New grading system praised for helping teachers

Kyrene schools fell only one percentage point short of achieving the state’s highest rating for overall academic achievement, according to the Arizona Department of Education’s newest system utilizing standard letter grades instead of the previous method involving performance-level nomenclature.

Using an A-F grading system, individual Kyrene schools earned mostly A and B grades, with a few C’s but no D’s or F’s. The overall average came in at 139 points, just one point shy of the 140 needed for an A rating.

The aggregate grade for all 25 Kyrene schools was a B.

“We are very proud of our schools and the hard work being done on behalf of our students,” said Lorah Neville, executive director for curriculum and learning services in the Kyrene district.

While she stopped short of offering unqualified praise for the new system, Neville noted that educators within the district welcomed the arrival of a different tool for measuring student progress.

“We have for years asked for a growth model, and now we have it,” she said.

The new system incorporates some of the original AIMS standards while expanding the method used every year to reach a score.

“The old system determined how many kids met and exceeded the standard each year,” she said. “The new system not only answers how they did this year but how they did by comparison with last year—as a first grader, as a fourth grader, did you do equally well or did you do better.”

Neville said the new grading model helps to encourage teachers toward the goal of providing all students, regardless of ability, with an education that meets the needs of the entire spectrum, whether it’s at the top or the bottom of the range.

“It really helps us make sure that all kids are being attended to and growing as much as we can help them grow,” she said.

The new methodology also minimizes any impact from state-mandated open enrollment, which was adopted several years ago and which resulted in a migration of students from other communities into Kyrene schools.

“We want our students to (feel accepted in Kyrene schools), regardless of where they come from,” Neville said. “At the end of the day, the informed parent makes a decision on the kind of experience their child has in the school, which they can determine by a classroom visit and then asking, do we feel welcome here?”

As to the affect the new system has on Kyrene teachers, Neville said:

“We see it helping to build strong leaders, good teachers, a good culture for learning.”


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