District Moving Forward to Prepare Future Ready Students

“The most dangerous experiment we can conduct with our children is to keep schooling them the same at a time when every other aspect of our society is dramatically changing,” says Professor Christopher Dede of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“We cannot maintain the status quo when it comes to preparing our students for the world ahead,” says Superintendent Jill Gildea. “Our educators know the critical need of always finding better ways to teach and assess.”

Academic excellence is one of the strategic pillars of Park City School District which is to “develop the potential of every student through data-driven and best learning practices to be academically successful and prepared for life beyond graduation…”      

Park City High is currently ranked 28th in Utah and 3,381 in the national by US News & World. “This is not the best result we can achieve in this community. If our target is to be ranked in the top 1,000, we need an aligned system (including curriculum, instruction, and assessment) which requires intentional and purposeful change.”

The change had its beginning at Ecker Hill Middle School. During the 2005-06 school year, EHMS teachers attended a conference where standards-based grading was discussed. Teachers had been looking for ways to better report student learning and immediately began working on reporting systems in individual classrooms to better reflect student learning.

“Grading belongs at the classroom level, as does professional development, and school-based decisions,” says Dr. Gildea. “At the district level we help ensure that assessment and reporting practices are being reviewed and are responsive to the needs of students.”

As a school, EHMS began the work of unpacking and prioritizing standards through curriculum mapping. Many teachers began to see success as they started to implement standards-based grading. “Our educators are professionals and I’m incredibly proud of them for wanting to move forward with this way of assessing students and reporting progress along a continuum of learning,” says the Superintendent.

Standards-based assessment is not about students competing against one another, according to Dr. Gildea. “It is about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for next generation access to life, career, and college ready outcomes.”

When schools adopt a standards-based mindset it requires a cultural shift. This is not a new system of grading. It has been around since 1983. Dr. Gildea’s previous district has been using standards-based assessment for more than 20 years.

National education consultant Kevin O’Connor says parents have a hard time making this shift. “Standards-based grades are not what parents know so it changes the conversation to an emphasis on words about strengths and weaknesses, not single symbols per subject that have little meaning.”

While some parents may have frustrations about moving to a new reporting system, Dr. Gildea continues to receive positive feedback from teachers, parents and students about this shift and how much it assists teachers in personalizing instruction and learning for all students.

The successes seen in the early stages at EHMS, prompted other schools in the district to begin looking at standards-based assessments. School administrators, instructional leaders, and teachers have had and continue to have external and internal development work. This professional development has originated in a school-based manner with the district providing external experts such as Bob Marzano Associates, Tom Guskey’s team, and Tim Brown of Solution Tree.

Teachers, principals and parents have donated their time, suggestions, learning, ideas, and input in order to fully develop an implementation timeline for all schools. This summer elementary teachers will continue their work aligning mathematics standards, while secondary teachers will continue working on refining the proficiency scales and vertical articulation of learning targets. Ongoing professional learning will also be available through the Digital Teaching and Learning Grant the district was award earlier this year.

This fall, internal and external experts will host  parent forums on college admissions as well as the shift toward a competency-based approach. In August, the district’s Back-to-School Convocation will focus on “Learning Transformed.”

Dr. Gildea anticipates the implementation in schools will continue through 2021-22 with junior high and high school retaining both letter grades and GPA. “We remain committed to defining a system that measures actual student learning, provides meaningful feedback to students and their families on their academic progress, and motivates students to achieve and persevere.”

For more information about standards-based learning and assessment visit the district’s Teaching & Learning homepage here.

Park City High to Graduate Class of 2019 on May 31

Some 366 Park City High School seniors will comprise the Class of 2019 as it graduates Friday, May 31, at 5 p.m. at Dozier Field.

Park City High has graduates planning to attend every college and university in Utah, as well as out-of-state universities such as: Auburn, Baylor, Cal Poly, Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Villanova, and Washington & Lee. The Class of 2019 has received more than $13.5 million in scholarships.

Some graduates say they will be taking a gap year to travel the world, serve missions for their church, or enlist in the military.

The Class of 2019 has achieved numerous accolades:

– National Scholar finalists

– Sterling Scholars

– National Speech & Debate Association Academic All-Americans

– A national Edison Universe innovation award winner

– State winner of the Utah Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute’s High School Entrepreneur Challenge; five of the top 20 finalist innovation projects were from Park City High.

– Numerous honors for performing and art students, robotics club, Girls in Tech, and Future Business Leaders of America.

– Athletic honors include a host of regional and state championships, including the boys golf team winning its 11th consecutive state title, the football team playing in the state semifinals for the first time in nine years, the Girls Cross Country team named Interscholastic UIAAA 4A Academic State Champions for its 3.95 GPA.

The gates to Dozier Field open at 4 p.m., no seats are allowed to be reserved prior to this time, and the community is reminded that graduation will also be live streamed at https://www.youtube.com/c/PCHSLive/live.

In the event of severe inclement weather, graduation ceremonies will be moved to the Eccles Center. Graduates will each be issued three tickets, with overflow seating in Gymnasiums to watch the live stream.

Those attending are encouraged to allow extra time for parking. Overflow parking is also available at McPolin Elementary, Treasure Mountain Junior High, Park City Academy, and the District Office.

PCHS Senior Wins Grand Prize at Edison Universe

Nicholas Markels

Nicholas Markels, a senior at Park City High, has been award Grand Prize at Edison Universe for his Spörknife design. Only two projects nationwide were awarded the Grand Prize in the Edison Universe Student Innovation Contest. His project demonstrates “a desire to make a significant and lasting contribution to the world through innovation which embodies the spirit of Thomas Edison.”

Markels’ solution is a multi-use utensil made out of biodegradable plastic that contains a spoon, fork, knife, and a disposable straw in a single assembly. “I made a utensil that uses a new manufacturing design to lower cost. Spörknife is made as a single unit that splits for use, similar to chopsticks,” he said.

The student entries were judged by a panel made up of Edison Universe executives and CAPS administrators/staff. This year, the judges were impressed by the level of research, commitment, and passion that many of the entries demonstrated. The two Grand Prize winners will receive an adventure travel voucher to either Costa Rica or Peru.

“Nick used so many of the skills he learned in my PCCAPS Engineering and CAD Mechanical Design classes to succeed in this national competition,” said Chris Humbert, CTE and PCCAPS teacher. “He formulated his design, 3D modeled it, iterated and refined that design, and finally communicated his creation, the Spörknife. These skills are all taught in CTE classes and used in ‘the real world.'”

Markels also won a $1,000 Lassonde Studios Scholarship in March from the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute for his Spörknife.

Markels will be attending the University of Portland this fall majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation management.

District Curriculum Specialist Receives PC READS Literacy Award

Julie Hastings
Julie Hastings

Julie Hastings, Park City School District elementary curriculum specialist, was honored with the PC READS Elevating Literacy Award Friday, May 3.

Park City READS is a local nonprofit advocating for recognition and education of dyslexic students that promotes literacy through early identification of struggling readers, effective reading interventions and appropriate classroom accommodations.

Many will know Hastings from McPolin Elementary where she taught first and fourth grades, was the media specialist, and later the instructional coach. She has elementary school in Colorado, and Idaho.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2019 Elevating Literacy Award from PC READS. The kindergarten, first, second, and third grade teachers, interventionists, and elementary principals in Park City School District continue to prove their dedication towards improving early literacy efforts for all students,” Hastings said. “PC READS, The Hall Family Fund, and the Park City Education Foundation have supported our district with making this lasting impact.” 

She has a sociology degree and elementary education certificate, as well as an administrative degree and a master’s in educational leadership.

Hastings is passionate about leading communication and visioning efforts with the community concerning the importance of literacy and identifying struggling readers. Earning training certificates in multi-sensory education from Orton Gillingham and Wilson language have increased her desire for bringing evidence-based instruction to every classroom.

She developed and leads an early literacy initiative across all elementary schools in the district and has focused on bringing reading research to the forefront of decision-making. She wrote a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Literacy Guidebook for Park City School District, designed to help teachers identify why students may struggle to read and how to provide effective and targeted instruction to ensure growth and learning. The core of her work is about creating and implementing systems and providing teachers the training necessary to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence necessary to do the hard work of teaching all students to read.

PCSD to Offer ‘Summer at School’ Programs Again

For students who may want to take a break from school but not from learning, Park City School District is once again offering its Summer at School programs.

Parents can register online here. The district program is taught for experienced, licensed teachers.

Elementary Summer at School, offered for students currently in grades K-4, is set for June 17–July 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, at McPolin Elementary. The summer program is $100 and includes transportation, breakfast and lunch, and project-based learning with academic reinforced math, reading, science STEM and a host of other enrichment activities.

Secondary Summer at School is for current 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students in Park City School District. This program is set for June 17-July 11, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday at Treasure Mountain Junior High. Summer at School focuses on four themes: Flight, Space, Architecture/Engineering, and Survival.  Academic focuses will include STEM, writing, and math along with current events, building problem-solving skills, cooperative learning skills, and perseverance. Some of the enrichment activities will include hiking, music, paddle boarding, escape room, drones, art, swimming, rockets, service projects, bowling, and so much more. Cost is $100 and includes transportation, and breakfast and lunch.  

The Facts About Standards-Based Learning

The following is a guest editorial written by Park City School District that was published in the Park Record March 6, 2019.

As Park City School District transforms our schools to meet the needs of the future, it is critical we examine the ways we prepare and engage students. Our mission is to inspire and support all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential.

Standards based logo

How do we know if students are reaching their academic potential? Grades should reflect student proficiency in relation to a specific standard. Standards-based learning (SBL), which has been around since 1983, encourages students to take ownership of their learning. It empowers them to improve understanding of a concept and advocate for multiple ways in which they can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

SBL is a method of providing feedback that separates academic achievement from habits, efforts, and behaviors. It is a more accurate reflection of what a student actually knows and can do. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of SBL is that it encourages students to view learning as an ongoing process that doesn’t end after an assessment.

We hope the following information illustrates our student-centered vision and why we believe SBL will help our students feels supported, engaged, and challenged.

Three years ago teachers at Ecker Hill Middle School realized that its reporting system needed to be an accurate method that recognized students’ accomplishments and specific needs. Through school visits, research, and professional development, the educators realized SBL was the best way to go to assist students in their growth and achievement. Now three years later, Ecker Hill Middle has piloted the system and fully implemented this school year.  The students now receive a composite score of 1, 2, 3 or 4 in each subject which is calculated by averaging the proficiency score for each standard in each subject. A “3” means a student is proficient in that subject.

Because SBL was teacher driven at a local school, there has not been district-level coordination until this school year when we realized all our schools were interested in using a consistent system. This year we created two district task forces to assist with educating parents about SBL. Since the remaining schools will not fully implement SBL until 2022, we are in the beginning stages of educating  parents districtwide about SBL and its value to students.

To date, more than half of Treasure Mountain Junior High teachers are using SBL scales to assess learning and the school plans to fully implement SBL by August 2020. Individual teachers and departments at Park City High have started to use SBL scales. Secondary students will continue to earn a traditional letter grade in a course, and the high school transcript will look the same as it has in the past. The course letter grade will be determined according to a proficiency-based grading scale. Our elementary schools are exploring the use of SBL, developing scales, and some teachers are beginning to assess mastery of standards separately from behavior and work habits.

Ultimately, students are the ones who will benefit the most from SBL. The key tenant of SBL is understanding where each student is on the road to mastery, not just at the end of the year, but constantly throughout the year.

Parents, if you have questions we invite you to meet with your teachers and/or principal to have your questions answered.  More resources and research about SBL is available on our Teaching & Learning website.

PCSD Selected for Utah’s First Cohort in Personalized, Digital Learning

Park City School District has been selected to participate in the state’s first cohort for Leadership in Personalized and Digital Learning (LPDL).

The cohort offers a team of district leaders an opportunity for job-embedded professional learning to prepare the LEA for personalized learning. District leaders will participate in the program that features face-to-face opportunities to work with trained facilitators and other state leaders from the Utah Education Network and the Utah State Board of Education.

“This is a perfect fit for our district,” said Traci Evans, interim Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. “It is exciting to be on the forefront of personalized, computer-based education.

Nine districts and three charter schools are part of the first cohort. The first meeting is Jan. 14 in Salt Lake City.

The purpose of the cohort is to build a deeper understanding of personalized learning, to assist participating districts in creating their Digital Teaching and Learning Plan, and to learn about new collection tools to drive decisions for personalized learning.

District Adds Propane School Buses to its Fleet

Park City School District is celebrating the holidays early this year with the delivery of two new propane school buses.

Rich Eddington, Director of Transportation, said alternative fuel is now a reality in the school district. “We are starting with only two buses to see how propane handles in the snow and cold weather.”

Propane buses are more economical to purchases, $125,000 per propane bus versus $159,000 for a diesel bus. “About 10 percent of buses sold nationwide are now propane,” Eddington said. “Propane is the best alternative fuel for our district.”

The district is in the process of installing its own tank at the Transportation Department. Propane gas averages $1.41 per gallon, much less expensive than diesel. “We want to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and the environment,” he said.

Propane buses are quieter, start in 50 below zero temperatures, heat the cabin quicker, and are one of the industry’s most popular because of their lower cost and safety features, according to Eddington.

Buses 32 and 33 are currently assigned to routes that transport students to Trailside Elementary, Ecker Middle, and Treasure Mountain / Park City High Schools.

The district is in the process of upgrading and updating its bus fleet, and is applying for state and federal grants to help offset the costs for new alternative fuel buses.

PCHS junior selected for inaugural statewide Student Advisory Council

Daniel Bernhardt

Daniel Bernhardt, a junior at Park City High School, is one of 15 students appointed by the Utah State Board of Education’s inaugural Student Advisory Council.

“The students will advise the USBE on issues relevant to high school students throughout the state,” according to a press release from the USBE. “They were selected following an application period this fall after the USBE approved a new policy establishing the council.”

Students appointed to the council represent both traditional and charter  schools. They will be advising the board of student issues such as: mental health and bullying, racism and discrimination, access to STEM and technology, homelessness, LGBTQ challenges, students with disabilities, college readiness, and school funding.

The SAC will meet at least every other month to discuss how decisions made at the state level affect students.

District Introduces Community to ‘The Future of Learning’ Process

Park City School District successfully launched its education master planning process, The Future of Learning, this week by seeking feedback early in the process from the community.

Monday, Oct. 29, the district held a Community Engagement Open House, with nearly 100 members of the community participating in the two sessions. “We were thrilled to see students, parents, teachers, and community members attend the open house,” said Superintendent Jill Gildea. “It allowed us the opportunity to seek ideas and input as we begin this process.”

Those attending were asked what they believe the single most important outcome of the process should be. Some responses included an environment that support the whole child, incorporating critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communications, cultural proficiency, and mastery-based proficiency, and having programs in place that will focus on careers in the world ahead.

“This process is focused on how the community anticipates teaching and learning to look in the coming years,” said Superintendent Gildea. “This is not about buildings but rather how education should drive the needs for our facilities.”

Tuesday, Oct. 30, the district held an all-day “The Future of Learning Summit” and invited 75 students, parents, teachers, principals, and business leaders to discuss the community’s vision for the education. “It was a rare opportunity to really discuss what our students will need in the future to be successful learners,” Superintendent Gildea said.

Some of the major themes that evolved from the summit included: student-centered learning as a top priority, building relationships and trust, having meaningful engagements, providing positive, health and safe learning environments that are flexible and adaptable, and being committed to an inclusive community.

The information gleaned from the summit will be shared with the Steering Committee at its next meeting on Nov. 6 in an effort to develop guiding principles for learning.

Superintendent Gildea encourages the public to stay involved throughout the yearlong process. A devoted website on The Future of Learning can be found at pcfutureoflearning.com. The community is asked to click on the “Get Involved” tab and let the district know what are the top three skills a Park City High graduate should have?”