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Guv signs bill to grade schools

Published March 30, 2011 6:04 pm

Education • Herbert also signs bills on teacher layoffs, evaluations.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah students aren't the only ones who will soon get letter grades for their work.

Gov. Gary Herbert Wednesday signed SB59, which requires grades of A, B, C, D and F be given to schools based on students' proficiency and progress in language arts, math, science and writing and, in high schools, their graduation rates and measures of college and career readiness.

The legislation directs the State Office of Education to model how the grading would work and then suggest changes before the next legislative session. Schools could then start receiving official grades in 2012. The idea was inspired by Florida's system of grading schools, which former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush described to lawmakers during a visit to Utah last year.

Supporters of the bill have said grading will make school performance more transparent and ultimately drive communities to help improve schools. Opponents have argued it will oversimplify schools' successes and challenges and result in unfair labels. They have criticized the bill for not including extra resources for schools that receive poor grades and other reforms Florida implemented along with grading.

The governor also signed two other education bills. SB73 prohibits schools from considering seniority when laying off teachers. Instead, schools will be required to base layoffs only on performance evaluations and a school's staffing needs. And SB256 requires career-status teachers to be evaluated annually while removing a provision from current law that required school districts to provide "reasonable assistance to improve performance" to educators earning poor evaluations.