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New Report Cards Give Detail Insight Into Academic Performance At Utah Schools

The new report cards for Utah schools are out and they’re getting good grades from both teachers and administrators.

The new report cards provide more comprehensive data on each school and rate each indicator of schools’ overall academic performance.

The Utah State Board of Education released the new accountability reports for public schools in the state on Thursday. The Utah Education Association, a teacher’s union, praises the new system, which provides comprehensive data that highlights each schools’ strengths and weaknesses.

Utah schools have traditionally received an A through F-letter grades for their academic performance. The state Legislature, however, allowed the board to suspend assigning schools letter grades for the 2017-18 school year, said Darin Nielsen, assistant superintendent of student achievement for the Utah State Board of Education.

Instead of grades, these areas are rated with descriptions such as exemplary, commendable, typical, developing and critical needs.

Some indicators that the new reports look at include success in readiness courses, progress on English language proficiency and academic growth of low-performing students.

Nielsen said he hopes that the report cards encourage parents to ask their local schools more questions and become engaged in their school community councils.

“We do know that meaningful engagement in our schools between our parents and our educators has positive outcomes on student achievement and student learning,” Nielsen said.

He said the interactive accountability reports also provides a space for schools to boast about additional programs available at their campuses that are not taken into account in their academic performance ratings.

“I think traditionally with school accountability measures across the country, one of the criticism is that there is more to schools than tests,” Nielsen said.

Heidi Matthews, the president of the Utah Education Association, is one of the critics of letter grade system. She said she hopes that system is eliminated one day, and more focus is placed on accountability reports like the one the state education board developed.

“School grades do not accurately reflect things that are happening outside of a school — some of the challenges they may face,” she said.

She also thinks the comprehensive data provided in report cards might help state lawmakers see what additional resources are needed at schools, especially as the legislative session is coming in with a surplus of funds.

“This is really time and an opportunity to invest in our public schools in Utah,” Matthews said.

Rocio is coming to KUER after spending most of her life under the blistering Las Vegas sun and later Phoenix. She earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno. She did brief stints at The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Public Radio. She enjoys wandering through life with her husband and their toy poodle.
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