Over 70 Arizona schools appealing their letter grades from the state

More from this show

Seventy-three schools are appealing the letter grades they received from the state. Schools are citing a number of reasons why they should get a better grade, including Arizona’s teacher shortage.

Evan Wyloge of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting tells us more. According to Wyloge, the most cited reason to challenge the grades is that incorrect data was used to calculate them.

Ted Simons: UP NEXT, WHY A NUMBER OF SCHOOLS ARE UNHAPPY WITH THEIR REPORT CARD FROM THE STATE.

Ted Simons: OVER 70 SCHOOLS ARE APPEALING THE LETTER GRADES THEY RECEIVE FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, CITING EVERYTHING FROM TEACHER SHORTAGES TO A FLAWED GRADING SYSTEM OF THE EVAN WYLOGE OF THE ARIZONA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING JOINS US NOW. THEY'RE APPEALING THE LETTER GRADE THAT THE STATE GIVES OUT TO SCHOOLS AS A WAY OF ACCOUNTABILITY, CORRECT?

Evan Wyloge: RIGHT. THE STATE HAS BEEN PREPARING FOR SOME TIME NOW TO GIVE OUT THESE LETTER GRADES AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A BIG NUMBER OR BIG GRADE THAT THEY CAN COUNT IF IT'S GOOD AND ON TOP OF JUST BRAGGING RIGHTS, THIS HAS NOW GOT SOME FUNDING ATTACHED TO THE WAY THAT THESE GRADES SHAKE OUT. WELL, OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, THE ARIZONA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION HAVE PUT THESE NUMBERS OUT, PUT THESE GRADES OUT, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DISSATISFIED WITH WHAT THEY SEE, YOU KNOW, IN TERMS OF THEIR GRADE, BUT ALSO JUST THE FORMULA THAT WAS USED TO COME UP WITH THE GRADE.

Ted Simons: I WAS GOING ON SAY, GIVE US SOME OF THE REASONS FOR THE DISSATISFACTION.

Evan Wyloge: I WOULD SAY THAT THE MOST CITED REASON WAS THAT INCORRECT DATA WAS USED TO CALCULATE THE GRADES AND SOMETIMES THE SCHOOLS IN THEIR APPEALS SAID THAT THEY MAY HAVE NEGLECTED TO INCLUDE CERTAIN METRICS, OTHER SCHOOLS SAY THAT THEY BELIEVE THAT SOMETHING HAPPENED AFTER THEY SUBMITTED THEIR GRADES AND THE DATA DOES NO GOOD.

Ted Simons: ALL RIGHT. SO INCORRECT DATA ALSO COMPLAINTS ABOUT EVEN JUST THE SIMPLE FORMULA THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION USED, CORRECT?

Evan Wyloge: RIGHT. SO THERE WAS -- THE FORMULA ACTUALLY CAME FROM THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WAS THE AGENCY THAT COMPILED ALL THIS DATA, PUT IT TOGETHER, CONFORMING TO THE FORMULA COME UP WITH BY THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. A LOT OF THESE SCHOOLS USED THE APPEAL TO JUST EXPRESS THEIR DISPLEASURE WITH THE WAY THAT DIFFERENT METRICS WERE CALCULATED AND WEIGHTED FOR THEIR FINAL LETTER GRADE SO THEY'RE ASKING TO HAVE THEIR GRADE INCREASED BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIKE THE FORMULA.

Ted Simons: DID THEY NOT LIKE THE FORMULA BEFORE THE GRADES CAME OUT? WERE THESE CONCERNS VOICED PRIOR?

Evan Wyloge: I DON'T THINK THAT ANYBODY HAD HEARD A LOT OF PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE FORMULA ITSELF BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN CHANGING AND THEY WERE CONTINUE TO GO DEVELOP THE FORMULA UP UNTIL JUST A FEW WEEKS BEFORE THE GRADES WERE RELEASED. SINCE THIS HAS ALL COME OUT, A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN VOCAL ABOUT THEIR DISPLEASURE WITH THE SYSTEM AND THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY ARE GOING TO REWORK THE GRADES ALTOGETHER.

Ted Simons: OKAY. OTHER REASONS, THAT'S I'M SURE ENCOURAGING FOR ALL THESE FOLKS HERE, INCLUDING THE SCHOOLS, THEY BLAME TEACHER SHORTAGES FOR POOR GRADES.

Evan Wyloge: FOUR SCHOOLS SPECIFICALLY CITED THE TEACHER SHORTAGES, THEY SAID THEY HAD BEEN TRYING TO FILL POSITIONS OR FOR WHATEVER REASON THE SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS NEGATIVELY AFFECTED THEIR GRADE.

Ted Simons: CONSTRUCTION, BAD PLUMBING, BAD AIR CONDITIONING, FLU OUTBREAKS, BUT YOU HAVE SOME UNUSUAL REASONS UP HERE AS WELL. UP IN FLAGSTAFF, THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT VIOLENT THREATS. WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT?

Evan Wyloge: YEAH. I BELIEVE IT WAS FLAG HIGH, YEAH, THEY GOT THREATS OF VIOLENCE, IT WAS A COLUMBINE-STYLE THREAT THAT CAME IN, AND IN THE WAKE OF THAT, THE SCHOOL SAID THAT FOR ABOUT A WEEK OR TWO WEEKS AFTER THAT, WHICH WAS DURING THE TESTING PERIOD FOR THESE STUDENTS, A LOT OF PARENTS WERE KEEPING THEIR KIDS AT HOME, SO THEY WERE SCARED, THEY DIDN'T SEND THEIR KIDS TO SCHOOL, SO YOU HAD ABSENCES SPIKING AND THE IMPLICATION IS THAT A LOT OF THESE KIDS MISSED THOSE TESTS.

Ted Simons: CASA GRANDE HIGH SCHOOL, WAS THE PRINCIPAL WAS IN CHINA? WHAT?

Evan Wyloge: THEIR APPEAL WAS PRETTY SHORT AND ANYBODY CAN GO TO OUR WEBSITE AND DOWNLOAD AND READ ALL THESE APPEALS THEMSELVES, BUT THEY SIMPLY SAID THAT THEIR PRINCIPAL WAS IN CHINA AT THE TIME AND THAT THE STAFF THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO SEND OFF THE DATA MESSED IT UP.

Ted Simons: WE HAVE GEORGE GURVIN PREP ACADEMY, TAKES THE CAKE, A TEACHER WHO BECAME ERRATIC AFTER DONALD TRUMP WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT AND THEY SAID THAT'S THE REASON THE KIDS DIDN'T SCORE -- WHAT?

Evan Wyloge: ANYONE LOOKING FOR INTERESTING READING, THAT STICKS OUT. THEY HAD FOUR TEACHERS THEY SINGLED OUT IN THEIR APPEAL SAYING THAT THEY HAD PROBLEMS WITH THEIR STAFF, ONE OF THEIR TEACHERS, LIKE YOU MENTIONED, THEY SAID BECAME ERRATIC AND PARANOID AFTER THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP AND THEY SAID THAT THAT TEACHER JUST KIND OF HAD A BREAKDOWN. THEY HAD ANOTHER TEACHER WHO SEEMED TO BE THREATENING AND BULLYING THE STUDENTS AND STAFF, BROUGHT A KNIFE TO SCHOOL, DID SOME REAL KIND OF BIZARRE ISSUES THERE.

Ted Simons: THIS DOESN'T SOUND AS MUCH AS WE'RE BLAMING THIS AS REASONS FOR. I MEAN, THESE SCHOOLS, IF THEY'RE NOT DOING WELL AND THEY HAVE THESE KINDS OF PROBLEMS, I WOULD IMAGINE THE WHOLE IDEA OF THE GRADING SYSTEM IS FIND OUT WHAT THESE SCHOOLS ARE, WHERE THEY ARE, AND FIX THE PROBLEMS.

Evan Wyloge: SURE. OF COURSE. I THINK THAT, I MEAN, MY CONCLUSION IS SOME OF THESE SCHOOLS JUST LOOK AT THESE POOR GRADES THEY GOT AND THINK ANYTHING THAT WE CAN DO TO TRY TO BUMP OURSELVES UP, THEY'RE GOING TO TRY. WELL, IT.

Ted Simons: AGAIN, IT SEEMS TO ME, FROM A DISTANCE HERE, IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY BY LETTER GRADES, WHEN YOU GET LETTER GRADES, YOU CAN'T, WELL, WE HAVE MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES FOR THIS OR THAT. ACCOUNTABILITY KIND OF FLIES OUT THE WINDOW, DOES IT NOT?

Evan Wyloge: I CAN CERTAINLY SEE YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND I THINK YOU'RE ONTO SOMETHING THERE. THE NEXT BIG DEVELOPMENT WITH THIS IS GOING TO PROBABLY COME ON MONDAY OF NEXT WEEK, THERE'S GOING TO BE A MEETING OF THE ARIZONA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THEY'RE GOING TO BE REVIEWING AT THAT MEETING A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS AND MY UNDERSTANDING FROM TALKING TO THEIR STAFF IS THAT THEY'RE ALSO GOING TO MAKE A MORE DETAILED PLAN FOR HOW THE APPEALS PROCESS IS GOING TO GO AS WELL AS KIND OF REVAMPING THE WHOLE LETTER GRADE SYSTEM BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE ARE DISPLEASED.

Ted Simons: I WAS GOING TO SAY, IT SOUNDS LIKE IT'S IN NEED OF REVAMPING. EVAN WYLOGE, ARIZONA CENTERED FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING. THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

Evan Wyloge: THANKS. [MUSIC]

Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
aired May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: