Educators, parents react to schools’ letter grades

Posted at 10:09 PM, Sep 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-04 00:17:23-04

It’s just barely September and report cards are already all the talk in Utah’s public schools, and as is sometimes the case, there are mixed reactions to the grades.

“There’s always room for self improvement,” said Christina Vierra-McGill, principal at the Howard R. Driggs Elementary School.

The school, located in the Granite School District, received an “A” in the state’s new grading system.

“Us receiving this grade would not be possible without the high parental involvement and research backs that, said Vierra-McGill. “When parents are highly involved in their student’s education, their students are going to be successful.”

Not far away, in the same district, staff at Stansbury Elementary School was pleased to see progress in the last year earned them a “C.”

“We feel the students and the staff did an exceptional job in receiving a C grade,” said principal, Ernie Broderick. “We are one of the most at risk schools in Granite School District, as measured by poverty, ethnicity, mobility, stability.”

But in the Salt Lake City School District, schools facing similar challenges didn’t fare as well.

Parkview Elementary School was given an “F,” an unfair score, according to principal Jane Larson.

“I was surprised. There are many factions to children. They just aren’t a grade. Children are not a grade. A school is just not a grade,” said Larson.

Larson believes any grading system should take more into account than just test scores.

“There has to be a system that looks at the layers of a community,” Larson said, “What are the differences in economics, what are the differences in single parent families.”

While the school’s low science test scores were cited as the problem, Larson takes issue with how they’re calculated. Because Glendale’s five elementary schools only go up to fifth grade, Larson believes the scores were slightly lower in comparison to schools that included sixth grade scores.

“Any school that went to fifth grade and not sixth in their science scores were at a disadvantage,” she said.

However, despite any potential flaws in the grading system, parents see the scores as a way to keep their students’ schools in check.

“You’re sending your kids to school and you think they’re having a good education, but if you hear that they’re getting an “F” then that makes you think, ‘What are they doing?’” said Lupe Velasquez, a parent at Parkview Elementary.

Related story: Utah schools get first letter grades