Schools Cite Incorrect Data, Construction, School Threats In Letter Grade Appeals

By Evan Wyloge|AZCIR

Seventy-three schools are appealing the letter grades they’ve been given by state school officials, citing a variety of reasons that their grade should be improved.

For about two-thirds of those appealing, school officials say either that the Arizona Department of Education used incorrect data to calculate their letter grade or that the formula the Arizona State Board of Education used to grade schools is flawed.

Four schools say the teacher shortage in Arizona resulted in their poor letter grade.

Other appeals blame road construction, building construction, plumbing problems, air conditioning problems or an outbreak of the flu for their letter grade.

A small number of schools cited unusual conditions.

  • Flagstaff High School received threats of “Columbine-style” violence, resulting in a spike of absences while parents kept their kids at home.
  • Casa Grande Union High School explained that its principal was in China when data was provided to the Department of Education, and that the school’s staff did not include all the data.
  • George Gervin Prep Academy described several specific teachers at the school who caused problems for students and needed to be disciplined or removed from the classroom. One teacher, the school administrators said, was “immensely affected” by and became erratic following the election of Donald Trump as president. Another, they said, bullied and intimidated students.

The Board of Education said they plan to review the appeals and make decisions on them in coming months, but do not have a firm date for when that process will be completed.

Additionally, the Board of Education announced this month that it will revamp the formula used to calculate the grades and issue a new set of “final” grades later this year.

SchoolDistrict/CharterGrade assignedGrade requestedReason
Aguila Elementary SchoolAguila Elementary DistrictDCIncorrect data used in formula
Aire Libre Elementary SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Alchesay High SchoolWhiteriver Unified DistrictFDSchool not aware of deadline
Antelope Union High SchoolAntelope Union High School DistrictDCRemote location, athletic events and fair preparation
Bagdad Middle / Senior High SchoolBagdad Unified DistrictB/F“Unknown”Grade system is unconventional
Bales Elementary SchoolBuckeye Elementary DistrictD“B or Above”Teacher shortage
Betty Fairfax High SchoolPhoenix Union High School DistrictDCIncorrect data used in formula
Blue Ridge Elementary SchoolBlue Ridge Unified School District No. 32DDIncorrect data used in formula
Buckeye Elementary SchoolBuckeye Elementary DistrictDDoes not specifyTeacher shortage
Buckeye Union High SchoolBuckeye Union High School DistrictDCIncorrect data used in formula
Canyon Del Oro High SchoolAmphitheater Unified DistrictCBIncorrect data used in formula
Casa Grande Union High SchoolCasa Grande Union High School DistrictDCPrincipal was in China / Staff sent incomplete data
Cesar Chavez High SchoolPhoenix Union High School DistrictDCIncorrect data used in formula
Children Reaching for the Sky PreparatoryCharterDCIncorrect data used in formula (appeal filed after close of window)
Chinle High SchoolChinle Unified DistrictDCPower outages (appeal filed after close of window)
Cloves C Campbell Sr Elementary SchoolRoosevelt Elementary DistrictCBFlooding due to storm
Copper Ridge SchoolScottsdale Unified DistrictBA6th-grade teacher took medical leave
Copper TrailsAvondale Elementary DistrictBAAbsences caused by “flu/illness”
Cordova Elementary SchoolAlhambra Elementary DistrictCBFlooding due to storm
Country Gardens Charter SchoolCharterDCRoad closures, school construction, “Air Conditioning Debacle”
Desert Horizon Elementary SchoolPendergast Elementary DistrictDCStudent death
Eliseo C. Felix SchoolAvondale Elementary DistrictDCAbsences, changed from K-8 to 2-5 school
Fine Arts AcademyLittleton Elementary DistrictFDoes not specifyConstruction
Flagstaff Arts and Leadership AcademyCharterCAIncorrect data used in formula
Flagstaff High SchoolFlagstaff Unified DistrictCAShootin threat caused spike in absences during testing period
Flagstaff Junior AcademyCharterCBIncorrect data used in formula
Fountain Hills High SchoolFountain Hills Unified DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
George Gervin Prep AcademyCharterFNo GradeMultiple severe staffing issues
Great Hearts Academies – Trivium PrepCharterCAIncorrect data used in formula or Challenge to formula
Helen Keeling Elementary SchoolAmphitheater Unified DistrictDCConstruction / Roof repair / Sick teacher
Horizon High SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Imagine Prep CoolidgeCharterF/CDoes not specifyChallenge to how formula works
Indian Bend Elementary SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
Indian Oasis Primary Elementary SchoolBaboquivari Unified School District #40NRBOvercrowding / Students moved among schools in school system
Keystone Montessori Charter SchoolCharterBDoes not specifyChallenge to how formula works
Kyrene Akimel A-Al Middle SchoolKyrene Elementary DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
Kyrene Altadena Middle SchoolKyrene Elementary DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary SchoolKyrene Elementary DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Kyrene de la Mariposa SchoolKyrene Elementary DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
L M Prince SchoolAmphitheater Unified DistrictFDFlooding due to plumbing problems / Teacher left mid-year
Leading Edge Academy at East MesaCharterBAChallenge to how formula works
Littleton Elementary SchoolLittleton Elementary DistrictDCProblems with/changes in leadership and staff
Madison #1 Elementary SchoolMadison Elementary DistrictCAChallenge to how formula works
Madison Highland PrepCharterBAChallenge to how formula works
Madison Traditional AcademyMadison Elementary DistrictBAIncorrect data used in formula
Mary C O’Brien Elementary SchoolMary C O’Brien Accommodation DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Metro Tech High SchoolPhoenix Union High School DistrictCBIncorrect data used in formula
Michael AndersonAvondale Elementary DistrictCBAbsences caused by “flu/illness”
Mingus Union High SchoolMingus Union High School DistrictCBChanges in administration
Montessori AcademyCharterCBTechnical/IT problems during testing
Mountain Trail Middle SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
New School for the ArtsCharterFDoes not specifyIncorrect data used in formula
New School for the Arts Middle SchoolCharterFCIncorrect data used in formula or Challenge to formula
North Ranch Elementary SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Paragon Science AcademyCharterCAIncorrect data used in formula
Paramount AcademyCharterDC4th grade teacher left, students were emotionally distressed
Pinnacle High SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictBAChallenge to how formula works
Prescott High SchoolPrescott Unified DistrictCBIncorrect data used in formula
Queen Creek High SchoolQueen Creek Unified DistrictBAIncorrect data used in formula
San Simon SchoolSan Simon Unified DistrictDDoes not specifyChallenge to how formula works
San Tan Foothills High SchoolFlorence Unified School DistrictCBIncorrect data used in formula
Sequoia Secondary SchoolCharterFDoes not specifyIncorrect data used in formula
Shea Middle SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictDDoes not specifyIncorrect data used in formula
Sinagua Middle SchoolFlagstaff Unified DistrictDCSecurity, shooting, threats
Sonoran Science Academy – TucsonCharterBAIncorrect data used in formula
Stanfield Elementary SchoolStanfield Elementary DistrictFD/CTeacher shortage
Steven R. Jasinski Elementary SchoolBuckeye Elementary DistrictDDTeacher shortage
Sundance ElementaryBuckeye Elementary DistrictC“B or above”Challenge to how formula works
Superior Junior/Senior High SchoolSuperior Unified School DistrictDCIncorrect data used in formula
Topock Elementary SchoolTopock Elementary DistrictDBChallenge to how formula works / Teacher left
Valley Union High SchoolValley Union High School DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
Vista Verde Middle SchoolParadise Valley Unified DistrictDCChallenge to how formula works
Westview High SchoolTolleson Union High School DistrictCBChallenge to how formula works
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  1. Wanna bet she/he even woke up their kids the night of the election to terrorize them with the fact of Trump`s election?

  2. I know it’s popular to dump on the K-12 schools, but for the case of the newly contrived A-F school letter grade, I say shame on ALL the schools (District AND Charter) for not challenging the criteria the appointed State Board of Ed developed.

    Even this Board itself admitted they have no idea what an A school vs a B school looks like and they were just picking the best from the worst options on how to develop an Az state school letter grade!

    This formula developed tells Parents and the Public nothing about the caliber of learning or teaching within any school. This formula narrowly defines success on one test which by the way was never validated.

    The benchmark scoring to for a school to get an A, B, C, D or F is as similar to a magician asking you to “pick a card…any card” as that is how the passing rate was decided. A politically and optically set number of schools to get each grade.

    Don’t believe me…you can watch the State Board of Ed meetings for yourself on this subject and watch how the Math was massaged. This was done in the open yet according to the You Tube count of how many people watched—it was well under 100. This formula will influence school funding, you’d think more than a few Arizonans would watch and we are all the public being taxed to pay for it all. Maybe more people will go back and watch now that this letter grading scheme has shown it is a complete mess?

    This A-F model also unfairly doesn’t give points to schools where kids are already doing well on the testing. See, schools get “EXTRA” points from showing growth on the AZMERIT test score. On one hand it sounds like a good thing to reward higher test scores. But you’d have to assume the test in question can validate actually learning of knowledge. Of course we want all students to do well. BUT, if a school’s students already perform at say a 90% level, that doesn’t move the needle on the growth scale if the school is now at a 92% level so schools may not get any or few points for that section of the A-F model.

    Now a school who by many accounts isn’t doing well BUT shows a huge amount of growth–again on that one test, will be awarded many points because they could show improvement in the growth category. That growth could be from the 20’s to 30’s and while that is an improvement….how much do we celebrate that in the overall school’s letter grade?

    Essentially, a district or charter school will get a better grade if someone near them does worse. There are only so many A’s awarded…so even if all the best teachers, best curriculum, kids having their best test day…still only a certain number of A schools will be had. ALL schools can’t possibly even earn an A even under perfect conditions because of the formula derived by Gov Ducey’s appointed Board and our elected Supt of Public Instruction.

    Lincoln said the best way to get rid of a bad law is to strictly enforce it. I think finally some conversations about the flawed A-F school letter grade may take place and let’s hope for something more valuable than a single letter grade based on a flawed test emerges.

    By the way, most of the schools doing the challenging are Charter schools so Gov Ducey has to pay attention to this. 20 out of the 27 BASIS charter schools are complaining about their school letter grade. Ducey holds BASIS as the poster Charter of how to do school well. They don’t graduate near the number of kids who start their school for a variety of reasons but no one talks about that openly.

    If we have to have a school letter grade it needs to encompass many items not just a test grade as the marker of success. Here’s an example, there are many students who take college courses while in high school and earn dual credit yet that doesn’t even count towards showing if a school is guiding kids to be college ready. Gee, wouldn’t completion of College Writing 101 and 102 in high school count for something? NOPE, because the State Board of Ed says AZMERIT is the king of all metrics and not much else.

    No one following closely to decisions by the State Board of Ed is happy with the A-F plan. State Board of Ed pointed to the Legislature and blamed them for developing the single rating. But here’s the rub, the Legislature didn’t tell them what criteria to use or how to do it. That part of the flub is on the State Board of Ed. Both can be faulted for thinking a single grade is useful to parents. It isn’t and never will be.

    Parents have a wide variety of reasons to pick a school and standardized testing routinely polls at the bottom of the choices. Turns out Parents care for many more things yet the polticos ignore Parents and then wonder why everyone is mad?

    • Thanks mom, from your analysis, it appears almost everyone failed this test, Governor Ducey (naturally) and his appointed Board, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Schools, for not being engaged in the development of the system criteria, though I`m not sure why you conclude that an overall letter grade, proposed by the Legislature, is not feasible.

    • Hi Luke,

      Thanks for asking the question. I appreciate having a chance to reply. It will be long!

      The reason one all encompassing letter grade is not useful is because it puts the State in charge of deciding or influencing what an A school is. The State Board of Ed in a moment of candor admitted they don’t know what an A school looks like and how could they? What I look for in a school may different than other Parents….so who gets to be the king commando of the criteria? Many of the real important reasons Parents have for picking schools are not measured quantitatively by a test nor can they be assigned a numeric value without being subjective. Even with a set of likely traits Parents look for in schools, what numbering system is assigned to them?

      In almost every other aspect of life, we likely agree that one metric isn’t how you chose something. A vacation, a home to purchase or even where to go out to eat. None of us look at one metric. If I read Chuckey Cheese got an A rating without knowing anything else about them, wouldn’t I be surprised if I showed up there for a romantic dinner rather than with the Little League Team? Maybe that A is Chuckey Cheese’s rating for kids under 12….and likely no one else!

      School ratings are similar—in AZ they primarily use one metric the AZMERIT test as the deciding factor of what an A school looks like. You score a certain amount or show a certain amount of growth in the test score and up the letter grade goes. What does that tell you about what happens every day in that school? Nothing.

      For me, an A based on AZMERIT is not necessarily the school I would pick. I know that socio-economics is the largest factor in determining how a school population will test on ANY bubble in standardized test. This is not popular to say out loud so few admit this. Check out Chris Tienken’s work where he can predict a schools test scores with just census data. He doesn’t even have to visit a school to get accurate results. So if this is already a known element, why keep the myth alive that any school can get an A. They can’t for the reasons I mentioned in the previous post. Many schools striving for their A or keeping their A focus on practice tests, and a narrow focus on testing in general. Since the days of No Child Left Behind, kids have spent HOURS taking standardized testing and after almost 20 years, this model has not closed the achievement gap…things have gotten worse. in Florida, whom AZ often looks to for Ed policy, kids take 112 standardized tests by 12th grade. Our AZ school letter grade was similar to Florida’s plan. I trust you were not educated with this burden of mega testing. Having been educated in AZ, this was not my school experience. Testing is becoming the major focus. I think it’s folly for our kids and needs to be curbed.

      Teachers quietly share that it is in their school’s best interest to spend extra time getting kids on the cusp of passing these tests to do so because of funding and the school letter grade. What does that look like, often more time in remediation instead of spending time in art, music, or PE, after school tutoring or kids being pulled out from some classes in favor of other subjects. It’s not with the focus of this is so the kid learns more…if we are lucky that’s a lucky by product. It’s so the kid scores better on the test. The letter grade based on this one test makes well meaning people do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Quite frankly we just don’t know the AZMERIT measures what it says it does, but that’s its own other lengthy post of problems.

      My school choice would be a school without Common Core or its curriculum, kids would have music, art, and PE. They would have recess–that’s going by the wayside in some schools or very diminished in length. A school would have a wide variety of books in the library.
      A well known Charter school has “guided recess” where adults make learning part of recess. Good grief, we do not need to micromanage kids this way! It is done to “pack in learning.” Kids–especially boys need a physical outlet to let loose. As a Mom, I can speak to this personally. Boys will fidget and get in trouble in class without time to run wild and get their energy spent. Those are a few things that are important to me along with who the school leaders are, what curriculum is used, and what the teachers are like. There’s more, but you get the idea. How does anyone but me quantify what’s most important to me? The school letter grade is marketed as a tool for Parents. SBE and ADE specifically say that. The School Letter Grade needs to lose that definition. Even the Feds finally realized through the ESSA bill passed a couple of years ago that states aren’t required to have one single letter grade. AZ’s school letter grade says, “you are a parent what could you possibly know about education–we’re the state and we’re here to tell you what’s most important.”

      I will close with, just because I have a set of criteria, I recognize other Parents have different values of what an A school looks like. If I were a single Mom and worked the graveyard shift, a school bus stop close to my home would move higher up the priority list. If I couldn’t get my child to school on time, that matters. Is my list of school items better? Nope…just different.

      AZ can’t be the “school choice leader” and then prescribe school letter grades based largely on 1 metric.

      Having looked extensively at the scores released, many of the schools I would pick didn’t get an A, but because I am involved in knowing what a sham the scoring is, I would look past that. I trust most parents would too, but few may know what massaging AZ does with the numbers. I hate thinking Parents are being sold something not based in truth. Other than a few news outlets, you won’t see this truth spoken in MSM. So, the school letter grade gets perpetuated as something to hold in esteem. It isn’t. And somehow in the past 2 years when school letter grades were suspended, I bet you didn’t hear of any Parent paralyzed with fear that they couldn’t pick a school. Maybe there’s a clue for politicos? They should trust Parents a bit more. We aren’t perfect, but we have the advantage in knowing our kids and what they need.

      Few of us need the State of AZ telling us what schools are good or not.

  3. Some parents use the school system only as a baby sitting service, and it’s like pulling teeth just to get them involved in the childs education. Children treat schools as a social, and others where to act up in because they know nothing will happen if they do. Basics are no longer taught, and they teach only to pass a test so the school gets a passing grade.
    Still few can afford to send their child to a school out of the system so they are stuck there or home school if a parent stays home.

  4. WAAAAAAA….. I want my A. There are a million excuses and everyone has them. No one wants to take responsibility any more for failing schools and kids. Just give them a participation trophy or ribbon and the parents and kids will be happy. That is what this world has become. If you participate, you have a right to succeed. I call BS. You have a right to participate in public education but as with all other things in life, simply going to school for 12 or so years doesn’t prepare you for what is waiting on the outside. Its called responsibility and no one wants any of that now, do they? Parents, kids, administrators and the teachers get stuck in the middle. As with life, now schools want everything for doing nothing. Please, the dog ate my homework, the kids had the flu and I love “change the standards.”

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