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School Grading Fixes Advance in Education Committee

State lawmakers in the Senate Education committee voted unanimously Monday morning to support proposed changes to the controversial school grading system. Republican Senator Stuart Adams’ bill would provide additional flexibility for schools, including the option to opt out of the system.

Last fall, Utah schools received, for the first time letter grades “A” through “F” under the state’s second and newest grading system. Senator Stuart Adams says it’s has already increased transparency.

“I’ve talked to parent after parent after parent, who really didn’t know how their school was doing, and now they know,” Adams says. “And I believe we as Utah will not allow an “F” school to exist.”

But many in the education community aren’t happy with the results. They say the system doesn’t account for challenges some schools face like having a disproportionate number of low-income and special education students as well as English-language learners. Critics add alternative high schools get an unfair shake. They earned about half of the “F” grades that were assigned.

Stuarts’ bill would allow alternative schools to opt out of school grading. New schools can opt out for a year and special education students would not be counted. 

Democratic Senator Pat Jones did not support the school grading bill last year, but says she’s supporting Adams proposal because it makes quote “something we’re stuck with better”.

“Once we give adequate resources to them, let’s go for it,” Jones says. “Let’s give the tightest possible test we can possibly do. Until then, I think this kind of grading, only serves to divide those that already feel inadequate and does an injustice to many of our schools that are working so hard to achieve better.”

Both accountability systems rely on Criterion Referenced Tests or CRT’s and graduation rates to calculate how they are performing.

But while school grading considers student performance from one year to the next, the state’s other accountability system, UCAS, looks back as far as five years.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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