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Peterson: School grading system deserves an F minus

Published September 21, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The school grading system, unveiled in early September and mandated by the Utah legislature, gave one of Davis County's finest schools, Viewmont High, an automatic F because the school was three students below the 95 percent level required to take the accountability tests.

Had the school administrators had known, they could have given three students a free doughnut to come take the test, with little to no regard on how the students scored on the test, and the school would have received a passing grade.

To be frankly honest, we are quite pleased with this F. Viewmont's F proves the law to be inaccurate and unfair. This school is committed to help every individual reach his or her potential and is a model for other schools.

Viewmont doesn't transfer non-attendees or students with unique challenges to the alternative high school to improve its numbers. It works with and nurtures those students toward at diploma.

This high school, with advanced placement classes, magnet programs and true caring for the individual is not a failing school.

Davis School District's other F was awarded to our alternative high school, Mountain High. In the past year the faculty and staff helped approximately 100 students, who would have been discarded years ago, to graduate.

Many of these students have been labeled as failures and outcasts their entire lives and the Legislature's grading system unfairly reinforces that label. Mountain High's F does not show the true growth and effort at this school.

Unfortunately, the grading system became law with inherent flaws. I can only imagine the complexity that would be required to measure the depth and breadth of a human being.

If the school grading law has to stay on our books, here are a few suggestions for amendments from parents who support public education and want all Utah students to succeed:

• Provide more funding for education. How can we expect passing grades, with any grading policy, in a system that continues to be overburdened and underfunded?

• Initiate a third-party, independent evaluation of the current school grading law to determine its statistical reliability and validity and if the current law has any structural biases against things such as language or socioeconomic status.

• Abandon the Bell curve in school grading. Why would we want a system that limits our success. Every school in Utah deserves to be graded on its efforts and not limited nor penalized by the tools of statistical analysis.

• Become inclusive in your deliberations. Include supporters of public education: parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and experts in the field of education and human development. We need their experience and insight to fairly measure the growth of a student.

People in our community appreciate Viewmont and Mountain High. As legislators reconsider school grading, they should at least amend the myriad mistakes embedded in this law.

Let's strengthen, not destroy, the system that allows all regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. to get an education.

The public will be watching to see if they are listening and if they care.

Rachel Peterson is director of Region 3 PTA, Davis School District. She lives in Woods Cross.






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