This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Consequences of failure Sanctions: If schools fail to meet accountability requirements, they face the following sanctions:
*First year: School receives a warning
*Second year: School is designated as in need of improvement and parents are given the option of having their children bused to another school.
*Third year: Parents may receive tutoring or other services from an outside source for their children.
*Fourth year: School administration may be replaced.
Note: These sanctions apply only to schools that receive federal funding because they serve a large number of disadvantaged students.
If a school fails, it is designated as needing assistance. All students are allowed to choose to attend other schools, but parents must pay for transportation.
While slightly more Utah schools met proficiency standards under the state's accountability system than met federal standards, results of the state-run Utah Performance Assessment System for Schools (U-PASS) show room for improvement in the state's school system.
Last year, 95 percent of schools met U-PASS standards, while this year, only 84 percent did. The assessment tests elementary, middle and junior high school students in math, language arts and science.
Utah State Office of Education officials on Thursday attributed the higher failure rate to the fact that they raised benchmarks after so few schools failed last year.
Because only a small percentage of schools failed to meet the state's requirements, "it was obvious there were more schools out there that would need assistance," said Russell Klein, state testing results coordinator.
Now that the state knows which schools failed to meet the benchmarks, it can provide that assistance, Klein said.
The state believes U-PASS is superior to the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) assessments mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act because it does a better job of tracking individual student progress.
The assessment requires a 95 percent participation rate from a school's students but allows individual student progress to overrule achievement of the school as a whole. That means a school that has a poor level of proficiency, but demonstrates a specific level of improvement, can pass U-PASS. Under AYP, every group within a school must demonstrate proficiency, or the whole school fails.
"When a small subgroup fails AYP, it puts a burden on the whole school, and that's not fair to the rest of the kids," said Judy Park, Utah State Office of Education testing director.
Some education advocates disagree with the state's assertion that U-PASS is superior.
University of Utah professor Andrea Rorrer, who researches the state's academic achievement gap, says U-PASS marginalizes students of color because there is no accountability attached to it.
"Students of color are rendered invisible, not in reporting but in accountability," she said. "It does a disservice because it doesn't highlight where improvement can occur. There is no student in this state that is expendable, and the state should set expectations that schools and districts meet the educational needs of every child."
Park argues that U-PASS creates greater accountability because a student's scores are measured against their scores from the previous year. AYP does not follow individual students but compares a school's grade level with last year's.
She also says the sanctions placed on schools when they fail AYP hinder schools, and she trusts the education community will help students without outside consequences.
Rorrer says U-PASS reporting is good, but the lack of accountability renders the reporting essentially useless.
"AYP provides the information to leverage reform in schools, district and the state," she said. "That assessment shows it's important to raise all students to a certain level."