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Let’s Be Honest About Park City School Rankings

Something I have heard repeatedly is that the Park City School District is the #1 school district in the state. It reminds me of those old Enterprise Car Rental commercials. You’d see some guy proclaim that Enterprise was #1… they pick you up!

But, regardless of the spin, you really knew that Hertz was #1.

This weekend, I decided to dig into the claim by the school district that it was #1. What I came away with is while the Park City School District may like to declare itself number #1, and this may be true at an aggregate level, individual grade level results paint the picture of a good, but not perfect, school district.

For weeks, maybe months, I have heard the claim that we were the best district in the state. I had reviewed the standardized test score numbers and I couldn’t figure out exactly how we were the best. Then today I was searching for something else and up popped a documents entitled, “District Narrative.” This Park City School District document explained that according to SAGE test results our district overall was #1 in English Language Arts. Yet, I had previously looked at SAGE test results and never saw our schools as the top performer.

I decided it was worth a second look. Here is where our schools stand at each grade level:

  • 10th grade English we are 10th in the state.
  • 9th grade English we are 36th in the state
  • 8th Grade English we are 48th in the state
  • 7th Grade English we are 28th in the state
  • 6th Grade English we are 66th in the state
  • 5th Grade English, our best school (Jeremy Ranch Elementary), was 20th in the state
  • 4th Grade English, our best school (Jeremy Ranch), was 4th in the state. Trailside was 5th.
  • 3rd Grade English, our best school (Parley’s Park), was 61st in the state.

So, perhaps we are the best district by some cumulative measure; however, I wouldn’t be glowing, as our district is doing, about any results beyond 4th Grade English and perhaps 10th grade English. In fact Weilenman Charter School ranks about 20 places ahead of our schools in 3rd grade English. That said, I’m not sure what weight to put on standardized tests when I consider consider educational success, but since the Park City School District markets our SAGE test as “Park City is #1, I guess I’ll go with it.

Gut feeling tells me that Park City schools are better than average.Yet, when I hear the spin that “Park City School District” is the best in the state and “now we need to be the best in the country,” it gives me pause. “Best in State” makes it sound like we are clearly better than everyone else at everything. Looking at individual grades, it looks like in many cases we have a lot of work to do.

In case you are interested, here is the spreadsheet of 2015 SAGE results.




I don’t think the rankings mean much, and it appears that the KSL school rankings have been discontinued (or have been moved?) but at least in the past PCHS was considered by various organizations (KSL, Newsweek/Daily Beast, USnews, etc) to be the “best” public high school in the state.

The data and how they’re used to rank schools seems to change year to year, however, and it’s awfully confusing to figure out what to take away from the rankings.

Some random links if you’re bored on a Saturday night:

Interestingly, US News ranks Timpview #1 in Utah:

If you compare PCHS (unranked), you find much higher academic readiness rankings across the board, as well as college readiness, higher AP participation rate, etc. It’s not clear based on this set of numbers why PCHS would rank below Timpview (let alone show up as “unranked”), with the caveat that Timpview has a much bigger share of minority and economically disadvantaged students (see more about that in a second).
Here’s PCHS:

This Park Record article may be of interest on that subject, though:

So essentially, PCSD is not doing well with poor/ELS/minority students. So much so that we were booted from at least one set of rankings.

If anyone can get this link to work (DB is trying to run so many ads/so much garbage that I can’t get anything useful from it) supposedly PCHS was ranked first in UT in 2014:

Bottom line, if you look at straight test scores/academic achievement, I think you can make a pretty strong case for the district being the “best” in Utah. That said, lots of schools are doing better with the kids that need the most help than we are, and that certainly should mean something as well when it comes to a ranking. More importantly, IMO, it should make us push to the school system to do better at helping those most in need.


“More importantly, IMO, it should make us push to the school system to do better at helping those most in need.”

And this is why getting rid of ESL and Reading Specialists is such a bad decision. Taking these positions away and turning them into 1 position is one of the most damaging decisions the district has chosen to do that directly impacts our students.


Well, given the current situation (lower income students failing) I’d say you need to make a case for another idea, not just rail against the change that’s on the table. The existing structure isn’t working for them, clearly. If the ESL and reading specialists are doing great, shouldn’t we be seeing better results?

I mean, you might be right. The changes proposed might make things even worse. But in the absence of an alternative proposal, it’s hard not to support some experimentation to try to change outcomes. Better to try and fail than stick with a failing system, right?



I think you hit the nail on the head there. As everyone who frequents the Park Rag knows, I like to have an opinion. However, on finding a solution to ensuring our ESL students are proficient at English, there doesn’t seem to be a silver bullet.

So, I somewhat agree, If we are solely looking at our ESL kids, what we are doing doesn’t seem to be working. Yet I don’t know that the new district plan is based on anything more than hope. I also wonder what this change means for our non-esl kids.

It sure looks like this change is a done deal. I guess I hope they’ve chosen wisely.


Agreed. It’s not clear to me if it’s specifically ESL kids or just underprivileged/minority kids in general that are doing poorly. My instinct is that the wealthy kid population would get high ACT scores if you left them on a desert island, basically, so I’m not super worried about them in the aggregate as long as there’s help in place for the folks who struggle.

I actually see the increased use of computers for language learning as a potentially great way to go. Most people seem to feel the opposite way but if we can put our limited human resources to work in other places and get results with technology, I say that’s a win. Of course we don’t know yet if that will be the case.

I do have to say I find it disturbing that the preschool program (which is, AFAIK, intended to help give kids who might struggle a jump start on kindergarden/school readiness) has exactly zero hispanic kids in either the 3 year or 4 year old program at Jeremy this year. If the all-day K ends up the same, we will have made all sorts of changes for basically nothing.


More, I’m bored: (would be nice to know more about how the new formula works, but based on some background reading it looks like they also are trying to score schools more on how well they prepare low income students)


Five years ago all I heard was that PCSD was one of the best in the NATION. Now it is best in the STATE. Soon it will be best in SUMMIT COUNTY.

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