New School Grading System Will Ultimately Help Minority Students

Written by Sen. Stuart Reid on . Posted in Policy Buzz

Yesterday, with the announcement of school grading results, I learned that the charter elementary school that two of my grandchildren attend received a "B" grade. The name of the school is the Ogden Preparatory Academy (OPA). 
 
My daughter Sarah, who lives 13 miles away in Willard, decided to drive her children daily to and from OPA so that they could study and socialize with poorer minority children (for the same reasons she was educated in Rose Park schools) and to experience an immersion program. Today, after learning of the "B" grade OPA received, Sarah feels vindicated in the decision to place her children in this exceptional school in the heart of inner-city Ogden.
 
To fully appreciate OPA'a success, please consider its uniqueness: First, it is one of the very few inner-city, elementary, charter schools; Second, 58% of the student body is on the "free meal" program; Third, about half of the student body is made up of minority children, primarily Hispanic children; and Fourth, a significant number of the teachers are also ethnic minorities.
 
My point is this: OPA is worthy of emulation! In addition, it illustrates that using poor, minority children as an excuse for not receiving an acceptable school grade is unworthy of our state and our education system. OPA is proving daily that these children can be successfully educated. While OPA did not get an "A" grade, it is clear it knows how to educate under the most challenging and unique circumstances.
 
I believe more than anything, school grading will highlight that Utah does a substandard job educating poor minority students. We can blame these students for our failures, as some have been doing the last two days, or we can productively learn from schools like OPA on how to educate them. 
 
We have heard a number of voices, including supporters of the school grading legislation, saying that failing schools need more resources if they are to improve. That may be true, but to make that claim before discovering what OPA, and other successful schools are accomplishing with similar demographics to some of the substandard schools, shows a lack of vision and leadership. Please keep in mind, OPA and other similar schools have been successful under the present budget allocations. 
 
I for one may be prepared to support increase funding but never before a full analysis is done on those successful schools with the most demanding demographics, to discover how and what they have accomplished without increased funding. In other words, we need to identify which "in-classroom factors" are employed by these successful schools to determine what is working and what is not. Let's fund what works based on the evidence and not fund substandard schools that refuse to identify and adopt proven "in-classroom factors" employed by successful schools--successful schools in our midst. 
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