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Arizona charter schools ride strong AzMERIT scores to high letter grades

(Unsplash Photo)

PHOENIX – Strong standardized testing scores have helped Arizona’s public charter schools outperform their district counterparts in the state’s letter grade system, an Arizona Charter Schools Association official said.

“What we’ve noticed over the last four years is that Arizona charter school students have been outperforming their academic peers on the state assessment, AzMERIT,” Dr. Ildi Laczko-Kerr, the association’s chief academic officer, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

“That’s been a consistent and steady increase year after year.”

AzMERIT scores are a significant part of the formula the Arizona Department of Education uses for its A-F school rating system.

In the recently completed grades for the 2017-18 year, an Arizona Charter Schools Association press release said nearly 40 percent of its schools received A ratings and almost 70 percent got either A’s or B’s.

By comparison, according to the release, about 25 percent of district public schools earned A’s and just over half received A’s or B’s.

The grade system was designed to measure academic growth and proficiency in core subjects as well as the readiness for students to succeed at higher levels and includes factors such as absenteeism and graduation rates.

Laczko-Kerr said each of the state’s approximately 550 charter schools develops its own curriculum, but her group provides organizational guidance.

“What we do here at the association is to help make sure that our charter schools have access to high-quality professional development for their teachers,” she said.

“We really focus on teaching our charter members how to use the data from the state’s assessment and any other assessments that they have during the instructional planning process.”

Recent news about charter schools hasn’t all been rosy.

Last week, the Grand Canyon Institute, an Arizona think tank, issued a report saying more than 100 charter schools are failing financially, with 33 in “dire straits,” and could have to close in the near future.

An Arizona Charter Schools Association spokesman called the report “ludicrous” and disputed that so many charters are in danger of closing.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report.

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