By RODD CAYTON The Daily News | 0 comments
BULLHEAD CITY — Area charter schools scored highly on this spring’s standardized tests, according to letter grades released Monday by the Arizona Department of Education.
The Academy of Building Industries and the east campus of Mohave Accelerated Elementary School earned “A” grades on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, while the main MAES campus, Mohave Accelerated Learning Center and Young Scholar’s Academy earned “B’s.”
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For AOBI, the grade represents a two-step jump from last year’s “C,” Principal Jean Thomas said Tuesday.
She said it’s also a payoff for a lot of hard work students and educators undertook to address previous low scores.
Thomas said that as an alternative school, AOBI sometimes enrolls students who are significantly behind their peers, and that preparing them to meet the standards for AIMS goes hand-in-hand with getting them back on track academically.
She said school officials created an intense and interactive Friday program (the builder’s academy doesn’t ordinarily have class on Friday) that used relay races, audio and video presentations and other activities to improve students’ math mastery.
Also included were Skype lessons with an instructor from Colorado.
The strategies were designed to reach all types of learners, Thomas said.
Director Tonnie Smith said that Young Scholar’s has probably reached its highest level, due to its past high performance and the state’s scoring criteria. She said YSA students pass AIMS at a rate of 80 to 95 percent for each subject area, making it near impossible to earn extra points for growth in scores.
Each school also has the opportunity to earn three points based on the performance of English-language learners, Smith said, but Young Scholar’s doesn’t have enough of those students to qualify.
Therefore, she said, the school landed two points shy of an “A.”
“In my opinion, we’re definitely an ‘A’ school,” she said. “When you don’t have room to grow and you can’t earn the growth points it, reflects poorer than your school really is.”
She said she was particularly impressed by how her junior high students did.
“At that age, students tend to think that learning is not a priority,” Smith said. “Here, learning is cool. The students enjoy learning; they’re productive, and that makes a big difference.”
Mohave Accelerated Schools Principal Casey Mulligan said the three schools have the same grades as last year, which was the third or fourth consecutive year that the east campus received an “A.”
“Overall, we are very pleased with the performance of the students and the teachers,” he said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the kids and the staff and all the hard work that goes into everything.”
Mulligan agreed that it’s hard for a school with a high number of students who are doing well to show much growth, but holds out hope that a new standardized test debuting this upcoming spring will have some way of correcting that oversight.
Smith said she wasn’t sure if the new test will include a means of not penalizing high-performing schools for hitting ceilings.
“Change can be good,” she said. “I’m withholding judgment.”
Thomas said the AIMS results beat school officials’ expectations. She said their goal was to move up one letter grade and to move students up at least one category.
She said students who had been in the “falls far below” category, save one, met standards on AIMS in 2014. That student, she said, improved into the “approaches” category.
“When you put in so much hard work and effort … to have this kind of outcome is just so exciting and rewarding, Thomas said.
A-F letter grades are based on the weighting of student performance on the AIMS tests and student academic growth from year to year, along with additional points awarded for high English Language Learner reclassifications, and significant reductions in dropout rates, according to a press release that accompanied the AIMS data. Each school and district receives a report card with a grade that reflects its annual academic profile, the ADOE says.
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