Thirteen of the 20 district and charter schools in Ahwatukee Foothills were designated excelling schools, the state's top ranking, by the Arizona Department of Education this year.

Another four schools were ranked highly performing, the second highest label, and no schools were underperforming, according to the annual list of academic labels distributed this week.

The AZ Learns labels are determined by AIMS scores, graduation and dropout rates, academic progress and English Language Learner reclassification rates. Schools are rated excelling, highly performing, performing plus, performing or underperforming.

While Ahwatukee's results were excellent, the area did have more schools with excelling labels last year. For instance, of the 13 Kyrene programs in Ahwatukee, eight received excelling and three were designated highly performing this year, whereas all but one was excelling last year.

Kyrene spokeswoman Kelly Alexander said in an e-mail that's due to an incredibly high standard and a tough math test.

Excelling labels are partially based on the percentage of students who exceed the standard in math, reading and writing. That's been a tough threshold to meet, and it got even tougher this year since the math portion of the AIMS test was written to a higher standard, Alexander said.

"Kyrene‘s performance in math did decline but, less so than the state of Arizona," Alexander continued. "Kyrene continually strives to help ALL students achieve at the highest levels."

Ahwatukee also excelled in Adequate Yearly Progress designations, a federal reporting requirement that looks at AIMS performance, the percentage of students tested and graduation and attendance rates.

Only one school in Ahwatukee didn't meet AYP standards: Kyrene's Casa Vida, a special program that lets home-schooled students come in for enrichment classes in certain subjects. Because of the nature of the program, Casa Vida students don't take the AIMS test, so it didn't meet the testing requirements, Alexander said.

Across the state, 71 percent of schools met AYP requirements, a 3 percent decrease from last year. But since schools were up against tougher standards - a harder math portion of the AIMS test and high school graduation goals that rose from 71 percent to 80 percent - that decrease is rather minor, Superintendent Tom Horne said in a news release.

Around Arizona, 13.9 percent of schools achieved an excelling ranking, 12.3 percent were highly performing, 36.3 percent were performing plus, 31.7 percent were performing and 5.1 percent were underperforming, according to the news release. Also, .5 percent were designated failing, which means they were underperforming for three years in a row.


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