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» Black students, 61 percent
» Pacific Islander students, 73 percent
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» American Indian, 61 percent
» Low-income students, 68 percent
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said impoverished schools will likely have worse grades, but added, "so what." He explained, "Let’s shine a light. Move those gifted teachers into the lower-performing schools."
But opponents say the school grades are unfair and cause schools to needlessly be labeled as failures.
"At the time of Florida’s school-grading implementation, Utah outperformed Florida in almost every indicator," the Utah superintendents’ letter reads. "There is no research that connects school grading with school improvement. It remains much more of a political ideology than a research-based practice."
Despite advances, an F » The superintendents also objected to treating all schools the same, such as not making allowances for the performance of students in alternative schools.
Polaris High School in the Alpine School District, for example, received an F grade. It serves 300 11th- and 12th-graders at risk of not graduating due to lack of class credits.
The alternative program allows students to earn credits faster by taking eight classes, Monday through Thursday, while Fridays consists of two additional classes and an advisory class.
Polaris opened in 2012, replacing the old East Shore High School, which had a graduation rate of 18 percent. The rate at Polaris was 62 percent. The school also has helped students earn more credits toward graduation, an increase of more than 300 percent over the previous year.
Despite those advances, the grading system ranks it as a failing school. Polaris Principal Lori Thorn said she hopes parents will not be put off by the F grade.
"My hope is that alternative schools will not be on the grading system," Thorn said. "It really is tricky."
Snagging an A » The state’s highest-ranked high school, the Utah County Academy of Sciences in Orem, received an A grade, earning 642 of 750 points.
It is a public, early-college STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) charter school located on the Utah Valley University campus.
Since it is a public school, officials cannot select which students can attend. Typically, about 300 9th graders apply each year for the 150 openings. Applicants are chosen randomly by lottery, as outlined by federal law.
Executive Principal Clark Baron attributes the school’s success to a solid program that gives 410 students who are willing to work hard the opportunity to take college coursework in grades 10 through 12. Generally, 80 percent to 90 percent of the academy’s seniors earn a UVU associate degree in University Studies a month before they graduate from high school.
"We set the bar very high and then give them the encouragement and support to meet the goal," Baron said in a statement. "Being on the UVU campus allows us to always find classes that challenge our students."Next Page >
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