Last in a three-part series
Most of the schools in Coconino County outside Flagstaff didn’t consistently score above the state average on AzMERIT this year. Although, schools like Grand Canyon Elementary and High School, Maine Consolidated in Parks and Williams Elementary/Middle School had some outstanding scores in some grades.
The school in Ash Fork, which is in Yavapai County, also had some high scores in many of its elementary and high school grades. And Sedona Charter School exceeded state averages in four out of five grade levels.
At Ash Fork, a good education starts with recruiting and retaining good quality teachers, said Ash Fork Joint Unified School District Superintendent Seth Staples.
“The biggest one thing that we do is, we have really effective teacher evaluation instrument,” he said. All Arizona teachers are evaluated by their district or school formally three times and have nine walkthroughs a year.
“I think we just take it a little more seriously than some other schools,” Staples said.
About five years ago Ash Fork Unified’s administration sat down with teachers and went through the evaluation forms with teachers to learn what those evaluation questions should look like in the classroom. This let teachers know exactly what was expected of them on these evaluations, he said.
“They used it to make teaching into an art here,” Staples said.
At the student level, students are given ample tutoring opportunities throughout the year, he said. At the beginning of each year, students are tested in the standards that they will have to know by the end of the year. Each teacher has a chart with each student’s name and the five standards they need to learn for the first nine weeks of the year and where they tested at the beginning of the year in those standards. As students improve in the standards the color of the sticker under that standard changes, letting teachers and students track their progress. Student are tested again at the end of every quarter to see how they are doing.
Elementary and high school students who need more help can get tutoring after school, Staples said. The district runs a second bus at 4 p.m. to get those students home. Middle school students can receive extra help or enrichment classes during a second period they have with that teacher during the day.
If a student is still struggling to pass a standard, they report back to school during one week of the two week breaks that district takes at the end of every nine week period, he said. The student receives one-on-one help from teachers during this period and only stays at the school for as long as it takes them to master the standard or until the week ends. The district tries to make sure that students have at least one week of each two week period off.
“We rarely use physical textbooks anymore, except as resource materials,” Staples said. “Most of our teaching resources come from Beyond Textbooks or the internet. We don’t hand students a textbook at the beginning of the year and tell them to start reading on page one, anymore.”
Instead the district uses a curriculum created by Vail Unified School District called Beyond Textbooks. The program gives teachers a curriculum map and also allows them to find and share resource materials and lesson plans that teach directly to the state standards with other teachers in the program.
Here’s how some of the other schools in Coconino County outside of Flagstaff fared on the AzMERIT tests. It’s important to remember that classes at some of these schools, especially alternative schools such as Ponderosa High are so small -- less than 10 students-- that the state does not publish how many students in a particular grade level passed math or English for fear of identifying a student. In other cases the class is large enough but so few students passed that the state didn’t publish a score for fear of identifying a student.
The scores are also affected by how many students took the test. For example, at STAR School only 87 students in the whole school took the math test. At Tuba City Alternative School 29 students took the math test, while at Williams Elementary/Middle School 311 students took the math test.
In third grade most of the schools had scores below the state average of 47 percent passing math and 31 passing English. Ash Fork Elementary and Sedona Charter School third graders were the only classes to score above the state average on both tests with 48 percent passing math and 52 percent passing English at Ash Fork. At Sedona Charter 50 percent passed math and 76 percent passed English.
Big Park Community School in Sedona also exceeded the state average in math with 61 percent of third graders passing.
In Coconino County, Fredonia Elementary had the highest score for math with 31 percent passing and Williams Elementary/Middle and Grand Canyon Elementary schools had the highest score for English with 31 percent passing.
Tuba City Primary School had the lowest passing score for English with only 11 percent of the class passing and Maine Consolidated had the lowest passing score for math with 17 percent passing.
In fourth grade, Sedona Charter was the only school to exceed both state test averages with 63 percent of students passing math and 53 percent passing English.
Five other schools had passing scores that were higher than the state average in either math or English. Main Consolidated had the highest passing score for math for fourth graders in the county with 62 percent of students passing and Williams Elementary/Middle School had the highest passing rate for fourth grade English with 61 percent passing.
STAR Charter School had the lowest passing rates for both fourth grade math and English with less than 2 percent passing. That grade level at STAR has about 11 students who took both tests according to the Arizona Department of Education’s stats.
Sedona Charter School was the only class of fifth graders that had a higher passing rate for English than the state average with 61 percent of Sedona Charter students passing compared to the state’s 44 percent passage rate.
None of the fifth grade classes in Coconino County schools outside of Flagstaff had a passing rate higher than the state in English. Grand Canyon Elementary had the highest passing rate with 43 percent passing English in the county. Tuba City Primary had the lowest passing rate for English at 13 percent. Maine Consolidated had the highest passing rate for math at 62 percent while Grand Canyon Elementary had the lowest at 22 percent.
Most sixth graders in schools outside of the Flagstaff area did not fare well on the tests, with the exception of students at Grand Canyon Elementary and Big Park Community School in Sedona. Sixth graders at Grand Canyon beat the state average for both math, with 48 percent passing, and English, with 48 percent passing. Students at Big Park also exceeded state averages with 61 percent passing math and 61 percent passing English. The number of sixth graders statewide passing math was 42 percent and the number passing English was 42 percent.
Ash Fork and Tuba City Junior High had the lowest passage rate for math with 18 percent passing. Tuba City also had the lowest passage rate for English with only 11 percent passing.
Seventh graders at Ash Fork Middle School and Sedona Charter School were the only students in the area to exceed the state average for both math and English this year. Ash Fork had 47 percent of the class pass math and 59 percent pass English and Sedona Charter had 69 percent pass both math and English compared to the state average of 34 percent passing math and 44 percent passing English.
Tuba City Junior High had the lowest passage rate for schools in the county with only 6 percent passing math and 9 percent passing English.
Eight graders also lagged behind state scores in nearly every school in the county. Fredonia High School eighth graders were the only ones to exceed the state average in English with 50 percent of the class passing, but only 7 percent of Fredonia eighth graders passed math. The Peak School exceeded the state passage rate for math with 44 percent of students passing.
At the high school level most schools scored below the state average for 9th, 10th and 11th grades on one part of the test, with the exception of Ash Fork High which exceed the state average for all three grade levels.
Grand Canyon High 10th and 11th graders exceeded the state average on math with 62 percent of 10th graders passing and 71 percent of 11th graders.