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Arizona Accountability System Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The following information was produced by the Dysart Unified School District and incorporates information produced by the State Board of Education in an FAQ document released in September 2017.

Q: What is the purpose of the A-F Accountability System?

A: The A-F Accountability System is the state’s attempt to hold public elementary, middle and high schools accountable utilizing select data in areas identified in the state’s accountability system tied to student performance. The system:
 
  1. Provides schools with information identifying strengths and areas of focus produced through a weighted data calculation utilizing the select measures incorporated in the accountability system;
  2. Gives parents some information based on quantitative information; and
  3. Holds schools accountable in those areas included in the system.

Q: Who assigns the letter grades to schools and when are they assigned?

A: The 2017-18 labels released October 9th reflects school data from the 2016-17 school year. The Arizona Department of Education calculated the letter grades based on the system adopted by the State Board of Education on September 25, 2017. Grades were made available to schools the week of September 25th and then released to the public on October 9th. The reason for this embargo period is to allow schools to review their letter grade and file an appeal with the State Board of Education if appropriate.

Q: What does the system measure? How are letter grades calculated for schools?

A: The system measures student proficiency and annual growth in areas identified below with the majority of the weight in the formula based on AZMerit scores:
 
  • Proficiency in English Language Arts, Math and Science
  • Growth in English Language Arts and Math
  • Proficiency and Growth of English Language Learners
  • Graduation Rate
  • Acceleration and Readiness Measures, which consists of several measures including chronic absenteeism and the improved growth of subgroups (economically disadvantaged, special education, etc.)
  • College and Career Readiness Indicators, which includes passing the ACT or SAT or earning an industry credential, certificate or license

Q: How does a school receive an A? How did the State School Board decide this?

A:  In order to earn an A, schools must receive a percentage of points out of 100 as established by the State Board of Education. This minimum is referred to as a "cut score." The State School Board set these cut scores:
 
  K-8 Schools High Schools
A 86-100% 86-100%
B 85-74% 85-71%
C 73-62% 70-56%
D 61-50% 55-41%
F Less than 50% Less than 41%


Q: What happens to D and F schools? What can schools do to improve their grade?

A: The Arizona Department of Education will partner with D and F schools to improve ranking through the development and implementation of an improvement plan. Once improvement plans have been implemented, schools are reassessed and schools that continue to perform poorly will receive additional involvement from the state. D and F schools are also potentially eligible for additional federal funds.

Q: What if schools do not agree with their grade?

A: During the embargo period, schools will have the opportunity to appeal their letter grade based on extreme circumstances that are outside of the school’s control (i.e. a tornado touched down near the school on the week of testing and negatively affected student performance).

Q: What is the difference between Quantitative Data and Qualitative Data and what type of data does the new A-F Accountability System measure?

A. The new A-F Accountability System assesses Quantitative Data, including AZMerit test results and graduation rates. Qualitative Data would be considered awards earned, offering of fine arts programs, offering of career related programs, such as coding, ROTC and other pathway programs, PTA involvement, etc. None of those college and career ready indicators are included in the accountability system.

Q: How should parents/caregivers use the results when evaluating schools?

A: Arizona is required by law to create a system that can assess a wide variety of schools and students. This new system assesses quantitative measures that can be applied to all of Arizona’s schools. However, it is recommended that parents consider this system’s results with multiple measures that are aligned to college and career readiness and address the knowledge, skills, and dispositions a future ready graduate needs to be successful in the 21st Century.

Q: Why was a new system created?

A: Arizona is required by federal law to measure school performance and is required by state law to do so through an A-F letter grade system.

Q: Will this system change?

A: The State Board of Education has indicated it will be working on possible changes to the A-F Accountability System and may incorporate new measures of school performance as data becomes available.

Q: Do other states utilize this type of grading system?

A: Currently about 17 states utilize an A-F school grading system. Under federal mandate every state is required to have an accountability system, but it does not require an A-F system.  Some other states are working on inclusive systems, such as dashboard systems that reflect multiple measures for student performance.

Q: What has been the response to Arizona’s A-F Accountability Letter System?

A: The accountability system is part of the Consolidated State Plan submitted to the United States Department of Education. Arizona’s Consolidated Plan was approved by the federal government.  There are various organizations which have published evaluations of the submitted state plans.  Most of those organizations have information on a website that the public can access.

Q: How was the A-F Accountability System developed?

A: Based on the framework established by the Legislature in 2016, the State Board of Education worked to develop the system by appointing an ad hoc committee consisting of a range of stakeholders, utilized the Arizona Department of Education and the Accountability Advisory Group and sought public input.

Q: What is the law governing A-F?
 

A: There are primarily two laws governing A-F: State statute A.R.S. § 15-241 and ESSA.

Q: What does each letter grade mean?

A: Below is a table in which the State Board of Education describes the levels of performance associated with each letter grade.
 
Letter Grade Meaning
 
A Excellent
B Highly Performing
C Performing
D Minimally Performing
F Failing


Q: Can I see the previous letter grade each school received? If so, where?

A: Previous school letter grades may be found here. The previous letter grades were calculated differently, were partially based on a different statewide assessment and operated under an older set of academic standards, therefore, the scores are not comparable.