Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs and by clicking the corresponding agenda items.
Secondary Standards-Based Grading Discussed
The Board received a report and held an extensive discussion about the idea of standards-based grading in middle and high schools. The Board in future meetings would determine whether the District should move forward on the concept.
School Performance Director Mike Sirois presented a local history of the concept, discussed informally among middle school principals prior to Canyons District’s creation. He said principals had been seeking ways to align instruction to standards, and make grades more reliable and reflective of student mastery of the standards.
In the past, student grades have included subjective factors like attendance, effort, and attitude, and do not necessarily represent content mastery. For example, in the past, CSD students who have earned A and B grades in high school have been found to require remedial courses in college, Instructional Supports Administrator Jesse Hennefer said. Standards-based grading is aimed at measuring student progress toward content mastery and providing parents with a clear understanding of what students have learned. It also aims to give parents and teachers tools needed to identify precisely where a child needs help.
For the past two years,standards-based grading has been discussed by a Secondary Standards-Based Grading and Reporting Committee, which includes teachers, coaches and administrators from every CSD middle and high school. The committee convened as the Elementary Standards-Based Grading program, I-CANyons Student Reports, was implemented in 2013-2014. Sirois said middle school principals are in agreement that they would like to go in this direction. With the Board’s approval, a new committee would be formed to continue to include teacher and principal representation, and move toward creating a pilot program to implement in a few middle schools in fall 2017.
Board members asked several questions and expressed varied points of view. Some said the initiative would be a natural extension of CSD initiatives for standards-based instruction. Others questioned whether the report cards would have any real meaning for parents or students, and whether the concept invites students to game the system. Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe said that updating the grading system to mirror CSD standards-based practices is critical to providing meaningful feedback to help students prepare for college and careers. He said mastery grading provides students with multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.
The Board discussed next steps, including parents early in discussions, and establishing a Board philosophy on the issue to guide the process.
Click here to view grading expert Ken O’Connor's presentation to CSD parents regarding standards-based grading.
Zero-Period Math Busing Discussed
The Board is interested in allowing a bus that ends its route at Indian Hills Middle to pick up students attending an early-morning advanced math class and takes them to Draper Park before returning to the CSD bus depot. The Board also supported the idea of examining ways to provide the math class at all middle school sites next year. Sirois said he would do so, and return a recommendation in the spring. The bus service would cost $6,300 per year. The zero-period class for advanced learners who tested into the program is taught at Indian Hills, Eastmont and Butler. Parents acknowledge at testing that transportation to the programs will be their responsibility. On Sept. 1, a group of Draper Park parents asked if the Board would consider allowing a bus that was at Indian Hills anyway to take students to the school for safety and traffic congestion reasons.
Student Advisory Council Empaneled
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Dowdle introduced to the Board the 10-member Student Advisory Council for the 2015-2016 academic year. The Council is comprised of two students from each high school — at least one of whom is a student body officer and the other, a junior or senior — who were selected as part of an application process. Council representatives will attend the Board’s semi-monthly meetings, discuss issues before the Board with fellow students and District Administrators during lunch-time meetings, and provide input to the Board from a student’s perspective. The Council members are:
Alta: Joseph Hawkins, Maggie Evans
Brighton: Tyler Hoerchel, Chris Newman
Corner Canyon: Paige Nelson, Austin Matsuura
Hillcrest: Mary Rudd, Taylor Pulmater
Jordan: David Carr, Kaylin Bingham
Policy Updates Presented
Policy Coordinator Jeff Christensen presented updates crafted by the Board’s policy committee to the Access to Public Records and Retention policy and the Emergencies and Safety Procedures policy. The updates would ensure policies align with law. They also would reiterate the Board’s philosophy of transparency in public records. The Board’s discussions will continue in future meetings.
Patron Don Ward, former AP History teacher at Alta, expressed his observations and concerns with student instruction in history. He said other teachers are saying that history is not taught as much because it’s not on standardized tests, and has found that to be the case in lesson plans he’s seen as a substitute teacher. He said that he wanted the Board to be aware of that. He also has witnessed a disproportionate number of Caucasian students in honors courses. He said he appreciates the District and hopes someone might look into that issue.
The Board approved the Consent Agenda, which includes the Sept. 1, 2015 Minutes; August Hire and Termination Reports; August Financial Reports; the cell tower at Jordan High. The Board approved overnight travel for Brighton Drill and Model United Nations; Corner Canyon Cross Country and Drill; Jordan High AP Environmental Science; and CSD Business/FBLA students.
Teacher Evaluation Policy Updated
The Board approved changes to the Evaluation of Instructional Staff (Licensed) policy. The changes bring the policy into alignment with state law, District policy, and the Canyons Teacher Effectiveness Support System (CTESS). The policy also was reorganized for readability.
Dr. Briscoe thanked the Board for its healthy discussion on mastery-based grading and the Board’s philosophy on the matter. He said he believes mastery grading can raise the bar for students and result in more informed parents.
CFO Leon Wilcox drainage failed at Alta High in the heavy storm earlier in the day, and resulted in flooding in the auditorium, on the stage, and in a dressing room. He said cleanup is underway and insurance adjusters will be on site the next morning. He said the District will make repairs as soon as possible. He said other schools also experienced drainage issues in the storm. He congratulated the eight CSD schools that advanced one letter grade in the state accountability reports.
Board Member Chad Iverson said he appreciated the grading discussion. He said he appreciated Mr. Ward’s patron comments, which he found concerning, and said Mr. Ward reminded him of his own AP teacher from Davis High. He said we have a moral obligation to teach students history. He said he’s looking forward to the Facilities Committee Meeting next week, and sharing recommendations with the Board in October on how to better balance enrollment at Alta and Corner Canyon high schools.
Board Member Clareen Arnold said it was a quiet week, and she concentrated on her work as a school teacher.
Board Vice President Steve Wrigley said he visited southern Utah and attended performances there.
Board 2nd Vice President Nancy Tingey welcomed the student council, and said she hopes the students’ service will be a valuable experience for them. She provided an update regarding CSD matters to the Cottonwood Heights City Council, and thanked city leaders for their support of the District. She attended an education conference in Cedar City, organized by the legislative education committees, and attended by about 200 people, including members of the State Board of Education, State Board of Regents, and local school boards. She said it was an interesting conference that prompted good conversations about key priorities for Utah education, including competency based education, which is similar to what the Board was discussing tonight. She welcomed Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, to the Board Meeting. She noted School Community Council (SCC) training starts Sept. 29 in the Canyons Administration Building-East’s Professional Development Center, and thanked SCC members for their participation.
Board Member Amber Shill attended a patron meeting at Brighton High, where Dr. Briscoe talked to the attendees about Board goals. Each month the meetings will have a different speaker. She said she hopes more patrons will attend as the year goes on. She is looking forward to a leadership conference Thursday through Saturday. She welcomed the Student Advisory council and wanted to know their thoughts on the mastery grading discussion. She said the school year is off to a great start.
Board Member Robert Green said he attended the East Midvale 50th Birthday Party, and complimented the school community and Principal Justin Pitcher for showing him around and some of the contributions business partner Savage brought to the school for its garden. He thanked Savage for the donations. He noted the United Way Day of Caring also provided assistance with grounds keeping, and thanked the organization for the partnership with the District. He complimented Copperview for raising its grade to a C on the state accountability report. He relayed his experience watching the movie, “McFarland USA,” which he said was an inspirational story about a school enrolling many immigrants and their efforts to feed the world and how students can reach their full potential. He said that not all achievements can be measured by a test, and noted the value of sports. He talked about a news story in Kentucky about a county clerk who refused to do something against her beliefs, and said one thing that stuck out to him is that a federal judge said that while the clerk is free to believe marriage is between one man and one woman, she cannot refuse her governmental duties. Green says that’s problematic. He said religious convictions in his opinion should trump any oaths a person makes because we are one nation under God. He quoted the Declaration of Independence’s references to deity. He said he’ll never violate someone’s religious beliefs and is glad Utah has a law to make accommodations for religious beliefs. He said his oath to his God will trump any oath to man.
Board President Sherril Taylor thanked Rep. Cutler for his presence and invited him to address the Board at any time. He thanked the academic team for their mastery grading presentation. He thanked Wilcox, the Administration and facilities team for responding to issues resulting from the storm and asked Wilcox to pass the sentiment to the crews working late into the night. He thanked the Board for its discussion, and General Counsel Dan Harper and Director of Student Advocacy and Access Karen Sterling for the suggesting an advanced math class be delivered electronically in middle schools as a possible alternative.