REGION — Ten Cochise County schools received top marks for the 2018-2019 school year through newly released letter grades from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
“These grades are based on AzMerit assessment scores, student academic growth from one year to the next, high school graduation rates and indicators that students are ready to move onto the next level,” said Cochise County Superintendent of Schools Jacqui Clay. “The grades are intended to give school administrators, teachers, parents and the community an idea of what we are doing well and where we need to improve.”
An “A” grade means the school’s performance is “excellent,” a “B” indicates a “highly performing” school, “C is “performing,” a D school in minimally performing, while an “F” school is failing.
None of the region’s schools received an “F” score.
Clay praised the 10 schools that received “A” letter grades on their ADE report cards, as well as schools that showed improvements from the previous school year.
“Schools across Cochise County have strategies in place as they continually work towards improving,” Clay said.
When asked what measures are being implemented to help students hit achievement goals, school district administrators offered the following comments.
Sierra Vista (SVUSD)
Terri Romo, SVUSD’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the district’s philosophy is to use ADE’s data to make necessary improvements for students.
“Our principals and their staff have reviewed their data and have already made documented plans on how to improve this year’s scores,” Romo said. “Each of our schools have completed a comprehensive needs assessment that involves analyzing state and local assessment results, and the perception survey data of our staff, students and parents.”
The data is then used to create specific action plans on how to increase scores in English language arts and math. In addition, each school has set aside time to support struggling and advanced students, said Romo, who noted that the school district analyzes its instructional practices through a collaborative process.
The need for collaboration when it comes to its ties to student success is a message that Clay emphasized in a recent districtwide roundtable event her office hosted at Cochise College.
“Student success takes a whole community working together — teachers, parents, role models, community leaders — and it’s a collaborative effort that needs to start at a young age,” Clay said.
“An ASU (Arizona State University) research project shows that there is a list of out-of-school factors that affect what happens inside the school and classroom by 60 percent. People are often shocked to learn that only 10 percent of what occurs in the classroom impacts students. So, we all need to work together to help turn those negative factors that are influencing students into positives. It that takes collaboration on a number of levels.”
Such outside factors as family relationships and stress, availability of positive role models, the need for medical and dental care, food insecurity, income issues, and drug use are examples of out-of-class influences that impact student success, Clay said.
“When we’re hearing that 70 percent of all jobs in 2020 will require more than a high school diploma, as educators we need to make sure we have strategies in place so our young people can succeed when they leave high school,” noted Clay. “This gets done through community partnerships and collaboration.”
As SVUSD works to improve its student scores, the district is focusing on programs for the “whole child,” Romo said.
“It supports our belief that our students and teachers are so much more than a single assessment test score or letter grade.”
The district has already implemented staff training on Trauma Informed Instruction and relationship building. New reading programs for K through second-grade students are in place. “Guided Reading” for third through sixth-grade teachers and students has been introduced to help build a strong reading foundation for elementary students.
“We look forward to the day when all schools in SVUSD are ‘A’ rated, but as our superintendent Kelly Glass has pointed out, all our schools are growing, Romo said. While Carmichael may have scored a “D” this year, the school has received “Results Based Funding” from ADE the past two school years because of the positive growth students are making, Romo added.
“We will continue to focus our efforts on areas that will result in growth in our scores. Our goal is to ensure SVUSD students are mastering the state’s standards.”
All three schools in Bisbee Unified School District received the same grade they had in the previous two years. Greenway Primary School, Lowell School and Bisbee High School each were given a “C” grade for the 2018-2019 school year.
District Superintendent Tom Woody says while the schools have held the same letter grades for the last three years, he knows his schools are on the upswing as they have implemented a number of programs in each of the schools to help their students.
“We put some things in place and there were some improvements but it wasn’t enough to move up a letter grade,” Woody said. “We think we’re on track to move up.”
An example of one of the district’s efforts to improve its rating is the implementation of AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, a program that gives staff additional instruction training to help the district’s students.
For the third consecutive year Palominas and Coronado elementary schools received a “B.” Palominas hired a new superintendent at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year after Marylotti Copeland retired this past summer. Sherri Rosalik replaced Copeland and inherited the rating from her predecessor.
Rosalik told the Herald/Review in the summer that working for Copeland for a few months helped her understand the district better and she planned to used her first year, the current school year, to listen to teachers, students and the community as well as observe to best serve the community.
General Myer Elementary and Colonel Smith Middle schools maintained their high standard of education. General Myer Elementary received an “A” grade for the third straight year while Colonel Smith Middle School improved on its “B” rating by earning an “A.”
“We are very pleased with General Myer Elementary and Colonel Smith Middle School for receiving the highest grade possible,” Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools District Superintendent Mark Goodman wrote in a statement to the Herald/Review. “We congratulate our dedicated staff that provides exceptional educational opportunities.
“I commend the students for their diligence and effort in meeting the high standards given by their teachers and the district. We also know that we are a partner with our parents in the education of these amazing children, and as such, our success is directly associated with their efforts.
“I am so pleased that our district continues to be a top-performing leader in Cochise County and the state of Arizona.”
Tombstone Unified School District’s two elementary schools, Walter J. Meyer and Huachuca City improved on their previous year’s rankings, while the High School received a B for the second year.
Walter J. Meyer moved up 28 percentage points, bringing the school from a “C” to a “B” and Huachuca City School received a “C” grade this year, up from last year’s “D.”
“We’re especially pleased with Walter J. Meyer’s 28 percent improvement,” TUSD Superintendent Robert Devere said. “This is huge. They moved from a low ‘C’ school to a highly rated ‘B’ school. I’m also pleased with Huachuca City’s improvement from a ‘D’ to a ‘C,’ with the total increase at 16 percent, which is excellent.”
The high school maintained its “B” rating, but actually grew its overall score by three percent, Devere said.
“This represents a buy-in from kids and parents and a lot of work from teachers. It’s our systematic approach to ongoing curriculum alignment. We will see more good stuff to come in future years.”
Naco Elementary School District’s D-rating didn’t come as a surprise to new Superintendent Timothy Mayclin, but was still “disappointing.”
Mayclin said when he took over the position on July 1 he had a feeling the school would receive a low grade, based on the test scores and data he had.
With a focus on improving, Mayclin said that he and his staff have already implemented new procedures to help improve the score, by having all classes taught in English, providing better paraprofessional support in the classrooms and not pulling students out of class for extra help. Mayclin hopes the implementation of better practices has more impact on the students as well as raises their grade.
Their “D” grade is the lowest mark the one-school district has received in the last three years.
“It’s definitely disappointing but my approach is we’re going to try and improve whether we’re a D, C, B or A school,” Mayclin said. “We’re going to do better.”
Center for Academic Success
CAS Superintendent Vada Phelps spoke of how proud she is of the ‘A’ ranking that Douglas elementary and middle schools received in the recent ADE report.
“Our administrators, teachers and students have worked very hard to achieve those scores, and I urge them to keep up the good work so we have the same results in future school years,” she said.
CAS High School in Douglas received a B, while the public charter school’s two Sierra Vista campuses — one that serves elementary through middle school students, and the other, a high school — received “C”s.
“Sierra Vista has a goal to raise the letter scores next year,” Phelps said. “Our saying is, let’s get better, not bigger.”
All three Tombstone Unified School District campuses — Walter J. Meyer, Huachuca City and Tombstone High School — showed improvements on their assessments, with Huachuca City School going from a D ranking to a C. Walter J. Meyer School received a B, the school’s score came up by 28 percentage points.
Leman Academy received a “C” rating. Calls made to the school for comment were not returned.