Rim Country Middle School has been ranked among the state's 165 "highly performing" schools by the Arizona Board of Education.
All schools in the state are given one of four rankings -- underperforming, performing, highly performing and excelling -- based on a number of factors, including test scores and yearly progress. All the other schools in the Payson Unified School District were ranked in the upper end of the "performing" category.
"All of our other schools were very close to ‘highly performing,' less than a point away from reaching that level," PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said.
"This is the second year of the rankings," RCMS Principal Frank Larby said. "But last year, they used different ranking labels."
According to Weissenfels, RCMS barely missed the excelling ranking. Larby said the entire school is excited about the ranking, nonetheless.
"We are elated at the results from the school labeling process," he said. "To receive this rating requires the hard work of many individuals, which includes a dedicated teaching staff and kids who are ready to learn."
Larby also complimented parents for supporting both the school and their respective children.
"The biggest way in which parents support us is by having their kids to school on time and ready to learn," he said. "Over the last year we increased our overall school attendance to 95 percent, an increase of two percentage points and the highest in the district."
Larby said improvement in student behavior also was a contributing factor.
"(Assistant Principal) Tim Fruth has done a great job in helping kids behave," he said. "We have seen the number of disciplinary referrals drop over the last year. Teachers can focus more time on teaching and kids on learning."
One important measure used by the state to rank its schools is MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) scores, which measure the percentage of students who made one-year-growth (OYG) on the Stanford Test.
"Seventy-four percent of our students made OYG growth in math and 75 percent made OYG in reading," Larby said. "Both scores are the highest in the district."
Larby said the "highly performing" ranking wasn't totally unexpected.
"I knew our scores looked good and I knew our data looked good, but I was surprised we fell into the ‘highly performing' category," he said. "It's been a huge boost for us."
The principal also cited a number of individual honors given to RCMS staff members over the past year:
- Eighth-grade English teacher Michelle Gibbar was selected Teacher of the Year by the American Legion.
- Eighth-grade science teacher Tina Crabdree was named Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Federation of Republican Women.
- Larby himself was selected as Middle Level Principal of the Year by the Arizona School Administrators.
Weissenfels said Larby also is in the running for National Middle Level Principal of the Year and will be going to Washington D.C. soon where the winner will be announced.
RCMS students were made aware of the designation at a school assembly last week, while teachers celebrated with cake and ice cream at a recent staff meeting.