This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The House voted Friday to end the practice of assigning letter grades to public schools.
"We have put so much pressure and so many labels on the schools," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Marie Poulson, "that it has a very demoralizing effect and we can't get teachers to work with our kids who need the most help."
The House voted 54-18 to pass her HB241, and sent it to the Senate.
Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, a teacher, is proposing to maintain a statewide school accountability system, but include additional criteria.
Rather than measure school performance based on standardized testing, her bill would use additional metrics like Advanced Placement participation and elementary reading levels to rate schools, without a letter and with consideration given to campuses with high levels of at-risk students.
Since it was first approved by lawmakers in 2011, Utah's school grading law has been altered every year.
The grading scale was adjusted down in 2014 to account for lower student scores on the SAGE testing system. Then last year, lawmakers created an automatic adjustment that would raise the bar for each grade level whenever too many schools received a grade of "A" or "B".
After the state showed widespread improvement on SAGE last year, several schools saw their grades lowered as the thresholds increased.
Another bill advancing the Legislature, SB220, would retain the letter grades, but the system would no longer be set on a curve that restricts the number of high-achieving campuses, and greater emphasis would be placed on growth in student test scores.
SB220 bill was endorsed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee, and is pending before the full Senate.