'Highly Performing' Ranking At Top Of List For Jre

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Principal Peggy Miles thinks the biggest news for Julia Randall Elementary School in 2005 was earning a ‘highly performing' ranking. It previously was ranked as "performing."

Payson Unified School District Superintendent Sue Myers said the rankings are proof that local educators are providing quality education for local children.

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JRE principal Peggy Miles is elated that her school has been named "highly performing."

"It's obvious the teachers are doing a great job by what we see (in the rankings)," she said. "You know there are 144 different ways (a school) can miss out on earning a ‘highly performing' rank."

Public school rankings have been doled out annually since former Governor Jane Hull signed the AZ LEARNS (Leading Education through the Accountability and Results Notification System) law in 2002.

AZ LEARNS' purpose is to tell administrators, parents and the public how a school has performed against recent statewide trends, precisely where a school needs help, and by how much it should progress in order to meet or exceed new growth benchmarks.

Arizona's system also measures school performance by student achievement on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test.

The evaluation of state schools is based on average percentage of students in the "exceeds the standard" category on AIMS over a three-year average as well as total points earned on adequate yearly progress reports mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

In ranking schools, the AZ LEARNS formula takes into consideration the percentage of students in the school passing AIMS, change in the percentage of students in the lowest AIMS performance category and Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) or the academic performance of individual students from year to year.

In high school, graduation and drop-out rates are also included in the evaluations.

Following annual evaluations, all schools -- public and charter -- are ranked on a grade scale.

The possible grades are:

  • Under performing
  • Performing
  • Performing Plus
  • Highly performing
  • Excelling

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Julia Randall Elementary School student Morgan DiFelice reads "The Witch Who Stole The Golden Shoes" that she authored in 2004 as a part of a Young Authors contest. The book has been published and went on sale in 2005.

Any school designated as "under performing" must notify residents they are under performing within 30 days. Schools then have 90 days to develop an improvement plan and must implement it with the help of residents in the school's attendance area and the Arizona Department of Education. Solution teams are then sent to help the school improve student performance.

Miles attributed the rise in the school's ranking to its first summer school, instituted in 2005 to help students with reading and math; its after-school programs; and a new intercession program made available for the first time during the fall recess in 2005 (and again during the recent spring recess). The intercession program is also designed to help students with reading and math skills.

To further enhance student skills with reading and math the school has incorporated some additional programs, Miles said. The "Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Literacy Skills," known as DIBELS, and the Anywhere Learning System.

She said DIBELS is a means to evaluate prereading and early reading skills to help in their literacy development. It is used with the school's kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade students.

The Anywhere Learning System is a computer-based math program which allows students who have advanced skills work ahead and assists in improving the efforts of those youngsters who may be struggling.

The after-school program has been offered at JRE for several years, offering extra instruction in reading, math and computers. Miles said it has been expanded to provide youngsters with the opportunity to learn archery and scrapbooking.

JRE welcomed several new teachers in 2005, Miles said. There are new instructors for physical education and computers, as well as new teachers for kindergarten, fourth and fifth grades.

The administration, staff and students enjoy the support of an active Parent Teacher Organization.

"Our PTO is very strong," Miles said. "We have a family activity night every month, with movies and games. We recently had a dance and about 250 people showed up. It's just a lot of fun."

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