Utah schools get first letter grades

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s report card day for Utah’s schools.

Utah’s 855 public schools received their first letter grades Tuesday under a new state law that requires students to be tested. But critics claim the data is flawed and is unnecessarily alarming parents of poor performing schools.

According to the grade findings:

  • 11% earned an A grade;
  • 45% got a B;
  • 30% earned a C grade;
  • 10 percent got a D grade;
  • 4% earned an F

The grades are the result of a law passed in 2011 by the Utah State Legislature meant to foster more accountability in schools and transparency for parents and the community. But education advocacy groups said it is flawed.

“Most legislators really have no idea what they were voting on,” said Peggy Jo Kannett, the president of the Utah School Board Association.

The grades are based on a combination of student growth and performance tests in language arts, math and science. High schools were also judged on graduation rates. Critics say the testing does not take into account the unique nature of each school.

“School grading is a one size, fits all,” said Patti Harrington, the executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association. “Not surprisingly, most of our special education campuses have failed. All of our alternative high schools have failed. There’s a strong contingent of students who don’t know English and still couldn’t do well on the test, most of those schools are getting C’s, D’s or an F.”

Officials said schools had to test at least 95 percent of all their students; those that didn’t got an automatic F. That happened to Bountiful’s Viewmont High School.

“I think it’s a great day,” said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, the House Majority Whip and a sponsor of the letter grade bill. “There are incredible success stories happening across Utah.”

Hughes said the law is designed to help know what is working and what is not in Utah schools. While some would like to see the grading repealed, Hughes said that was unlikely, although he did say tweaks may be made in the coming session.

“Schools that received a poor grade, it’s important to note that this is not a Scarlet Letter, this is a call to action,” he said in an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday. “This is communities, parents, policy makers getting involved and making sure we do right by these kids.”

Individual school grades can be found here: Spreadsheet of all schools in Utah

Related story: Educators, parents react to schools’ letter grades

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