Mt. Tipton, Eagle Academy not up to par, state says

'Under performing' ratings given to both schools in LEARNS profiles

KINGMAN ­ Eagle Academy in Golden Valley and lower grade levels of Mt. Tipton School in Dolan Springs received "under performing" ratings from the state Department of Education for its Arizona LEARNS school profiles released Oct. 13.

LEARNS, which stands for leading education through the accountability and results notification system, is Arizona's plan to fulfill requirements of No Child Left Behind legislation.

Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 in each school are given one of the following ratings ­ excelling, highly performing, performing plus, performing, under performing or failing ­ based on meeting academic standards.

Math and reading scores are combined to give each grade level a total score. An "Adequate Yearly Progress" score from another testing procedure is added to it. Calculating in a "Z" score leads to determination of the final rating.

"The Z score is a comparison of the number of students in a specific subject grade that exceeds the standard compared to a benchmark figure set by the state of how many kids at that grade should exceed the standard," said Susan Chan, district administrator at the Kingman Academy of Learning.

A school rated under performing is not meeting state performance and progress goals.

Eagle, a charter school, was given an under performing label for all four grade levels in the Arizona LEARNS ratings.

"In our third, fifth and eighth grades, we had students with core scores that should have been removed from the aggregation of scores before figuring and were not," said Mary Stuart, principal at Eagle Academy.

Some special education students' scores should have been removed because they entered Eagle well into the school year. But their scores were included in the aggregation numbers and skewed the results, Stuart said.

Many of the academy's high school sophomores are considered "at-risk" students. They failed elsewhere and have lower academic skills that would take one to two years to improve to the point of where they should be, Stuart said.

"Our third, fifth and eighth grades have new administrators that are going through training on how to input the scores correctly and follow the appeal process (for an unfavorable rating)," she said.

"Our tenth grade is offering before and after school tutoring and using the AIMS study guide from the state to direct that tutoring. Every student that scored below meeting the standards has an individualized tutoring plan."

Mt. Tipton's sophomores received a "performing" label for Arizona LEARNS. But third, fifth and eighth grade classes at the school were rated "under performing" due to deficiencies in reading and language arts, according to Maurice Flores, superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District.

"(Assistant Superintendent) Betsy Parker and I are developing a school improvement plan with the principal at Mt. Tipton, so we should be able to put the nail to it shortly," Flores said.

"We may need additional resources, such as an extra reading coach."

On the plus side, Kingman High School North got a "performing plus" rating after an "under performing" rating one year ago, Flores said.

Performing plus means a school is above state performance goals. However, the number of students exceeding the standard on the AIMS test is not sufficient to earn it a "highly performing" or "excelling" label.

Manzanita Elementary did get a "highly performing" grade. That label is awarded for a school above state performance goals or which has shown adequate improvement. In addition, a significant number of students has exceeded the standard on the AIMS test.

All other schools in the KUSD received "performing" labels. They included Palo Christi, Cerbat, Black Mountain, Hualapai, Kingman Junior High, and La Senita.

KAOL schools surpassed state averages. The high and intermediate school campuses received "performing plus" ratings, while the middle and primary schools were rated "highly performing."

KAOL Primary School has children in pre-school through grade 2. The school was given its "highly performing" rating based on the latest Terra Nova test scores for second-graders, Chan said.

In a news release from the state DOE, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Arizona LEARNS was created to support schools striving to meet the challenges of accountability since 2003.

"First, we sent solutions teams to our under performing schools, and then, we sent assist coaches to the schools and created best practice academies throughout the state," Horne said. "After that, if a school was still failing to meet academic progress, state intervention specialists were assigned to each school to create a two-year school intervention plan."

Horne identified four major themes for successful improvement. They include: use of student assessment data to design instruction and interventions; schools' willingness to implement systemic change through strategic planning; targeted instructional intervention that meets the needs of every child; and targeted professional development that is specific to the needs and goals as identified by solutions teams, DOE staff and school staff.