What’S In A Label? What Do They Mean?

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The Arizona Department of Education has released the AZ LEARNS achievement profiles for all public and charter schools in Arizona.

What do these profiles or labels mean, and how did our schools do?

In November of 2001, Arizona voters approved Proposition 301 which, among other things, provided funds to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to develop “a system to measure school performance based on student achievement, including student performance on the AIMS test.”

The accountability system created to satisfy the statute is referred to as the Arizona LEARNS.

The school evaluation given by ADE to each school is referred to as the school’s achievement profile. It specifies that the profiles of schools serving grades K-8 shall be based on:

• Arizona Measure of Academic Progress (Each student’s growth from one year to the next).

• Percent of students who pass AIMS.

• Performance on the English language proficiency test.

The law specifies that the profiles of high schools shall be based on:

• Percent of students who pass AIMS.

• Drop out rate.

• Graduation rate.

• Performance on the English language proficiency test.

Using what I would call a well developed, but not particularly user-friendly series of formulas and graphs, the performance data for each school is distilled down to a single number. That number determines each school’s achievement profile or label.

The higher the number: the better the label. The labels are: Underperforming, Performing, Performing Plus, Highly Performing and Excelling.

For a school to receive the Highly Performing or Excelling label, they must have a higher percentage of students who score exceptionally well (exceed) on the AIMS.

Also, any school Underperforming for three consecutive years is considered a failing school.

Alternative schools, like Payson’s Center for Success, have only two label options: Performing or Underperforming.

These are our school labels: Payson Center for Success, Performing; Payson High School, Highly Performing; Rim Country Middle School, Performing Plus; Payson Elementary School, Performing Plus; Frontier Elementary School, Highly Performing and Julia Randall Elementary School, Excelling.

I am very pleased with these achievement profiles. PUSD has the only Excelling K-5 elementary school in Gila County; the only Highly Performing elementary school in Gila County and one of just two Highly Performing high schools in the county. Our students have performed well, based on the hard work and dedication of teachers, staff and administrators.

What the labels don’t reveal is all of the factors that contribute to success in our schools.

It’s not just higher test scores in reading and mathematics. The fact that we have thriving music, physical education, extra-curricular programs, I believe, all contribute toward a climate of excellence.

We’re proud of our labels and will continue to commit ourselves toward “Excelling” across the board, but what we are most proud of is the strong diversity of programs that create a range of opportunities for our kids to demonstrate success.

Casey O’Brien is the superintendent of the Payson school district.

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