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SALT LAKE CITY — Fifty-six percent of Utah's 855 public schools earned either an A or a B grade in the first-ever release of school grades from the State Office of Education.
The grading system was implemented after a new law, SB271, was passed during the 2013 legislative session. Lawmakers and educators behind the bill wanted to create transparency in school performance. The bill is supposed to measure student proficiency on standardized tests at the rate set by the Utah Board of Education.
A news release Tuesday morning showed the grade breakdown as follows:
- A - 11 percent
- B - 45 percent
- C - 30 percent
- D - 10 percent
- F - 4 percent
Grades were based on a combination of student growth and student performance on criterion-referenced tests in language arts, math and science given in the spring of each year.
High schools were also judged, in part, on the additional standard of graduation rates.
However, many teachers and parents felt that the grades did not reflect the true progress of the students and programs in the schools.
"You're not getting credit for children who maybe make two or three years growth, especially if you're a special-education teacher or you're teaching children who are high needs at risk population," said Utah Education Association Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.
Once on the site, type in the name of the school (without the actual word "school") you are interested in to get the school's report.
Schools also had to test at least 95 percent of all their students and 95 percent of their underperforming students. Schools that failed to test enough students were given a grade of F regardless of student performance or growth.
Viewmont High School was one of the schools that received a "failing" grade due to the fact that 95 percent of the students weren't tested.
"We're a nationally recognized school," said Viewmont High School principal Dan Linford. "It does grade an important thing that we do, but not everything that we do. It grades an important part of our focus, but not our broad focus. Not our large focus."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove said parents should further explore the schools and how well students are doing.
"These grades are based on test performance and growth. I suspect there may be changes in the calculations as we move forward into the next legislative session," Menlove said. "There are many other measures of schools. I encourage those of you with students in high schools to look at the results of ACT, SAT and AP tests there. For a parent, the best measure of a school is happens between a student and a teacher."
The grades are the result of a law enacted by the Utah Legislature in 2011 that was updated earlier this year. Some educators call the law flawed and say they are not surprised at the results.