New School Grading Dramatically Shifts Scores For Some Schools

Brighton High SchoolTwo annual reports analyzing performance by Utah schools for the 2013-14 school year were released Monday. They are the PACE report and the school grading report.

The PACE report provides parents with detailed information about school performance and also complies with federal reporting standards under No Child Left Behind. This is the first year for the PACE report, which was proposed by Gov. Gary Herbert and adopted by the Utah State School Board earlier this month. PACE is the governor’s plan to reach his administration’s goal of having 66 percent of working-age Utahns hold a post-secondary degree or certification by 2020. PACE is designed to measure each school’s progress in reaching that goal.

The school grading system was created in 2011. Last year, much controversy ensued when a total of 16 high schools and 15 elementary and junior high schools were given failing grades under the program. Changes were then made to the system during the 2014 General Session. SB 209, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams (Republican – Layton), required the State Board of Education to establish growth targets for each statewide assessment, align scale scores, and exclude alternative high schools and new schools from the grading system.

Each school’s grade is determined by a system that measures academic growth, proficiency in English, math, and science; ACT scores, and graduation rates.

According to the report, 13 percent of elementary and middle schools received an A grade, 45 percent received a B, 31 percent received a C, 8 percent received a D, and 2 percent received an F. Of the state’s high schools, 5 percent received an A, 45 percent received a B, 30 percent received a C, 11 percent received a D, and 9 percent received an F.

Some schools improved while others fell from last year’s grade. All of the Jordan School District’s high schools moved up one grade. Viewmont High School in Bountiful received an A, up from last year’s F. Things were a mixed bag in the Granite School District. Cyprus High, Granger High, and Hunter High all earned a D on last year’s report but were downgraded to an F this year.

Kearns and Olympus High both moved up one grade, as did Ben Lomond High School in the Ogden School District and East and Highland High in the Salt Lake City School District. West High School moved up two grades from an F to a D. In the Canyons School District, Alta, Brighton, and Hillcrest High all earned a B, up from last year’s C. Jordan High School held at a C.

Other interesting correlations exist. For example, there is a relationship between the percent of students receiving reduced school lunches and the schools overall grade. Schools receiving an A had less than a quarter of their students receiving reduced school lunches, while schools that scored with a D or an F had nearly 60 percent of their students receiving the discounted lunches provided to those students who are economically disadvantaged.

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