to 50 percent. About 10 percent more students earned proficient language arts scores. Native-English-speaking students at Parley’s Park improved slightly, with more than 90 percent testing proficient in both language and math.

District-wide curriculum training has positively affected test results and will continue through this year, according to Parley’s Park Principal Michele Wallace. "What that comes out to be is very good teaching practices," she said.

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A significant number of English-language-learning students at Trailside Elementary School scored well in both language and math tests. Almost 20 percent more students were deemed proficient in math, while more than 20 percent showed more aptitude in the language test. Native English-speaking students continued to hover close to 90 percent in both exams, scoring higher than the state goal in both subjects.

"I see the teachers working hard, I see the students working hard every day," said Trailside Principal Kathy Einhorn, who added that the improvement came as a result of the three-day-per-week, after-school program as well as incorporating the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), which targets language arts instruction to specific student needs.

McPolin Elementary School has the narrowest gap between high and low achievers with a difference of only about 20 percent for language and about 30 percent in math scores.

"We have a much larger percentage of students who fall under those subgroups where the achievement gap is discussed," said McPolin Principal Bob Edmiston. "All students can and will learn given the appropriate instructional practice."

He added that because about half the students at McPolin primarily speak a language other than English, administrators and faculty close the achievement gap of necessity. "It’s becoming part of our DNA and our work is showing that," he said.

Students at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School saw the only significant decrease in test scores, with English language learners dropping about 35 percent in math proficiency and only slightly in language. Caucasian students also saw a slight decrease in math and language results, but still hover close to 90 percent proficiency in both subjects.

"It’s a wake-up call for sure, and kind of a call to arms," Jeremy Ranch Prinicpal Shawn Kuennen said. Kuennen implemented an after-school program in October and said he has already seen a vast improvement among students who are attending.

Parley’s Park students will have a number of reading programs from which to choose that are all catered to individual student needs, according to Wallace.

Edmiston said teachers at McPolin will continue to close the gap by participating in weekly meetings with teaching coaches who will give presentations, demonstrate model lessons and share ideas from other teachers across different grades within the school.

Students at Trailside will have additional access to the ALEKS math program both in school and at home, according to Einhorn. The program supplements and complements daily math classes and allows them to focus on areas in which they can improve.

To rise to the goal of a 20 percent proficiency increase among students who did not achieve it last year, district administrators plan to expand teacher-training for Journey’s, a new reading program, and SIOP in every school to twice each month throughout the year.