Where schools didn't make the grade

AT LEFT IS A BREAKDOWN of the values that the Arizona Department of Education's statisticians placed by subject and grades based on test scores and graduation/drop-out rates over a three-year period. To figure your school's score, add the numbers across and then down for a total score.

The Arizona Department of Education placed achievement profile labels on most Arizona public schools, made public Oct. 15.

Schools were ranked either excelling, improving, maintaining or underperforming. Only two schools in the state achieved the excelling category and here in the Verde Valley, two schools received the dreaded underperforming label. They weren't alone. Throughout Arizona, there were 227 schools ranked as underperforming out of 1,565 rated.

The labels distributed under Arizona LEARNS provide the state a tracking mechanism to follow students' progress derived from test scores and graduation/drop-out rates. The labels are the first major step in an accountability plan demanded by voters and in line with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. The process will be ongoing from year to year, unless the state Legislature makes changes to the process.

Arizona’s new achievement profiles captured the performance level of every school and how far they have progressed during the past three years, according to one top ADE official.

In order to come up with the labels, the ADE compiled annual achievement profiles taken from:

• Stanford 9 and Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests for elementary schools.

• AIMS scores, four-year graduation rate and the annual dropout rate for high schools.

AIMS demonstrates how well students master skills taken in grades three, five and eight and before graduation based on Arizona's in-state standards.

In contrast, The Stanford 9 test is a national standardized exam designed to gauge the skills of students in reading, language and mathematics compared with other students nation wide.

According to David Garcia, the Department of Education's associate superintendent of standards and accountability, his department used the year 2000 as its baseline calculating changes or growth points from 2000-02.

"AIMS scores are the foundation of the calculations and schools are awarded extra credit (added evidence) for Stanford 9 scores and the percentage of students who perform well on the extended writing section of the AIMS tests," he said.

A value of zero to seven was placed on test scores for elementary and middle schools. For high schools, values were placed on AIMS scores and drop-out/graduation rates (refer to value graph to determine your school's score).

"We look comprehensively at a school. We look at every subject and grade for that school. For example, for a high school, it's reading, writing, math and graduation/drop-out rate; in elementary, we look at third-grade scores in reading, writing and math and do the exact same thing for fifth and eighth grades. After evaluating each subject and grade level, we combine those to determine the profile," Garcia explained.

He went on to say that this information is exactly what will be provided to every school to assist in creating or developing a school improvement plan. An underperforming school has 90 days to submit a plan.

Beaver Creek and Camp Verde Middle School received underperforming labels.

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