• Advancing Toward College & Career Readiness

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  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • General questions

    Why did ABEC decide to launch this new recognition program? Does the project help the "education community?" In other words, why do we need it?

    ABEC was instrumental in influencing the State Board's decision to increase graduation requirements for Arizona students. ABEC has also been supportive of the adoption of the Common Core Standards and Assessments. Both of these actions raise the performance bar for Arizona students. Students will need to perform at a higher level than ever before. This hard work will require the help from everyone: parents, community members and businesses. Educators cannot do this alone. We have just a few years to be ready for the first assessment of the Common Core and we must use those years to shift our thinking to higher expectations for all, student and educator support and just plain working toward higher goals. ABEC recognized the success of the ACT District Choice Statewide Testing program, in which high school students are administered the ACT. "The testing program changes the conversation in our district," responded many of the participating superintendents. "We need to start having those conversations, though, in elementary schools." Since the work of the NCEA develops "a ramp to college and career readiness," it actually pushes the conversation about college and career readiness into 3rd grade and encourages schools to collaborate with each other on successful strategies. So, a partnership was born to support this critical effort.

    What outcomes does ABEC hope to achieve by launching this program?

    We are hoping that the list of Arizona Higher Performing Schools (one or more content areas in one grade tested) grows each year and that more and more schools become Arizona "All Subject" Higher Performers; that is, more schools advancing students onto "the ramp to college and career readiness" in all content areas and all grades tested. As a result, we expect that more students will be ready to enter postsecondary education or the workforce without any need for costly remediation.

    What are the ACT target benchmarks for college and career readiness? How are these targets determined? How are the aggregate AIMS test scores correlated with the targets on the ACT?

    ACT has studied the performance of over 90,000 students at 98 post-secondary institutions, who have graduated from high schools and taken the ACT over the past years, to determine the scores necessary on the ACT that would best anticipate success in postsecondary education or the workforce. Those scores were then correlated with two additional ACT products, PLAN (usually administered in 10th grade) and EXPLORE (usually administered in 8th grade) assessments, to identify the scores on those instruments that would lead to likely success on the ACT. Then those scores are correlated to the state assessment (AIMS) and backward-mapped to 3rd grade, where the AIMS is first given. As a result, all schools in Arizona can analyze the percent of students in each subject tested that are on or above the college and career readiness (CCR) "ramp".


    CCR Target Graph

    Are all students included in the Higher Performing Schools analysis? If not, which students are used?

    Two different measures were used for the analysis: growth and absolute performance. Depending on the measure and the grade span of a school, the following groups of students were used:

    • Continuously enrolled students to determine higher performing for Grade 3;
    • Students enrolled for a full academic year to determine higher performing growth for Grade 4 and up; and
    • Continuously enrolled students to determine higher performing absolute performance for all grades.

    Continuously enrolled students are defined as those students who have been enrolled in a school for at least three years.

    How likely is it that a school highly ranked in one of the state ranking systems is not recognized as higher performing by ABEC?

    It's not likely. But it IS likely that a school with an economically disadvantaged student population might be on the Higher Performing list because it's growing its student performance faster than its peers; that is, their students are advancing toward college and career readiness at a faster rate.

    Is ABEC saying the AIMS test equates to the ACT exam?

    Not at all. This project is purely a correlation that was undertaken in partnership with NCEA/ACT to help identify college and career readiness using ACT's CCR Benchmarks as the anchor. We are simply making a link between a school's aggregate achievement on the AIMS and college and career readiness.

    How can you guarantee 3rd graders will be college and career ready?

    The ABEC message is simply that they are "on the ramp to career and college readiness". If third graders are not on that ramp, the question should be, "what actions do we need to take to get them there? What are those schools doing with like demographics that enable them to advance more quickly toward career and college readiness?" If a student achieves the CCR target for the math in 3rd grade we are stating that they are likely to be CCR when they leave high school if they maintain a year's growth from grade to grade; that is, they are advancing toward college and career readiness. Keep in mind that this is only one measure of student achievement and that there are many variables that impact a student's ability to learn and grow academically.

    If I am a parent, should I be concerned that my child's school did not make the list of Arizona Higher performing schools?

    As you gather information about your child's school, remember that advancing toward college and career readiness is one indicator. There now are several ways to look at student performance and your child's school. As a parent, this may be a question to ask your school principal. There are many ways you can help your student become college and career ready. The CCR ramp begins in the home before Pre-Kindergarten. (Please visit www.ExpectMoreArizona.org.)

    How will ABEC recognize the Arizona Higher Performing schools? How do the three key words "celebrate", "study" and "inspire" correlate with the program? What is their purpose?

    While all schools that are advancing toward college and career readiness in one or more content areas in all grades tested will receive recognition, those that are Arizona All Subjects Higher Performing Schools will receive a banner and trophy. The Arizona All Subjects Higher Performing Schools are advancing toward college and career benchmarks in all grades and in all content areas tested. That's quite an achievement. Stakeholders in Arizona's schools will study those schools to see why they've outperformed their peers. Researchers at ACT's National Center for Educational Achievement will also study schools across Arizona to provide the state with valuable information on best practices in Higher Performing Schools. Best practice strategies will emerge that can make a difference in Arizona. We will want to promote the use of those strategies, and inspire other schools to use them. Other schools will also be inspired to replicate the successes of their Higher Performing peers.

  • School questions

    Why are some schools in my district on the Arizona Higher Performing Schools list while others are not?

    It's very possible for this to be the case. The makeup of student populations may be different from one school to another. Some strategies for delivery of instruction might be different in one school than another. Those strategies make a difference. The message from ABEC will be, "So what will we do about it?" What successful strategies are others using that we can adapt to meet the specific academic needs of student populations in the other schools? How do we lift each other up to a higher standard?

    How can parents, community members and business partners assist in implementing new, effective strategies? Is it up to the district to help implement new strategies, or the individual schools? In other words, whose responsibility is it to get schools on the list?

    The district and the school will likely work together in researching and implementing new and effective strategies. There may be ways the community can help. For example, tutoring in math and language arts targeting the improvement of those skills needed to perform well could be what a student needs to succeed.

    Why is a school that does NOT have its students college and career ready, appearing on the Arizona Higher Performing Schools list?

    There are two ways for schools to be on the list: 1) Absolute performance of their students in regards to CCR as compared to their peer schools, and 2) Growth-Schools that grow their students' achievement more rapidly than their peer schools. Schools that are outperforming their peers may not have their students career and college ready yet. But they are moving toward that goal more quickly than other schools with similar demographics, such as percent low income students or percent English Language Learners.

    How can schools who do not make the Arizona Higher Performing Schools list improve so they can make the list in the future?

    Schools may contact those schools on the NCEA Arizona Higher Performing Schools list to see what they're doing that makes the performance difference. They may do a self-audit to see how their practices align with practices the NCEA/ACT has identified as best practices from the many years of research they've conducted. They may begin to make changes in their own strategies.

    Can my school district have access to the research and processes behind the data matching?

    Yes. Any school district can contact NCEA/ACT to get answers to technical questions and questions that may be best answered by the researchers that conducted the analysis. Please visit www.act.org.