Improvements in math and school safety will drive the direction for Carbon High School

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While students of Carbon High School are enjoying their summer break, the school’s administration and staff are working hard to prepare for the upcoming year. High school Principal Bruce Bean sat down to talk about what’s in store for the coming school year.

Academics have been steadily improving over the past several years. In June, the Deseret News ranked Carbon one of the top 50 schools in the state. Carbon earned the spot 28 and Bean said it was based on a number of factors, including how much improvement in proficiency the students have made over time. After all factors were considered, Carbon sat at 472/600, well above the state average of 399/600.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Carbon in the top 10 percent in Utah schools based on its graduation rate, AP (advanced placement) scores and proficiency in language arts. A low proficiency rate in math kept the school from ranking higher.

Math remains an area in which not only Carbon High students are faltering, but on state and national levels as well. Bean is hoping that implementing the Common Core Curriculum will help turn that around.

“It is not a federal mandate,” he said. “But it does improve the standards and rigors of what is expected.”

Though it’s more challenging, the curriculum is designed to find gaps in each student’s abilities. It integrates algebra, calculus, geometry and math into a single discipline. It will hold students, the school, and parents more accountable.

Students will have to pass and show proficiency at every stage. If they are not passing a class, there won’t be an abundance of extra credit available to help them earn a passing grade. Students should leave high school ready for college math 105. Bean said he thought Math 105 was listed as the most failed college class.

Bean is hoping Carbon’s math proficiency will climb to match what the school has already achieved with its language arts and science proficiency. Carbon ranks near the top statewide.

Moving forward with a controversial move, all students part of a UHSSA sanctioned activity will be subject to random drug testing. Band and drill team members, and athletes, will be included. Tests will be conducted using students’ ID numbers, which will be sent to an independent testing center. ID numbers will be selected randomly, at which time students must submit a urine analysis. Those found in violation will be suspended until they submit to a risk assessment.

Bean said testing isn’t meant to be punitive, but to deter drug use. He also said Carbon doesn’t have any more of a drug problem than other schools. He feels that alcohol and drug use is the greatest reason in students falling behind. He mentioned a student he caught “huffing” the first year he was a teacher. The student died several years later of a drug overdose and Bean wishes school policy had been different at the time to help the student.

He knows the policy will stir controversy, but he is prepared to implement it, knowing it may save a life in the long run.

In another matter, moving the attendance office closer to the front of the building this year was confronted by money issues, though it will remain in the drawing plans. In wake of the Sandy Hook shootings and other tragedies, the school is taking student safety to a higher level. Cameras blanket almost every inch of school property, including parking areas.

Student badges make identifying strangers on school property much easier. School evacuation and lockdown drills will be conducted as needed, though Bean admits that sealing up a school such as Carbon is not feasible.

“We have to be prepared, but at the same time we need to make sure we are not living in fear,” he said.

He also did not feel having armed teachers was the answer.

“I am a gun advocate from way back, but adding one more layer of concern about guns in the school will not help,” Bean said.

He does hope to see more trained police resource officers available for schools. He feels the school has strengthened efforts with law enforcement and the fire department, in enhancing school safety.

Bean said the school would re-launch a highly effective anti-bullying program named “Rachel’s Challenge” this year. The program is named after the first victim of the Columbine shootings in Colorado in 1999. It is designed to inspire students to look out for each other and embrace students feeling left out.

The program focuses on student safety and creating a great learning environment. Bean is excited for the upcoming year and the direction that Carbon High is headed.

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