East Valley educators say the federal government is painting an unfair and inaccurate picture of the quality of their schools.
More than 100 public schools throughout the East Valley — including some with outstanding academic reputations, such as Mesa’s Mountain View High School and Gilbert’s Highland High School — failed to make “adequate yearly progress” as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The results released today by the Arizona Department of Education were determined by test scores on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, attendance and graduation rates, as well as other require- ments such as the percentage of students tested.
Often, such reports break down along economic lines, with schools in poorer areas not faring as well as those in more affluent neighborhoods.
But this year, the list includes a number of higherincome schools such as Chandler’s Hamilton High School and Mesa’s Stapley Junior High School.
Fremont Junior High School, located at Power and Brown roads in east Mesa, also is on the list.
“It’s a tragic situation for Fremont because we absolutely made our academic goals,” said principal Patty Christie. “Our kids are performing very well at Fremont, yet we did not make (adequate progress) because of what I would consider a glitch in the way the system is set up.”
Kathy Cranson-Miller, principal of Centennial Middle School in the Kyrene Elementary School District, where five schools failed to make adequate progress, said the federal labels don’t reflect her school’s strong academics.
“Centennial still rates higher than most schools in the state, so we’re not a failing school. Whoever came up with this rating, there are some things they need to think about,” she said.
Fremont and Centennial, like many East Valley schools, failed because their specialeducation students’ AIMS results were not counted by the federal government.
Students with special needs are allowed, under special-education law, “accommodations” while taking tests, such as using calculators or having someone read the questions to them. But this year, federal officials decided that such measures render those children’s tests useless.
So, in the federal government’s eyes, many schools that allowed accommodations did not test the required 95 percent of students from each subgroup.
The rule rubs some parents the wrong way.
Mesa mom Kay Bradshaw’s 9-year-old son, Parker, is a special-needs child who gets distracted easier than other students, so an adult reads him questions and keeps him on task during tests.
Bradshaw believes his tests should still count. “I’m disturbed they would throw that out. It seems to me that the special-ed students should probably be tested with a different measure,” she said.
Caroline Chilton, director of assessment and evaluation in the Gilbert Unified School District, tried to appeal what she called the “conflicting policies” in special education that led to 12 of her schools failing to make adequate progress, but to no avail.
“It’s very discouraging to the teachers and the schools that have worked incredibly hard to make progress,” Chilton said.
Despite problems that arise, educators continue to allow accommodations.
“I’m not going to give up the ship in terms of giving our special-education students what they need to perform the best they can on these tests. That’s all I care about. That’s our priority,” Christie said. “They deserve that.”
State Superintendent of P ublic Instruction Tom Horne said the specialeducation rules, along with a new rule that forces the state to include test scores of English learners after they’ve been in the U.S. one year, led to hundreds more schools placed on the “failing” list this year.
In the past, the state waited until students were in the U.S. for three years before counting their scores.
The number of failing schools also increased, Horne said, because three more grades — 4, 6, and 7 — started taking AIMS this past year, which had the effect of increasing the ways in which a school could fail.
Schools that fail the federal law several years in a row face sanctions, including a possible state takeover, but no East Valley schools have
reached that point yet.
Schools not making the grade
The East Valley public schools that failed the No Child Left Behind Law:
Apache Junction Unified School District: Desert Shadows Middle, Four Peaks Elementary, Peralta Trail Elementary, Thunder Mountain Middle
Chandler Unified School District:
Basha High, Hamilton High, Andersen Junior High, Knox Elementary, Pathways Learning Center, Santan K-8, Willis Junior High
Coolidge Unified School District:
Coolidge High, HoHoKam Middle
Florence Unified School District:
Florence High, Skyline Ranch Elementary, Walker Butte K-8
Gilbert Unified School District:
Desert Ridge High, Desert Ridge Junior High, Gilbert Elementary, Gilbert High, Gilbert Junior High, Gilbert Learning Center, GPS Junior High Learning Center, Greenfield Junior High, Highland High, Highland Junior High, Mesquite High, Mesquite Junior High
Higley Unified School District:
Higley High, San Tan Elementary
Kyrene Elementary School District: Akimel A-Al Middle, Centennial Middle, Lomas Elementary, Pueblo Middle, Kyrene Middle
Mesa Unified School District:
Alma Elementary, Boulder Canyon Learning Center, Carson Junior High, Dobson High, Eagleridge Enrichment, East Valley Academy, Emerson Elementary, Fremont Junior High, Frost Elementary, Smith Junior High, Hawthorne Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, Keller Elementary, Kerr Elementary, Kino Junior High, Lincoln Elementary, Lindbergh Elementary, Lowell Elementary, Mesa Distance Learning, Mesa High, Mesa Junior High, Mesa Vista High, Mountain View High, Porter Elementary, Powell Junior High, Power Learning Center, Red Mountain High, Rhodes Junior High, Salk Elementary, Skyline High, Stapley Junior High, Stevenson Elementary, Taft Elementary, Taylor Junior High, Westwood High
Paradise Valley Unified School District: Desert Cove Elementary, Eagle Ridge Elementary, Echo Mountain Intermediate, Echo Mountain Primary, Greenway Middle, Mountain Trail Middle, North Canyon High, Palomino Intermediate, Palomino Primary, Polaris High, Prospect Middle, Shadow Mountain High, Shea Middle, Village Vista Elementary, Vista Verde Middle
Queen Creek Unified School District: Queen Creek Middle
Scottsdale Unified School District: Supai Middle
Tempe Elementary School District: Arredondo Elementary, Connolly Middle, Curry Elementary, Evans Elementary, Fees Middle, Gililland Middle, Holdeman Elementary, McKemy Middle
Tempe Union High School: Compadre High
Chandler: Primavera-Online, Westmark High
Gilbert: Eagles Aerie
Mesa: Liberty Academy, Montessori Education Centre - Charter School North Campus, Pinnacle High, Sonoran Desert, Sequoia Choice School-Arizona Distance Learning
Scottsdale: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community School
Tempe: Humanities and Sciences Academy Arizona, D.W. Higgins Institute, Pinnacle High, Pinnacle Virtual High, New School for the Arts and Academics Middle School, Student Choice High
Source: Arizona Department of Education
Tribune writers Jennifer Pinner and Tammy Krikorian contributed to this report.