Polk Elementary celebrates state-assigned 'A' grade for the 2nd year

Wednesday , September 27, 2017 - 5:15 AM4 comments

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The students of Polk Elementary School were greeted by balloons, fresh popcorn and an ensemble of teachers waving pompoms and wearing sparkly hats Tuesday, Sept. 26.

“Polk School is the best school!” sixth grade teacher Cindy Cunningham sang, running over to high-five one of her incoming students. 

The staff and students were celebrating the news they had earned an “A” letter grade for their student test scores from 2016-17 from the Utah State Board of Education. Of the entire Ogden School District and adjacent Weber School District, Polk Elementary was the only school to earn an A.

The school celebrated with circus decorations and the theme of “come one, come all to the best school of all.” District officials presented the school with a plaque and entertainer Paul Brewer performed magic tricks for the kids. The day’s events concluded with a real “candy cannon.”

“Ultimately it’s the passion and drive of both the teachers, the parents and mostly our administrator,” Cunningham said. “Maridee Harrison expects nothing less than the best out of everybody and that’s what she gets.” 

RELATED: Northern Utah school grades come in lower overall compared to previous year

The school grades are calculated using proficiency scores and improvement on the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills tests.

Harrison, the school’s principal, said her teachers are committed and collaborative. To inspire their students, teachers use data binders and set measurable goals.

“That lets them see their success in small measurements which build up so they have a belief in themselves,” Harrison said. “Their teachers celebrate their successes with them and then they make a new goal and watch themselves achieve all year so when we get to SAGE, they’ve already done it.”

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This is the second year in a row the school has earned an “A” and Polk’s grade has continually climbed since 2013-14 when the school earned a “C.”

The school grades, released online Monday, Sept. 24, show in 2016-17 Polk had a 62 percent proficiency rate in SAGE language arts, 53 percent in math and 65 percent in science. All of those SAGE scores were higher than the state and district average.

The school received a 87 percent DIBELS proficiency score in 2015 and a 76 percent proficiency score in 2016, both of which were higher than the state average at the time. In 2017, the sample size was too small to render a score.

District Director of Student Achievement Adam McMickell said Polk’s comparatively small enrollment of about 300 students was not a factor.

“It’s not because of their size that they’re now an ‘A,’ it’s the work of the principal and teachers and what they did in the classroom on a daily basis,” he said.

Polk’s scores, according to a district news release, put Polk in the top three percent of schools in the entire state of Utah.

Tricia Taylor, the parent of a sixth grade student at Polk, said the good grade is nice but the caring staff and community feel of the school are more important.

“If anybody could do it again, it’s this staff,” she said. “It’s the most talented staff and administrators I’ve ever seen at any school.”

Of Polk’s about 300 students last year, 57 percent were in the low socioeconomic category according to the school’s PACE Report card. A total of 40 percent were a racial or ethnic minority, 13 percent were English learners, 10 percent were students with disability and 18 percent were chronically absent.

According to data provided by Harrison from the USBE website comparing Polk with 20 other schools in Utah with similar demographics, Polk was ranked highest in science proficiency, second-highest in language arts proficiency and third highest in math.

Compared to those same 20 schools, Polk saw the most improvement in science and language arts and came in second for improvement in math. 

“We have the best faculty, staff and students,” Harrison said.

Polk is one of the schools the district has selected to be rebuilt and then consolidated with Taylor Canyon Elementary School if voters pass a $106.5 million bond in November.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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