AZRfR Project schools recognized for successful educational recipe

2015 Educational Excellence Impact Awards

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, AZRfR Executive Director Virginia McElyea, and the 10 Arizona superintendents honored at the Jan. 26 awards program.

The ASU School Partnership Grant Programs Advisory Council honored nine K-12 schools from five Arizona districts with its third annual Educational Excellence Impact Awards. But all 58 schools from the 10 districts participating in the Arizona Ready-for-Rigor (AZRfR) Project were highlighted as examples of success by the Governor’s Office.

“The governor (Doug Ducey) firmly supports programs that apply research-based standards and best practices to produce positive results. The Arizona Ready-for-Rigor Project does just that,” said Dawn Wallace, director of the Governor’s Education Office, to the more than 75 superintendents, principals, teachers, grant partners and ASU staff gathered together at the Jan. 26 awards program at ASU Skysong. “The results of these efforts have tremendous benefits for Arizona’s kids — as demonstrated by increased student achievement and the retention of high-performing educators. This is truly a recipe for success.”

The Impact Awards celebrate the outstanding growth and accomplishments of the schools participating in the AZRfR Project, which is a federal Teacher Incentive Fund Grant awarded to the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to increase teacher and administrator effectiveness. Over the course of the five-year grant, educators were provided mentors and group support, individualized professional development, and data-based strategies based on observations and evaluations. Additionally, $20 million was distributed to the educators in performance-based payouts.

Schools were recognized in four categories for their school and student achievement scores, teacher effectiveness and implementation of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. Grant superintendents were also honored for their leadership.

“These awards focus on which schools made the most progress in teacher excellence and student achievement in the 2014-2015 when compared with the previous school year,” said AZRfR Executive Director Virginia McElyea, who hosted the awards program. “These may not necessarily be the highest-ranked schools but the ones demonstrating the most improvement over the past year.”

The categories and recipients are:

Governor's Award

Wallace presented the Governor’s Award to schools with outstanding teachers based on value-added performance-based student growth. Scoring for each school was determined through the combined growth rankings from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years through two measurements: SKR scores, which are based on teachers’ classroom observations, teachers’ self-reflections, and the teachers’ responsibility in their school setting; and teacher value-added scores, which are compiled through individual student achievement results for the students the individual teachers instruct.

With a 37 percent increase in its teacher value-added score from the previous year, Deer Valley Middle School from Deer Valley Unified School District was the Governor’s Award. Finalists were: Copper Trails and Desert Thunder from Avondale Elementary School District and Isaac E. Imes Elementary from Glendale Elementary School District.

Superintendent's Award

Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas presented the Superintendent’s Award to schools that had the most significant increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in schoolwide value-added growth.  

Centerra Mirage STEM Academy in Avondale ESD increased its schoolwide value-added growth score by 54 percent to earn the Superintendent’s Award. The other finalists were: Deer Valley Middle School, Desert Thunder and Rice Elementary from San Carlos Unified School District.

“Thank you for your efforts towards improving education for students in Arizona,” Douglas said to the winners. She also had a message for all educators: “It’s vital we remember as we highlight these schools that we don’t lose sight that while winning is an admirable goal, it is not the only goal. Becoming better than we previously were, as people, as schools and as districts, is the most important thing we can do.”

ASU Teachers College Award

AZRfR Director of Leadership Pam Santesteban presented the ASU Teachers College Award. Winners were selected based upon school applications submitted utilizing data and narrative examples of how the school culture improved through the application of the TAP System.

A career teacher from the winning school, Copper Trails Elementary in Avondale ESD, described the impact of the AZRfR Project over the years: “Copper Trails is just a better place to work now. The teachers share their ideas, are encouraged to take risk, and work smarter — and not harder — to help students be successful. We’re just better teachers.”

The other finalists were: Cesar Chavez and Desert View Elementary from Gadsden Elementary School District, and Whitman Elementary from Mesa Public Schools.

TAP Directors Award

McElyea presented the TAP Director’s Award to Desert View Elementary School in Gadsden, a small community on the Mexico border, for its school’s dedication to the grant program, and the success its students produce annually.

“Desert View has consistently maintained high student growth score increases for the past four years,” McElyea said. “One of the goals of any grant, and what we do in schools every day, is to be able to sustain an innovation or a change once we institute it. Desert View serves a diverse population, and they really do an excellent job of bringing kids into the educational mainstream and really have them accomplish great things.”

Partner of Distinction Awards

While 2014-2015 was the final year of the AZRfR Project, all 10 superintendents were recognized for their district’s hard work and dedication over the past five years of implementation.

“Research shows that the single most important in-school influence on student achievement is the classroom teacher. The second most important influence is the school principal.  We also know that district leadership, and specifically the superintendent, has a major indirect influence on student achievement and culture,” McElyea said. “We want to present a Partner of Distinction Award to the superintendents who were vital to the success of this grant.”

The superintendents honored were: Dr. Betsey Hargrove, Avondale ESD; Quincy Natay, Chinle Unified School District; Charie Wallace, Coolidge USD; Dr. James Veitenheimer, Deer Valley USD; Dr. Ray Aguilera, Gadsden ESD; Joe Quintana, Glendale ESD; Dr. Roger Freeman, Littleton Elementary School District; Dr. Michael Cowan, Mesa Public Schools; Patricia Tate, Osborn Elementary School District; and Catherine Steele, San Carlos USD.

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