Original URL:  http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0918edmap18.html

Arizona students showing gains in reading and math

The Arizona Republic
Sept. 18, 2003 12:00 AM

Pat Kossan and Ryan Konig

An analysis of last spring's Stanford 9 scores shows that nearly every elementary and middle school in the Valley had a majority of its students making at least one year's progress in reading and math.

The 2003 Measure of Academic Progress, an annual report, is based on national Stanford 9 test scores and is especially important to schools this year. It's a large part of Arizona's new formula to determine if a school will be ranked "excelling," "highly performing," "performing" or "underperforming" in October.

The Measure of Academic Progress, or MAP, report counts only students who attend the same school for a full year. Educators call it a more meaningful way to judge how well a school is teaching its children.

The MAP study credits a school for improving a student's reading and math skills, even if the student is not working at grade level. For example, a child might enter fifth grade reading at a third-grade level. If, within the year, the teacher can get that student to read at a fourth-grade level, the school gets credit for advancing the student's reading skills one year.

If the MAP research shows that 60 percent or more of the students in a school advanced one year in math and reading, the school gets additional points toward its label. The higher the percentage of students, the more points a school will get toward improving its label. The change means more elementary schools are expected to reach the "excelling" and "performing" ranks this year and fewer will remain "underperforming."

In Maricopa County, 11 district elementary schools advanced by one year 80 percent or more of their students in both math and reading.

For the past five years, Elizabeth Hargrove was principal of Cordova Primary School, where 85 percent of second- and third-graders made a year's worth of progress in math and 84 percent in reading. It's a school where 89 percent of the students are poor enough to qualify for free lunches and more than half are learning English.

Hargrove credits teachers, fair pay and good teacher-parent communications. Hargrove, now principal of Carol Peck Elementary, mandated a minimum of four "positive" parent contacts for each teacher every year.

"That positive communication sets the groundwork," she said.

Linda Grovert is principal of the Paradise Valley District's Boulder Creek Elementary, where 85 percent of students advanced at least a year in math and 81 percent in reading. Grovert said her teaching staff never gives up on any child's learning problem.

"The answer is here, it's in this room, we just have to find it, for every child," Grovert said. When looking for answers, Grovert and her teachers rely on parents. "We need guidance from parents about what they already know about their child, what works and what doesn't work."

Donna Plaza's 10-year-old twin boys, now in the fourth grade, have been in Boulder Creek since kindergarten. Plaza said she has never found a teacher who wasn't approachable and always felt welcome in the classroom, where teachers keep up with the best in teaching methods.