Aug 062014

By Naomi Hatch The latest Arizona schools’ A-F letter grades were recently unveiled, revealing that Taylor and Snowflake schools have reached an all-time high for student achievement. “For the first time in the schools’ history, they will have ‘A’ rate schools,” said Snowflake Unified School District Superintendent Hollis Merrill. Snowflake High School and Highland Primary School have been rated as “A” schools, Snowflake Junior High School and Taylor Elementary School each missed being an “A” school by one point, and are rated as “B” schools. Snowflake Intermediate School is a “B” school and Taylor Intermediate is a “C” school, missing a “B” score by one point. “The formula for rating Arizona schools includes the academic outcomes, or percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards on the AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) test, the growth of all students and the growth of the lowest performing students (bottom 25 percent),” Merrill explained. High school scoring includes graduation rates in the calculation, and schools can receive bonus points for the percentage of English Language Learners (ELL) students. “Several schools also received points for having a very low percentage of students that fell in the lowest categories of the test,” said Merrill. “The junior high, Highland Primary and Taylor Elementary all qualified for points in that area.” “During the past five years, we have committed our time and resources to the classroom and student achievement,” said Merrill. “Changes have been made to be able to maximize the impact of our quality teachers and provide the best opportunity for students to succeed.” The superintendent explained that some of the changes that have been made include “reteach and enrich sessions, all day kindergarten for targeted students, ability grouping for maximum student gains, tutoring and summer school at all grade levels, and creative schedules at the junior high and high school to help students achieve their potential and receive needed help.” The district has also focused on increased collaboration and teamwork within and between the schools, departments and grade levels. “At the K-6 level, we have trained teacher leaders to help facilitate the educational process in place,” said Merrill. “We have literacy coaches, math coaches and technology coaches.” The district has adopted the Beyond Textbooks models used by most schools in the area. “This allowed us to have a completely aligned curriculum district-wide that provides a coherent sequence of instruction with smooth transitions between grade levels and schools,” he said. The district has also implemented research based practices in the classrooms that have proven to be effective. “This increased school performance is a reflection of many hours of work and dedication from teachers and staff, including hours outside of school time, as well as the hard work from students and parents, along with a supportive governing board,” Merrill said. “We are blessed to have incredible people working in our schools,” the superintendent concluded. “We take our responsibility to our students and the community seriously, and will continue to work to provide a high quality of education with the resources available to us.” Merrill encourages parents to attend their student’s back to school nights, curriculum nights and other events held at the beginning of the school year to learn all they can about what is going on so they know how to best support their children. “We also encourage you to go to our website at for additional school information. There are profiles and pictures of the new employees on the ‘News’ section,” he said.