Assessing Your Child’s School Performance: What You Need to Know

By Scott Evans, Community Investment Corporation

Recent research shows that the vast majority of K-12 parents believe their child is performing at grade level, when (in actuality) they are not.

In a national study from , Almost 9 in 10 parents think their children are performing at (or above) grade level.*  Yet, the reality is that only half of students start the year on grade level.** *B-flation: How Good Grades Can Sideline Parents, Gallup 2023  **School Pulse Panel 2022-2023, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

All schools should have a variety of ways to help parents understand how their child is doing academically. Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand how this is measured nor do they ask the school for clarification.  In order to avoid what is being called the “Parent Perception Gap” parents should parents should frequently ask their teach for feedback and progress updates. 

To determine if your child is performing at grade level academically in Arizona K-12 public/charter schools, you should look for the following information from your child’s school and teachers:

Monitoring Student Progress

  • All Arizona public schools (district and charter) are required to administer the Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA) This test measures proficiency in reading, writing, math, and science.

  • Arizona public schools are required to give benchmark assessments during the school year to monitor student progress and inform instruction.

  • Review report cards and ask what the different grades/scores mean in terms of meeting grade-level standards.

Questions to ask:
  • What are the specific grade-level standards and expectations in core subjects like reading, writing, and math that my child should meet (or should have met) this year?

  • How do you measure my child’s progress towards mastering grade-level skills beyond just standardized test scores?

Understanding Standardized Test Scores

  • All Arizona public schools (district and charter) are required to administer the Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA) This test measures proficiency in reading, writing, math, and science.

  • The scores will show if your child is “proficient” or “partially proficient” compared to grade-level expectations. Proficient means they are performing at or above grade level.

  • Student’s scores are reported using percentile rank, which shows how they performed compared to other students in the same grade. A percentile rank of 50 means they scored better than 50% of students.

Questions to ask:
  • Inquire about how your child is performing on the standardized tests and  quarterly benchmarks. Find out if they are “on grade level”, “one grade below”, etc.

  • What support will the school give in helping you understand your child’s scores and performance levels on recent state assessments like AASA or AZELLA? 

Understanding Quarterly Benchmark Assessments

  • Benchmark assessments are typically given quarterly (every 9 weeks) to measure student mastery of grade-level standards in core subjects like reading, writing, and math.

  • Benchmarks provide immediate feedback to teachers on student performance

Questions to ask:
  • How frequently will I receive updates on my child’s academic performance relative to grade-level expectations? 

  • How will you be informed of progress or struggles identified by the benchmark testing?

  • How will you use assessment data to provide additional support for my child?

English Learner Progress

  • If your child is an English learner, ask for their scores on the AZELLA test and what their current English proficiency level is. This shows their progress in learning English.

Questions to ask:
  • Ask the school what support services the school is providing based on your child’s English proficiency level.

  • How is your English Language Learner’s coursework and curriculum different based on their current English proficiency level?.

  • What resources or strategies can you recommend for me to support my child’s learning at home and ensure they stay on track?

 

The key is having an open dialogue with your child’s teachers and school to understand how they are monitoring your child’s performance relative to grade-level expectations.  By asking focused questions in these areas, parents can gain a clear understanding of whether their child is performing at, above, or below the expected grade-level expectations. 

 

Don’t hesitate to ask for explanations and help interpreting test scores or progress – it can be difficult and the school should provide support and assistance. 

 

Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss for Children

By Scott Evans, Community Investment Corporation

Summer is upon us! While our kids dream of lazy summer days filled with splash pads, friends and freedom –  we as parents may worry about “summer learning loss” and how to prevent our kids from experiencing the “academic summer slip-n-slide”. We certainly don’t want to take the “fun” out of Summer, however, it can be an opportune time to strengthen their academic skills.

 

Here are some tips to keep a child academically challenged over the summer:

Find Learning Activities

  • Look for summer camps, classes or workshops focused on academic subjects like math, science, writing, etc. 
  • Take advantage of free online resources, library books, museum visits, etc.
  • Look for hands-on projects, workbooks, educational games/videos aligned with your child’s chosen topics.

Let Your Child Choose Topics of Internet 

  • Allow your child to decide what subjects or topics to focus on over the summer. 
  • If your child has a passion for science, history, coding, etc., help them dive deeper with projects, museum visits, or online resources.
  • Encourage them to pick a new topic each week to research and teach you about what they learned.

Encourage Reading, Writing, and Problem Solving

  • Have your child read books above their grade level – allow them to have a say in the books they read.
  • Suggest keeping a summer journal or writing creative stories.
  • Look for math camps or competitions that make problem-solving fun.
  • Incorporate math into summer activities like cooking recipes with measurements, budgeting for a trip, calculating travel times,etc.

Set Goals, Track Progress, and Give Rewards

  • Work with your child to set achievable academic goals for the summer.
  • Use a calendar or checklist to track reading minutes, assignments completed, etc. and celebrate milestones.
  • Choose a reward your child will love, like an outing, ice cream or small prize, to help motivate them towards completing their goals

The key is finding ways to make learning interactive, hands-on and related to your child’s interests to prevent “summer slide”. With some planning, you can keep their mind engaged over the long break.

Transforming Communities: Inside Tucson’s Restart SMART Schools

By: Rae Joseph, Research and Policy Specialist

The community school strategy aims to enhance student learning by transforming both the community and school environment to be more resourceful, engaging, and supportive. Community schools offer various services such as after-school and summer enrichment, family engagement, health resources, and strategies to overcome barriers to learning. These schools also provide early childhood education, adult education, and community events to address diverse family needs, ultimately striving to improve learning opportunities for students and enhance community wellness.

Higher Ground’s Restart SMART is a customized version of the community schools model, implemented in seven schools across Tucson. These schools were identified based on high-risk factors, such as chronic absenteeism. Tailored to community needs, Restart SMART focuses on being Strategic, Mindful, Agile and Aware, Resilient, and Trauma-Responsive. Each school has a dedicated team integrating life skill development, trauma-responsive practices, and executive function support. Restart SMART collaborates with community organizations to provide resources for students and families, emphasizing non-academic needs, enabling teachers and principals to concentrate on delivering high-quality education.

Higher Ground has been able to transform schools based on the specific needs of the community.  Schools have experienced:
● Academic success
● Healthy students (physically, emotionally, and socially)
● Active family involvement in children’s education
● Increased attendance and decrease in chronically absent students
● Fewer logged discipline incidents

Undoubtedly, Higher Ground’s efforts and ability to help transform these schools is a tremendous benefit to the Tucson community!  Here are some of the accomplishments that have occurred at the seven Tucson Restart SMART schools over the past few years.

APOLLO MIDDLE SCHOOL:

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  D to C
  • 86% Decrease in disruptive behavior

DOOLEN MIDDLE SCHOOL:  

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  D to C
  • 86% Average attendance rate

GRIJALVA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:  

  • 39% Decrease in chronic absenteeism since last year
  • 75% Decrease in minor-to-minor aggression

LAWRENCE 3-8 SCHOOL:  

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  F to C
  • 78% Reduction of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among students in caseload

SAFFORD K-8 SCHOOL:  

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  F to B
  • 89% Reduction of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among students in caseload

SOUTHSIDE COMMUNITY SCHOOL:  

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  C to B
  • 90% Average attendance rate

UTTERBACK MIDDLE SCHOOL:  

  • Arizona State Letter Grade Increase (2019-2023):  D to B
  • 9% Decrease in chronic absenteeism

Unique to Restart SMART is the use of Data-Powered Strategic Coaching Methods, which involves a documentation and interaction system. This system tracks student progress, sets goals, provides services, and continuously improves methods based on community feedback. The approach relies on four pillars of community schools: integrated student support, collaborative leadership, active family and student engagement, and extended learning time and opportunities. This has resulted in numerous positive outcomes, including academic success, increased attendance, and decreased discipline incidents.

To further enhance support, Higher Ground is developing the BeMapt™ app, currently in beta-testing. This scalable solution builds on the Restart SMART method, allowing youth to drive their success by documenting progress and offering continuous and responsive care. The app collects data from various sources, including interviews, schools, and partner organizations, to tailor personalized services and support based on the individual’s needs. BeMapt™ aims to empower youth, promote wellness, and eliminate limitations of space, location, or access.

Restart SMART’s commitment to prioritizing youth, family, and community needs through personalized support is evident in its innovative approach. To connect with Restart SMART and learn more about the schools involved, resources offered, and their specific locations, visit the Higher Ground website.

To learn more about these schools and view all seven Restart SMART school sites on MySchoolsTucson locator, click here.

Empowering Families: A Discussion on Informed School Selection

Scott, Director of Family and School Engagement with MySchoolsTucson
Check out this insightful open discussion dedicated to strategies communities can take to help families navigate the diverse educational landscape. This session, centered on families and students, was led by Scott Evans, Director of Family and School Engagement

MySchoolsTucson Featured in Local News

MySchoolsTucson Has Launched And Needs Your Feedback!

TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) – Finding the perfect school for your little one just got a lot easier thanks to a local nonprofit.

Tucson-based Community Investment Corporation launched a new website called, MySchoolsTucson.org, to provide resources and unbiased information to Pima County families about local schools.

The development of the website is CIC’s response to a 2022 survey it conducted of more than 1,100 K-12 Arizona parents. The survey showed that parents feel overwhelmed when choosing a school and don’t have a place where they can go to get unbiased information.

“Educational landscape in Arizona is much different than it was 10 to 20 years ago,” said Scott Evans, Director of Family and School Engagement.

Families with lower incomes have less access to school information. The way they interact with schools and their administrations is much different than wealthier parents of K-12 students.

The sheer number of schools alone in Pima County can be overwhelming. There are more than 350 schools in the county alone.

“A lot more options but with the more options comes a more difficult time filtering through the information, and really understanding what would be a great fit for their children,” said Evans.

The program aims to ensure that all Tucson families have the tools and support they need to engage and make informed decisions about their child’s education.

“Performance data from the state of Arizona will be listed there. Extracurriculars, academic offerings will be there, special program supports, after school programs, whether there’s preschool on site,” said Evans.

Through surveys and support groups, the nonprofit learned parents needed an unbiased source they could trust.

“The schools do a great job at promoting their schools but things were overwhelming, there was too much information out there and it was taking a lot of time. Very much time taxed,” said Evans. “We wanted to solve that problem and simplify the process and come up with a place where parents can find everything they’re looking for in one place. Sort of a one-stop shop for families.”

As the population in Pima County grows, leaders at CIC believe this will benefit families who have another way to learn about district schools. Through their website, you can find information on district public schools, public charter schools, and private schools.

“With so many choices and so many options, it becomes a real challenge for people who are new here. Just moved into the state, maybe they work at the base, refugee families, immigrant families that are really brand new to the educational landscape,” said Evans. “Even brand new young families entering kindergarten for the first time. It’s a really difficult thing to do to filter through, so this site will certainly help those families understand both the educational landscape, and see what schools may be available to them. To see what opportunities lie in the walls of those schools, how the system works, deadlines, enrollment timelines, and support navigating that system.”

For the next 90 days, you can help CIC by providing feedback on their site. There you can find surveys regarding the content provided and how easy it was for you to find information.

There’s also a place where you can make requests for more information that was not provided.

This article was originally published on KOLD.com