Democratic rep takes on top lawmakers in effort to expel school grades

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Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – A battle is about to begin at the Capitol over the way schools are graded in the state of Utah.

One democratic state representative gives the school grading system an F. She wants to get rid of it, but she’s up against the two most powerful lawmakers here on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

The school grading system was implemented back in 2011. State Representative Marie Poulson, a former teacher says it’s more of a gauge of poverty than quality education.

“What it has become is a public shaming of educators and schools who must serve impoverished areas, or areas where there is high incidents of language barriers or there is a lot of special education,” said Poulson, (D) Salt Lake City.

Poulson says the grades are based on test scores on a few core subjects and don’t recognize other accomplishments in struggling schools.

That’s why she’s running a bill to repeal the system and replace it with another measure of accountability.

“Some of those low performing schools that get D and F grades may have wonderful programs in music, in arts, athletic programs, after school programs,” said Poulson.

She says West High School in Salt Lake City is a good example.

“Which was honored nationally for the excellence of its academic programs, but received low grades, because of the way we are calculating them,” said Poulson.

But, Poulson is in for a fight.

“I would be disappointed if we rescinded it,” said Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, (R) Draper.

The bill creating the grading system was sponsored by Hughes and current Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.

Hughes says the system is drawing needed attention to struggling schools.

“If you care about something you want to measure how well it’s doing or if it’s not doing well, so you have to have some parameters. I think it’s good for us as policy makers to learn what’s happening inside these schools, and school grading allows us to do that,” said Hughes.

He also says there are success stories in some Title I schools others can learn from.

“We want to talk to those teachers, and principals and administrators and learn from the successes that are happening in those schools with at risk populations to learn what we can do to replicate that more,” said Hughes.


Right now the bill is working through the Rules Committee. It’s expected to be made public next week.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...