Utah Senate leader wants letter grades for schools

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s top education official is raising concerns about a state senator’s proposal to give schools a letter grade.State schools Superintendent Larry Shumway said Thursday he worried the proposal by Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, would lead to less transparency than the current evaluation system.Niederhauser told the Utah State Board of Education during their monthly meeting that letter grades would make it easier for the public to gauge performance.The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported that Niederhauser is drafting a grading system bill for the upcoming legislative session. It starts Jan. 24.Each school in the state would be given an overall grade based on test score proficiency in reading, math, writing and science, and progress made in those areas. If schools wanted to include more detailed assessments for individual subject areas, they could.”The less you can throw at people, the better understanding they have,” Niederhauser said.The bill is based on a Florida assessment program that Niederhauser said has been very successful. However, the Florida law rewards high-performing schools financially.Niederhauser does not expect the bill to have any money appropriated for rewards.Shumway said the current evaluation system is more comprehensive and provides assessments for different categories. That system, known as U-PASS, was passed by the Legislature in 2000.With U-PASS, schools are required to meet state standards in a variety of subjects. Attendance and graduation rates are factored into the assessment.”We really have this strong report. … I’m curious why we wouldn’t start with that,” Shumway said. “The single grade seems to me to actually lead to less transparency.”Utah is currently revising its curriculum, so instituting a new assessment method could be difficult, said Dixie Allen, vice chairwoman of the board.

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