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U-PASS reports to help parents judge progress

So, just how many kids is your neighborhood school packing in a classroom?

How educated are your kids' teachers?

And how high are the school's test scores?

That and a slew of other information was posted online Friday as part of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS).

The reports will give residents a good idea of what's happening in their child's school, or a school by the house they've wanted to buy. But, cautions State Office of Education spokesman Mark Peterson, the reports won't tell the whole story.

"Harvard is a great place, and you can learn a lot there. But if you don't like it, Weber State University might be a (better) school," Peterson said. "There are schools with not so fabulous test scores that really meet the needs of their children. I really encourage parents to visit schools. You really learn a lot more doing that than (looking at) statistics."

The reports are required under the 2000 U-PASS law, the state's method for holding schools accountable for student achievements.

U-PASS reports, available at bionic.usoe.k12.ut.us:8080/u-passweb/UpassServlet, have been created for every public school in the state. They include total enrollment, number of counselors, number of teachers, number of students by ethnicity, attendance, dropout and college entrance test-taking rates for high schools, the number of students who change schools during the year and more.

They also include test scores, including the spring 2004 core curriculum tests (CRTs) used by the federal government for No Child Left Behind reports. The results, however, can't be compared to last year's test scores because cut scores were restructured (see accompanying story).

"It's tough to make comparisons" from one school to another, said state associate superintendent Christine Kearl. "What we want to provide is a tool to schools and districts that helps them make good decisions on their students' achievement."

U-PASS reports also will look a little different in the coming years.

The state office is working on a way to recognize schools doing well and identify those that are not and therefore need help, as the law states. Basically, it must decide what constitutes sufficient gain on test scores.

A task force, convened last month, will draft a report card to be presented to the Legislature in February.

The task force is deciding what the report cards should include, including growth on test scores and taking into account schools with high student turnover.

"It's hard to hold schools accountable for kids they don't have," Kearl said.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com