Parents and teachers across the state are evaluating the results of the Standard 9, a form of annual standardized testing for students from grades 2 through 11.
This year marks the state's third consecutive year that students made statistical increases in achievement for all subjects tested. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keen attributes the progress to Arizona’s use of higher standards and dual tests. She also believes standardized testing will help parents evaluate school performance in contrast to nationwide performance.
“If your student is bringing home A’s but scoring below the 50th percent portion of the test, get to the school this fall and ask why,” she said.
Overall, Verde Valley public schools ranged right in and around the 50th percentile as did the State of Arizona as a whole. A percentile rank of 50 percent means that a student's score is about average when compared with other students on the same grade level. Students scoring above 50 percent show they are above average compared to students their age throughout the nation, and below 50 percent shows they are falling below what other students their ages are scoring.
The Standard 9 assesses comprehension in three areas; reading, mathematics and language. Throughout Arizona, 650,000 students took the test in March and April.
Students received individual scores that were based on a 1995 norming group across the nation of students in that same grade. Schools also received a rating based on number of students tested and scores. For this reason, Charter Schools with fewer students often show test scores as either extremely high or low.
For the Verde Valley and Sedona region, from second to eighth grade, Big Park School in the Village of Oak Creek was tops with the greatest number of scores above the 50th percentile. Every grade but second, in every subject, scored above 50 percent to as high as 77 percent. This equaled a total of 18 figures above the 50th percentile.
Dr. Daniel Bright School in Cottonwood, with grades second through fifth, cleaned up with all but one score being above the 50th percentile and a scoring high of 68 percent.
West Sedona and Oak Creek (Cornville) schools each had 15 figures above the 50th percentile with West Sedona gleaning an 80 percent high and Cornville 82 percent. Clarkdale/Jerome had 14 figures above the 50th percentile with a high of 69 percent and Cottonwood Elementary and Middle School followed with 13 marks above the 50th percentile. Their highest percentile was 65. Beaver Creek School held 10 figures above the 50th percentile and Camp Verde was at the bottom with only 7 figures above the percentile. With 21 being the highest possible number of students scoring above the 50th percentile (7 grades and 3 categories), only two schools in the Verde Valley and Sedona region fell below half — Camp Verde and Beaver Creek.
As for the high school level, Sedona shows everybody up again. Sedona/Red Rock High School ranked above the 50th percentile in every grade tested from 9th to 11th, a total of 9, and had a high of 73 percent. Mingus Union High School brought 5 above the 50th percentile with a high of 65. Camp Verde was again last with only 3 scoring above the 50th percentile and had high of 60 percent.
In comparing why some schools achieved greater results over others, Nancy Alexander, superintendent of the Sedona-Oak Creek School District, said she feels they did well because they have focused on aligning their curriculum with the Standard 9.
“We have always put importance on Standard 9 results,” she said. “It is something we monitor closely. We prepare our students to take the test, we talk about importance of test and use it as a benchmark on how well we are doing as a school district. It is not the only benchmark, but one of many that we use. We also have worked really hard in aligning our curriculum with state standards and the state is saying that there is some match, not like with AIMS, but there is a close district wide focus on our curriculum and it matches our standards and standards have a relationship to Standard 9. Thirdly we keep class sizes small and hire the best possible staff members. We do exhaust every effort in recruiting for teachers.”
For Camp Verde, Superintendent Marilyn Semones said she feels the reason Camp Vere is behind is because the curriculum hasn’t been matched to the standards, but this is something they are working on doing.
“We have just begun to write our curriculum. It isn’t aligned to any standards,” she said. “Yes we are last but we have made progress. We have a lot of work to do. We have spending a lot of time rewriting our curriculum. We spent 14 days with 30 staff, recently, doing this. We also adopted a program that will test learner outcomes, this way we can see how each student is doing on each standard. I think another factor that the scores continue to be low is due to reading. Many students can’t read. But I see this improving with new materials.”