Next month, schools in Utah will get two sets of report cards outlining their performance for the last year. One report is based on Utah’s Comprehensive Accountability System or UCAS, which is a grading method the State Office of Education is already using. The other system, state lawmakers approved during the 2013 legislative session.
With the new system, schools are given a letter grade of A through F to indicate their overall performance for the last school year. With UCAS, each school is graded on a 600 point scale.
Both systems use end of year Criterion Referenced Test or CRT scores, but State Associate Superintendent Judy Park says the new system doesn’t shine a lot of light on academic growth.
“It doesn’t really demonstrate the differences between schools as well as UCAS does,” Park says. “I think it gives a much narrower view. It just doesn’t value progress from one year to the next as much as UCAS does.”
Park says without looking at how schools are improving; the new letter grade evaluation system will not be as favorable for a lower-achieving school that’s making great progress as it is for a school that’s already high-achieving.
So why is Utah using both systems? Because in order for Utah to opt out of No Child Left Behind, it’s required to have a federally-approved accountability system in its place. The federal government has already Okayed UCAS, but not this new system. Park says obviously the systems are going to produce different outcomes for the same school, which is not very beneficial.
“The public is much better served by having one system, but unfortunately because of state legislation and how that’s played out, we’ve ended up with two systems,” Park says.
Proponents of the letter grade evaluation system say it’s an easier metric for measuring school success.
Scores based on that system will be released September 3rd and UCAS scores will be released September 30th.
Both will be made available on the state office of education website.