A few weeks ago it was announced by the Carbon Board of Education that Bruin Point Elementary had won statewide recognition for the educational system at the school. The school was said to be one of the top Title One elementary schools in Utah.
That was confirmed even more in a report released on Nov. 30. The report also revealed that in general, education in Carbon District and Pinnacle Canyon Academy schools holds its own with most of the schools in the state. In fact, both rank higher than many of the bigger Wasatch Front districts which everyone always seems to compare them with.
It all has to do with the new Utah Core curriculum and the data from UCAS (Utah Comprehensive Accountability System) which has replaced UPASS (Utah Performance Assessment System for Students and the dreaded AYP (Adequate Yearly Performance) reports that were put in place a decade ago with the No Child Left Behind federal legislation.
When NCLB was starting to be introduced into schools, many in education were scared to death of its draconian deadlines, expectations and threats of schools being taken over by the state if those expectations were not met.
While many of those same educators have changed their tune about the regulations since (some have said that it was actually good for schools), it was a grand relief when the new Utah Core Cirriculem and a waiver system for AYP came along.
"It's great that we in Utah now have one fair, equitable accountability system for student progress, and it's one that honors not just proficiency, but student growth to account for all the hard work of Utah students, teachers and parents," said state assessment and accountability director John Jesse on the day of release. "Parents will be able to get in and see how their child's school is performing in one place."
The federal system is still for NCLB is still in place, but the changing condition of education has allowed schools to obtain waivers. Utah was able to avoid the drastic deadlines imposed by NCLB through the AYP process in the next couple of years by applying for a waiver from some of the statutes requirements and setting up their own system instead. Many states have done that, and many of them are working together in the new core program similar to what Utah has adopted.
With that statement the Utah State Board of Education released their first report on schools and districts and how they are faring with the new Utah Core. Schools were scored on student's academic achievements on state standardized tests in such subjects as math, science, English and language arts. The report not only incorporated where tested students were at, but how much they had learned over the evaluation period.
The report was, and further releases will be based on criterion-referenced tests given each spring to Utah public school students. It will also include the results of direct writing assignments as well as high school graduation numbers. Under the new program schools are measured not only how proficient students are in tested subjects, but also on how many students who haven't made the level they should be at (grade level) are moving toward that goal.
All together a student can get 300 points for proficiency and 300 for the growth they show. And each school is also rated on the 600 point scale itself, based on how all the students averages turn out.
In the case of Bruin Point that level was 574 out of the possible 600. With every public school (including charter schools, alternative high schools and other public education institutions) in the state ranked, the East Carbon/Sunnyside school was 12th out of more than a thousand institutions in the state that were evaluated.
The average non-high school score in the state was 435. High schools alone were at 398. Not one Carbon school fell below the averages for their category.
In elementaries besides Bruin Point were Wellington Elementary with a 516, Creekview with a 483, Castle Heights with a 478 and Sally Mauro with 442.
The two junior highs came in well with Helper Junior High with a 475 and Mont Harmon Junior High with 429.
Carbon High came in with a score of 472, while the Lighthouse High School scored 415. While the Lighthouse score was lower than any of the other schools in the district, amongst alternative high schools in the state (of which there are 18) Lighthouse came in second.
Pinnacle Canyon Academy registered a 475 for the elementary school and a 451 for the junior high/high school.
"We are very pleased with how our scores came out," said Roberta Hardy, the administrator over the Pinnacle Schools. "We are in the top third in the state."
Carbon School District Superintendent also had some good words with how things were reported.
"I think we in Carbon District focus on the specifics of the core tests," said Carlsen. "We know what to teach and how."
It is interesting to note that some of the districts that had some of the highest individual schools also had some of the lowest ones as well. Granite District had some of the top leaders, but two thirds of their 80 plus schools were below average. In the surrounding districts, such as Jordan, Canyons, Davis and Salt Lake City, about half the schools fell below the states averages.
"That didn't surprise me," said Carlsen. "In one regard we have an advantage because our teacher to student ratios are lower than most of the big metropolitan districts. Our kindergarten through third grades have 20-22 students, fourth, fifth and sixth grades have 23-24 and our secondaries have 27-30 students per classroom. Those districts regularly average about 10 more students than any of our averages in this regard."
Interestingly enough the top rated high school in the state did not come from one of the larger or even rich districts in the state, but from little Dugway High School in Tooele School District.
One of the major differences between the UCAS scoring system and the way the AYP worked was that AYP was a black and white system of thumbs up on a schools progress or thumbs down, which could have triggered some drastic action by the state over a period of time against a school. The scores recorded for schools replace the yes/no configuration on federal reports.
Carlsen also said that when the preliminary scores came in about six weeks ago, Carbon actually had higher scores because the way the system had been set up it was more heavily favored in the growth that students had made academically.
"But the state decided to give a more balanced score between proficiency and growth so we came in where we did," he said. "I am very happy with what came out in the report."