Changes loom for grading Arizona schools

PHOENIX – Arizona’s letter-grading system to measure how well schools are teaching students is on hold while the state school board makes changes.

The state school board this month will discuss revising a system that measures schools’ academic performance on a scale from A-F.

Tim Carter, vice president of the Arizona State Board of Education, proposed a revision that depends less on standardized tests to determine whether schools are teaching students well.

His proposal would measure proficiency and performance growth on standardized tests but add categories such as career readiness and college readiness.

Carter expects his proposal will be modified but hopes much of it will remain intact. The state school board is looking at different proposals it will discuss on Sept. 26. The board is expected to finalize and vote on a new school grading system.

The board will send its accountability-system choice to a committee of parents, state school-board members, teachers and school superintendents to recommend standards.

Several Arizona teachers said the current system of assessing schools’ – and students’ – academic performance relies too much on standardized tests.

“It is kind of sad education is turned to more of teaching to the test instead of teaching to lifelong learners and students,” said Kyle Shippy, a fourth-grade teacher at Heritage Elementary School in Glendale.

“It’s so important for the school financially,” Justin Dye, principal of the Glendale charter school, said about schools’ academic performance. “The teachers feel that burden.”

Dye favored the A-F system but believes putting the majority of the focus on standardized tests does not fully capture what teachers actually do.

“They don’t want one test to determine whether they are successful or not because there is so many ways to build students, build character and build their overall academic knowledge,” Dye said.

Parents and other taxpayers are encouraged to give feedback at the September board meeting.

“I would hope that folks would take an active part in the process,” Carter said.