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House votes 70-0 to eliminate letter grades from Utah’s school report card

The House Education Committee gave a favorable recommendation Monday to legislation that would eliminate letter grades on the state school report card. Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — Letter grades on state report cards for schools would be eliminated under legislation passed unanimously by the Utah House of Representatives Wednesday.

The House voted 70-0 for the latest version of HB175, sponsored by Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights.

Poulson has sponsored similar legislation the past three years. Last year, a similar measure overwhelmingly passed in the House but was not considered in the Senate.

In January, the Utah State Board of Education posted its annual accountability report without grades after administration irregularities with RISE testing last spring, pending a determination about letter grades during the 2020 legislative session.

Poulson said she seeks to purge from state law the language that requires letter grades and let the accountability dashboard stand as the state’s report card.

The dashboard reports schools’ results on statewide tests, student growth, progress of English learners and allows schools to report school-level factors that influence performance such as consistent school attendance.

Two years ago, when the State School Board moved to the dashboard model, “it was like a breath of fresh air after a long inversion,” she said.

The dashboard was “a huge morale boost to our teachers, especially those who work in impoverished schools,” Poulson said.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, said he recalled when the Legislature voted to use letter grades. It was believed that letter grades would be easily understood and low grades would result in more parental involvement.

“All these years later it has never happened,” Handy said.

What has happened is “some schools were unfairly shamed by the letter grades,” Handy said.

The bill will now move to the Senate.