Barbara Christiansen DAILY HERALD
Utah Valley districts on track with state average in SAGE testing
Property values may have just increased in Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills. At least for parents of school-age children.
Lone Peak High School, which serves those three communities, had the highest scores of all high schools in Utah County for the three categories of language arts, mathematics and science in the recently released Student Assessment for Growth and Excellence (SAGE) testing.
The school had a 59 percent rating for student proficiency in language arts. That compares to the statewide average of 40 percent. In mathematics, Lone Peak had 51 percent of its students proficient, compared to 24 percent across the state. For science, the school had a 62 percent proficiency rating, compared to 39 percent statewide.
“We are so excited, and I am so proud of our students and staff,” Lone Peak principal Rhonda Bromley said. “We are definitely celebrating.”
She said there were three components to the success.
“Our teachers met for several days in summer collaboration where they met in teams,” she said. “They go over the students and come up with curriculum. That goes into the Monday collaborations in which they talk about the curriculum and how they are going to teach it. We have wonderful teachers, an amazing faculty and staff that are focused on student learning.
“The second part is the students that scored so well. We have students that are very diligent when it comes to the learning process. There is a standard of excellence. I am really proud of them. They are so diligent about that.
“We also have very supportive parents. We work in partnership with our parents. The credit needs to be given to the faculty, students and parents. We look at it as a partnership.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Payson High School ranked lowest in Utah County in all three categories with 24 percent proficiency in language arts, tied with Provo High School at 20 percent in mathematics, and 24 percent proficiency in science.
Seth Sorensen, the curriculum assessment specialist for Nebo School District, which includes Payson, said several factors could have impacted the results for the school.
“They do have a very highly mobile population of students,” he said. “They are not here for the full school year. It absolutely impacts a student’s test scores.
“There are a lot of rental units and migrant families. A lot of these students come in and may be non-English speakers. Schools are trying to get them proficient in English itself.”
Another Nebo school, Maple Mountain High School, was near the top in the county in language arts. Maple Mountain covers Mapleton and portions of Springville and Spanish Fork. Its ranking was 56 percent proficiency.
“I think there are a few factors that contribute to their scores,” Sorensen said. “It is just kind of the perfect combination of things. They have pretty good socioeconomics. Typically, they get a little more home support. That is typically one of the trends.
“Every Wednesday in our district we have collaboration time. Teachers get together and look at every student’s data and the data from other schools and other teachers.”
Overall, scores in mathematics across the state and in Utah County were lower than those in the other areas. Sorensen said part of the reason for that was implementing a new curriculum.
“It moved concepts around for teachers,” he said. “The new core has rearranged things, moved things into a single unit. It is taking a little bit longer to learn how to wrap their minds around it. Now we are asking them to do things with linear equations.”
He said personnel would address the issues.
“We are working on some of those basic things,” he said. “We are actually doing some performance-type assessments. We have seen some of our lower-performing schools moving up. We are doing things with secondary schools now. It is a kind of different model.”
In that new system, the teaching focuses more on understanding than memorization.
“Rather than hoping you will remember it down the road, they will also be able to teach some problem-solving,” Sorensen said.
Another problem the teachers and schools face is students who convince themselves they are not good at certain subjects.
“We are trying to get students over the idea that they can’t do math,” he said. “We want them to be confident and comfortable with math and number systems.”
Despite the numbers from the SAGE test, Nebo officials are optimistic.
“That is really just one line of events,” Sorensen said. “We look at items like the graduation rates, ACT scores and students reading on grade level. By looking at all those multiple pieces it gives us a pretty good idea how they are doing.”
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