TUSD’s best schools show that students from all backgrounds can perform well, but achievement varies widely across schools. Higher expectations would respect our students’ potential and help them throughout their lives.
Making TUSD stronger academically is also critical for attracting people and businesses to Tucson. Businesses care about the quality of the school system that will be available to their employees.
Yet of last year’s 25 goals for the superintendent, none set any standards for student achievement. TUSD’s much-touted 65-page strategic plan contains only a few vague references to increasing student achievement, without any indication of what a satisfactory standard would be or how that would be measured.
TUSD did poorly in last year’s state testing but the board has neither received nor requested any report on those AZMerit results. I personally requested the results, months ago, but got no response. I got the results instead in a massive file from the state. Here is a much-simplified summary of TUSD’s schools’ AZMerit scores, combined with the statewide averages.
Statewide, only about 30% of the high school students in traditional district schools passed the AZMerit math standards. That is low, but the pass rate was much lower, only 7-12%, at most TUSD high schools. TUSD’s high schools performed better on the English standards but were still mostly below the state averages.
The 2016 AZMerit results should be available soon.
That was the first, experimental, year for the AZMerit test, but TUSD’s recent achievement trend under the old AIMS test had also been weak. After big improvements in 2012 and 2013, under the Pedicone administration, results slipped in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, TUSD had 16 schools that improved their letter grades but 26 others that fell in grade. (This was partly due to an influx of weaker students from some poorly performing schools that closed.)
Of the seven largest districts in Arizona (those with over 30,000 students), four were last rated “A” by the state and two were rated “B.” Only TUSD was rated “C,” and that is the only grade it ever earned. The state grades have been discontinued with the end of the AIMS test, and it is unclear whether they will be revived.
Some TUSD schools perform well in last year’s state testeing. Drachman, Fruchthendler, Kellond, Lineweaver, Sam Hughes, Soleng Tom, and University High consistently beat the state averages. Many other TUSD schools beat the state averages in specific areas.