Why Utah's schools need grading

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  • metisophia Ogden, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 10:35 p.m.

    I encourage all parents of students to boycott the end of year tests. The tests cost millions of dollars to create and administer and do not one thing to actually add to the knowledge a teacher has of his or her students' understanding of either math, science, or English. No other subjects are tested. Those millions should be put into hiring more teachers to make class sizes smaller.

    Do something radical that will annoy the legislature. Boycott the tests.

  • Winglish Lehi, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 6:55 p.m.

    Painting a pig doesn't make it prettier. The criteria chosen for grading needs serious examination. My school had top 10 test scores. TOP TEN in the state. We had a couple of low achievers whose parents refused to bring them in to test. We dropped below the sacred 95% test taker ratio. We had over 90% of the students in our school tested. Our students were then told the school and all of their efforts were a failure because a few knuckleheads took test week off. What kind of a pathetic design is this? How denigrating and discouraging to a hard working studentbody and faculty to fail the whole school because a few kids refused to take a test.

  • Homer1 MIDVALE, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:52 a.m.

    Grading with a bell curve ensures a loser in every competition and maybe that's how our legislators see life--as a sorting mechanism for losers and winners.

    It's like if we were the audience watching the amazing runners at the Olympic Marathon finish their race, and then we all stood and pointed fingers of shame at those runners who didn't make it on to the medal stand because, well, they're the "losers". Real educators know and believe that there are no losers in their classrooms, just wildly different and unique individuals who are all running their "race", sometimes, their way, but hopefully towards a finish line. And real educators are at that finish line cheering for each one as they make it across, not the just the perfect few.

  • Homer1 MIDVALE, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:51 a.m.

    The way this so-called grading system is set up is on a bell curve. I think that's what leads to some of the reservations many have with this system despite the legislators feeling that opposition to their work means they're right. This means that no matter what the percentage scores in the formula suggest, there will be a certain amount of schools with "F's" and a certain amount with "A's". Even if every school in the state showed marked improvement and student growth, some would still have to be "F's". About 10% will be "Failing schools" every year no matter how well they may improve that year. That is why this grading idea, founded on some out-dated behaviorist 1950's statistical tradition, is offensive to modern thinkers. What purpose will this serve from year to year? What is the real reason for all this?

    Why do legislators work so hard to to find a way to shame a school and it's work with an "F" grade even while ignoring the work of supporting all schools with the necessary funds and resources to do their work.

  • Homer1 MIDVALE, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:16 a.m.

    I forgot to add: I'm grading Senator Neiderhauser with an "F""

    Now we have transparency

  • Homer1 MIDVALE, UT
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:15 a.m.

    A school like Quail Hollow with 98% white student body in a financially prosperous neighborhood gets an "A" and a school like Midvale Elementary with 97% free and reduced lunch gets an "F", a comparison which on it's face is inaccurate and useless because every school, especially these, are unique and reflect the combination of all the unique individual students that make up that school. Then you claim this new "transparency" as a legislative victory. Then, Neiderhouser and his talking point minions actually suggest that now that we finally know who is "failing" and who is "successful" we can have those "successful" teachers go down to Midvale and help those "failing" teachers finally get the right technique in place? That's their solution to the vast inequities of life, the challenges of second language learning, and the cure for the crushing effects of poverty, violence, and discrimination--some magic formula that some "failing" teachers just haven't been able to grasp? That is what is so offensive to actual teachers in actual classrooms. And for those teachers who take on the massive work of at-risk schools, after all their hard work it's just another kick in the teeth.

  • birder Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 11:12 p.m.

    This sounds like a broken record, but how about grading schools on things schools can actually control? We have virtually no control over anything that we are graded on. We can't control who walks through the door; we attempt to educate everyone. We can't control whether kids come to school, whether they do their work, whether they do their homework, whether they read outside of school, whether they understand English, what the state testing is like, what we are expected to teach, and on and on it goes. We can't discipline, we can't hold students responsible for anything, we can't hold them back if they can do the work but refuse to do it. My school will always fail because the grades of the cluster students are averaged in, and most of them can't even score 10% on the CRT's.

    But everything that happens in schools seems to be the fault of the teachers. Please.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 10:39 p.m.

    Hmmmm. I wonder if anyone up on the hill is listening. Probably not. Now they have their grades for the schools. Now what?

    This grading system is so seriously flawed that I don't even know where to start.

    What is even more incredible to me is the senator has the audacity to write an Op Ed for the newspaper claiming it is a great thing for us families.

    It is horrible legislation.

    It does NOTHING to help our local schools. What are the schools with low scores supposed to do now? Do they ask all of the low income families to move out of their boundaries? Do they ask them all to learn english in the next month or two? Where do they sign up to get appropriate funding to fix the problems? Oh wait there isn't any funding to help the schools? Then why did we waste all of this money to grade them?

    This is such a complete joke it is laughable.

    Nice work Senator.

    Now tell us what the real reason was.

  • Steve Cottrell Centerville, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 4:31 p.m.

    Dear Senator: You ignore the fact that Florida committed significant financial resources to help those schools which were not getting high grades. Your legislation provides zero dollars for remediation in those schools which need help. Your legislation, by the very nature of the measures used, places every alternative high school in the D or F category. Your legislation condemns the schools in very low income to the D or F category. Your legislation does ZERO nothing to help Utah schools.

    Dear public: Senator Niederhauser is one of those who needs to be replaced. Give him an "F" and get rid of him at the next election.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 3:33 p.m.

    Wayne, have you noticed that no one has agreed with you? Have you read the online comments on this article and the other one reporting these grades? Despite their lack of popularity, do you still support them? Aren't you elected to represent us and not just large lobbyist groups who want vouchers?

    We the people know what you are trying to do and don't support it. You may get your handout to your real estate buddies who want to move the prison. But we will never give you vouchers.

  • steve53 SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 2:43 p.m.

    I don't have a problem measuring success in schools. We should. But we should do it right. For example, what about kids who don't do well on ACT but walk right into a job because of their CTE education. And why should we not recognize high profile programs that improve teaching at a school for every student. If teachers have AP training, then they teach all students better, not just AP students. The focus has to be on every student having their own IEP (to know what that is, ask an educator). Grading with this criteria says we are more interested in content than in students. Instead of helping schools to change, we write a law for School Community Councils to provide local control and decision-making and then put so many restrictions on the use of the money that a school can't really do anything with it. Let the schools do their job. And it is time for the legislature to listen to public education families not just to PCE. There are a lot more of us and it is our students. Why not ask us what it takes for schools to succeed?

  • The Hammer lehi, utah
    Sept. 4, 2013 1:03 p.m.

    Does the letter grade reflect what is ailing Utah schools? Does the letter grade provide information about how we can fix the problems? The answer is no. If the legislature looked at the problem by asking the teachers about the problems they face, the parents about the problems they face and fixed it according to those steps you might have some answers.
    As a Parent I see our schools are too big. They are built to hold 3000 students. The schools can’t recruit high end students to be teachers. Teacher turnover is high and morale is low. Parental involvement is low. Student engagement is dropping, and classroom size and school district size is at an all-time high.
    This is a direct result of squeezing the funding to pay a wage that a bread winner would say is fair and reasonable to pay and it reflects the consolidation of schools into behemoths.
    Lets stop supporting big schools and big school districts and more administrators and focus on local schools and well paid teachers.

  • nonceleb Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    The school grading SYSTEM deserves an "F." The criteria favors schools from higher socio-economic areas. 40% of the score is based on proficiency. Obviously, scores are lower in schools with more poor and at-risk students. If it was based on IMPROVEMENT from the start of the year to the year's end, it would be a valid indicator. I taught AP American History. My students scored higher on tests than students of other teachers. Does this mean I was a better teacher? 20% of the score is based on graduation rates. Again that rate is lower in poorer schools. Using the a rate increase or decrease from year to year would be a fair measure. Only 40% is based on "growth." Improvement should be the only measure for all categories.

    Another problem is the participation requirement. Viewmont scored higher than Bountiful and Woods Cross (both got a B grade), but got an automatic F because 3 low proficiency students did not take the test. Viewmont has about 1,750 students. 98% of their students took the test. The creators of this grading system get an F-.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Sept. 4, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    "A school's letter grade is not a final judgment. It's just an introduction and an invitation to engage."

    Engage in what? An opportunity for you folks to bash public education and seek for vouchers? I think we can all see where this is going.

    "s a hypothetical example, your favorite school may have fantastic, high-profile programs for which they've received public accolades. However, if our Hispanic students at that institution are dropping out"

    How is this a reflection on the school and not on the socio-economic demographics of the community?

    "We've already seen misinformation and fear tactics used against Utah's school grading policy"

    Yes. I too have seen fear tactics, used by you folks, when we the people demand ethics reforms, Common Core, and impeachment of a certain AG.

    "There are good people among us who will always be uncomfortable with transparency or reform"

    Like you folks?

    "We have also spoken with several individuals who see ways to make School Grading more accurate and more robust."

    How many of these folks have been public educators? Or are they all lobbyists for vouchers and Howard Stephansen?

    We all know what's behind this.

    Sept. 4, 2013 9:03 a.m.

    Now that you have your data, what are you going to do with it? What steps are the Utah Legislature now going to take to help troubled schools and improve them for students?

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    Sept. 4, 2013 4:27 a.m.

    If you can grade effectively, which might be doable given time, I agree that grading is fine and useful. The current system looks like it needs a serious overhaul, but it was a good first attempt.
    Once the system works, parents and teachers though will mostly see what they already knew.

    Higher income areas have better schools.

    The reasons are complex but the results are consistent across the United States.

    There will be schools that will buck the trend given incredible leadership, $, and other factors. Good for them. Too bad, we've yet to figure out exactly how to copy and paste their formula of success to another school. "Education isn't rocket science,...it's much, much harder."