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State measures Sanpete and other schools

 

By Robert Green

 

01-17-2019

 

Administrators at both the North and South Sanpete School Districts are pleased with a new statewide report card that has replaced single grades, like A (for “excellent”) and F (for “failure”) with a comprehensive system to assess school performance.

Sam Ray, superintendent of the North Sanpete School District, thinks the new system is superior because it provides more significant and relevant data than the previous letter-grade scheme. And it can’t hurt that the North Sanpete High School increased its test scores in most areas for the 2017-2018 school year.

In fact, Ray was thrilled with the progress his school district is making.

Over in the South Sanpete School District, Ralph Squire, assistant superintendent, likes the new report card as well because it is loaded with so much more data, and administrators can drill down further into the details.

“The data shows what we have been emphasizing all along,” Squire said. “We are doing a good job of preparing our students for college.”

Instead of letter grades, the Utah State Board of Education has released its a  report card showing performance in four areas: achievement, growth (that is, improvement over past years), progress on learning the English language for students from non-English-speaking backgrounds,  and preparing students for college.

And the board has ranked schools in each area on a scale of exemplary, commendable, typical, developing and critical needs.

This deviates from the single grade assigned to schools for the past five years. But the system is transitory, since next year the Legislature has ordered that schools will receive performance ratings but will also return to a single overall ranking based on A-F grades (if there are no additional legislative changes).

In the meantime, all three Sanpete County high schools—North Sanpete High School, Gunnison Valley High School and Manti High School—can take pride for receiving “commendable” marks for preparing students for college.

They all will have to live with a bunch of “typical” ratings for achievement and growth. However, all three schools surpassed the statewide graduation rate of 87 percent.

This year’s performance ratings were taken from Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) tests, which will not be used again this year.

Squire said he is happy the SAGE system is being replaced. “There was no real incentive for the students to perform well on the SAGE tests,” he said.

The SAGE tests are being replaced with Utah Aspire Plus, which is a hybrid test from ACT Aspire and Utah core test items. The results from the new test should provide more valid data, Squire said.

Following are more details, by district, on school “report cards” for last year. The accompanying charts provide additional detail. And for all details, go to  https://utahschoolgrades.schools.utah.gov/. You can enter the school you are interested in a search box and the system takes you right to that school’s results.

North Sanpete School District

Superintendent Ray credits much of the success of his high school to the lower schools, which work diligently to get students on the right track.

He noted that many of the area’s students come from an “at risk” population and often don’t start out with great proficiency. But with proper teaching, he said, the students are capable of making great progress.

North Sanpete High School made the biggest strides of all area schools in preparing its students for college. The Hawks showed increases in ACT scores, increases in graduation rates and increases in course readiness. This all led to a “commendable” rating for postsecondary readiness.

North Sanpete’s graduation rates were at 89 percent, up a half a percent from last year; ACT scores increased by 9 percent from 2017 scores; and coursework readiness increased by 4.5 percent from last year.

The school also received a rank of “developing,” or making adequate progress, for those learning English. Ray questions the finding because the North Sanpete Middle School recorded commendable progress for those learning English, and most English-language learners in the high school come out of the middle school.

South Sanpete School District

Student performance has steadily improved over the years and the district’s high schools have very high graduation rates, Assistant Superintendent Squire said.

In 2017-18, Manti High School made commendable progress in preparing students for college. The school reported a 6.2 percent increase in ACT scores and a 3.4 percent increase in coursework readiness. The school graduated 91.3 percent of it students, down 0.7 from last year.

The Templars were typical in achievement and growth; but the school showed it “critically needs” to address the proficiency rates of those learning English.

In the southern portion of the district, Gunnison Valley High School didn’t fare quite as well as its rivals in preparing students for college.

Although it received a commendable ranking for postsecondary readiness, the Bulldogs were down 5.3 percent on ACT scores and down 9.7 percent on coursework readiness.

However, the school has other things to be proud of. Gunnison Valley graduated an impressive 97.8 percent of its students this year, up 6.1 percent. And the Bulldogs were ranked commendable for making progress with English learning students.