AZ schools brace for new performance grades

AZ schools brace for new performance grades

(Ariz.) This week K-12 schools in Arizona will begin receiving their performance grades under a new accountability system developed over the past three years that is likely to show fewer districts with top scores.

Although the new A-F system is still largely based on a single indicator –test scores—the Arizona State Board of Education has attempted to nuance the evaluation by weighting elements of the assessments.

Thus, for K-8 schools, student proficiency on the standard test accounts for 30 percent of the score. Student growth, year-over-year, accounts for 50 percent. English learners growth and proficiency provides another 10 percent of the score; and acceleration and readiness measures account for the last 10 percent.

For high schools the breakdown is different:

  • Student proficiency accounts for 30 percent,
  • Student growth is 20 percent,
  • English learners growth and proficiency is 10 percent,
  • Graduation rate is 20 percent, and
  • College and career readiness is the last 20 percent.

The Arizona Department of Education has begun notifying districts of their scores but embargoed that information until after Oct. 9 for public release.

According to a report Tuesday in the Arizona Republic, only 18 percent of the state’s K-8 schools received a grade of ‘A.’ That’s a significant drop from the last statewide performance report card when 30 percent of the schools achieved top marks.

State officials say, however, that the new assessments—created to be aligned with new curriculum standards—utilize fewer multiple choice questions and more writing, and thus, are considered more difficult.

The new accountability system does also have some additional indicators outside test scores.

For K-8 schools, the acceleration-readiness measure gives points to schools that have had a decrease in chronic absenteeism, for instance.

For high schools, the readiness component is still largely tied to academic measures as opposed to work-based readiness. Advanced studies, such as international baccalaureate diplomas and success in college placement exams improve a school’s score.

Students that earn industry-recognized credentials or certificates are recognized, as well as those who have completed career technical pathway courses. Still, the readiness indicators remain heavily weighted toward those students who are going on to college and not those who are likely to go from high school to the work place.