/ Modified nov 29, 2016 11:52 a.m.

AZ Week: Small Steps to School Improvement

State Superintendent Huppenthal: 'Right now, we're at about a B-minus ... which doesn't cut it.'


John Huppenthal 0-80213 portrait John Huppenthal, Arizona superintendent of public instruction. (PHOTO: AZPM)

Superintendents, principals and teachers are digesting results of Arizona's standardized tests and school grades, and looking for ways to take bigger steps toward improvement.

Statewide results for 2012-13 showed more schools bettered their A-F letter grades. Also, more students scored higher in reading and math, while writing and science scores declined slightly on the AIMS test.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, who announced the results Thursday, said more is needed.

"Right now, we're at about a B-minus," Huppenthal said in an Arizona Week interview. He said he bases that grade on the latest results and on studies that show the state, academically speaking, ranking around 19th best in the nation. That's not good enough, he said.

"We have a demographic challenge," Huppenthal said. "If we're going to live up to the hopes and dreams that America has for its underprivileged, for its poor and minority students, we have to get up into the A-plus category, in order to be able to pull these students up, so that every one of these students can be college and career ready by the end of 12th grade. B-minus doesn't cut it."

Michelle Covarrubias portrait Michelle Covarubbias, curriculum director, Eloy Elementary Schools. (PHOTO: AZPM)

The highly anticipated results left some school officials relieved, others elated and still others expressed some frustration.

"We saw a slight increase in our points that we were awarded, so we're moving closer to that 'B'," said Michelle Covarrubias, curriculum director for the Eloy Elementary School District, which has three schools. "We had hoped for a 'B' for at least two of our schools. They inched higher. They didn't exactly make it there."

Eloy Intermediate and Eloy Junior High were graded C, and Curiel Elementary was graded D.

In the Tucson Unified School District, Superintendent H.T. Sanchez was happy with positive movement, including 12 of the district's 98 schools earning "A" grades, compared with eight last year.

"We have campuses that have really exceeded their own expectations," Sanchez said, giving credit to his predecessor, John Pedicone, who stepped down at the end of June, and to others at TUSD.

Manuel Valenzuela 080213 portrait Manuel Valenzuela, superintendent, Sahuarita Unified School District. (PHOTO: AZPM)

Sahuarita Unified School District also saw positive movement, with two of its six schools earning grades of "A" and two earnings grades of "B."

"We're very pleased. There were some definite positive indicators," Valenzuela said. "...for the first time the system has been in place, we had multiple campuses that achieved the "A" label. We had two. We also had positive indicators in regards to movement in regards to lower grades to higher grades."

The new school year will present new challenges to Arizona educators, with full implementation of the Common Core Standards, a curriculum developed nationally and in use in 47 states. It will change teaching and learning methods and lead to elimination of the AIMS test in favor of a more complex, more sophisticated test, Huppenthal said.

It also likely means, in the early going, lower test scores, he said.

"We're not going to be giving (students) a false sense that they're ready for college," he said, explaining that not all 62 percent of 10th graders who passed the AIMS math test last spring are college ready. "So that percent passing is going to drop significantly."

Here's a complete list of Arizona schools' AIMS test results.

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