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Havasu schools earn high marks from state Board of Education

 LHUSD School Grades 2018-19
LHUSD School Grades 2018-19

Overall, Lake Havasu City schools came out smelling like a rose. 

According to the Arizona Department of Education’s annual ranking of schools throughout the state, local schools showed significant improvement in the 2018-19 school year. The state calculates grades using data from the previous school year based on student performance on the AZMerit test, as well as other factors such as English language arts proficiency and absenteeism rates.

Using an A through F scale, the grading system also measures year-to-year student academic growth plus math and science performance.

Lake Havasu High School earned a “B,” up from a “C” grade a year earlier.

Lake Havasu Unified School District Superintendent Diana Asseier knows why.

“The high school made significant growth – going from a score of 60% to 75% year-over-year. We really targeted math and career readiness. Our decent graduation rate also helped,” she said.

Asseier said the big surprise was Thunderbolt Middle School’s result. The school earned a “C,” down from its “B” the year before. The school narrowly missed a “B” by 1.2 points.

Starline Elementary also slipped slightly, going from an “A” to a “B.”

The bright stars were Smoketree Elementary, Jamaica Elementary and Nautilus Elementary. All scored an “A,” improving from a “B” just a year ago.

Havasupai held on to its “A” rating and Oro Grande Classical Academy maintained its “B” grade.

Elsewhere in town, Havasu Preparatory Academy earned an “A,” as did Telesis Preparatory. Telesis Academy earned a “B.” Because they are private schools, Calvary Christian Academy and Our Lady of the Lake School were not rated.

The story behind the story

Whether or not the local school district decides to appeal Thunderbolt’s fractional point deficit remains to be seen. Asseier says the state’s middle schools are evaluated in exactly the same way that elementary schools are graded, so there’s a built-in imbalance. The Board of Education heavily judges a school on the student body’s academic progress.

“You’re going to see a lot of growth at an elementary school – there’s a lot of basic learning going on,” Asseier said. “At a middle school, the focus is more on refining skills and introducing a more rigorous curriculum,” she said.

Another important point is that when students from the city’s six elementaries enter middle school, they are not all academically on the same page. They have six slightly different skill and knowledge sets.

The school district is aware of this conundrum and is working to fix it, said Educational Services Director Brad Gardner. But turning that ship around is top-to-bottom process that standardizes curriculum.

“We are focusing on getting good at specific things, with a less-is-more mentality. This is evident in our board supporting the simplification of our goals. An example of this is the district-wide work done on English Language Arts standards. We asked teachers from each site and each grade band K-12 to identify essential standards. Then they agreed to teach to these standards on a deeper level with student mastery as the outcome,” Gardner said, noting that a district-wide writing program has been implemented for K-6. “And our phonics program K-3 is exceptional.”

The takeaway

Gardner said he expected to see positive results for district schools in the state’s rankings. He cautioned that while it’s good information to have, it’s only one of many yardsticks.

“We view the state assessment as a snapshot, not the be-all or end-all,” Gardner said. “We review the data and use it to make improvements, but the governing board members have stated they understand the purpose of the assessment and it is not paramount to our mission.”

Just the same, Asseier said good results are always welcome news.

“It shows that our students are getting a world class education,” she said. “We have graduates that go on to some of the most elite colleges in the country.”

To view grade results of other Arizona schools, visit azsbe.az.gov/f-school-letter-grades.

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by Pam Ashley, Today's News-Herald
Nov 2, 2019


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