KSL answers questions about KSL Schools project

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Our KSL Schools research has produced all kinds of data about how Utah high schools perform. It has also raised a lot of questions among our research team and with you.

The most common question we've been asked: Why not include charter schools?

The answer: pragmatics. We limited the scope until we could figure out what was manageable, but we plan to expand and include charters, specialty and alternative high schools.

Next, why do schools like Highland High and West High rank near the top of Newsweek magazine's list, but they're No. 51 and No. 31, respectively, on our KSL Schools list?

Highland High's principal, Paul Schulte, gave us some insight and showed us one of the school's unique strengths. "We believe in building bridges and not walls," he said.

Schulte says they push any student willing to try to take AP classes, even those who don't pass, even those students who didn't consider themselves AP material.

"The reason I took AP classes is just because I wanted to do something more, something better," said 18-year-old Sione Inukiha'angana.

Schulte continued, "We could up our pass rate tomorrow by eliminating some students, but the research shows that if the kids get in there and take the more difficult classes, and may not even pass the AP class, when they get to college the likelihood is that they'll be less intimidated, more prepared to take the rigorous courses. They'll pass and stay in college."

In a school with 30 languages and urban challenges, their accomplishment stands out. When we analyzed schools looking at just college prep, Highland was No. 4.

Finally, do the top schools score high in everything?

No. For example, Park City is No.1 overall but No. 32 in math proficiency. Piute is No.1 in math but No. 53 in language arts proficiency. Davis is No. 1 in language arts but No. 24 in science proficiency

The numbers give parents cues on how to help their schools. "It probably makes sense to become an active member of the community, and maybe you can help the schools improve in certain areas," explained Steve Harrison, independent analyst with Bach Harrison.

We've asked every high school principal to show what makes their school unique, beyond test scores and rankings. We'll continue to show you some of those success stories Wednesday on KSL 5 News at 10.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

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Nadine Wimmer


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