Grand County High School Principal Dr. Stephen Hren [Courtesy photo]

Dear Community Members:

By now, many of you are probably aware that the school grades for 2016-2017 went public on Monday, Sept. 25. Grand County High School moved down from a grade of C for the 2015-2016 school year to a D for 2016-2017. I want to address the reasons why our grade was lower and also share some positive results from last year in the realm of academics because the school grade is only one indicator of school quality.

During the 2016-2017 school year, we did not test juniors for the end of course SAGE testing in math, English, and science per state allowances. We tested a few seniors if they had physics and/or chemistry. The SAGE scores were based mainly on the 9th and 10th grade results for SAGE testing in math, English, and science. The 9th grade SAGE scores in English and math 1 were considerably lower than in the previous year. The 9th grade science scores were a small percentage lower as well. We saw progress in some 10th grade tests, but not enough to offset the losses in the 9th grade.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the state decided that there were too many A and B grades in the state using the bell curve from the previous year, so the legislators chose to shift the bell curve for the 2015-2016 results. As a result, instead of GCHS being 2 percent away from a B grade for 2015-2016, we were 2 percent away from a D. With our lower 9th grade test scores along with a lower composite score for the junior ACT test last year, we dropped the 2 percent and subsequently received a D grade for 2016-2017.

As I indicated earlier, the school grade based upon SAGE testing results and improvements, junior ACT results, and graduation rate is one indicator of school quality which results in the school grade. I want to share other positive indicators of the academic quality provided our students at GCHS. As mentioned previously, some of the seniors last year took the chemistry and physics SAGE test. However, since there were less than 10 students taking either test, those results were not counted in the grade calculation. I want to share that 80 percent of the GCHS students who took the chemistry test were proficient or higher on the test. In comparison, the state average for proficiency on the chemistry test was 49 percent. Those students taking the physics test had a 63 percent proficiency compared to the state average of 43 percent. If these scores could have been used in calculating our school grade, the results would have been much better.

The students who took Advanced Placement tests last year performed well. Advanced Placement testing results are not used in the calculation of the school grade at the high school level. Twenty-eight seniors took the AP English Literature and Composition course and test. Of the 28 students that took the test, 71 percent received a 3-5 on the test which is a passing score on AP exams. In comparison, 56 percent of students that take the AP English test across the nation pass the test. Ten students took the AP Calculus class and 80 percent of the students taking the AP exam in Calculus passed with a 3-5 score. Nationally, the passing rate is 57 percent for the calculus test. Three students took the AP Art 2D exam which also includes a portfolio. All three students passed the AP 2D Art exam and portfolio. This is a 100 percent passing rate. The national average passing rate for this exam is 78 percent. Our students performed admirably on their AP tests last year. This is due to the instruction provided by the teachers of these courses as well as the dedication of the students. If a student passes an AP exam, these courses can be used for college and university credit throughout the country.

One of our co-curricular clubs at GCHS is Science Olympiad. This group competes in science and technology competitions throughout the school year. The GCHS team competes with all classifications of high schools, from the largest to the smallest. Our Science Olympiad team last year ended their competitive season as the second best team in the state! This means we have the second best team of any high school that competes from the largest schools in Salt Lake City to schools our size.

During the last school year, we were focused on our recent accreditation. For high school credit to be accepted by universities, colleges, tech schools, and the military, the institution needs to be accredited. This is a long involved process that includes a rigorous self-study which results in the development of a plan that includes areas of focus for improvement. Grand County High School is accredited through the North West Accreditation Commission using the AdvancEd system. A visiting team came last spring and observed the academic setting of our school. As a result of our self-study and their evaluation of our academic offerings, GCHS has been accredited for another five years. A five-year accreditation is the longest time frame a school can be accredited. Using the AdvancED index of academic quality, we scored in the average range for high schools that hold an accredited status. It must be noted that there are 30,000 high schools in our country accredited using the AdvancED system.

If students take advantage of all the opportunities offered to them at GCHS, they can be competitive with any student in the country. In recent years, we have had students go to Stanford, Yale, and the Naval Academy on full ride scholarships.

In closing, I invite anyone in the community to come to the high school and check in the office to obtain a visitor pass. You will then be welcome to observe any classroom that is in session and determine for yourself the quality of education that students receive at Grand County High School.

Dr. Stephen Hren is the principal of Grand County High School.