"In the last few hours we've suddenly seen this exponential growth in everyone talking about how our schools are performing, are our students ready to go on to the next level, are they properly prepared," she said. "That's really what school grading is about."
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, has expressed a willingness to alter the specifics of the law, particularly the 95 percent participation requirement. He said last week the automatic failing grades are "draconian" and he would prefer to see a school drop a single letter grade for low participation.
But on Tuesday, Withers expressed some frustration at the ongoing efforts to fine-tune the school grading law, which was originally passed in 2011 and has undergone several amendments, including a late-hour substitution bill during the most recent legislative session and unfulfilled talk of a special session to address lingering concerns.
"People have gone backwards on their commitment to fix this law," Withers said.
The school grading system also exists contemporaneously with the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System, or UCAS, which was developed by the State Office of Education and is generally prefered to school grading by the education community. Data from UCAS will be released later this month.
In a statement that accompanied the release of the grades, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove encouraged parents to view the individual school reports but cautioned against drawing too firm a conclusion from a single letter grade.
“There are many other measures of schools," he said. "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 what happens between a student and a teacher.”
Dunn said she is concerned how other parents will respond to the grades, particularly for schools labeled as failing. But she said she hopes the grades lead to increased parent involvement and volunteerism.
"I'd first ask them what they know about their school," she said. "Most parents that are involved will already know the quality of school their students attend."
Gordon said she hopes parents will take their questions and concerns to the schools themselves. She also said parents should recognize that no grading system is perfect.
"I want them to realize that if you feel like your kid is getting a good education and doing well, that’s the most important thing," she said.
Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that the school grades are a good starting point for dialogue and discussion. He said the good news is that 56 percent of Utah's schools received either an A or B grade.
"That’s indicative of great teachers and good administrators that are trying to do the best they can with limited resources," he said.
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