3 schools underperform in KUSD

KINGMAN - The Kingman Unified School District is taking a more intense approach to improve the school district's performance.

While every school has improved its scores, the district was still faced with three underperforming schools and five schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.

"Everyone had forward growth," said Gretchen Dorner, KUSD Title One and Assessment director. "Every school worked hard. Everybody showed growth."

The Arizona Department of Education released the measurements on the schools on their Web site, www.ade.az.gov.

While the results were released this month to the public, the district administration was privy to the results months earlier.

With the insight, the district restructured its class schedule to add more Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards preparation courses, Dorner said.

"Some students have two math and two reading classes," Superintendent Roger Jacks said.

This required no additional staff or time, just an adjustment of the current setup, Dorner said.

"We saw that we had things we needed to improve on," Dorner said.

With previous test scores of their students, the administration met with teachers individually for two to three hours at the beginning of the year. This allowed them to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each student, Dorner said.

"We have never been that intensive in the past," Jacks said.

Arizona Learns

La Senita Elementary moved from underperforming two years ago to performing last year. It joins the 734 evaluated schools in the state to receive the status.

"They're going for performing plus next year and I wouldn't bet against it," Jacks said.

Like every school in the district, Dorner said, she expects La Senita to improve next year and possibly raise another rating.

The components for evaluating 1,875 schools across the state for their Arizona Learns profile this year:

• AIMS and Dual Purpose Assessment scores.

• Measure of academic progress.

• Graduation and dropout rates.

• Reclassification of English Language Learner students.

• Adequate Yearly Progress.

The ratings go from failing to meet academic standards to underperforming to performing to performing plus to highly performing to excelling.

The largest category schools across the state fell into was performing with 39 percent.

La Senita was joined by Black Mountain Elementary, Cerbat Elementary, Hualapai Elementary and Kingman High with performing profiles.

Kingman High had reached a performing-plus profile in the 2005-2006 academic year.

Black Mountain, Cerbat and Hualapai have maintained the performing status for the past three years. This consistency has been matched across the state, with most schools remaining statistically consistent in their performance on their Arizona Learns achievement profiles from 2007 to 2008, said Tom Horne, Arizona Department of Education superintendent.

This year, Palo Christi and Manzanita elementary schools obtained performing-plus status. They joined 390 schools across the state to reach the performing plus profile.

It was a first for Palo Christi, which had been deemed performing the prior two years. With very low turnover, the faculty and staff at the school found their system to work collaboratively - even with a 71-percent-low-income student population, Jacks said.

"They just come across as a really strong team," Jacks said.

Manzanita has maintained a performing-plus profile the last three years.

Tracing back to its performing profile as Kingman Junior High during the 2005-2006 academic year, Kingman Middle School and White Cliffs Middle School obtained performing status during the 2006-2007 academic year.

Both schools have dropped since then, obtaining underperforming profiles.

They aren't alone, with 156 other schools falling into underperforming status.

While this could be an anomaly, Dorner said she saw a trend at the sixth-grade level last year with lower tests scores.

"When you see your sixth grade across the district, you see a red flag," Dorner said.

It is something the district is closely examining to ensure the academic success of the previous and current sixth-graders, she said.

The underperforming profile was also assigned to Mount Tipton in Dolan Springs.

This is the first year Mount Tipton was evaluated for the kindergarten through 12th-grade classes together, possibly leading to an underperforming rating.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, both the elementary and high school received performing ratings. In 2005-2006, the elementary school received an underperforming rating, while the high school received a performing rating.

State can step in

Schools that are underperforming for three years in a row are deemed failing and face state intervention. While this isn't an immediate possibility for the district, Dorner said, the Arizona Department of Education has put them on warning.

"We will move out of corrective action," Dorner said.

Achieving the improvements isn't unreasonable, with White Cliffs and Mount Tipton falling less than one point under the 13 overall required points to be performing. Kingman Middle School fell less than two points short of performing with 11.1 points.

Adequate

Yearly Progress

This is the first year in the past three the district has had so many schools not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress determination. Black Mountain, Kingman Middle School, Kingman High, Mount Tipton and White Cliffs did not successfully complete the pass-fail standard set by the federal government.

"The architecture of the Arizona accountability system is far superior to the federal system, No Child Left Behind," said Tom Horne, Arizona Department of Education Superintendent. "No Child Left Behind has 253 categories, and if a school performs spectacularly on 252 and fails one, the whole school fails."

Failing only one or a few categories is something the KUSD faced this year.

The AYP is a No Child Left Behind requirement that measures data from the AIMS test and requires that 95 percent of students in a school are tested. AYP also takes into account attendance rate or graduation rate.

Kingman High did not pass the percent tested, scores for 10th-grade reading and math, and scores for the special education subgroup.

With at least 40 students in subgroups ranging from ethnicity to low income to special education, each school is tested in those subgroups.

"You can see it's a challenge for schools," Jacks said. "It's harder with larger schools."

And Kingman High is a large school in the district. With an enrollment of more than 2,000 students, the high school nearly makes up 26 percent of the total district's population.

Sixth-grade scores poor

The trend with lower sixth-grade test scores causing White Cliffs, Kingman Middle School and Mount Tipton to be labeled underperforming by the Arizona Department of Education, also caused them to fail AYP.

The underperforming trend among sixth-graders also extended to lower-income students at the middle schools.

At Mount Tipton, neither the seventh- nor the eighth-grade classes met AYP requirements.

The Arizona Department of Education will provide technical assistance to any school that failed to make AYP two years in a row, Horne said.

"We are committed to ensuring that all schools in Arizona are successful," he said.

The assistance already has come from an Arizona Department of Education school support specialist based out of Flagstaff, Dorner said.

With the lack of success, the district has applied for about $150,000 in grant money to be used for tutoring and AIMS preparation materials.

Federal funds

are in jeopardy

The need to improve is key because the district could lose some federal funds that support low-income students if the schools fall short of the federal goals for three years in a row or longer.

This is the case at Kingman High and Mount Tipton. For the past three years, they haven't met AYP standards.

Schools this year also faced another challenge.

Every three years, the percentage of students who must be proficient for schools to make AYP increases. The 2007-2008 academic year was one of the increase years.

"In three years, a 10 percent increase is a lot to do when you're running on all cylinders," Dorner said.

The Arizona Department of Education and schools throughout the state must achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

To help achieve their goal, the district has been reaching out more to parents to help with their students' success, and is stepping up efforts to decrease truancy and absenteeism.