District appealing failing-school grades
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 1, 2004 12:00 AM
Betty Reid

While school officials await the outcome of an appeal regarding two failing schools in the Roosevelt district, not everyone is surprised how the state ranked Maxine O Bush and Conchos.

Socorro Ramos, a grandparent at Ignacio Conchos School, is philosophical about the situation.

"I'm happy the state stepped in because it can only make that school better," Ramos said. "When my grandkids come and tell me they aren't learning how to spell or read, then someone needs to make it right."

The Arizona Department of Education released the rankings in mid-October, failing just two of the district's 20 schools. A failing label means parents can move their children to a non-failing Roosevelt school, and it provides the state the right to intervene in the schools' operations.

The Education Department uses the terms excelling, highly performing, performing and underperforming to judge a school's performance. For the first time this year, it gave out failing labels to 13 of Arizona's 1,190 schools after they received underperforming labels three years in a row.

Martha Baca, Roosevelt's executive assistant for teaching and learning, and  Roosevelt Superintendent Grace Wright said the district is waiting for the result of a "pending failing" appeal submitted to the Department of  Education in early October about Conchos and Bush.

Until the state officially responds to Roosevelt's appeal, parents at Conchos and Bush will not receive letters informing them about the failing school labels, Baca said. This letter from the school informs parents about the label and gives them the option of moving their children out of a failing school to an in-district performing school at Roosevelt's expense.

"All the staff is concerned; they are not real pleased with the label," Baca said. "They are waiting to see what the state will do with the reviews."

Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, said his office will dispatch a team to the failing-school campuses before year's end. This team will decide how the school is doing with its plan for improvement.

"The only thing that happens this year is we will help them," Horne said.

Ramos, who sent her own children to Conchos, said some Spanish-speaking parents are frustrated with the attitude of teachers at the school, saying they carry an attitude of "if you don't learn, that's our problem" toward their children.

"That gets me so mad because they are the teachers," she said.

Reach the reporter at betty.reid@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8049.

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