District 1 officials hope to boost student scores
Yuma Elementary School District 1 officials are implementing plans to improve student achievement.
At a board meeting Monday, Duane Sheppard, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, explained that because the Arizona Waiver was recently accepted at the federal level, school districts across the state are no longer required to report AIMS scores by subgroups to determine if they met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) or not. Also, AZ LEARNS scores no longer consist of Excelling, Highly Performing and Performing labels but are now A-F letter grades.
He said that 50 percent of the letter grade scores for elementary and middle schools are made up of a composite score consisting of the percent passing the AIMS test and the percent of ELL students that are reclassified. The other 50 percent of the score is made up of student growth for all students as well as the growth of the lowest performing students.
Based on those percentages, schools and districts are given a composite score worth 100 points and a growth score worth 100 points.
Schools awarded 140 to 200 points receive an A; schools given 120 to 139 points a B; schools with 100 to 119 points a C; and schools ranging from 0 to 99 points a D.
Currently, District 1 has one A school, seven B schools, eight C schools and one D school.
In regards to Fourth Avenue’s D grade, Sheppard said that although the letter remained the same, they did see a 12-point improvement within their grade.
Palmcroft Elementary School saw a 20-point gain and moved up from a C to a B and Gwyneth Ham Elementary School saw a 21-point gain and also moved up from a C to a B as well. He highlighted that Roosevelt Elementary School saw a 14-point increase moving up from a C to a B and added that Sunrise Elementary moved from a low B score to four points away from an A, a 13-point gain.
When looking at district middle schools, Fourth Avenue had a D at 93 points, Gila Vista Junior High had a C with 104 points, Woodard Junior High had a C with 101 points, Castle Dome Middle School had a C with 116 points and Ron Watson had a C with 110 points.
At the meeting, Kriss Rico, associate superintendent for school improvement, presented the Project One program, which focuses on improving grades at the middle-school level.
The district recently made a commitment to be involved in University of Virginia’s renowned Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education (PLE) program.
“The Darden/Curry Partnership’s University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program is the most established school turnaround program in the country and the only turnaround program in existence that utilizes a systemic approach to change by working with school districts and states to build internal capacity,” she said. “Our five middle schools Ron Watson, Castle Dome, Gila Vista, Fourth Avenue and Woodard ... have committed to this program.”
The group of middle school principals recently traveled to Virginia for a weeklong training session through the program.
“The district is committed to turning our schools around and it’s going to take a lot more than what we’ve done. We can’t keep doing what we’ve done to get new results,” Rico said.
She said that they plan to focus more on data analyzing AIMS scores, quarterly grades, attendance and suspensions to help move students forward.
Rico noted that officials from Darden will be visiting District 1 middle schools at the end of September to see how schools have improved and to provide guidance on how to strengthen their practices.
Superintendent Darwin Stiffler said that all principals had to turn in 90-day school plans detailing the changes they will implement this school year. In the past, he noted, schools in District 1 were accustomed to only doing yearly plans.
Fourth Avenue Principal Jose Cazares said teachers at his campus plan to drill vocabulary this year, something their students seem to struggle with.
Cazares said that he walked into a classroom last year and saw a teacher “teaching her heart out” but noticed that some of the students didn’t understand some of the vocabulary terms she was using. “They were paying attention, they just didn’t understand,” he explained.
“...We have to get after it, it’s time for us to move on up... It doesn’t matter what type of kids we have, kids are kids, and they’ve got to learn, we’ve got to make it happen... I want to be just as good if not better than the other schools... we can and we will.”
Andy Wait, principal at Woodard Junior High, said that they plan to make utilizing data a No. 1 priority to make sure that they are looking at the individual student versus various groups of students.
“We’re going to allow our teachers time to look at individual student data so we’re not just hitting 65 percent... There’s only one way our scores can go if we focus on the students.”
He added that they “barely squeaked by” with a C score, but they are aiming for a B score this year.
“That sounds kind of intimidating because that’s a pretty big jump but when we actually broke down all the categories and looked at the composite score and growth score, it’s a very realistic target because we have a lot of room to grow.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.