Midvale Elementary and Hillcrest High schools are being recognized by the Utah State Board of Education as golden standards for closing the opportunity gap for multilingual learners.
Midvale Elementary received the Utah Elementary School of Excellence Award, and 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.
“When I told our teachers about it, you can imagine, it’s just kind of that boost in morale that we need right now, especially with all things COVID going on,” said Midvale Elementary Principal Lori Reynolds. “This was that kind of spark to ignite our fire again and just keep moving forward with the great instruction that our teachers are doing.”
Midvale Elementary was one of 19 elementary schools selected from throughout the state to receive the recognition. In order to be selected, schools were required to meet specific criteria, such as an enrollment of more than 400 students, with at least 80 to 100 percent of the students being economically disadvantaged. The criteria also required at least 40 percent of the students to be English Learners, showing annual progress.
The recognition is especially meaningful to the school as it marks the significant strides educators have made to boost student scores in year-end testing. In 2015, students at the school measured in the lowest 3 percent of student achievement statewide. By the 2018-2019 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.
Hillcrest High School was one of eight Utah high schools to be designated as a Utah High School of Excellence. To qualify for the award, the schools were required to have more than 800 students enrolled, with 25 to 50 percent of the students being economically disadvantaged. The award also targeted schools with multilingual learners comprising 10-15 percent of the school population, and 25 to 45 percent of students achieving their annual growth goals.
To best support students at the school who are learning English as a second language, including refugees, Hillcrest created two specific math and English Language Arts classes with additional supports for the students. The classes have been effective at giving students the tools they need to stay on task and receive additional attention that is difficult to provide in a regular classroom, Hillcrest High School Principal Greg Leavitt said.
“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. If good resources are applied, we can make some progress.”