Conchos parents defend school
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 19, 2004 

Betty Reid
After their children's schools received a failing rating from the state, a group of south Phoenix parents at Roosevelt's Ignacio Conchos School defended their "hard-working" classroom instructors and called on parents to get involved with their children's education.

Conchos and Maxine O. Bush schools are two campuses in the Roosevelt Elementary district that received a failing rating from the Arizona Department of Education in October. District officials have appealed the status of both and continue to wait for a response.

Arizona uses a combination of data to rank schools. They include AIMS and Stanford 9 Achievement Test scores, Measure of Academic Progress and attendance rates. Since 2001, the state has ranked schools as excelling, highly performing, performing and underperforming. This year it added failing as a category. advertisement

Conchos and Bush had been labeled as underperforming the past two years.

Parents and Conchos staff members gathered last week at the home of parent Betty Cruz in an attempt to offer another perspective to stories of failing schools.

A grandparent and several parents say a lack of student discipline, coupled with limited instruction to Conchos' Spanish-speaking population, was to blame for the poor label in October.

The meeting, attended by Ben Miranda, a Roosevelt governing board member, turned into a gathering that allowed a dozen people to speak candidly about education issues ranging from overcrowded Conchos classrooms to AIMS to progress seen in the district. Miranda told the group that he is not a fan of tests that decide which schools are bad and good, because many elements factor into what is a good school.

In the audience was fifth-grader Jayson Heathcote, son of Bill and Rae Heathcote. The youngster, now learning long division in math, says he sees that learning is happening at his school. He also spoke for a younger brother, Sean, a third-grader who learned how to read at Conchos in one year.

He defended his teachers who work with Conchos' 690 students.

"I love my school because I like the teachers," Jayson said. "They help me learn, and they help me learn to write. I never heard anybody say it was a bad or failing school."

Jayson's parents said they volunteer at Conchos five days a week. The Heathcotes also help their children with homework each night and watch for results.

Sean blossomed and started reading billboards and grew into a star reader last year.

Given the daily lessons Conchos teachers give to students, Rae Heathcote believes that the labels are unfair.

"I was upset because they are putting a label on a school I feel isn't true; I can't see Conchos failing, because they take such interest in the students," she said. "If you go to any school in the nation, there are going to be students who are going to be failing. They are not going to want to learn. The child and parent have to take the initiative."

A majority of students at Conchos are Hispanic. Although some students enter schools speaking English, others enroll understanding and speaking only Spanish. Regardless of language skills, all are required to take the AIMS and Stanford 9.