October 6, 2017
Dear Amphitheater Parents, Staff and Community:
Today, the Arizona State Board of Education publicly released letter grades (A-F) for all schools in Arizona. These letter grades were calculated using the results of the AzMERIT tests and other data from the last school year (2016-17). These calculations were made with entirely different formulas than those used a few years ago when the state used the former AIMS tests, so we want to provide you with some background information that may be useful in understanding your school’s letter grade.
While Arizona’s new A-F Accountability System results in a simple letter grade for schools, those grades are generated through fairly complex formulas. These formulas are largely based on measures of student proficiency and growth, as well as acceleration and readiness, and have been created within certain parameters. For example, the State Board of Education set parameters so that, roughly speaking, 17% of the state’s K-8 schools would earn an “A,” 34% would earn a “B,” 37% would receive a “C,” 9% would receive a “D,” and 3% would receive an “F” grade.
The school grading system provides schools with feedback: identification of areas where they have been successful, as well as areas of focus for the future. The grading system can thereby help schools improve, help identify schools needing additional support, and help prioritize the application of limited resources.
Of the Amphitheater School District’s 19 schools receiving a grade under this new system:
- 2 schools received an “A”
- 6 schools received a “B”
- 9 schools received a “C” (including one school grade currently under review, pending appeal)
- 1 school received a “D” (under review, pending appeal)
- 1 school received an “F” (under review, pending appeal)
A complete list of schools and preliminary letter grades is provided here.
Beyond the “Grades”: Evaluating Our Schools
Although we recognize and appreciate the importance of measuring student achievement through quantitative data and consistent statewide measurements and labels, no single assessment of school performance can possibly provide a wholly accurate picture.
Last year, Governor Ducey established a new program to specifically and financially reward high achieving schools. His “Results Based Funding Program” is providing significant incentives to approximately 340 Arizona schools this year, including 4 of the 19 schools in the Amphitheater District. Of the 4 Amphitheater schools recognized for their high achievement under the Governor’s Program, 2 were just labeled as “C” schools under the new school grading system. This is just one example of the need to look at multiple measures of school success.
There are obviously a variety of important factors which contribute to a positive and successful school environment for students. Families, therefore, not only consider things like school grades or other performance labels, but also look at other qualitative factors such as:
- the social and emotional environment which their children experience;
- the skilled and highly qualified teachers who serve their children;
- the quality and diversity of programs and services available at their child’s school;
- the active involvement and support of the community; and
- the achievements of students or staff.
None of these very important factors can be measured by a standardized test, nor are they reflected in our current school grading system. Indeed, most parents’ perceptions of their child’s school are not driven by criteria like school achievement labels, but rather by their personal experience -- their own child’s academic, social and emotional growth and progress.
Amphitheater Public Schools takes great pride in the academic achievement of our students. Our teachers and other staff are fully committed to the success of each and every one of the students in our Amphi Family. We are proud to play a part in making the dreams of students and their families come true, and we will continue to work hard to earn the trust you place in us.
If you would like more information on the A-F Accountability System, you will find it on the Amphitheater Public Schools website: www.amphi.com. And, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at (520) 696-5206.
Todd A. Jaeger, J.D.