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District sets goals for improving student learning
by By LOUISE R. SHAW
Feb 24, 2013 | 1302 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DAVIS SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT Tamara Lowe hears a bit of history after pushing a button in a living wax museum made by students at Boulton Elementary.  
Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper
DAVIS SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT Tamara Lowe hears a bit of history after pushing a button in a living wax museum made by students at Boulton Elementary. Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper
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BOUNTIFUL — Academic goals for improving student achievement in five major areas were presented to Davis School Board on Tuesday.

“‘Learning First’ is our objective,” said Logan Toone, director of research and assessment for the district, quoting the district’s motto. 

“That’s what we’re all about,” he said, “but we need to make sure we’re measuring achievement so if we’re falling short we can address it and if we’re doing good we can celebrate it.”

The five areas reviewed by Toone are literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), world languages, growth as measured by Utah’s new UCAS program, and college readiness.

Some may wonder why world languages are included in the analysis, said Bryan Bowles, district superintendent.

Universities are increasingly looking for students who have had two years of world languages, he said. The Utah Scholars Program also requires students to have a world-language component.

“In order to have success in college, in order to make connections in the world and for the wholeness of an individual,” languages are becoming more important, said Bowles. 

Literacy progress is measured in third grade, said Toone. Davis School District’s 59 elementary schools range from a high where 97 percent of students are at or above the benchmark to a low where 48 percent are at or above standard. 

While most schools remain at the same percentage from year to year, district leaders have set the goal for a 3-percent increase among schools in the lower percentiles, 2-percent increase in those in the median, and 1-percent improvement for those at the higher percentages.

Burke Larsen, a board member, expressed concern that the numbers indicate so many students are below proficiency in something as vital as reading. 

“Two percent is not an aggressive goal,” he said. “We’re leaving a lot of students not being able to succeed in life.”

 A 2-percent change, where growth numbers in the past have been stagnant, would in fact represent “unprecedented growth” for schools, said Toone.

A goal for 1- and 2-percent improvement in STEM scores for high- and low-achieving schools was also presented to the board.

While these goals are being set at the district level, Larry Smith, a board member, said it was important for school officials to figure out the “why” of scores at schools so they could figure out the “how.”

If they know why students aren’t succeeding, he said, they can know how to help them improve.

“The why and how is different from school to school,” said Tamara Lowe, board president.

“Schools must each develop their own action plans,” said Toone.

The district hopes to see  4 percent improvement in world languages for students who now have less than one credit. District leaders have set a goal of raising UCAS (Utah Comprehensive Accountability Scores) rankings by 3 points.

As for college readiness, a ranking measured by ACT scores, the district now scores second among districts in the Wasatch Front.

Their goal, said Toone, is to be first.

 

lshaw@davisclipper.com

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