Pima Butte Elementary School presented a yearly update to the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Wednesday night.

In many classrooms there are close to 30 students. However, Pima Butte is finding a tremendous amount of success with these large classes.

In math, each grade other than third grade and fifth grade saw an improvement from the first benchmark to the third. The largest improvement was the first grade class that jumped from approximately 75 percent meeting or exceeding standards to nearly 90 percent. Sixth grade also finished near 90 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

The only classes that saw a drop from the first benchmark to the third were the third and fifth grades. The third grade class went from just under 80 percent meeting or exceeding at the first benchmark to well over 80 percent during the second benchmark. However, they saw a sharp drop to approximately 75 percent meeting or exceeding for the third benchmark. The fifth grade started at 80 percent meeting or exceeding standards, then dropped to 75 percent, and finished near 72 percent.

“We looked at a number of different variables at what could be causing [the drop for third and fifth grade],” Pima Butte Principal Randy Lazar said. “We wanted to see if this was a trend at other elementary schools. When we looked at other schools, we were seeing the same results.”

Lazar said an issue could be with the benchmark testing as well. When the students take each benchmark, they are tested on items they’ve learned, are currently learning, and even items they haven’t been taught yet. The testing also lasts for two hours.

“Is there a way to shorten the testing?” MUSD Governing Board member Torri Anderson asked. “Two hours seems like a long time for elementary.”

Lazar informed the board that a schedule could be adjusted (such as breaking up the test into segments), but he was not sure if the number of questions could be reduced.

On the reading side, Pima Butte’s numbers were very promising. The first and sixth grades were once again the top performers with each surpassing 90 percent of their students meeting or exceeding standards. The second grade stayed even with its initial benchmark of 81 percent, and despite dropping below their first benchmark score, the fourth grade was still able to reach 84 percent.

The third and fifth grades saw the largest drop, but the numbers were still quite favorable. The fifth grade class was still able to achieve 80 percent of the students meeting or exceeding standards, despite dropping 4 percent. The third grade was the only class not to surpass 80 percent. However, 78 percent of the class did meet or exceed standards.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth with all of our grade levels,” Lazar said. “A number of our grade levels are into the 90 percent range. In terms of our language arts, we are able to do the [response to intervention] reading four times a week. We also offer tutoring before and after school.”

Pima Butte, which is the smallest elementary school in Maricopa in terms of space, currently enrolls 501 students. Of the large student body, 54 percent are white, 25 percent are Hispanic, 13 percent are African-American, and other demographics, such as Native American and Asian populations, make up less than 10 percent of the student body.

“We have quite a diverse group of students attending at Pima Butte,” Lazar said. “We’re pretty close to capacity. Our rooms are full.”

Due to the large number of students enrolled, the number of open enrollment students that can attend Pima Butte is limited. As Lazar explained, open enrollments students previously accepted remain in the school, and siblings of these students are also accepted. This limits the number of new students that can be brought in through open enrollment.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“If a student already had a history with us under open enrollment, we continued their open enrollment status,” Lazar said. “If they had a sibling that was going to join us, we accepted the sibling so families wouldn’t be broken up. After we accounted for that, we didn’t have much space left. We’re still getting open enrollment applications, but we’ll likely have the same issue this year. We may not have much room at all for new open enrollment students.”

Parents on the open enrollment waiting list typically have to wait until after the 10th day of school in August to find out if there will be an opening.

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