Is YOUR school “performing”?

April 16, 2010 by  

A better question might be, “What is a PERFORMING school”?  Parents likely don’t know that a “PERFORMING” school falls within the bottom third for academic performance – especially since some schools proudly emblazon the label on their school building or marquee for all to see! 

The AZ LEARNS school labeling system is murky at best.   At worst, it’s “meaningless and deceptive”, according to House Education Chairman Rich Crandall and proponent of SB 1286, a bill that will replace the current labels – Excelling, Highly Performing, Performing Plus, Performing, Underperforming, Failing – with those parents can easily identify: A, B, C, D, & F.  

Just to underscore the problem, according to AZ Learns, a school is PERFORMING when the percentage of students meeting state standards is generally above average, or the school is showing significant improvement.  Confused?  What is even more troubling is learning through committee testimony that school districts are also planning to replace individual students’ grade reports – you know –  A, B, C, D, & F – with these labels to clear up the confusion!

SB 1286 will provide parents and the local community with the academic profile definitions they are already familiar with.

After all, who doesn’t know what a “C” means?  And if parents understand where both their school and their student stands in, they will be much more inclined to do something about it.  Like get involved in their child’s education.

Read Rep. Rich Crandall’s MY TURN below:  

Ariz. school label system deserves an ‘F’

Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute recently reported that a school’s academic label isn’t a factor a parent uses when deciding where to send their children to elementary school. I submit they came to this conclusion because our current AZ LEARNS school labeling system is, at best, ambiguous; at worst, it’s meaningless and deceptive.

While most of us can understand that an “excelling” school is a good school, and a “failing” school is a bad one, nearly 80 percent of Arizona schools fall in the murky middle; their labels “highly performing,” “performing plus,” “performing” and “underperforming” are impossible to decipher. It’s easy to see why ASU concluded that the labels don’t matter, but they do. Accurate labels are critically important to improving our state’s beleaguered K-12 educational system.

Parents deserve to quickly understand, through a clear and concise label, the performance level of every Arizona school and school district. Legislation is moving through the House of Representatives that proposes a school labeling system that mirrors the clearly understood student’s grading system – a simple A, B, C, D, F system.

When a school is labeled a C, it is clearly an average school. By changing the achievement profile to a letter grade, we are giving parents and the public “truth in advertising” and a clear understanding of how their schools and their school districts are performing.

This bill, Senate Bill 1286, also links a school’s achievement, and therefore its focus, to the academic gains of the students with the most profound needs, giving us the means to breach the achievement gap facing low income and minority students in our state. The reform measures in this bill have been tried and tested in Florida, where students have achieved stunning success.

Today three-quarters of Florida students are reading and performing math on grade level, compared with half of Arizona students. Low-income Hispanic students are actually outperforming the general population in Arizona, and the gains among African-American students have been equally impressive.

When the grading system was introduced in Florida, D and F schools made strong improvements and their communities rallied to help them. I am convinced Arizona schools and our school students deserve the same chance and motivation to improve.

The bill passed the Senate 21-8 and recently passed the House Education Committee along party lines.  This is just one of the reforms proposed to address continuing lackluster performance in Arizona schools.  Read more here

Speaking of academic achievement, read the Goldwater Institute’s analysis of one of Florida’s most successful reforms – automatic third grade retention  – that Arizona is emulating.  HB 2732, if passed, will put an end to social promotion for students who have not learned to read by the end of the third grade.  The Arizona House passed the bill  54-0 and it cleared the Senate Education Committee along party lines last week.

Only a small fraction of the Arizona third graders who fail to learn to read are retained in third grade.  Instead, they continue to fail year after year.   It’s time educators did the right thing and ensure students get the help they need to attain the skill before being pushed along to the next grade level.  HB 2732 will give them the push they need to make the call.

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