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Holladay Journal

Which schools made the grade?

Dec 02, 2022 02:52PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

The recently released Utah School Report Card shows public and charter schools that were recognized for excellence, including area schools such as Academy of Math, Engineering and Science in Murray and Beehive Science & Technology Academy in Sandy, as well as how all schools can improve.

Produced by the Utah State Board of Education, school report cards are intended to inform parents, educators, and community stakeholders to learn more about accountability in schools.

The state report also said, “While no student report card tells the full story of a child, no school report card tells the full story of a school. Education is far more than a single score or letter grade, but it is important that families and communities can see both strengths and areas that need support and improvement.”

The report, which takes into account achievement and growth in core subjects of English/language arts, math and science; as well as English language learners’ progress and post-secondary readiness, and other factors, can be found at:

AMES received an A or exemplary status.

“It's nice to be validated by another source other than our own data and our own workings,” said AMES Principal Brett Wilson.

While COVID-19 impacted many schools report cards, and they weren’t issued during those two years, Wilson said some measures AMES put in place has helped student learning.

“During COVID, we did synchronous learning, which means our students showed up for every class, every day, only it was held online, synchronous with their teacher. It wasn't just all online through Canvas (learning platform) without the teachers there, without some direction and that helped with learning,” he said. “What a lot of schools did is they would put assignments and content up on Canvas and have students watch videos and respond to their assignments. We did that, too, but additionally, we had regular classes on their regular schedule, online via Zoom.”

In addition to making students accountable, Wilson said it helped with relationships.

“It helped keep connections and it didn't let school get too far away. We’re not seeing the really big drop offs in terms of academic knowledge,” said the 11-year AMES principal, adding that the longevity of his teachers and staff have kept consistency in relationships important.

Wilson acknowledged his faculty and staff already have plans to improve their scores.

“We've seen students coming in with lower reading scores and some lower writing skills. It's just not something that anybody does very often outside of school,” he said about the diminishing importance of writing or reading for pleasure.

Wilson said AMES students, under the direction of a teacher, can select a title from a choice of three books, then will read and annotate together, predicting the plot and the characters’ actions.

“All that goes into good reading skills,” he said, adding that it will help with the ACT standardized college exam’s reading comprehension and speed test.

For schools that have lower marks, Wilson said that they can rebound.

“Dive into your data and see where your gaps are. Try to fill those gaps with either teachers that are highly trained for those students, or curriculum or smaller opportunities that you can really direct the learning. We've tossed around doing a better reading test for our ninth graders and tracking them better as they move through our four years here, since we've noticed that the reading scores are going down — that's just a small example.”

Beehive Academy also received an A.

“We are quite happy that we are still maintaining an A after COVID, especially when so many things have changed,” said school director Hanifi Oguz, who said that the report card is more than an accountability of doing well. “We take it as a tool, an opportunity to see how we are doing and what we can focus on to improve and help our students.”

For example, in English, Beehive’s score has improved through the years.

“Typically English, in the past, was not as good as our other scores, and we have in recent years been working on it and it remains a high priority right now to further improve. It’s what we are working on with interventions, extra programs and support staff,” he said. “We have a collaborative team who work very closely to look at data and set the goals for the year—what we are going to focus on, what we are going to improve and what we are going to maintain. Our teachers are active team members and that makes a big difference because they are working very closely with the students and know how to use strategies to make those improvements.”

While test scores are indicators, Oguz said he also relies on the teamwork of students, parents and school staff.

“At the end of the day, the teachers and administration set goals, it comes down to the actual student who is learning and doing the work, and how the students are supported by their parents. So, they have to be a partner in that. Much success is shown by having a strong parent partnership through open communication and sharing the progress with parents; I think we have done a good job in that over the years, and we’re continuing to develop and have those close partnerships,” he said.

Oguz said Beehive has added more counselors and services to help the social-emotional health of students, which in turn, helps students have a better mindset so they’re ready to learn.

Beehive also introduced more free programs and clubs so students can experience learning in other opportunities.

“It makes a huge difference for those kids because it supports and enriches their learning, and it helps students become more well-rounded. It's engaging students very meaningfully, providing not only academic engagement, but also learning to be part of a team, experience working relationships, develop friendship, and those positive interactions that you want with their peers,” Oguz said.

Instilling a mentality of success begins at AMES from the first day, Wilson said.

“We start talking right away about success and college; we set that bar high. We tell them ‘Everybody's going to graduate; everybody's going to have the opportunity if they want to be ready to go to post-secondary school.’ We do that. We've got a whole staff and student body who are connected to that mission. That's the challenge, whether you’re 500 students, 200 students or 2,000,” he said. “A lot of people refer to AMES students as nerds and we're OK with that because that means you're working hard. Our students aren’t afraid to stay up late and do the work that it takes to get good grades and to learn. We embrace the nerdiness of who we are; we have a whole school of 454 nerds all working together toward a common goal of success and we’ll take that.”