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KSL/DesNews analysis: Disparity among elementary schools

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Jul. 7, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Recently, KSL and Deseret News ranked schools by test scores, and many parents and principals asked us to include demographics so they could compare "like" schools.

KSL/DesNews did just that, and found that some schools clearly do a better job at teaching reading and math.

"I think it's very important that they perform above average," said parent Stephani Brown. "I feel they're doing a very good job actually."

In fact, her student's school, Bell View elementary scores in the bottom 15th percentile.

KSL/DesNews gathered test scores and demographics for all of Utah's 600 elementaries from 2009-2010 (the most recent data available), and then had the data analyzed by Deseret Digital Media. Based on this analysis, it is possible to see that there are many schools just "blocks away, but worlds apart" in term of test scores.

For instance, Bell View ranks in the bottom 15th-percentile. Nearby, a school with almost identical demographics, Edgemont scores in the top 60th percentile.

The data factored in poverty, minority students and students with limited English, so schools that face tougher challenges could be compared across the board.

For example, below are three schools with roughly 40th-percent low income students.

  • Wilson in Logan ranks in the 95th percentile.
  • Meadowbrook in Bountiful ranks in the 50th percentile.
  • Midvalley in Midvale ranks in the 17th percentile.

The data show what kind of disparity exists between schools just blocks away:

  • Bennion (400 S 800 E)- 91 percent low income, 50 percent limited English
  • Uinta (1500 E 1300 S) - 9% low income, 3% limited English

However, there are also schools that stand out amid challenges.

Mcpolin in Park City with nearly half of students low income and minorities Performs on par with schools like Crestview Elementary in Holladay and Indian Hills in Salt lake with far lower numbers.

  • Mcpolin with 75 percentile, 46 % low income
  • Crestview with 75 percentile, 18% low income
  • Indian Hills with 75 percentile, 17% low income

These data beg the question: What is a school like Monroe Elementary doing to rank in the 45th percentile when just down the street, Woodrow Wilson ranks in about the 12th percentile?

"We sit down with all of our 3rd, 4th, 5th grade students before tests and set goals for them," said Principal Joann Crawley.

Students are then accountable for their performance. Of 740 students, 136 of them achieved their goals.

Also, 94 percent of Crawley's staff were certified for non-English speaking students, and meet weekly to collaborate.

"As teachers we go to a lot of different trainings and we're really dedicated to these students and we have some really strong relationships with them and we really want the to do better" said Kimberlee Bonham, who teaches 6th grade.

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Nadine Wimmer

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