K-12 EDUCATION

Board of Education ‘report card’ shows increased English and science scores, decreases in math

Oct 31, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2023, 8:26 am

The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City. The Utah School Report Card shows mor...

FILE: The Utah State Board of Education building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — More than two-thirds of high schoolers in Utah aren’t considered proficient in math up to their grade level.

Accountability Specialist with the State Board, Ann-Michelle Neal, said these results are normal.

“We are still seeing gradual improvements, probably not at the rate we’d like to see,” Neal said. “But compared to other states, I think these kinds of trends are quite normal.”

That’s according to the latest Utah School Report Card, issued each year by the Utah State Board of Education. The board uses Utah Aspire Plus scores to compile the report card for 9th and 10th graders.

According to the State Board of Education, the Aspire Plus test is a hybrid between the ACT Aspire test and Utah’s previous assessment questions. It evaluates what skills students have in English, reading, math and science

One of the ways the report card measures student performance is through “achievement.” Achievement shows the percentage of students who show mastery in a particular subject according to their grade standards.

The numbers from the 2022-2023 school year show that 9th- and 10th-grade students were slightly more proficient in science and that over 45% of them demonstrated mastery in language arts. There was a slight decrease in math proficiency with only 30% of students demonstrating mastery.

How the largest school districts are doing

The three largest districts in Utah are Alpine, Davis and Granite. Alpine and Davis scored just above average in English language arts, math and science. Granite scored about 10% lower than average in each category.

Neal said scores are still reflecting some setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going back to COVID-19, we’re still having, at a national level, a lasting impact [from] those years,” she said. “We did a very comprehensive study during the pandemic, we looked at schools that were resilient through that. The types of things we’re looking for at the state level is upward movement, those schools that seem to defy the trends.”

Measuring students’ growth with the report card

Another way the school board measures student performance is through growth

“Achievements measures student performance on a single test on one day at one point in time,” Neal said. “Whereas a school may be still recovering from COVID, facing many challenges and have what appears to be low achievement but very high growth.”

So what exactly is this growth that they’re looking at?

It’s an individualized target. The measurement compares each child’s scores to other students from across the state and then follows those scores over multiple years.

This year’s scores in growth for math and science were “average,” and they were “low” for language arts across the state.

Some of the high points for Utah are standardized testing and graduation rates. Neal said the average ACT score in Utah was 18 for the 2022-2023 school year, whereas the average graduation rate was 88%. 

In the 2021-2022 school year, the average ACT score and average graduation rate were nearly the same.

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Board of Education ‘report card’ shows increased English and science scores, decreases in math