Change school grading to improve Utah schools

August 21st, 2018|Action of the Week|0 Comments
What is school grading? In 2011, Utah passed a bill similar to Texas that required schools to receive letter grades based on student test scores in order to hold schools accountable to the public. Therefore, school grades are also referred to as accountability standards.
What’s the problem? School grading simply hasn’t proven out. In fact, research indicates that school grades are more successful in measuring student socioeconomic status than they are indicating student knowledge and learning. The result is that:
  • Schools with these artificially low grades are punished directly with removal of resources and indirectly with decreased enrollment and increased segregation.
  • Even with amendments passed in the 2017 state legislative session, increased weight for student growth, and other modifications presented during the August 2018 Interim Session, school grades will continue to negatively impact low-income schools as families flee to affluent options, taking resources with them.
  • All Utah school districts are impacted, as they all have high and low income schools.

Even if your school or family is not low-income, this issue impacts your school district and its ability to succeed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Even though educators and administrators in public schools have spoken loud and clear that school grading is ineffective, the Legislature and State School Board have only made minor modifications.
  • Tell your Utah State Board of Education Representative that you want them to lead the way to changing accountability policies in 2019 with support from parents and families. Use the talking points below to tell them that letter grades and comparable rankings punish schools serving low-income students and ultimately impact each school district’s ability to succeed.
How to find your State School Board rep:
  1. Go to vote.utah.gov, enter your address and click “Submit”.
  2. Click on “Elected Officials”.
  3. Scroll down the list of elected officials who represent you until you find your State School Board Rep and their phone number and email address.

Talking Points

— School grading unfairly punishes schools with low income families, resulting in removal of critical resources, decreased enrollment, repelling of higher income families and increased segregation. This ultimately impacts every Utah school district’s ability to succeed.
— School grading, even in the revised dashboard, doesn’t emphasize the information parents and families want about schools, ignoring qualities such as after school options, athletic and arts programs, etc.
— The legislature’s willingness to shift to competency based models that change student grades should be preceded by eliminating the school grading system. 
— Changing the school grading system to a comparable ranking system (an idea that was presented at the August Interim Session), will only continue to amplify socioeconomic and racial segregation. While the new dashboard aims to shine a light on underserved students, any algorithm punishes schools with high mobility rates, specifically those that serve populations experiencing homelessness.
— ANY personal narratives about how school grading has negatively impacted your district, neighborhood school or student (i.e. increased segregation, removal of resources, decreased enrollment).

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