Salt Lake City launches new rewards program for high-performing schools

Instructors in top-performing schools will be rewarded with sweets, banner during December.
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Teachers at three Salt Lake City schools will get a little extra hospitality this month, thanks to high test scores and the Grand America Hotel.

Salt Lake City School District Superintendent McKell Withers has introduced a new rewards program that will honor schools that raise students' test scores.

That program — launched in partnership with Grand America and the Salt Lake Education Foundation — will mean complementary breakfast pastries during December for the top-performing schools.

The inaugural winners are Bennion Elementary, Wasatch Elementary and Northwest Middle.

"We have set a certain level of expectations for our school," Bennion Principal James Yapias said. "The teachers have reached those expectations."

In addition to breakfast goodies, the winners also will receive a banner — standing 9 feet tall — that details the schools' accomplishments.

Withers praised Grand America for partnering with the district to plug high-performing schools.

"With all the challenges you face in an urban school district," he said, "it's great to have a landmark like the hotel giving recognition."

The hotel plans to continue its partnership with the district throughout the year, and for years to come, said Bruce Fery, CEO of Grand America Hotels and Resorts.

"As a hotel, we are giving back to the community," Fery said. "Part of the program is giving right back to the individual teachers."

The awards program is meant to highlight schools that have shown a marked improvement on test scores, with a special emphasis on reading. Honors will go out to schools that have shown academic progress in language arts, math and science; that have excelled in team teaching (K-8); and that have made significant strides in reading (K-6). The program also will recognize a teacher and school that have done particularly well in bringing about academic achievements in reading.

Jo Ellen Shaeffer, the district's assessment and evaluation director, said determining the winners is just a matter of looking at the numbers.

The district will lean on standardized tests such as the Criterion-Referenced Test (better known as CRT) and reading assessments given to grade-schoolers twice a year to pick the winners, Shaeffer said. Students that show above average growth performance put their school in the running for the awards.

Additional awards are expected throughout the year, with perks including events at Grand America, Sunday brunches and overnight stays for teachers.