By now, each school has received their 2015 SAGE results and had opportunities to carefully analyze the data. Out of 27 grades and subjects tested, Weber School District experienced growth in 24. District-wide, English Language Arts proficiency (grades 3 - 11) raised by 2%, Math (grades 3 - 11) by 5% and Science (grades 4 - 11/12) by 3%. Especially notable was the growth in high school mathematics performance from 2014 to 2015. Proficiency levels in Secondary Math I raised 15 percentage points and those in Secondary Math III raised by a commendable 25 percentage points.
We're proud of that steady growth in student achievement and believe it is powered by our three primary drivers:
- Provide all students with a rich, comprehensive learning experience that meets the needs of the whole child;
- Empower and build capacity among teachers, counselors and administrators through highly effective professional learning and growth so they are able to more successfully impact student achievement; and,
- Ensure that all students have equal learning opportunities to achieve their full potential in schools where they are engaged, challenged and supported.
That broad, comprehensive learning experience can be illustrated by the following secondary school results:
- Advanced Placement Participation - Increased from 936 students in 2014 to 1193 students in 2015.
- Advanced Placement Tests Passed - Increased from 883 in 2014 to 1046 in 2015.
- Concurrent Enrollment Courses Taken - Increased from 2049 in 2014 to 2374 in 2015.
- District-wide ACT Composite Score - Increased from 19.0 in 2014 to 19.3 in 2015 (with increases in all four categories tested).
- High School Graduation Rates - Increased from 77% in 2012 to 80% by 2014.
Our whole child focus is supported by such elementary programs as:
- Four Dual-Immersion Elementary Schools.
- Five Beverly Taylor Sorenson Fine Arts Schools.
- Five STEM Elementary Schools.
- P.E. Specialists in all 28 elementary schools.
We're proud of the many excellent opportunities provided for young people throughout our district. Further, we're convinced that Weber's whole child approach is the right thing to do for young people. With that said, we also recognize that we operate in a testing and accountability environment where our success is frequently judged by student performance on assessments. While our student achievement increased on SAGE tests this past year, Weber School District still lags behind the state average. Additionally, our graduation rate is slightly below the state average. We acknowledge that we have room for continued progress in these areas.
Our great challenge is to sustain a whole child philosophy while demonstrating a greater awareness of the external expectations associated with the testing and accountability model. Across the country, some schools and districts have attained higher test scores at the expense of a full, rich and comprehensive learning experience for children. We're committed NOT to do that! Developing the organizational capacity to maintain the whole child experience and demonstrating a heightened awareness of the external expectations associated with the testing and accountability model is what I call THE WEBER WAY.
To achieve our goal, I would like each teacher to consider the following suggestions:
- Develop a renewed focus on teaching the Utah Core Standards;
- Allow all students to participate in interim SAGE assessments to familiarize them with testing formats and reduce testing anxiety; and,
- Take advantage of more instructional time to teach for deep understanding (depth of knowledge) by spiraling the curriculum rather than extensive 3-5 week year-end reviews.
Teachers, as you meet together in PLCs, I invite you to talk about how you might incorporate one or two of these proposals into your classroom instruction. I believe that wise and thoughtful teachers can implement these suggestions without sacrificing that broad, rich learning experience we want for every student. In doing so, we're meeting the needs of children, as well as the external expectations of school success. And, we're doing it THE WEBER WAY!
I express my deepest appreciation to every member of the Weber School District family. Your enormous commitment to children is exceptional! You have my highest respect and admiration.