VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 32   |   AUGUST 10 - 16, 2011


CCUSD takes another downward slide in performance

“Schools probably would not wish to promote the fact they are a ‘D’ school,” the corresponding grade designation for the Performing label

debbi burdick
Debbi Burdick
CCUSD – Recently released reports for the 2009/2010 Fiscal Year, reflect neither Cactus Shadows High School nor Sonoran Trails Middle School met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

As a district, Cave Creek Unified School District also failed to meet AYP as it failed to do the previous year, even as all of its schools met AYP.

The reason for this, as explained by Aleksandra Kadijevic of Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Research and Evaluation Section, is the school level data is aggregated differently from the district level data.

“For example,” stated Kadijevic, “there are students who are not included in the school AYP calculations because they were not enrolled for the full academic year in the school, but they stayed within the same district, so they are included in the district AYP.” 

AYP, the cornerstone of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, defines the level of proficiency students must achieve in reading and math on the AIMS test.

Cactus Shadows and Sonoran Trails joined 42 percent of Arizona’s schools that failed to meet AYP this year, up 13 percent over last year.

Cave Creek Unified School District boasted having all “Excelling” schools for Fiscal Year 2008/2009, the top classification issued for public schools under AZ LEARNS, Arizona’s academic measurement system, based on AIMS scores, AYP and other criteria, depending on grade level.

For FY 2009/2010, Black Mountain Elementary and Desert Arroyo Middle schools dropped one notch to “Highly Performing,” while Sonoran Trails Middle School dropped two levels to “Performing Plus.”
ryan ducharme
Ryan Ducharme

Despite STMS being downgraded two tiers, the district voted to close DAMS and keep the lesser performing STMS open.

During the same time period performance was slipping, enrollment was down but spending was up. The district also had an override in place and carried over budget surpluses.
During FY 2008/2009, the district spent an average of $8,132 per student and the superintendent earned a salary of $119,200.

Per-student spending for FY 2009/2010 averaged $8,494, an increase of nearly 5 percent, while Superintendent Debbi Burdick received not only a 17 percent salary increase to $139,000, but a three-year contract as well.

Burdick’s contract was renewed by the board just prior to the public release of the district’s dismal performance results. Burdick was already been aware of those performance results a month earlier in an embargoed release.

According to ADE, AZ LEARNS is transitioning from labeling schools Excelling, Highly Performing, Performing Plus, Performing and Underperforming to letter grades of A, B, C, D and F, over the next two years, in an effort to designate performance using grades with which the public is already familiar.

ADE Public Information Manager Ryan Ducharme explained the transition process, whereas schools will be provided both the old and new AZ LEARNS labels, so they can see where they stand under the new grading system before converting to the letter grade designations.
Ducharme stated the current labels don’t appear to have the intended impact and said he has seen schools with big banners outside touting their “Performing” designation.

He said, under the new grading system, “Schools probably would not wish to promote the fact they are a ‘D’ school,” the corresponding grade designation for the Performing label.

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