Fourteen more Canyons District athletes have been presented Academic All-State Awards this year for excelling in sports while maintaining high grade point averages.

The awards are announced each sports season by the Utah High School Activities Association with this latest round going to students involved in basketball, drill team, swimming and wrestling. To date, this brings to 39 the total number of CSD honorees in 2017-2018.

The following awardees boast a combined grade point average (GPA) of 3.999:

5A Girls Basketball
Sidney Kaufmann, Brighton
Macy Raddon, Brighton
Nicole Critchfield, Corner Canyon
Hannah Sanderson, Corner Canyon
Peyton Naylor, Jordan

6A Boys Basketball
Bassel Tekarli, Hillcrest

5A Boys Basketball
Adam Christensen, Brighton

5A Drill Team

Alexis Kilgore, Corner Canyon

5A Girls Swimming
Olivia Huntzinger, Brighton
Michaela Page, Brighton
Ashley Pickford, Corner Canyon

5A Boys Swimming
Stephen Hood, Alta
Kevin Metcalf, Jordan

6A Wrestling
Richard Abbott, Hillcrest
Canyons students will have a rare opportunity to learn from a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian this Thursday, Jan. 11, at Alta High as part of the school's eighth annual history colloquium.

Alan Taylor is known for his expertise in American history, as the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia and a former Harmsworth Professor at the University of Oxford. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, as well as being a finalist for the National Book Award and George Washington Prize. The famed author and educator has been a keynote speaker at several national conventions, but this week, he'll be spending a day in Canyons at the request of Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa.

"This is designed specifically for the kids," Ochoa said. "Teachers attend and get a lot out of it, but the reality is, I designed this specifically for our students. It's like, 'If you can't get Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed.'"
alan_taylor_inline.jpg Ochoa established the colloquium at Alta in 2011 as a way to expose Canyons students to distinguished history experts from across the country. Over the years, various preeminent educators, including three Pulitzer Prize winners, have visited the home of the Hawks, making multiple presentations about their books and sitting down with a small group of students from Ochoa's class. Each time, other schools are invited to participate and learn from experts who teach at the country's top universities. Some 250 students and teachers from Jordan high and Brighton will attend the symposium, and 15 of Ochoa's honors students will have a sit-down lunch with the professor, with a unique question and answer opportunity.

"It really is a unique experience to be able to meet these people," Ochoa said. "Speakers really are intrigued by the fact that this is designed for high school kids. If it was for college, they wouldn't be as nearly as receptive to doing it. They think this is just over the top to do this for a high school."

Ochoa asked Taylor to come last year, but the author was unable, as he was working as a visiting professor at Oxford at the time. Taylor's books cover slavery, the American Revolution, colonial Virginia, American colonies, native Americans and the early settlement of the country. Of all of the speakers who have come to Alta to speak as part of the colloquium, Ochoa says Alta students are especially lucky to hear from Taylor.

"I get excited about everybody," Ochoa says, "but this one is truly a prize catch."

What: Alan Taylor will discuss two separate books about colonial American history.
When: Thursday, Jan. 11 at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Where: Alta High School, 11055 S. 1000 East in Sandy
Kids spend a lot of time in school, and parents understandably want that time to be spent learning, and not taking tests. But how much of the school year is actually devoted to test-taking?

With that question in mind, Canyons District’s Research and Assessment Director Hal Sanderson recently performed an audit that revealed students spend between 1.2 percent to 2.7 percent of instruction time taking state and district assessments. By comparison, at one of CSD's elementary schools, recess accounts for 4.5 percent of the year, 12 percent is devoted to lunch and math instruction occupies 27.3 percent of the year.

The audit sheds some light on subject of over-testing, and calls into question commonly-held concerns about excessive testing. But there are limitations to the survey. This audit applies only to Canyons School District. Though all Utah school districts participate in state year-end assessments, district-level tests vary in form and scope. The audit also doesn’t measure the amount of time teachers spend incrementally testing students’ knowledge every day in their classrooms.

Teachers are constantly assessing their students’ progress and learning – even if they’re just calling upon students to furnish an answer to a math problem, says Instructional Supports Director Amber Roderick-Landward. “When done well, testing doesn’t distract from instruction, it’s an integral part of instruction.”

The amount of time devoted to testing has increased over the past few years, but will decline this year due to changes in the SAGE writing exam, and the consolidation of some district tests. With these changes, testing time will fall back in line with 2015 levels.

The audit was featured by KSL Radio and the Deseret News.

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Five Reasons Why
Assessments Matter


Canyons School District believes assessments, when appropriately administered and used, provide parents, teachers and administrators with important information about how a child is progressing.

1. Taking tests is a part of life. Whether it’s gaining entrance to college or passing the driver’s license exam, people take tests throughout their life.

2. Formative tests throughout the year help teachers see what is working, or not working, for students. Based on testing data, teachers can make adjustments in their instruction, such as taking extra time with specific topics or finding new ways to explain the content.

3. Year-end summative assessments, such as the SAGE exam, measure whether a student is on the path to college- and career-readiness. SAGE, which is administered in grades 3-10, is a gauge of whether students are meeting educational standards. These tests can help determine course placement. They can also assist the District and local school in directing resources to groups of students who need more support and determine if improvement strategies are working.

4. Testing can motivate students. Year-end exams are not the only measure of a student’s performance, but as one measure, they can help students take charge of their learning. In fact, when middle school students do their best on SAGE, their scores can predict how well they'll do on the ACT college entrace exam in high school. We know this because historically, CSD's students SAGE scores have closely correlated with their ACT scores. SAGE exams, in other words, are a low-stakes opportunity to see how a student will do on a high-stakes exam in a low-stakes environment. 

5. Year-end testing helps schools direct resources. Test results help educators, parents, and policymakers direct limited resources toward preparing all students for the rigors of college and careers.
Alta High Principal Brian McGill on Saturday received an award for leading his school’s efforts to prevent suicides, reduce instances of bullying, and maintain a safe learning environment by carefully monitoring and following up on tips sent via the SafeUT mobile app.

McGill received the honor at the Utah Suicide Awareness Summit, held at Murray High School. The Champion of SafeUT Award, given by the Utah State Office of Education, was presented by Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, and Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. 

In accepting the award, McGill said that, as a principal, “there’s never a tougher week” than when a school community is mourning the suicide death of a student. He said the state-funded SafeUT mobile app, which gives students immediate, all-day-and-all-night access to school staff and counselors at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, has proven effective in reaching struggling students and aiding worried parents.

“This has been a great utility for Alta High,” he said, adding that he personally spent time over Winter Recess assisting a student who used the app to ask for help getting through a bout of depression.“We have had tips come in all the time.”

McGill said Alta’s administrative and counseling teams take care to investigate all the tips sent through the app.

“As an institution of learning, there is no more important work than to help our kids meet the highest academic benchmarks. That said, the proper social emotional supports need to also be in place and working in collaboration with effective teaching in order for kids to self-actualize,” he said. “The mental health needs of our kids in school has never been more great, as outlined this morning at the summit. I will continue to keep that commitment as a high priority for our kids at Alta.”

Cox, who spoke to Saturday attendees of the summit, said “what you are doing today is a very big deal … we are here to save lives.”

The SafeUT mobile app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.

Canyons was among the first districts in Utah to roll out access to SafeUT, which also provides an avenue for students to submit anonymous safety tips.
A familiar face will lead Hillcrest High into the shine of this fall’s Friday Night Lights.

Not only have Husky fans spotted him on the sidelines at Schick Stadium, students see him every day in the hallways and psychology class.

Ron Hill, the Huskies’ former offensive coordinator and a current teacher in Hillcrest’s vaunted International Baccalaureate program, this week was announced as the school’s new head football coach.

Hill, who also previously coached at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, was chosen after a national search. His appointment was announced to the faculty on Thursday, and Hill and some members of the coaching staff met with returning and prospective players on Friday afternoon.

“Our search was exhaustive. We really looked for the best-possible fit for us here at Hillcrest. We are confident that we did that,” Assistant Principal Justin Matagi said at the team meeting.  “With Coach Hill, we think we can keep up the momentum we’ve trying to build over the past couple of years.”

Hill, a University of Utah product, succeeds Cazzie Brown, who died a few weeks into last season from complications of a viral infection. The team, riding on a high from a berth in the state playoffs at the end of Brown’s first year, reeled in mourning — and never recovered.   

“We were on our way, you guys. We were making steps,” Hill acknowledged on Friday as players, many of them clad in Husky green jerseys, stood around him. “But then a very unfortunate incident came about that affected all of us.  It was something over which we had no control, there is no doubt about that.”

The new coach hailed Brown’s legacy and asked the team to rise above the challenges they faced after his untimely death.  “He left us with one final lesson — and we all have to fight through it,” he said.  “I want to move forward, and It’s time to move forward.”

 Hill also laid bare his expectations, both in the classroom and the playing field, for those donning the Hillcrest uniform. Failing grades — or failures to attend practice — will not be tolerated, he said. Dedication and commitment to learning will be hallmarks of the Husky program, Hill told the players.

“I’m an academic.  It means everything to me,” he said.  “You are going to so much farther with what you have up here (in your head) than with how well you can catch a football.”

But he also plans on being competitive. The “old school” training will be intensive and designed to build “big guys” and “monsters,” he said. Hill also asked the members of the team for some help recruiting more players. In order to be successful, he said, the team needs a deeper bench.  “Fellas,” he said, “I need numbers.” 

For Hill, who has started the Twitter account @coachhillhhh to communicate with the community, the chance the helm the Huskies’ football team is “absolutely a dream come true.”

“We are back online and we are fired up,” he said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
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