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Utah receives low marks in separate education reports

Utah schools receive low grades in national education reports

Published: Sunday, Jan. 13 2013 11:18 p.m. MST

When asked about Utah's low grade, Judi Clark, executive director of Parents For Choice In Education, said that, if anything, StudentsFirst had been too generous.

"I think they probably gave us too much credit," Clark said.

The StudentsFirst report acknowledges that despite two-thirds of states receiving D or F grades, many states show momentum in moving toward reforms.

Peterson said that many of StudentsFirst's priorities, particularly empowering parents and equitable spending, are shared by Utah education officials.

Last year, the Utah Legislature passed a bill tying a portion of educator salaries to performance-based evaluations. Utah also allows students to attend schools outside of their geographical boundary, if space permits, and charter school students now account for 8 percent of the state's total public education enrollment.

"Utah parents are among the most empowered in the country with open enrollment, a strong charter school program and the availability of educational vouchers for students with disabilities," Peterson said. "The Utah State Board of Education, state Legislature and governor's office are all working on elevating the teaching profession."

Clark disagreed, pointing to the school capacity restrictions that limit open enrollment as an option for many families, as well as the caps placed on charter schools that have resulted in large waiting lists.

"There is room for improvement when we talk about charter schools," she said.

Clark said StudentsFirst is right to ding the state for not making student outcomes a significant part of teacher performance evaluations, as well as the lack of programs for at-risk students and detailed plans for turning around struggling schools.

In the Quality Counts report by Education Week, Utah received D grades for the teaching profession and school finance, a D-plus for K-12 achievement, C-plus for chance for success, B-minus for standards and accountability, and a B for transitions and alignment.

Despite scoring below the national average, the 2013 Quality Counts report marked an improvement for Utah, which was ranked 42nd in 2012.

Email: benwood@desnews.com

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