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Casa Grande Elementary School District

CASA GRANDE — Casa Grande Elementary School District’s AzMERIT scores are not where district Superintendent JoEtta Gonzales wants them. However, there are signs of growth, she said.

The Arizona Department of Education released AzMERIT scores earlier this month. The percentage of Casa Grande Elementary School students passing the statewide English and math tests continues to hover between 24 and 37%, depending on the grade and the subject. That does not include students in advanced eighth grade math. The scores continue to be below the average percentage of state and county students passing the tests.

According to ADE, the average percentage of state elementary and middle school students passing the tests ranges from 38% and 52%, depending on grade and subject. The average percentage of students in Pinal County who passed the tests this year ranges from 28 to 45% depending on grade and subject. Those percentages exclude students taking advanced eighth grade math such as algebra and geometry.

At the Casa Grande Union High School District, the percentage of students passing AzMERIT math and English ranged between 17 and 30%. The percentage of state high school students passing math and English ranges from 33% to 40%. The percentage of county high school students passing math and English ranges from 21% to 28%.

However, this year, high schools were allowed to use scores from the ACT, SAT, Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate exams to assess students in lieu of AzMERIT. Casa Grande Union High School District opted to stay with AzMERIT this year.

The scores don’t tell the entire story of the elementary district, Gonzales said. They “are a snapshot of a lager story that is to be told about each student’s unique learning needs and potential. They do not tell the complete story of student achievement.”

Gonzales said the district’s students, teachers and parents face many challenges when it comes to AzMERIT. About 80% of the students in the district receive free or reduced price lunch from the National School Lunch Program. The program is designed to make sure that low-income kids get enough to eat during the day.

Many of the district’s buildings are older and in need of repair, which can make it difficult for students to learn, she said.

There are students who have difficulty speaking, reading and understanding English. Even if a student knows the subject and tests well in class, it’s hard for them to pass a test if they can’t understand the language the test is written in, Gonzales said.

The test results can also be misleading, she said. AzMERIT doesn’t measure student growth year to year. It only measures student proficiency for that subject, in that grade, for that particular year.

If a parent follows the AzMERIT scores for a particular group of Casa Grande Elementary students from one year to the next, the growth in proficiency is more noticeable, Gonzales said.

She pointed to this year’s fifth graders, who were fourth graders last year.

In 2018, 29% of Casa Grande Elementary School District fourth graders passed math and 31% passed English. This year, 33% of Casa Grande Elementary fifth graders passed math and 36% passed English.

Other student cohorts in the district show signs of improvement as the move from one grade level to the next, such as last year’s third graders increasing from 29% passing English to 37% passing English as this year’s fourth graders.

A similar thread winds through the AzMERIT results for the high school district, according to Melani Edwards, the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. Following a group of students as they move from their freshman year to their senior year shows a gradual improvement in scores. For example, in 2018, 26% of students passed Algebra I their freshman year and 30% passed Algebra II their sophomore year.

“Although our students are not proficient on the state exams, we get them closer to the state average the longer we have them in our math classes,” she said.

However, many of the elementary and high school student cohorts show drops in the number of students passing. For example, the percentage of last year’s third graders passing math (30%) dropped as they moved into fourth grade this year (28%). At the high schools, 29% of freshman passed English in 2018 but 27% passed sophomore English this year.

Gonzales and Edwards acknowledged the declines between the other grade levels.

“Our teachers spend a lot of time remediating and reteaching basic mathematical concepts in our Algebra I classes, and reteaching and reinforcing Algebra I concepts in geometry,” Edwards stated in an email. “We are not a (kindergarten through 12th grade) unified district, which makes it difficult to vertically align the curriculum.”

However, both districts have put in place a number of changes to help improve scores and make sure that students are learning the skills they need.

Casa Grande Elementary School District has shuffled some staff and administrators around, opened a new middle school, made repairs to older schools, supported the professional development of the district’s teachers and made changes in the district’s curriculum, Gonzales said.

One particular change Gonzales highlighted was a new math curriculum that was designed by a group of the district’s teachers who volunteered for the project about five years ago. Those same teachers have volunteered to help other teachers in the district learn how to incorporate the new curriculum in their classrooms.

The new curriculum replaced an older, outdated curriculum the district was using, said Andrea Baker, the district’s director of teaching and learning. The new math program focuses on figuring out ways to incorporate math in every subject the students take. It also strives to teach students to understand the reasoning behind the math they are learning instead of just memorizing mathematical functions like multiplication tables. Math is also incorporated in every subject from science to social studies.

The Casa Grande Elementary School District has started to implement a literacy curriculum that has a similar way of touching all of the subjects a student might encounter, Baker said. It also teaches students how different people in different careers use reading, writing and math in their everyday work.

The goal is to not only move students toward greater proficiency in both math and English but teach them the skills they will need to succeed in their future careers and life, she said.

The Casa Grande Union High School District has implemented a similar program where teachers meet in weekly professional learning communities to review student test results and adjust the curriculum to meet the students’ learning needs. Each high school also continues to offer tutoring and other intervention programs for students who may be struggling, Edwards said.

The high school district has also brought in Math Solutions, a program that coaches teachers in the best ways to teach math to students, Edwards said. The program helps teachers understand the math they are teaching and learn how to engage students in the subject.

The high school district’s math teachers are also working directly with the elementary school district’s eight grade teachers to make the transition to high school algebra and geometry easier for students and make sure that students are learning the concepts they need to make the move to high school math, Edwards said.

The CGUHS District is also bringing in a new literacy curriculum, HMH Into Literature series, starting in January 2020. The series incorporates student reading and writing together with technology that allows teachers to track student progress. The program also provides teachers with tips on how to work with students who may be excelling or struggling with reading and writing.

Gonzales said the elementary school district is continuing to encourage teachers to expand their own education by supporting teacher requests to attend training programs, seminars and earn certification in programs such as Google Suites.

Google Suites, or G Suites, is similar to Microsoft Office. It includes a word processing program, email program, spreadsheet program, calendar and slide presentation program as well as cloud storage for projects and photos. A number of schools and businesses have started using G Suites.

Casa Grande Elementary School District is just starting to see the results of the changes that have been made in the last couple of years, Gonzales said. And she expects to see greater improvements in the years to come.

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2019 AzMERIT scores for state, county and Casa Grande school districts

Field 1 Field 2 Field 3
Casa Grande Elementary School District
Grade 3 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 53 51
Pinal County 47 43
CGESD 30 30
Grade 3 English 2018 2019
Arizona 44 46
Pinal County 38 37
CGESD 29 30
Grade 4 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 47 48
Pinal County 42 41
CGESD 29 28
Grade 4 English 2018 2019
Arizona 47 51
Pinal County 41 45
CGESD 31 37
Grade 5 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 47 46
Pinal County 40 37
CGESD 38 33
Grade 5 English 2018 2019
Arizona 47 52
Pinal County 40 43
CGESD 40 36
Grade 6 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 44 41
Pinal County 33 32
CGESD 27 30
Grade 6 English 2018 2019
Arizona 39 42
Pinal County 30 34
CGESD 24 33
Grade 7 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 36 38
Pinal County 25 27
CGESD 24 24
Grade 7 English 2018 2019
Arizona 45 41
Pinal County 35 33
CGESD 35 28
Grade 8 Math 2018 2019
Arizona 32 32
Pinal County 21 20
CGESD 21 22
Grade 8 English 2018 2019
Arizona 39 38
Pinal County 29 29
CGESD 26 31
Algebra I 2018 2019
Arizona 73 76
Pinal County 63 71
CGESD 61 71
Geometry 2018 2019
Arizona 92 94
Pinal County 76 82
CGESD 71 54
Casa Grande Union High School District
Grade 9 English 2018 2019
Arizona 41 37
Pinal County 30 25
CGUSD 29 23
Grade 10 English 2018 2019
Arizona 32 34
Pinal County 22 24
CGUSD 24 27
Grade 11 English 2018 2019
Arizona 28 33
Pinal County 20 22
CGUSD 23 26
Algebra I 2018 2019
Arizona 39 43
Pinal County 26 28
CGUSD 17 18
Algebra II 2018 2019
Arizona 34 40
Pinal County 21 23
CGUSD 27 30
Geometry 2018 2019
Arizona 36 37
Pinal County 21 21
CGUSD 17 17

2019 Casa Grande AzMERIT scores for schools

Field 1 Field 2 Field 3
Elementary School
Math grade 3
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 27 18
Evergreen 17 21
Palo Verde 26 21
Saguaro 23 21
Cholla 50 43
Ironwood 30 35
Mesquite 26 20
Desert Willow 43 44
McCartney Ranch 27 39
Legacy Traditional 73 65
The Grande Innovation 33 42
English grade 3
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 25 N/A*
Evergreen 32 23
Palo Verde 16 21
Saguaro 26 25
Cholla 33 52
Ironwood 23 25
Mesquite 22 N/A*
Desert Willow 38 45
McCartney Ranch 40 38
Legacy Traditional 60 66
The Grande Innovation 25 25
Math grade 4
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 26 24
Evergreen 17 16
Palo Verde 37 38
Saguaro 23 24
Cholla 16 19
Ironwood 31 26
Mesquite 12 29
Desert Willow 45 40
McCartney Ranch 48 32
Legacy Traditional 62 66
The Grande Innovation 27 43
English grade 4
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 18 N/A*
Evergreen 27 36
Palo Verde 19 31
Saguaro 25 37
Cholla 29 38
Ironwood 23 30
Mesquite 24 30
Desert Willow 55 55
McCartney Ranch 45 46
Legacy Traditional 69 75
The Grande Innovation 35 44
Math grade 5
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 22 N/A*
Evergreen 37 38
Palo Verde 38 34
Saguaro 13 21
Cholla 40 34
Ironwood 43 22
Mesquite 17 17
Desert Willow 57 65
McCartney Ranch 50 45
Legacy Traditional 67 52
The Grande Innovation 22 25
English grade 5
School 2018 2019
Cottonwood 28 16
Evergreen 34 35
Palo Verde 38 27
Saguaro 28 33
Cholla 36 38
Ironwood 48 44
Mesquite 24 30
Desert Willow 63 61
McCartney Ranch 47 37
Legacy Traditional 63 60
The Grande Innovation 29 20
Middle School
Math Grade 6
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 15 18
Cactus 26 29
Villago 39 40
Legacy Traditional 59 55
The Grande Innovation 27 22
English Grade 6
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 12 21
Cactus 26 34
Villago 31 41
Legacy Traditional 61 57
The Grande Innovation 27 20
Math Grade 7
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 12 11
Cactus 21 22
Villago 36 36
Legacy Traditional 48 50
The Grande Innovation 29 27
English Grade 7
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 28 18
Cactus 33 28
Villago 42 36
Legacy Traditional 59 66
The Grande Innovation 34 37
English Grade 8
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 16 20
Cactus 23 30
Villago 38 39
Legacy Traditional 54 64
The Grande Innovation 20 26
Math Grade 8
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 3 10
Cactus 20 21
Villago 34 32
Legacy Traditional 54 62
The Grande Innovation 25 N/A*
Algebra 1 Grade 8
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande 28 64
Cactus 87 45
Villago 68 83
Legacy Traditional 95 98
The Grande Innovation N/A N/A*
High School
English Grade 9
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 29 24
Vista Grande 29 23
ASU Preparatory Academy 54 52
English Grade 10
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 23 28
Vista Grande 24 23
ASU Preparatory Academy 60 50
English Grade 11
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 27 29
Vista Grande 18 24
ASU Preparatory Academy 59 51
Algebra I
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 15 14
Vista Grande 19 21
ASU Preparatory Academy 53 48
Algebra II
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 28 31
Vista Grande 25 28
ASU Preparatory Academy 60 62
Geometry
School 2018 2019
Casa Grande Union 15 16
Vista Grande 20 18
ASU Preparatory Academy 72 41
*not reported by state

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