Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/Mon/31013SCHOOLLABELSADVANCE.html

State 'labels' schools this week
October 13, 2003
by Sarah Garrecht Gassen 

About 160 Arizona public schools - almost 15 percent of the state total - will receive an "underperforming" rating when the state hands out labels this week using a retooled calculation approved Friday.

The State Board of Education met by telephone to correct a problem in the formula the Arizona Department of Education will use to determine which label a school earns: underperforming, performing, highly performing or excelling.

About 1,100 schools will get labels this week based on test scores, student improvement, attendance and dropout rates. Labels will be announced Wednesday.

Arizona has about 1,400 traditional public schools and 400 public charter schools. Not all of those will receive a label because they may be too small, too new or meet another exemption.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said about 10 percent of eligible schools will be "excelling" and 10 percent will be "highly performing," leaving 65 percent of schools as "performing."

Last year, under the inaugural round of labeling, 19 percent of schools statewide were "underperforming." Only two schools - a charter school in the Phoenix area and University High School in Tucson Unified School District - received the "excelling" tag last year.

Private schools do not receive state labels.

The change approved Friday calculates a school's status by grade level, as was originally planned, instead of by school, which happened by mistake when the formula was written, Horne said.

The effect was to undervalue students' academic growth when evaluating schools, he said.

The prediction that 14.5 percent of public schools will earn the underperforming label is closer to the 13.5 percent figure the Board of Education was told when it approved the grading scheme in September, Horne said.

But when running the data - before Friday's tweaking of the formula - officials found that about 22 percent of schools were coming up as underperforming, instead of the predicted 13.5 percent, Horne said.

"We didn't want to . . . have the board feel they'd been snookered and get a different result than had been represented to them when they passed the formula,"
he said.

* Contact reporter Sarah Garrecht Gassen at 573-4117 or at