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Understanding the New School Letter Grades

by Expect More Arizona
Letter Grades

You’ve probably seen the banners on schools in your neighborhood with labels like: “performing plus,” “highly performing,” or “excelling.” But did you know that these school labels have changed?

In 2010 the legislature passed a law that changed these school labels to letter grades. Similar to a child’s report card, schools in Arizona will now receive a grade of A, B, C, D or F to indicate how well they are performing each year.  The change was made to provide a more comprehensive view of a school’s performance, along with an easier way to communicate how the school is doing to the public.

The letter grades are the new accountability system that the Arizona Department of Education uses to evaluate schools. It is different from the old AZ LEARNS labels (failing, underperforming, performing, performing plus, highly performing, and excelling) because it includes academic growth, along with AIMS results and other measures to determine the school’s grade.

How are schools graded?

For most schools, 50% of the letter grade is earned by measuring student growth in English and math. By including academic growth as such a significant part of the grade, it is placing a priority on helping all students make academic gains every year, with a special focus on the lowest performing students (which are 25% of the grade).

The other half of the school’s grade is earned from AIMS results and the percentage of English language learners who are reclassified each year as being proficient in English.  For high schools, graduation and dropout rates are also included. (It is important to note that the Department of Education has also developed different models for small schools, alternative schools and K-2 schools.)

How are Arizona schools doing?

In 2012, 23% of schools graded received an “A,” while 34% of schools graded received a “B.” 43% of Arizona schools graded received a “C” grade or lower. The Department of Education also reports that 25% of schools increased their grades and 62% maintained their grades from last year to this year.

Why is this important for parents, families, voters and communities?

At Expect More Arizona, we believe that all students in the state deserve a world-class education, but with 4 out of 10 schools scoring a grade of “C” or lower, we know we can do better.  It’s time for parents, community members and voters to rally together to support schools in providing an excellent education.

For parents and families, your school’s grade provides an opportunity to talk with school leaders about how you can partner together to maintain or improve the school’s current grade.  Parents and families also play a critical role in supporting student achievement. You can help reinforce what your child is learning in school every day, see when your child needs help, and find extracurricular activities to expand or enhance your child’s learning after school.

For voters and community members, the performance of your neighborhood school relates to the quality of your community, the desirability to live there, and ultimately property values. Even if you don’t have kids in the education system, it is important that your neighborhood school provides an excellent education.  To illustrate the example, if the number of dropouts from the class of 2008 was cut in half in the Phoenix metro area alone, the economy would see an additional $71 million in increased earnings, 650 new jobs, and economic growth of $97 million. (Alliance for Excellent Education) Good schools are the foundation for strong communities and will lead to a stronger state and local economy. Voters and community members can play important roles in building partnerships with schools to mentor, read, provide donations, or share about your career.

Everyone can play a role in voting to support a world-class education for all Arizona students in this year’s election. To find out more, visit  Expect More Arizona’s Vote 4 Education campaign.

RESOURCES:

To look up the grade of your child’s school or the school in your community, visit the Arizona Charter School Association’s Education Evaluator.

To learn more about A-F Letter Grades, visit http://www.azed.gov/research-evaluation/a-f-accountability/.

Read more October Newsletter Articles:
Partnership with All A’s Brings Teachers’ Voices to the Forefront
Arizona Showed Up 4 Education on 10/10!
Strategic Investment: Investing in Education to Improve Student Achievement
Flagstaff Named America’s First STEM Community

Making Progress Together

220 organizations

are partnering with us to make education a top priority in Arizona

80 thousand

supporters of the movement for world-class education in Arizona

93 percent

of Arizonans believe all kids deserve a world-class education

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