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Scores might include minority graduation rates, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement and ACT scores, parental satisfaction, and teacher-certification levels. (School grades are already set to add ACT scores in next year’s grades.)
Harrington suggests an accountability system could be modeled on the existing school improvement plans, with community councils responsible for measuring and crafting performance solutions for their own schools.
Find your school’s grade and scoreGo to the state’s education office data website to explore both accountability systems. > bit.ly/datagateway
Search for a school by name, then choose either School Grade or Utah Comprehensive Accountability System report. To see spreadsheets with all schools’ scores, go to the office’s accountability site. > bit.ly/ucasreport
Pyfer believes the education board is off the hook to keep UCAS as the state’s accountability system, since the Legislature is committed to school grades. (The federal Department of Education has approved UCAS as part of a waiver from using a No Child Left Behind accountability system.)
The way she sees it, the school-grades law supplanted Niederhauser’s 2011 legislation that led to the creation of UCAS.
"We made lemonade out of lemons," Pyfer says, "but maybe we could have raspberry lemonade of our own design and recipe."
Changes ahead » The debate is complicated by the fact that next spring, students will no longer take CRTs, the baseline for both systems. The state is moving to computer adaptive tests, which the Legislature approved.
"That’s one of the reasons we kept saying, ‘Let’s delay,’ " during the past legislative session, Harrington says.
Among the "tweaks" to school grades that Niederhauser wants to see are to drop the automatic F for any school with less than 95 percent participation on end-of-year tests. The penalty should be one letter grade, he says.
Both West High in Salt Lake City and Viewmont High in Bountiful earned F’s because of the requirement. West would have had a D, but Viewmont would have had a B.
The Senate president also would make adjustments for alternative schools, which educate students at risk of dropping out. Those high schools dominated the bottom of the school grades list, with most earning F’s.
Niederhauser said the system also needs to be implemented differently so it doesn’t require schools to fall along a bell curve, with some necessarily getting F’s.
That has been one of the most controversial pieces of school grades.
"That," he says, "was not our intent."
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