State grades mean more homework for Kingman Unified School District

Roger Jacks

Roger Jacks

KINGMAN -Superintendent Roger Jacks is quick to admit he's disappointed with the state A-F letter grades released this month for Kingman Unified School District and its schools.

For the second year, the district received a C in the annual rating, which is tied to the 2012-2013 Arizona Instrument for Measuring Standards results. Four schools decreased one or more letter grades, two increased and four scored the same as last year.

The grades are determined by students' academic growth and performance on AIMS tests. Additional points are awarded for significant reductions in dropout rates and high-achieving English language learners.

But Jacks is even more disappointed that the letter grades don't take into account the hard work he and staff have put into improving the quality of education for the district's 12,000-plus students over the past year.

The district partnered with Vail Unified School District in Tucson, which is an A district with all A-rated schools, after the 2011-2012 grades were released and has implemented several of its programs. KUSD plans to make more changes this year.

"Right now, we are in a transition time," said Jacks. "We're not just standing still. A grade is just what it is and we're not trying to make excuses for what we got. Our job is to improve our grades. We're really serious about having an A/B district and schools here."

The district came in one point below scoring a B this year, with 119 points. It earned a B in 2011 with 123 points. Hualapai Elementary scored a B for the third year in a row, and Manzanita Elementary earned an A each year. La Senita Elementary, which has been turned into a day care and computer test area for alternative students this year, earned a C in 2012 and 2013, and an A in 2011.

Cerbat Elementary went from a D in 2011 to a B in 2012 and a C this year, while Palo Christi Elementary moved from a B in 2011 to an A in 2012 and a C this year. Black Mountain Elementary fluctuated from a B in 2011 to a C in 2012 and back to a B in 2013. And Mt. Tipton got Bs in 2011 and 2012, but fell to a D this year.

Most of the schools whose scores fell experienced traumatic events, said Jacks, from a loss of leadership and teachers to their doors closing. Students from Palo Christi and La Senita elementary schools are being shifted to Desert Willow Elementary, which opens Thursday, as well as Cerbat and Manzanita elementary schools.

At the upper level, White Cliffs Middle School remained the same with Ds each of the three years while Kingman Middle School got Ds this year and in 2012 after earning a C in 2011. Kingman High School received its third C in a row. Lee Williams High School did not receive a score because it is new.

The district is in the process of overhauling its curriculum, which began when it partnered with Vail, said Jacks. Last year, KUSD implemented Beyond Textbooks, a math curriculum that provides teaching standards and a timeline for them. It also began Re-teach and Enrich, a program that re-teaches concepts to students who have difficulty understanding them while their classmates take time to explore their uses in life.

And every school now participates in Daily Math Skills, a 30-minute effort that focuses on basic math skills. Also, the district began Cambridge Academy, the academic program students must apply for that prepares them for college and a career by increasing rigor and focusing on in-depth learning. And the district began Gear Up, which keeps students on a college-bound track while also giving them a taste of what to expect.

For this year, the district is adding student achievement leaders, or teachers who will focus on student growth and achievement so school principals can deal with discipline and crisis management issues. Also, the district is adding five new positions - coordinator of academic programs, coordinator of professional development and assessments, two reading achievement leaders and one math achievement leader.

At both middle schools, said Jacks, new positions called Teachers on Assignment have been created to assist principals with problems and free them up so they can observe classes. And the class schedule at each school will be changed so students can spend more time studying core subjects while still enjoying electives such as band and sports.

"It takes time to put all these programs into place," said Jacks. "We totally expect to see growth this upcoming year, but it will be incremental. We are convinced we are heading in the right direction."