This is the first year a single letter grade has been issued to each school since Senate Bill 271 was passed by the Utah legislature. Out of 855 of Utah’s schools only 11% earned an A, 45% received a B, 30% got a C, 10% earned a D, and 4% an F.
Governor Gary Herbert says the results offer a good snap shot of what Utah needs to do to improve. "The opportunity for us now is to evaluate and see if these grades really reflect the outcomes in the classroom. That's what we hope is taking place,” said Gov. Herbert.
Utah educators say some major improvements need to be made to this legislation. In fact, many are against grading schools at all.
Students get graded on their skills every day, but grading a school these educators say, is a whole other matter.
President of the Utah School Boards Association Peggy Jo Kennett told ABC 4 Utah, "The information coming out is not based on accurate data; it's not a true reflection of what is happened at their local school."
Representatives from the Utah School Boards Association and the Utah Education Association say the grading system created by SB 271 is flawed. It's based on the Florida model of testing that, they say, doesn't account for all students and doesn't reflect improved performance.
"There is a proficiency level that has been set by this law and any child who doesn't reach that proficiency is not counted,” said Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA President.
If they are counted, these educators say, they're compared to other students in other schools on a bell curve scale.
Kennett said, "They've always got a percentage of schools that are getting Ds and Fs, they're not meeting the standard which is not true, because it's a bell curve and there always has to be some D and F schools."
Not only that, under the law if 95% of the students aren't tested that automatically results in the school receiving an F grade.
Second Vice President of Utah School Boards Association Kristi Swett said, "West High has been given an F. West High is in the top 500. It has AP scholars, I mean…takes more AP tests and are successful in it, but that school is getting an F."
So why would Utah lawmakers want a system that automatically results in some schools failing? Several educators I spoke with believe it's a way to phase out public schools and bring in more for-profit institutions.
Gallagher-Fishbaugh told ABC 4 Utah, "When you look at the mean study resolution, which is a list of bills that's going to be studied, one of them is called the Parent Trigger. The Parent Trigger Bill is designed to take schools that are failing and, I put that in quotes, with Ds and Fs and convert them to for-profit charter school."
One of the Senate bills original sponsors, President Niederhauser told ABC 4 Utah it is “ludicrous” to think lawmakers are trying to get rid of public schools. He hasn’t heard of a Parent Trigger bill being considered by local lawmakers. He says the educators are mischaracterizing the new law, because they don't want a grading system whatsoever.
Now that one is in place it's very likely changes are going to be made to it in the coming legislative sessions.