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Utah may trade school letter grades for more detail, include colleges
Education » Herbert’s education adviser unveils a plan that would include higher education as well.

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Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said he’s open to changes to the school grading system and wants to learn more about Pyfer’s proposal. He said, however, he would not be in favor of dropping letter grades for schools.

"Letter grades are the best communicator of achievement," Stephenson said. "I think we have to communicate with letter grades. Everyone understands them."

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But Pyfer said during her presentation a single grade can show only so much.

"I believe this is more transparent, easy to read and easy to understand," she said of the proposal.

She said she designed the new proposed system at the request of the governor, who asked her to find a way to more comprehensively look at schools and measure the state’s progress toward long-term education goals.

She said she’d like to see the proposal become the state’s only accountability system, as opposed to being another measurement on top of the existing ones. The state also has another system, the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System or UCAS, in which schools are awarded points.

Pyfer said she’d like to work with other state leaders and potentially hold focus groups to hear ideas on how to improve upon the proposal.

Since the first grades were released in the fall, lawmakers have tweaked the system a bit.

The governor recently signed a bill, SB209, that, among other things, will exempt alternative schools from grading. It will also penalize schools where fewer than 95 percent of students participate in testing by dropping them one letter grade, rather than giving them automatic F’s, as had been the case under the original law.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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