OGDEN — Like any school that goes into a turnaround program, a fancy term for academic probation, James Madison Elementary in Ogden has a long road ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent effects are making the road longer.

The school was identified for turnaround and improvement in 2018, according to the Utah State Board of Education.

Performance indicators listed on James Madison’s school page in the USBE database indicate “critical needs” in “achievement” and “growth,” which is part of the USBE’s new school report card that doesn’t include traditional letter grades.

The 2019-20 school year was supposed to be the first year where the school worked toward getting out of the turnaround program. But as schools closed their doors in March and canceled the year-end exams upon which these statutes are based, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave states the option to apply for a waiver that would essentially nullify whatever happened in the 2019-20 school year regarding standardized testing.

“As statewide accountability systems rely on fair, reliable and valid assessment results, I also recognize that States that do not administer their assessments will also not be able to annually meaningfully differentiate among public schools or identify schools for support and improvement,” read part of DeVos’ letter, dated March 20.

“In other words, the schools’ exit determination will not be impacted due to waiving the summative assessment,” USBE spokesperson Mark Peterson wrote in an email to the Standard-Examiner.

Translation: James Madison likely has another year of turnaround status ahead of it, meaning a likely target of the 2022-23 school year as the time when the school will be out of the turnaround program, instead of 2021-22.

According to the USBE database, 100% of the students at James Madison are economically disadvantage and 44% are English language learners.

Ogden School District spokesperson Jer Bates said James Madison is where the district’s “Newcomers Program” is located, which is for students who are new to the United States and its public education system.

Math scores at the school fell from 15.1% proficiency in the 2017-18 school year to 8.1% in the 2018-19 school year. The district average in 2018-19 was 30% and the corresponding state average was 47%.

Science (14.4%) and English Language Arts (20.8%) were also below the district’s 2018-19 averages of 35% and 37%, respectively, and the state’s respective averages of 51% and 47%.

The science score actually rose from the 2017-18 mark of 10.9%, but language arts dipped slightly from 21.4% in 2017-18 and 23.9% the year before.

James Madison Elementary was established in 2007 when the old Central Middle School was converted to an elementary school, according to James Madison’s website.

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook at facebook.com/patrickcarr17/.

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