Arizona Charter Schools Receive Alternative Letter Grades

Date: October 2, 2012

Guest post by Ron Grimsley, Ombudsman Charter Specialist

As reported in Charter School Monthly, on August 1 of this year the Arizona Department of Education released letter grades for all schools in Arizona, including for the first time, a letter grade for all of the alternative schools in the state. Of the eight charter schools operated by Ombudsman here, five received a letter grade of B-Alt, and three earned a C-Alt.

These grades are the result of a new accountability model developed by ADE’s subcommittee on accountability and the accountability committee of the Arizona Alternative Education Consortium. Ombudsman’s Binky Jones and Ron Grimsley, along with representatives of five other alternative schools,  served on that committee and began developing a accountability model for to present to the state board in December of last year.

The new model, approved by the State Board of Education in July of this year, for the first time, recognized that alternative schools work with an entirely different population of students than traditional schools, and as such, should be evaluated in a different way.

The new model includes factoring academic growth into the equation, rather than just composite scores of all students on a high-stakes test. That, along with the fact that alternative schools are now compared to each other, rather than to every school in the state, means that the playing field is level and alternative schools are being recognized for the important work they do.

Another factor in our assigned letter grades is that our schools in both districts earned “bonus points” in two of the three available categories, namely graduation rate and academic persistence. We have have taken steps to streamline our ELL tracking and next year we hope to earn bonus points in that category as well.

While I am pleased to be able to report this first-year round of successful results, this does not in any way suggest that anyone in charter believes that we can’t do even better than this. Binky has made it clear that our goal is, and will continue to be, an ‘A’ for all of our schools. In the meantime, this is an outstanding start to the process and one on which we all believe we can build.

Image credit: Alternatively Speaking: Three News (New School Year, New Parallel Accountability Model, Re-New-ed Commitment)

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