Originally Published: August 5, 2014 6:01 a.m.
Arizona's highest-ranking school district honors this year belong to the Ash Fork Joint Unified School District.
According to data released by the Arizona Department of Education on Monday - the first day of school for many - Ash Fork JUSD ranked the highest in the state's AIMS standings, with an A grade and 165 points.
AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) is an assessment test administered in the spring to students in grades 4, 8, and high school.
Seth Staples, superintendent for Ash Fork JUSD, said the district made the top 10 in the state last year, but this is the first year the district has earned the number-one spot.
"We were number nine last year with an A rating, and a B the year before that. We missed the A that year by one point," Staples said. "This year we really just focused on improving the classroom and also tracking student growth, knowing exactly what students needed."
Teachers in the district not only helped those who fell below the standard, but also assisted those who met the standard to excel at a higher level, Staples said.
"Our teachers are really stepping up to the challenge, along with all of our staff. They're instruction is really amazing," Staples said.
In total, 13 schools in Yavapai County landed the coveted A letter grade, including Mountain View Preparatory School in Cottonwood, Granville Elementary School in Prescott Valley, Mountain Oak Charter School in Prescott, Accelerated Learning Charter School in Cottonwood, Tri-City College Preparatory School in Prescott, Willow Creek Charter School in Prescott, Abia Judd Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center in Prescott Valley, Congress Elementary School, Ash Fork Middle School, Ash Fork Elementary School, Humboldt Elementary School, and Sedona Red Rock High School.
While no schools listed earned an F, or failing, grade in the county, six earned D grades, according to the recent Arizona Department of Education report card. Those schools include Park View Middle School in Prescott Valley, La Tierra Community School in Prescott, Glassford Hill Middle School in Prescott Valley, Mayer High School, Mayer Elementary School, and Hillside Elementary School.
Glassford Hill school administrators are appealing the grade, according to Cole Young, director of educational services.
"We are currently in the process of a substantive appeal with the Arizona Department of Education," Young said. "The label is pending until the state has an opportunity to review our circumstances. Our appeal date is set for Aug. 19."
Letter grades are based on the student performances taken from the AIMS tests, as well as from overall student academic growth from year to year, with additional points for high English Language Learner reclassifications. Every school and district receives a report card with a grade to reflect their academic standing, according to the Arizona Department of Education.
Statewide, 302 schools showed improvement by one letter grade when compared to the year prior. Thirty-eight schools in the state improved by two letters. Sixty-three percent maintained the same letter grade as the year before, while 17 percent decreased in letter grades.
In the state, 33 percent of Arizona's schools received a B grade, 32 percent received an A grade, 25 percent received a C grade and 10 percent received a D grade.
BASIS, meanwhile, ranked highest for charter schools in the state with 163 points, though individual school grades vary. The top two charter school systems, operating at least three sites with a total enrollment of 800 students, included BASIS with 163 points and Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center with 158 points.
Specific school information is available at the Department of Education website, www.azed.gov.
Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier
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