The Legislature narrowly passed a bill to motivate more Utah students to take year-end tests. Conservative groups hate it.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Natalie Cornejo, left, and Michael Avelar, both 12, talk about standardized test scores at North Star Elementary during class on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

A divisive bill that would incentivize more Utah students to take end-of-year tests — and to try their best on them — narrowly passed in the Senate on Thursday.

The measure has been opposed by conservative education groups, which see it as a punishment for kids who opt out of the exams. But it’s been widely supported by teachers, who say it will help motivate students who do take them because they could now get extra credit for high scores.

It heads next to the governor for consideration.

If signed, HB118 would amend state law, which currently prohibits schools from encouraging participation on standardized tests by providing rewards. Under the measure, Instructors could instead boost class grades for those who do well. (Though teachers still could not punish those who do poorly or choose to opt out and could not provide non-academic incentives.)

“If a parent is not excited about the test or doesn’t like the test, they can still opt out their students,” said Sen. Keith Grover, R-Provo, the bill’s co-sponsor.

It passed in the Senate 16-9 with only one vote more than required to move forward and with no debate.

The idea behind the bill is to encourage more students to take the assessment and for more students to do better, so the state has higher and more accurate scores to look at when reviewing schools. Currently, some students don’t do well because they know the scores won’t affect their grades and a high amount don’t take them at all.

The number of parents excusing their children in Utah from year-end tests has steadily increased in recent years. In 2017, for instance, 5.9 percent of students statewide opted out. That put the state below the required 95 percent minimum participation rate required by the federal government, and to receive funding, it had to count students who opted out as failing.