School Notes: East Valley schools await their grades - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

School Notes: East Valley schools await their grades

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at Contact her at

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at

Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:16 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

This summer parents received their children’s AIMS scores in the mail.

Those results are from the spring round of testing on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards.

Now, it’s time for the schools to receive their marks.

This week, the state will release grades for all public schools. And, for the first time, that’s all parents are going to see.

Last year, the state was still using the “legacy” labels — excelling, highly performing, etc. — plus the new format of A, B, C and D (no school had yet been graded with an F).

The “legacy” labels are gone now. Also gone is the measure known as “adequate yearly progress,” a federal requirement that Arizona — along with two dozen other states — don’t have to report thanks to a newly acquired waiver.

So what does it mean for someone looking at those school grades?

“The letter grade, it’s all about AIMS,” said Joe O’Reilly, assessment guru for the Mesa Unified School District, the largest in the state. “If you don’t look to see what’s behind the letter grade, you may think you know what it says about a school. But you really don’t.

“There are a lot of other aspects of schools that are not included in the letter grade.”

The grades are calculated using data from students’ AIMS scores. In other words, if a majority of students performed well — or at least performed better than they did the prior year — the school will receive a higher grade.

“The letter grade is based on student growth from one year to the next and the percent of students passing,” O’Reilly said.

When the grades come out on Thursday, you’ll be able to find them on

But if you want to learn more, ask your schools’ leaders.

“Throughout the year, myself and others go out to schools and explain to teachers and faculty members and explain why their school got the grade they did and how it’s calculated so they understand the system,” O’Reilly says.

But don’t get too used to the system.

In a few years, Arizona students will be looking at a new test. The PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College — is designing a national test to measure how students perform on Common Core Standards. It will likely replace AIMS in the 2014-15 school year.

And a new way of looking at schools may be explored again.

East Valley girl aces AIMS

Speaking of AIMS, when Liberty Arts Academy, a Mesa public charter school, received scores earlier this summer, it learned one of its students had reached perfection. Lilly Watson, a third-grader last year, scored 100 percent on the reading portion of the test.

To honor her, the school’s leader, Cheri Wasiel, delivered balloons and a certificate to Lilly at her Gilbert home last week.

“We are extremely proud of Lilly,” said Wasiel. “She’s a dedicated, well-rounded student. We think this is a pretty significant achievement, which is why we are congratulating her at home.”

The school said Lilly is an avid reader, devouring books at a much higher grade level. And anyone who can ace the AIMS — and loves Harry Potter — is a winner in my book.

It’s back to school for East Valley

Students in Chandler and Queen Creek districts headed back to school in late July. Next week, the rest of the East Valley joins them. Classes begin Monday for students in the Kyrene Elementary and Tempe Union High School districts. Tempe Elementary School District students check in Tuesday. Gilbert, Mesa, and Apache Junction unified school districts start Wednesday.

Check out the East Valley Tribune’s special Back to School section online at Just click on the snazzy banner at the top of the homepage.

• School Notes are compiled by education reporter Michelle Reese. Read more school news at, and follow us on Facebook (, Twitter (@EVEdnews), and on Pinterest ( Contact Reese at (480) 898-6549 or

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