Arizona schools get graded

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The report card for Arizona schools is out and there's some good news.

While 10 percent of the schools ended up with a D grade, 25 percent got C's, 33 percent averaged B's and a whopping 32 percent were in the A category.

The Arizona Department of Education says a majority of schools are doing quite well with AIMS scores up in both math and reading.

They also saw an increase in schools earning an overall A grade.

"It's a wonderful celebration," said Elizabeth Mullavey, principal of Sousa Elementary School. "We're always excited when we meet our goals."

As Sousa Elementary prepares to welcome students back this week, they are once again celebrating an A grade from the state Department of Education.

"It's been nice to be able to keep that up," Mullavey said. "Again, it's a lot of work, a lot of dedication from everybody, from parents, from kids from the teachers and the administration, as well."

The school in northeast Mesa is just one of more than 500 schools statewide that received an A, according to new data released by the state Department of Education Monday.

Sousa's principal shared some of her keys to success, which starts with poring through AIMS testing results.

"I tear them apart and go through them and we get lists of all the kids and how they did and I start dissecting it all by class, by teacher, by grade," Mullavey said.

From there they discuss which students need help with which subjects and work together to help that student out. But she said it can't all be accomplished in the classroom.

"Parent involvement is crucial," Mullavey said. "They have to care about their children. They have to care about what they're learning."

While Sousa continues its A streak, the state says more and more schools are joining it. Overall, the number of A grades is up with 75 more schools receiving an A this year over last year. On the flip side of that, the number of B, C and D schools is down.

While a lot of schools saw an improved grade, some are still struggling.

Final preparations are underway at Supai Middle School where students will be heading back to class this week. But this year, something is different.

"I know that my staff was very disappointed when they were told today what the letter grade was because everybody worked tremendously hard," Principal Shelley Slick-Hummon said.

According to the new statewide school grades announced Monday, the Scottsdale middle school dropped a letter grade, falling from a C school to a D school.

This is Slick-Hummon's first year as the principal. She came from an A school within the Scottsdale district.

"I'm really hoping that I can replicate some of the very good practices that I learned as a teacher there," she said.

Statewide, the number of A schools is up with 75 more schools receiving the grade this year than last year. As for AIMS testing results, the state says there is good news there, too, with students making gains in math and reading.

Slick-Hummon said math is one of the areas her students need a little more help.

"We're going to focus on some of the positive things we had from last year in our data points and look at with a critical eye those programs we're using and whether those are what is best," she said.

Slick-Hummon said they are also trying to increase the involvement of students and parents. She said parent involvement is critical.

With a plan in place, what is the hope for next year?

"Hope for an A, know that the hard work is there and just be pleased if we improve," she said.

It's not just D or C schools looking to make gains. Even A schools say there is always room for improvement.