Niche ranks PCSD as Best District in Utah

Niche  just released its 2020 Best Schools in America rankings and grades, and Park City School District ranks as the “Best School District in Utah.”

Rankings and grades are calculated using a series of steps to ensure statistical rigor and useful guidance in the school choice experience.  Niche analyzes dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards, and profiles for every K-12 school, college, and neighborhood in the U.S.

District Doubles GED Completions Now That it is a Proctor

Park City School District’s Adult Education program has doubled the number of students taking and earning their GED now that it can proctor the test.

“It’s so much more convenient for our students to take the test in the same location they are taking the GED classes,” said Alison Taylor who oversees the Community Education’s adult education program. Taylor is a proctor for the test thanks to a grant from the Utah Board of Education.

During 2018-19, five students earned their GED in English, five completed their GED in Spanish, four earned their high school diplomas, and five inmates at the Summit County Jail passed the GED.

Traditionally, the GED program has not been offered during the summer months but this year is different. There are 30 adults spending the summer working on earning their GEDs, including 12 in Spanish.

GED classes are held at the Park City Learning Academy and students who are age 18 or older qualify. Classes are held Tuesday and Thursday nights and cost of the program is $40.

For more information about this program, contact Taylor at 435-615-0209, ataylor@pcschools.us.

District Wins National Public Relations Award for Newsroom

The Park City School District Newsroom has been recognized by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) with the Golden Achievement Award in the category of publications and digital media.

The Newsroom was created in 2017 by Communications Director Melinda Colton for a way to keep the community engaged in the news of the district and its schools.

“Our Newsroom is a way to continually reassure our parents and community about our high achieving schools and the great things that are happening in our classrooms every day,” said Colton. “No one can tell our story as well as we can.”

The Newsroom was recognized by NSPRA for outstanding achievement in the four steps of a public relations program: analysis of the need, planning to meet the need, executive and communication of the program, and formal evaluation.

The Newsroom contains weekly posts, district honors, emergency communications for parents, an archive of news stories, and master planning updates. To date, more than 150 posts have been published in the Newsroom. Subscribers receive an email every time a new post is written.

According to Colton, some of the benefits of the Newsroom include the following: acts as a useful archive of important events/honors, serves as a critical communications tool during emergency situations, and promotes the district mission and vision.

The Newsroom can be found directly at newsroom.pcschools.us, or through a “News” link on the homepage of the district’s website. Colton invites parents, community members, and employees to subscribe to the Newsroom.

NSPRA, founded in 1935, provides school communication training and services to school leaders throughout the United States, Canada, and the U.S. Dependent Schools worldwide.

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.