Utah assigns grades to schools

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All Utah schools have now received grades based on the criteria laid out in a new education law passed last March.

Utah legislature passed a law last March that assigns grades to each public school based on Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRT) scores and student improvement. Schools with less than 95 percent participation in CRT receive an automatic F. High schools are also graded on their graduation rates.

The grading system for schools does not take into account the type of public school. Alternative program schools, advanced program schools and regular public schools are all graded based on the same criteria. Of the 16 high schools that received failing grades, 44 percent are alternative schools for struggling students.

Since the grading system automatically fails schools that do not have at least 95 percent participation in standardized testing, it is possible for a school to receive an A one year and an F the next.

Legislators have acknowledged this problem. Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser met with educators and lawmakers to discuss some tweaks to the system on September 10.

The automatic fail for low participation in testing may be changed to lowering one letter grade. There is also talk about changing the grading system for alternative schools and giving credit for lower student growth. Neiderhauser said next year’s grades will be comparable to those assigned this year, even with changes.

Ray Morgan, assistant superintendent of the Provo School District, said the grades will not change what Provo schools focus on.

“A grade imposed from outside our system is not particularly valuable,” Morgan said. “It doesn’t provide any critical information.”

According to Morgan, Provo School District values how students are doing more than how schools are doing. Morgan said only poor teachers think grades are more important than learning–giving a grade is not proficient enough to initiate growth.

Provo School District received mostly high grades, with only four schools receiving a C. Provo’s alternative high school, Independence High School, received an F.

Despite efforts to combine school scoring systems, Utah still has the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) in place for rating schools. UCAS rates schools based on the CRT scores. It also takes into account student growth and student achievement. High schools are also given a readiness score, which is a graduation rate calculation.

There are only small differences between the UCAS rating system and the new grading system. The goals for each system are the same according to UCAS official data and the new grading system. The notable difference is in how they are presented. UCAS scores are given in percentile ratings.

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