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Thursday, 01 May 2014 00:00

May Superintendency Message

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Recently, I was invited to teach a poetry lesson in Mrs. Oliva's 4th grade class at Lakeview Elementary. One poem that we read and discussed was titled, "On the Other Side of the Door." This poem describes the endless possibilities for students when they enter a classroom led by a caring, dedicated teacher. One student, Kayla, talked about her teacher, Mrs. Oliva, and how much she loved her. Kayla later wrote to me, "I feel like I can do anything with my teacher's help if I work hard for it." I would like to thank every employee within the Weber School District for your hard work and dedication this school year. Just as Kayla so beautifully expressed, great teachers empower students to attain remarkable performance levels!

I recognize that today's political climate often demands that we do more and more—usually with less and less. And, I'm proud to say that, while we will always have room for improvement, we are meeting the challenge. That fact is reflected in a review of data. For example, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Utah scores in 8th grade reading rose from 267 in 2011 to 270 in 2013. Nationally, scores rose from 264 to 266 during the same time period. Among racial and ethnic groups in Utah for whom scores were reported, white student scores went from 272 to 274 between 2011 and 2013 while Hispanic student scores went from 247 to 256. Students eligible for free or reduced lunch saw their scores increase from 254 to 260. These larger gains by students in various ethnic groups demonstrate a closing of the achievement gap. I love to point to the 8th grade achievement because success there reflects great work by every teacher all the way back to kindergarten!

Utah's public students achieved an educational equivalent of the "Triple Crown" in Advanced Placement (AP) results by increasing overall participation in AP exams by more than 8 percent, increasing minority participation in those same exams between 11 and 23 percent, and increasing the overall success rate on the exams by more than 7 percent. A total of 20,638 Utah public school students took 33,217 AP exams during the 2012-13 school year with 22,398 of those exams earning a passing score—which translates into college credit. This represents an increase of 8.4 percent students taking exams, an 8.7 percent increase in number of exams taken, and a 7.1 percent increase in exams with passing scores, according to the College Board. Utah minority student population also increased its participation rates—American Indian participation increased 21.1 percent, Black participation increased 22.5 percent, and Hispanic participation increased 23.3 percent. Normally, one would think that with a significant increase in participation rates, the success rate on the exam would decrease; however, as noted earlier, the Utah success rate on the AP exams increased by more than 7 percent.

Utah's high school graduation rate rose 3 percent in 2013 to 81 percent. Using the new four-year calculations, Utah's high school graduation rate has risen from 69 percent in 2008 to its current level of 81 percent—an increase of 12 percent in five years. At the same time, Utah's dropout rate has declined from 29 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2013. As in most categories, Weber School District's data is even better than the state average. The same is true in graduation rates. Weber School District's graduation rate increased by 4.55 percent from 2012 to 2013 and now stands at 82%.

None of this happens without the untiring efforts of more than 3,000 committed and highly professional teachers and staff members working together for the best interest of young people! I thank each of you as you inspire students to achieve great things as they enter your classroom and give their very best. You're true professionals and it is a privilege to work with you. With Highest Regards,

Jeff Stephens

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