Utah House Committee Passes Bill That Eliminates School Grades

The Utah House Committee has passed a bill that will eliminate letter grades in state schools. The measure will eliminate the controversial A through F letter grades, a system that has been criticized for being too reliant on test scores and does not account for diversity.

Every student learns at a different pace, and some students don’t test well. All students come from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. All of these factors, experts say, make a letter grade system inappropriate.

New report cards will not have letter grades. Instead, the new system would employ a dashboard that gauges a student’s achievement and growth. Schools would be rated as exemplary, commendable, typical, developing and those with critical needs.

The digital report cards will provide parents with finer details regarding their children’s education, according to Darin Nielsen, assistant state superintendent of student learning.

For example, report cards for schools at the elementary level may have data that reflects proficiency in math, English/language arts and science. It may also provide data on the schools’ academic growth in these areas.

High school report cards will include indicators of a student’s readiness for college as well as graduate rates, the number of students taken advanced courses and ACT test scores.

The new system will impact how a teacher assesses a student’s assignment, and puts more focus on the school’s efforts to help a child progress and succeed.

The bill, HB198, received a unanimous vote from the House Education Committee and will now go to the full body for consideration.

The State School Board had voted to eliminate letter grades after receiving multiple complaints that the grades did not provide a complete picture of a student’s progress. The goal of the new report card design is to give parents some context and to allow the public to assess the quality of the schools.

Once live, the new report cards can be accessed via the Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway. Previous report cards and testing data can also be viewed.

The move comes after a the one-year reprieve schools were given to drop letter grades in 2018. Parents were provided with rankings that broke down growth and achievement as well as the progress of English learners. High schools were ranked on how well they prepared students for higher education.

The new model was heralded by principals and teachers for providing more information, but the state had mandated that schools return to regular grades the next year.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.