One’s word is one’s bond.
And that’s why Western Hills Elementary Principal Wendy Lovell on Wednesday found herself kissing a pig in front of the student body during the school’s year-end awards ceremony.
According to Lovell, academics at the school — especially reading growth — dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the school growth average was only 47% on the Acadience Reading Pathways of Progress.
As a basis of comparison, the Granite School District’s goal is to have at least 60% of students making typical or above typical progress. Because a 3% growth schoolwide in one year is considered significant progress, Western Hills set a long-term goal of exceeding that 60% mark and hoped to reach 63% in three years.
This would mean a lofty 4% to 5% growth each year for those years. However, just making a goal wasn’t enough. For just an extra little push, Lovell told her students she would kiss a pig if they had significant growth in their Acadience reading scores at the end of the year.
To assist the school in reaching its goal, Western Hills created and implemented growth groups, which targeted specific areas of student need. The school also sponsored Family Literacy Nights to support parents in reading at home, and reading coaches and paraeducators supported small groups of students to help them learn at high levels.
When the scores came in, instead of meeting the 4% to 5% growth goal, Western Hills students improved 23%, moving them from 47% to 70% growth schoolwide in just one year.
And being true to her word, Lovell kissed a piglet thanks to a woman who posted about piglets on KSL.com and was willing to share one of them with Western Hills Elementary for a few hours.