Many local schools struggle with school grades
School grades have been issued, and for the second year in a row, schools in the San Juan School District did not do as well as hoped.
Just one school, Monticello Elementary School, earned an A grade in the second year of a controversial grading program developed by the Utah State legislature.
Two schools earned B grades, including Blanding Elementary School and Monticello High School, while three more schools earned a C grade, including Montezuma Creek Elementary School, ARL Middle School and San Juan High School.
Schools earning a failing grade are Bluff and Tse’bii’nidzisgai elementary schools and Whitehorse and Monument Valley high schools.
Two schools did not have enough students to earn a grade. They are La Sal Elementary School and Navajo Mountain High School.
The program was developed by legislators eager to give a quick and concise grade to how individual schools are doing. Opponents say that the grading program overly simplifies the very complex process of educating students.
While local officials admit that there are significant challenges related to educating the diverse students in the San Juan School District, they also stress that good things are happening in the local schools.
The program administers tests to each of the nearly 3,000 students in the local school district. The tests are then graded to determine the percentage of students who earned a score that determines if they are “competent” in the subject.
Statewide, 44 percent of students are declared “competent” in language arts tests. In the San Juan School District, just 23 percent of the students scored in the “competent” range.
Similarly, the 45 percent of statewide students who are competent in mathematics compares to 27 percent of students in the San Juan School District.
The testing and grading program is in its second year, which gives schools a chance to measure growth. A significant increase in growth was found at Montezuma Creek, Monticello and Blanding elementary schools. There was a significant drop in scores at Bluff Elementary School.
In other business at the September 22 meeting of the San Juan School Board, the results of ACT testing of last year’s senior class were released.
The ACT scores of each of the 220 seniors were analyzed. They show that 20 percent of the seniors were college-ready according to the ACT standards. About eight percent of the students tested college-ready in all four of the testing areas.
The ACT test has generally been administered to students who are planning to move ahead for a college education. Several years ago, the State of Utah began testing all high school seniors, not just the college-bound students.
Extra curricular programs were discussed at several schools, including the baseball program at Monticello High School and a possible soccer program at San Juan High School. In addition, there was discussion of a new “no-cut” policy for teams at ARL Middle School. There are half-a-dozen volleyball teams at the middle school.
The school board also discussed capital projects, including the plan to build a new elementary school in Bluff. In early 2015, the board secured land on the western edge of Bluff for a possible school. The analysis of the property is still in progress, but preliminary estimates are that there are as many as five possible archaeology sites, including one possible burial ground on the edge of the property.
Additional work is being completed to determine the issues involved in the project.
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