On Monday, April 24th the State Board of Education approved a new system of grading Arizona’s schools. Adjustments to the A-F school letter grade system were necessary given a variety of changes at the state and federal level, including the switch to AzMERIT and the replacement of No Child Left Behind with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The process to review, gather input on, and update the current system began last fall. The State Board of Education Created an Ad Hoc Committee to develop a recommended framework. After several meetings, robust technical review and a tour around Arizona to get feedback from the public, the A-F Accountability Ad Hoc Committee voted to forward recommendations to the full State Board of Education. The recommendations approved by the board are as follows:
More details can be found here.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Specifically, new A-F letter grades will be assigned to all public schools (traditional and charter) in fall 2017 using information (including AzMERIT scores) from the 2016-17 school year.
Much like the previous A-F letter grade system, this new model relies heavily on testing, this time in the form of growth and proficiency on AzMERIT. However, thanks to a great amount of input from parents, teachers and the broader education community, the Ad Hoc Committee and State Board of Education chose to more heavily weight growth than initially planned. This measurement of growth is important because it rewards schools whose students may start from behind but show important gains during the school year, both compared to their peers and toward a target of achievement. This growth weight also helps create equity among schools who serve a large population of students in low-income areas, which was a critical outcome for many stakeholders, including Expect More Arizona.
The State Board committed itself to an annual review process of the A-F system and to also work to include more valid non-test indicators in these letter grades, such as access to the arts and physical education.
Despite attempts by various stakeholders and the Ad Hoc committee to find a path forward for relying less on AzMERIT, it became clear that there is not enough valid and reliable data available yet for many proposed ideas. There is also more work that needs to be done to ensure the full inclusion of special student populations within the state’s accountability system. All of this highlights the need for sustained advocacy and attention on this issue.
Expect More Arizona will keep you informed of the process and provide you with opportunities to be heard.
School letter grades are just one measurement of a school’s success. There are many additional factors to consider when choosing the best school for your child. Check out our blog to learn more.