District Challenges Thunderbolt's "F" Grade

Lake Havasu Unified School District isn’t going to take the state’s assessment that Thunderbolt is a failing middle school lying down.

Next week, LHUSD will join some other school districts from across the state who already issued a formal appeal railing against the grades they received from the state. The appeals voice a collective opposition that the formula used to determine A-F letter grades is flawed and the data incorrect.

With several records requests submitted, LHUSD Superintendent Diana Asseier has begun an analysis of the recent release of the “preliminary” grades issued by the Arizona State Board of Education that assigned an F letter grade to Thunderbolt.

Asseier has stood steadfast that the school is not a failure.

“I’ve gotten some criticism for defending the school,” Asseier said. “People who know me know I wouldn’t defend it if it was that bad. My request is call me and we will look at the data. I’m not going to make excuses; I’m going to show the data.”

At the root of the issue is the formula used to determine proficiency and growth in English and math.

The state assigns 30 points for proficiency. Thunderbolt received 16. For growth, there are 50 points possible. Thunderbolt received 19.5.

“When they look at growth – and this is where it gets really bad – if a student was highly proficient and they stayed highly proficient between seventh and eighth grade, the school received zero points,” Asseier said.”

The only way a student can receive a full point for growth is if they are minimally proficient the first year and they show a great deal of growth in eighth grade.

“Under the formula if you have kids who are proficient or highly proficient you get penalized,” Asseier said.

The formula problem is best illustrated in math at Thunderbolt for seventh graders who were highly proficient in math taking Algebra I in eighth grade. A more rigorous discipline, students in Algebra I who fall in proficiency – even minimally – cost the school points.

“The state does not consider the course they only consider growth,” Asseier said. “Even though the majority of our kids remained preforming at a high level the school received zero points.”

More than 95 percent of Thunderbolts eighth grade students scored proficient or highly proficient on last year’s state assessment test.

Other factors that led to Thunderbolt not receiving points other middle schools enjoy include having a student for three years. Thunderbolt’s two year configuration cost them points in this category.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses offered at Thunderbolt are also a bone of contention. Although the high school receives points for CTE classes the middle school does not because there is no category in the K-8 formula.

Points not received for chronic absenteeism – students with 18 days or more out of school – is also a concern.

“Chronic absenteeism we received zero points,” Asseier said. “We believe there is a data error because it’s showing Thunderbolt had 3 percent chronic absenteeism last year and 14 percent this year.”

With a 95 percent attendance record, Asseier said, “No way they can have 14 percent of the kids being chronic absentees. If the state doesn’t change the formula and correct the data issues we are going to continue to struggle.”


by David Louis, Today's News-Herald
Oct 27, 2017