From A to D: Arizona Department of Education releases area school ratings
Williams Elementary-Middle School drops to D rating, Heritage Elementary School gets a B
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - For the 2014 school year, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) gave five area schools A and B ratings and four area schools C and D ratings.
Ash Fork Elementary School, Ash Fork Middle School, Grand Canyon High School and Maine Consolidated School earned A ratings this year from the state. Heritage Elementary received a B. Ash Fork High School, Grand Canyon Elementary School and Williams High School earned C ratings. Williams Elementary-Middle School received a D.
The ADE released its A-F letter grades and Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) scores for 2014 on Monday. The State Board of Education adopted the A-F Letter Grade accountability system in June 2011. According to the ADE's website, the grades "are designed to place equal value on current year achievement and longitudinal academic growth, specifically the growth of all students as well as a school's lowest achieving students."
Maine Consolidated School Superintendent Mark Williams said the letter grade system is just one way of evaluating a school.
"A single letter grade is just a snapshot," he said. "It's important, but it's really more important because the state says it's important. There's a lot more to what goes into education and a school than simply one letter grade."
After tying for ninth place last year, Ash Fork Joint Unified School District moved up to the number one ranked district in the state for 2014.
The ADE uses a formula with different point values to determine a school's letter grade. The formula takes into account the growth of all students, the growth of the lowest performing 25 percent of students, the percentage of students that pass the AIMS test, the percentage of English Language Learners that are reclassified, the graduation rate in high schools and the reduction of falls far below students in grades K-8.
Out of 200 points possible, Ash Fork received the most points in the state at 165. The second ranked district, Higley Unified School District, earned 159 points.
Superintendent Seth Staples said in the past year, the district has focused on solidifying teacher evaluations to improve instruction. In addition, staff has emphasized tracking student growth using its Beyond Textbooks curriculum map.
"We use that to identify which students are not understanding the standard, and then we can re-teach and then reassess them until they reach mastery," he said. "And then the students that do achieve mastery, we can what we call enrich and build on top of that, so they can actually exceed the standard."
Finally, the district has built on its intervention program in the elementary school. In this program, students who haven't mastered certain standards stay after school from 2:45 to 4 p.m. to work in small groups with their teacher.
Staples emphasized that the programs were only part of the equation.
"Programs are great, they're definitely beneficial, but it's really having the right people that really makes the difference, and we have great staff here," he said. "And we still have tons of room for growth, and so we're really excited for what the future has."
Ash Fork Elementary School was rated at an A this year, the same as last year. For this year's AIMS scores, Ash Fork Elementary School had 87 percent of its students pass the math portion, 85 percent pass reading, 17 percent pass writing and 71 percent pass science. Last year 76 percent passed the math portion, 73 percent passed in reading, 41 percent passed writing and 26 percent passed science.
Ash Fork Middle School was rated at an A this year, the same as last year. At the middle school this year, 75 percent passed the math portion, 86 percent passed in reading, 51 percent passed in writing, and 75 percent passed in science. Last year, 63 percent passed the math portion, 91 percent passed in reading, 42 percent passed in writing, and 89 percent passed in science.
Ash Fork High School was rated at a C this year, the same as last year. At the high school this year, 33 percent passed the math portion, 60 percent passed in reading, 48 percent passed in writing, and 20 percent passed in science. Last year 52 percent passed the math portion, 77 percent passed in reading, 59 passed in writing and 48 passed in science.
Both schools in the Grand Canyon Unified School District remained at the same letter grade this year that they earned last year. Grand Canyon Elementary School stayed at a C rating and Grand Canyon High School stayed at an A rating.
Administrator Javier Abrego said the new administration has already set some goals for the coming year.
"We have an A school," he said. "Our goal is going to be to see if we can elevate the elementary school to an A within one year. We're going to strive to do better."
On the AIMS test this year, Grand Canyon Elementary had 49 percent of students pass the math portion of the test, 69 percent pass in reading, 53 percent pass in writing and 56 percent pass in science. Last year 46 percent passed in math, 67 percent passed in reading, 52 percent passed in writing and 53 percent passed in science.
At Grand Canyon High School this year, 78 percent of students passed the math portion of the AIMS test, 77 percent passed in reading, 61 percent passed in writing and 60 percent passed in science. Last year 78 percent passed the math portion, 78 percent passed in reading, 50 percent passed in writing and 82 percent passed in science.
To improve math scores in grades 3-8, the school will implement a Daily Math Skills block through the Beyond Textbooks curriculum map. This program will add 30 minutes of math practice for students every day, on top of their regular math instruction.
"It reinforces their math skills," he said. "For example in first grade it would be addition, and the students just go at their own pace. Even if you're a first grader you might be able to do all these lessons and continue to move on and maybe even do some second grade lessons."
Also, the district hopes to increase rigor by offering dual enrollment classes, in which students can earn high school and college credit for certain classes.
Heritage Elementary School received a B rating this year, the same letter grade it received last year.
Principal Kaytie Thies said the school's high standards contributed to earning the B rating.
"One of the reasons I feel that we have maintained the letter grade we have is because we continue to hold our students to high expectations and we're also collaborative with parents to involve them in their students' success," Thies said.
Another possible reason for the B letter grade is that Heritage maintains small student to staff ratios, which Thies said allows for students to receive additional help when they need it.
On the AIMS test this year, Heritage had 47 percent of students pass the math portion, 72 percent pass in reading, 26 percent pass in writing, and 43 percent pass in science. Last year 42 percent passed the math portion, 67 percent passed in reading, 23 percent passed in writing, and 50 percent passed in science.
"Our goal every year is to improve on both percent passing and on student growth, which counts for half of your Arizona letter grade," Thies said. "So we're constantly trying to improve students, even though we don't necessarily get them to meet or exceed, we definitely want them to do better than they were the year before."
For the third time in the last four years, Maine Consolidated School earned an A rating.
"If I knew exactly what it was and I could put it in a bottle I'd go on the road and retire," Williams said about the rating. "That's one of the challenges. Every district is unique. Part of it is figuring out the needs of your students and the strengths of your students and staff and how to capitalize that so everyone is successful."
In terms of AIMS scores, this year 77 percent of students passed the math portion, 87 percent passed in reading, 61 percent passed in writing and 76 percent passed in science. Last year 72 percent of students passed the math portion, 86 percent passed in reading, 59 percent passed in writing and 88 percent passed in science.
Williams credited two programs with increasing his students' scores. The first is called Response to Intervention, or RTI.
"District wide all students 30 minutes a day first thing in morning, whether they're at benchmark or whether they need a little additional support in math or reading or language arts, they work in small groups in RTI to try to get the additional support they may need to be successful," he said.
The second program was Intel Math, sponsored by the computer company.
"It's based on the premise to teach math you have to know math," Williams said. "So the first year you simply go through math, understanding basic concepts, and then year two is how you apply them in the classroom."
In the coming school year, Williams said he hopes to focus on writing.
Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) moved down from a C rating last year to a D rating this year, while Williams High School (WHS) remained at a C. However Superintendent Rachel Savage noted that the middle school was five points away from earning a C and the high school was three points away from earning a B rating.
"To say the least, it is disappointing in the areas that we are still not seeing big gains, but at the same time we want to recognize the success that we are having in those certain areas," she said.
Savage said the district has seen many changes in recent years, including key personnel changes, curriculum changes, new teacher evaluations and new standards.
"I stand firm when I say that this district has the potential to be an A district, but I do know that change takes a long time," she said.
At WEMS this year, 45 percent of students passed the math portion of the AIMS test, 64 percent passed in reading, 39 percent passed in writing, and 48 percent passed in science. Last year, 53 percent passed the math portion, 71 percent passed in reading, 50 percent passed writing, and 56 percent passed science. No third grade students were required to be retained as a result of the Move On When Reading law that went into effect this year.
This year at WHS, 43 percent of students passed the math portion of the test, 73 percent passed in reading, 60 percent passed in writing, and 38 percent passed in science. Last year, 36 percent passed the math portion, 72 percent passed in reading, 57 percent passed in writing, and 38 percent passed in science.
In the coming year, Savage hopes the Beyond Textbooks curriculum calendar, the Galileo benchmark assessment and the Capturing Kids' Hearts training that focuses on relationships, will help the district move in the right direction.
"I believe that the teachers are going to use (the AIMS scores and school letter grades) as a really strong motivator and I believe that using the tools and resources that we have put in place that this will be our year to see some success and get closer to where we want to be as a district," she said.