Arizona set to release grades, performance labels on public schools - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Arizona set to release grades, performance labels on public schools

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Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 12:55 pm | Updated: 2:35 pm, Tue Oct 11, 2011.

Parents will learn Wednesday just what grade their child's public school has earned from the Arizona Department of Education.

Under a new accountability program adopted by state lawmakers last year, schools will receive grades - just like their students. While the state is phasing out its old accountability system - the AZLearns performance labels - schools will still be judged on that criteria.

As of right now, schools will receive grades and labels for two years.

Some schools may fare better under one set of criteria than another, state officials have said.

The districts have had their schools' information for several weeks to digest before the public release.

"There will be schools (labeled) ‘excelling' with As and some (labeled) ‘excelling' with Bs," said Joe O'Reilly, Mesa Unified School District's executive director of student achievement support. Excelling is the highest achievement possible under the AZ Learns system. "You almost have to think about it as if you're taking three different classes and getting three different grades."

O'Reilly said the district is posting a video on its website - mpsaz.org - to explain the differences.

The grades are basically based half on test scores from Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards and half on academic progress or growth. AZ Learns looks mainly at the test scores, with a few points possible for growth.

"To get a high label, you have to have a lot of kids scoring 90 percent or higher on a test," O'Reilly said. "To get an A, you have to have a lot of kids passing AIMS and having a lot of students making growth."

Mesa's schools use the information to target problems and increase achievement, O'Reilly said.

"This is another way of looking at the data, and to inform the staff when they're looking at those plans," he said.

Chandler Unified School District spokesman Terry Locke said Chandler is planning to mail letters home about the labels and grades this week.

"We're pleased with our grades overall," he said. "The grades will probably get the most attention this year since they're new ... I think parents will discuss, ‘How did their school get an A? How did their school get a B? How did their school get a C? How do we take this information and continue to improve?' "

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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