Currently, Utah schools receive letter grades based on student standardized test performance. But SB220 would adjust how those grades are given.
First of all, Utah schools would no longer be graded on a curve. The performance of one school would not affect the grade of another.
It would also place more weight on student growth and use ACT scores to measure high school performance rather than the state’s SAGE testing.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Ann Millner said this approach is more “zip code neutral.” Meaning it would reflect actual student performance rather than socioeconomic status.
“This just moves us immeasurably forward in terms of our assessment and accountability system," said Millner.
Millner presented the bill, which has already passed the senate, to the House education committee Monday morning.
The representatives had a lot of praise for the new approach to measurement. But many expressed unease about the letter grades calling them “arbitrary” and “demoralizing.”
“I frankly do not understand this fixation with utilizing letter grades because it happens to be schools," said Republican Representative Lowry Snow.
“It has a connotation that will not go away," Democratic Representative Carol Spackman Moss said, "Despite what you say about all the indicators.”
The House of Representatives even passed a bill (HB241) earlier this session that would do away with the letter grades altogether. But that bill was stopped by the Senate Education Committee last week.
That most likely explains Republican Representative Daniel McCay’s tone as he prefaced his vote.
"I wish there was a motion to begrudgingly move a bill forward with a recommendation," said McCay.
The bill passed the committee 12 votes to 2 and now heads to the House Floor. The legislative session ends Thursday at midnight.