October 22, 2018
Holding schools accountable with a strong grading system sets the expectation that top-notch education happens inside every classroom.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires all states to measure school performance. In Arizona, the state’s A-F letter grade system gives the public a snapshot of where a school is successful and where it needs to improve.
Over the past few years, Arizona educators, policymakers and community members have been working to create an accountability system that empowers schools and ensures every student in Arizona receives a quality education.
The Arizona State Board of Education published 2017-18 school letter grades on Oct. 5.
Refinements to the letter grades are a result of feedback from the field and the public, as well as compliance with federal law. These changes will enhance the system while providing consistency in the expectations for our schools.
“School accountability, much like a personal trainer, holds us to the highest standard – not a standard we wish we could be at, but a standard that all students deserve to be served at,” said Amy Cislak, principal of ‘A’-rated University High School in the Tucson Unified School District, at the Arizona State Board of Education meeting in September.
Cislak told Board members that school letter grades are a way to measure success in serving students and families in their community. She is one of many school leaders who support rigorous standards and accountability.
Academic accountability is also a critical measure of transparency for the public whose tax dollars fund public education, and for families to track their school’s performance.
“Our current school AMS-Camelback has shown they are a high-quality school and despite the fact that a majority of the students in this neighborhood are academically at-risk and enroll performing under grade level, the school received a B-rating last year,” Edee Egts, a mother of two children at Academy of Math & Science – Camelback, said at the September State Board of Education meeting.
Parents like Edee deserve access to meaningful letter grades that reflect the quality of the education insides its classrooms when choosing where to enroll their children.
“For the most important individuals in our school– our students — it is a testament that it does not matter what type of community you live in, high income or low income, you deserve to have a high quality education that will give you the tools needed for college and career success,” said Ramses Lugo, an Arizona native and teacher at Western School of Science and Technology who shares the same background as many of his students.
Lugo said every Friday morning, teachers and students at Western School of Science and Technology, which earned a B-rating, recite their school goals and end the chant with, “The first ‘A’-rated high school in Maryvale.”
Many of his students are first generation Americans who will become the first members of their families to attend college. An ‘A’-rating confirms to parents, staff members, and students that a high-quality education for all students is taking place, and Western is committed to getting there, Lugo said.
These leaders remain confident that if we are willing to hold schools accountable and create open communication and collaboration, we can make this a reality in Arizona.
“We have high standards for our students, and to ensure those high standards we also need to demand high standards for ourselves,” said Cislak.