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Midvale Journal

Two Midvale schools named Schools of Excellence by State Board

Mar 02, 2021 12:29PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High Principal Greg Leavitt is pleased with the award his faculty and staff recently earned.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “We worked really hard for our English Language Learners to offer more support to increase learning and their graduate rate.”

Hillcrest and Midvale Elementary both were recently recognized by the Utah State Board of Education for closing the opportunity gap for multilingual learners. In Utah, more than 52,700 students are English language learners, about 8% of all students statewide.

Hillcrest received the Utah High School of Excellence Award from the state Board of Education in recognition of the academic growth of the schools’ students, especially those who are English language learners. To best support students who are learning English as a second language, including many refugees, Hillcrest created two specific math and English Language Arts classes with additional supports for the students.

“It speaks directly to our teachers who co-taught ELA (English Language Arts) and math and science. They helped the students increased their reading levels, and with extra support from our staff, that had a direct impact on the students’ learning,” Leavitt said about the 250 English Language Learners at Hillcrest. “I’m pleased our teachers are making connections with kids and we’re offering a time where they can work on their assignments with the help they need rather than just sit there, not understanding or doing the work.”

Hillcrest was one of eight Utah high schools to be designated as a high school of excellence. To qualify for the award, schools need to have more than 800 students enrolled, with 25% to 50% of the students being economically disadvantaged. The award also targeted schools with multilingual learners comprising 10% to 15% of the school population, and 25% to 45% of students achieving their annual growth goals.

Leavitt said the graduation rate this past year at 87% was at the highest in the past 15 years.

“We appreciate Canyons School District for providing funds that we could expand our ELL programs and our secondary language expansions,” Leavitt said. “Now that we have those resources, I think we can see that those resources have created results.”

Midvale Elementary, which received the Utah Elementary School of Excellence Award, was one of 11 elementary schools selected throughout the state to receive the recognition. To be selected, schools were required to meet specific criteria, such as an enrollment of more than 400 students, with at least 80% of the students being economically disadvantaged. The criteria also required at least 40% of the students to be English Language Learners, who showed annual progress.

Midvale Principal Lori Reynolds said that the recognition is especially meaningful to the school as it celebrates the significant strides educators have made to boost student learning that are shown in year-end testing scores.

“To receive the School of Excellence Award from the Utah State Board of Education was really exciting, yet I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “Before I was even assigned to Midvale Elementary, I had followed all of the great things that were happening at the school; the focus on social and emotional learning and exiting out of turnaround status.” 

Reynolds took the helm of the elementary in July 2020.

In 2015, Midvale Elementary students measured in the lowest 3% of student achievement statewide. By the 2018-19 school year, students’ end-of-year testing scores in math and English Language Arts exceeded all of the previous three years’ growth at the school.

“It was just what we needed, (especially during a pandemic) to ignite that spark to keep the momentum going that will impact all learners at Midvale Elementary,” Reynolds said. “Our teachers are really making a difference here.”