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Without debate, the Utah Senate on Monday gave early approval to a school grading change that would raise the bar on school performance each year.
Ogden Republican Sen. Ann Millner, the bill's sponsor, presented the proposal on the Senate floor and with no questions from lawmakers a vote was held less than two minutes later.
Since it was first passed in 2011, lawmakers have made annual changes to the school grading law, which requires public schools to receive a letter grade based on metrics like test scores and graduation rates.
This year's bill would increase the minimum scores for each grade level, Miller said, and would allow the state school board to adjust the grade breakdown in future years.
"They have to raise them a minimum of 2 percent each year," Millner said.
When Utah switched to the SAGE testing system in 2014, school grades were adjusted down to mitigate the effects of a new test that would have resulted in most schools receiving an "F" grade.
But Millner's bill, with its automatically increasing grade levels, would require schools to make corresponding gains in test and graduation performance or risk slipping into the territory of "D" and "F" grades.
The increases would end in 12 years when the minimum score for an "A" grade would be 90 percent, which could come sooner if the state school board imposes an annual jump greater than 2 percent.
Last year, the state's highest-scoring high school earned 80 percent.
During a committee hearing for the bill in February, Millner's proposal was compared to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which labeled schools as failing based on annually increasing performance thresholds.
The goals in that law were seen as unattainable by most educators, and the Obama administration began offering controversial waivers to states, freeing them from the performance benchmarks, after Congress failed to reauthorize the provisions of No Child Left Behind.
When the school grading bill was approved in committee, Millner said she had not calculated where the law's grade levels would be in 12 years.
"I haven't sat down and taken each one of them up 2 percent a year because we're so far from that," she said.
Most educators have opposed school grading since its inception, arguing that it paints to narrow a picture of school performance and doesn't account for demographic factors like poverty and language diversity.
During Monday's Senate hearing, Cottonwood Heights Republican Sen. Brian Shiozawa voted for the bill, but took time to express his concerns regarding school grading.
"I think the whole notion of grading is problematic in and of itself and would invite the education people to revisit this whole issue," he said.
The bill was approved in a 22-4 vote. An additional Senate vote is required before the bill is transferred to the House for final passage.