Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/community/scottsdale/articles/1017sr-pvschools17Z8.html

Schools in Paradise Valley improve under new labeling
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 17, 2003

NORTHEAST VALLEY - When the state Department of Education released its school labels this week, lots of schools in the Paradise Valley School District had reason to cheer.

On a whole, the Paradise Valley School District had 11 schools receive the excelling label. Last year no school in the district received the label. This year the state's labels were calculated differently, making it easier for a school to show improvement.

Of the two schools on last year's underperforming list - Campo Bello Elementary School and Palomino Elementary School - one improved its ranking.

Campo Bello advanced to the "performing" label, while Palomino stayed at "underperforming."

Roger Freeman, director of assessment for the Paradise Valley district, called Campo Bello a success story.

"It was work, commitment and focus," Freeman said.

The job is harder for Palomino to change its label, Freeman said, because the low points the school received in 2000 and 2001 weigh down the Palomino numbers.

The formula used by the state Board of Education is based on math and reading test scores from the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, and the Stanford 9 test.

"There's nothing they can do about it," Freeman said. "Unless there's a shift in design, Palomino is going to struggle with those baseline scores that will always get averaged in."

That's not to say Palomino did nothing to improve. Among the changes the district made for this year was to break Palomino into two smaller campuses, Palomino, which has kindergarten through third grade, and Palomino II, which has fourth through sixth grades. Students should get more individual attention.

"The two principals are both new," Freeman said. "And they've got a big task ahead of them. . . . They need the opportunity to build a long-term, stable school culture."

Manuel Ramirez, principal of Palomino II, said the schools will have a new focus on student achievement.

"I think there are misperceptions of kids here being monolingual," Ramirez said. "Most are able to communicate. There's just so many other hoops that they have to jump through."

One includes being required to take a test in English when a student might not be proficient in English yet.

Freeman compared the testing method to an English-speaking adult taking a math test in Arabic.

"If you can imagine taking a test in a language you didn't know," he said. "Would it show that you can't do math? Or would it show that you can't do Arabic?"

Ramirez is optimistic. "On the front of the school is an A++++ sign," he said, referring to the blue ribbon label the school received years ago. "I think we can get that back, but it takes a while."

Reach the reporter at ofelia.madrid@scottsdalerepublic.com or (602) 444-6879.