Arizona school grades: F-rated charter schools could close

Posted at 7:30 PM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 22:30:44-04

Arizona charter schools with F ratings could be forced to close their doors, according to school regulators.

This week the State Board of Education released new A-F letter grades for more than 1,800 schools across Arizona.

The ratings are based on standardized test scores, improvement in those scores, student attendance rates and other factors. Search for your school in the database below.

The letter grades are back this year, after several years off for the schools to adjust to the new AZMerit test.

"It's really a letter grade that has high stakes," said Eileen Sigmund, president and CEO of the Arizona Charter School Association.

Sigmund says charters performed better overall than district schools, but 11 charters received preliminary F ratings.

It could take several months for the ratings to be finalized.

The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools can revoke a school's charter for underperformance.

"Once the state's new letter grades have been finalized, any charter school subject to regulation by the Charter Board that receives a grade of D will be required to improve their academic performance," Board President Kathy Senseman said. "Any school that receives a F or fails to improve runs the risk of the Charter Board terminating its operations."

"Charter schools were formed to improve student achievement and provide communities with a choice in education, and that's why charter schools are at a different accountability standard," Sigmund said. "No child should sit in a chronically underperforming or failing school."

ABC15 reached out to several charter school operators who received a preliminary F. Some had concerns about the methodology behind the letter grades.

Half the charter schools currently have no ratings due to size of the school, alternative education programs, offering both K-8 and 9-12 classes on campus, or having a reason to appeal the rating.

"An accountability system is necessary, however this model is not the answer, as the bias and inequality have led to unintended consequences for many schools, including ours," said Mark Plitzuweit President and CEO of Edkey Inc./Sequoia Schools. His company has two schools with F grades.

Some of the affected charter schools' administrators say they are already making changes to avoid closure.

"Students are given additional time in the areas of Math and ELA," said Deborah Salas, Head of School at EduPreneurship Student Center in Phoenix. "We provide professional development for teachers and work together with our stakeholders to increase proficiency and readiness for the AZMerit."