More schools received A and B letter grades from the state. Check how your school did

More schools this year received A and B letter grades from the state and fewer received D grades, according to data released Thursday by the Arizona State Board of Education.

The grades, based on spring 2019 test data, are preliminary. Schools have an opportunity to appeal, with the final grades coming out in December or early 2020.

A letter grade is primarily a snapshot of how a school’s students performed on the AzMERIT test. But the system’s critics say that snapshot is limited, favoring wealthier schools while penalizing low-income ones.

The majority of an elementary or middle school’s grade relies on state test scores. Half of a high school’s grade is decided by test scores, while the other half is based on college readiness factors.

Here’s how Arizona schools fared this year:

  • 483 schools received an A grade compared to 459 in the 2017-2018 school year
  • 575 schools received a B grade compared to 515 in the 2017-2018 school year
  • 489 schools received a C grade compared to 463 in the 2017-2018 school year
  • 169 schools received a D grade compared to 185 in the 2017-2018 school year
  • 54 schools received an F grade compared to 51 in the 2017-2018 school year

Parents often consult the grades as they search for new schools. Arizona’s vast school choice system means parents may be deciding among their neighborhood district school, nearby charter schools and other specialized schools that focus on particular disciplines like the arts, or math and science.

Kathy Hoffman, the state superintendent of public schools, said in rural communities a school with an F grade may be the only option for families. The grade may also reflect inadequate school funding, she said.

School funding is based on several factors, including the number of students, the share with disabilities, and the number of students from lower-income families. The Legislature sets school funding as it approves the annual state budget. Some education leaders say nearly $1 billion dollars in additional funding is needed to adequately fund Arizona’s schools.

“Parents should be concerned about the school’s funding,” she said.

Search for your school’s letter grade

Use the search function below to see how your child’s school did:

SCORES: Search for your school’s 2019 letter grades

How grades are determined

About 90% of a K-8 school’s grade relies on state testing: 30% is based on the number of students at schools with proficient scores on AzMERIT tests, 50% is based on students’ testing improvement from year to year and 10% is based on English-language-learner growth and proficiency. The last 10% is based on a variety of factors, including chronic absenteeism rates and inclusion rates of students with disabilities.

High school grades are decided differently: 60% of the grade relies on students’ performance and growth in state testing, 20% is dependent on a school’s graduation rate and the final 20% is determined by “college and career readiness” factors. Those factors include whether students have met certain scores on the ACT or SAT, or filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form for college financial aid.

This round of letter grades is the third since a 2015 hiatus, when the system was suspended to allow schools to adjust to the AzMERIT test, a more challenging test than its predecessor, the AIMS test.

Because it’s the third year of letter grades, some schools risk D grades turning into F grades. A provision in state law stipulates that if schools receive a D for a third year in a row, the letter grade will be switched to F if the school is not successful in appealing their grade.

Is the grading system effective?

Students in wealthier areas tend to score higher on standardized tests than students in low-income areas.

Mark Joraanstad, executive director of Arizona School Administrators, said parents shouldn’t rely solely on school letter grades to decide where to send their child to school. Parents should visit the school and take a tour.

“Does the principal invite you in to the school? Is the office a friendly, welcoming place? You can tell a lot by that,” he said. “Do they treat you with respect? Are they friendly? Are they open? Is the teacher communicating with you?”

He calls education “technically simple, but socially complex.” A letter grade is not enough to characterize a school, Joraanstad said.

“To take a school of 600 or 700 kids, then to just then say, ‘I’m going to assign a single letter grade that represents the complexity of what’s actually going on there’ — that’s a gross oversimplification,” he said.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT #iBELIEVE

%d bloggers like this: