When the legislature mandated that all schools get letter grades, it was a blow to many who felt that system of grading schools was too simplistic.
On Monday, however, some schools did not fare any better under the UCAS (Utah Comprehensive Accountability System) when the Utah State Board of Education released those results. UCAS was a previously-adopted system of rating schools until the legislature passed HB 148 and put the letter grade system in. Most educators disliked the letter grading system when it was proposed and thought that UCAS was more fair and complete.
But while some still languished with less glowing reviews, other schools came out looking even better than they did under the grading system. Carbon High, for instance, got a B overall when the letter grades were released three weeks ago, but on Monday it ranked higher among all but five high schools in the state with a score of 502 (a 98th overall ranking among all schools). The ultimate score on the evaluation would be 600 if any one school had attained it. The top high school rated by the system was the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science with a score of 541. That campus is located in Davis County and it is a charter school.
Carbon came out extremely well in science and language arts, but was low in mathematics when the grade report was released. Those low scores in math once again influenced this ranking, too.
"We found that last year, because of the way the tests were given, that out of 500 students at Carbon High, only 30 kids were tested to give the school its complete math score," said Carbon School District Superintendent Steve Carlson. "Some of the low grades on the test in math also resulted from the Utah core switchover we are in. We started teaching the core last year, but the math tests hadn't caught up with that yet. In other words what we were teaching was not coordinated with what was being tested for."
Carlson also mentioned that after a long meeting with both the high school and junior high schools math teachers he found out something else.
"We have this gap between those students that know and those that don't," he said. "We have realized that there are kids in a classroom that get it and those that just don't. It is a gap where there is no middle ground. Because of that we are using some interventions to improve the math outcomes."
The UCAS system measures both growth within a schools academics and its achievement. While many disliked the letter grade system, UCAS uses the same reference tests to evaluate the schools. The tests are called CRTs (Criterion Referenced Tests) and are taken by various students from the third grade and above.
Alternative schools across the state got the worst wrap from the system as a number of them earned very low scores on the UCAS system (many had also gotten "F"s under the grading system).
Lighthouse High School, Carbon School District's alternative campus, came in with a 451.
None of the district's elementary schools were within the top 10 primary grade schools in the state, but all had respectable scores. Castle Heights was rated with 350 points, Wellington with 402, Bruin Point with 500, Sally Mauro with 416 and Creekview with 365.
Castle Heights was one of those schools that got a lower grade under the other system earlier this fall and everyone wondered why. Their achievement was good (244) but growth was low at 106. That same happened under the UCAS release.
"Growth in academics in a school like that is a problem," said Carlson concerning the fact that 300 points are available for achievement and another 300 are for growth in academics. "The problem is that they have already moved the kids up (academically)."
That means that then growth scores are low and since it counts as 50 percent of the rating, it hurts schools that are already achieving well.
Of the two junior highs in the district, Mont Harmon came in with a 365 and Helper had a 424.
Carbon High got 267 out of 300 for growth and 235 out of 300 for achievement. Lighthouse had a high rate of growth (274) but a lower rate of overall achievement (177).
At the junior highs Helper had growth points of 183 while achievement was at 241. Mont Harmon had growth of 141 with achievement at 234.
The other elementaries in the district also came in with fairly good scores on both. Bruin Point had relatively high achievement (249) and high growth (251). Wellington came in with 210 and 252 for growth and achievement respectively. Creekview got 130 for growth and 235 for achievement. Sally Mauro Elementary had 178 points for growth and 238 for achievement.
While there were scores and scoring sheets for the Castle Valley Center Elementary and High School the records are not complete on the site.
"The state is still trying to figure out how to handle the special schools like this," stated Carlson.
Anyone wanting to view the release of the evaluation can go to www.1.usa.gov/1eVsxjm. It lists not only the ratings but also other information about the schools such as class sizes, socioeconomic information, etc.