Arizona Department of Education announced school letter grades during Fall Break at Maricopa Unified School District. For at least two campuses, that resulted in a buzz of emails, texts and phone calls to make sure everyone heard the news they had achieved the top rating.
How did they do that?
Butterfield Elementary’s successful strategy to rise from a C to an A school:
* Revamp the master schedule
* Use data results to set grade-level and school-wide goals
* Use results-based funding to equip third through fifth grade students with 1-to-1 laptops
* Reconfigure classes to better prepare students
Pima Butte and Butterfield elementary schools were given A ratings. Wednesday, the district and governing board formally recognized their achievement during a board meeting.
Butterfield Elementary had the most dramatic improvement, moving from a C to an A. It is the first A-rating for the school. To be sure, Butterfield was not a “bad” school a year ago. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman pointed out its previous C rating was just five points away from a B.
Similarly, other elementary schools in the district were only a few percentage points from the next grade up this year.
Maricopa Elementary, which achieved Lighthouse status, was 0.5 from an A. Santa Rosa Elementary 0.89 away from an A. Santa Cruz Elementary was 1.88 away from an A. The only MUSD elementary with a C, Saddleback Elementary was less than 3 points from a B.
“I think the district as a whole is really doing well,” said Betty Graham, who teaches fourth grade at Pima Butte Elementary. “They’re working wonders, going up and up and up.”
Pima Butte, like the high achieving charter school Legacy Traditional, is more old-hat at receiving A ratings, but it had to rise above a B last year after missing an A by just 4 percentage points. With ratings reliant on results of the AzMerit testing, there was a lot of pressure on third, fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers.
“That A rating didn’t come easy,” PBES Principal Randy Lazar said. “It was a lot of hard work on behalf of our teaching team as well as the assistants with our students and also the support of our parents. It was a collective effort by our entire team.”
Lazar said his main advice for other Arizona elementary schools trying to rise to a higher grade is to focus on student growth.
“We get our test results from the spring and then look to see how did each student perform,” he said. “If we have students that scored minimally proficient, that’s the group you want to put a lot of attention on the next school year. The way the state calculates the letter grade is when you have kids grow. It’s a growth model as far as earning the points.”
Butterfield Principal Janel Hildick expressed a similar sentiment for Wednesday’s honor.
“It’s not just about how many students are passing but how effective we are as teachers, how our students are growing. This year we scored 49.3 out of 50 possible points for growing our students.”
Teachers credited improvements to the voter-approved override, which allowed for more technology and more teachers to reduce class sizes. Funds helped buy carts of technology in Netbooks and Chromebooks. The new equipment allowed the students to get more practice in the basic use of a computer. Lazar said that is key when taking the online-based AzMerit, which is the state standard.
The district’s high school and two middle schools received C ratings.
Learn more about Pima Butte Elementary’s success strategy in the upcoming December issue of InMaricopa.