Mayer schools supt. says district 'building a foundation'

Making classes and the curriculum more rigorous is key to improving the labels Mayer Unified School District schools earned this year, said Supt. Dean Slaga.

"Rigor is something we are working on. We're building a foundation," Slaga said.

The Arizona Department of Education grades each district and their schools every year based on a formula that takes into account AIMS scores, graduation rate, and the percentage of students moving from English Language Learners program into regular classes.

Mayer Elementary School earned a C grade, three points out of a possible 200 points shy of a B grade. They became a Performing Plus school. The high school earned a Performing label and no A-F score. Slaga said the reason Mayer High School did not receive a letter grade was an enrollment issue. Schools with less than 127 students do not earn A-F grades this year, but will receive some indication of performance by next year.

ADE released the AZ LEARNS labels on Oct. 12. This is the first year of a new grading system, and the department gave districts both an A-F grade and a Legacy label. ADE will discontinue the older Legacy labels - Excelling, Highly Performing, Performing Plus, Performing, and Underperforming - after the 2012-2013 school year and use only the A-F grades.

Many schools have worked to raise the scores of their top-range students to achieve exceeds AIMS scores in order to qualify for the Excelling mark. The new system focuses more on student academic growth overall and specifically for the lower performing 25 percent of students.

Because the two systems differ, it was possible that some Excelling, Highly Performing, and even Performing Plus schools earned an A grade, while some Excelling schools earned a B.

Slaga said the district purchased a new reading program for the elementary and middle school through a $65,000 grant called Reading 180 this year.

"It is a very prescriptive reading remediation program for those who struggle with reading. They can get some attention," he said.

The high school is working to raise student scores by "double-blocking" math classes for those students needing additional help to pass the math portion of AIMS. The district hired a new math teacher this year, and it is working with a consortium to develop common assessments. The district also offers high school students online A+ classes to improve their AIMS scores.

In the middle school grades, students can now take algebra classes so by high school they can take college algebra classes.

Mayer district received a C grade.