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TUSD's focus on student success produces significant achievement gains

Two-thirds of TUSD schools improved scores; district on verge of "B" rating

Posted August 1, 2013

More than 50,000 students started the new school year at an improved Tucson Unified School District – a district celebrating substantial achievement gains reflected in the release of the Arizona Department of Education's (ADE) 2012-13 school letter grades.

Two-thirds of TUSD schools improved scores and the district is on the verge of a B rating due to a focus on data-driven instruction, a concentration on improving mathematics, and a strategic emphasis on elevating performance at the district's middle schools.

The ADE announced that TUSD has increased its overall passing rate by 3 percent and the growth of student performance increased by 4 percentile points. These gains – an increase of seven total points – have brought TUSD to within two points of receiving a B letter grade for district performance.

Educational strategies rooted in using performance data to guide instruction, along with robust teacher training and proactive professional development, increased classroom observations to calibrate instructional practices, and a district-wide commitment to student success have all contributed to this major accomplishment.

TUSD's overall improvement is best reflected in district schools, where two out of three schools earned more points than the previous year, resulting in:

  • A 50 percent increase in A schools (TUSD now 12 A schools)
  • A 29 percent increase in B schools (TUSD now 31 B schools)
  • An 11 percent decrease in C schools (TUSD now 39 C schools)
  • A 30 percent decrease in D schools (TUSD now 16 D schools)

Progress in middle schools was the major contributing factor in letter grade improvements, powered by substantial gains in math scores.

Middle school math scores increased by 6-7 percent in the 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades – an improvement that is momentous in year over year progress. Through a focus in improving student achievement and the promise to provide better service to families through the school consolidation process, TUSD is starting the new school year with no D grade middle schools.

In addition to the positive gains at the middle school level, TUSD would like to recognize the continued improvement of several schools. Over the past three years, six elementary schools have made continuous improvement:

  • Carrillo and Kellond elementary schools improved from a C to a B to an A.
  • Davis, Hudlow, and Warren elementary schools improved from a D to a C to a B.
  • Ochoa Elementary moved from a D, to within 3 points of a C, and then to a B letter grade this year.

Additionally, Tucson High Magnet School has also made significant improvement. TUSD celebrates the largest high school receiving a B letter grade for its academic achievements.

While the district focus on student success has brought much improvement, there is still work to be done. Several schools still need to improve achievement. Schools with unsatisfactory grades will continue to receive special attention from district leaders, principals and teachers. Additional resources for academic support such as tutoring and defining professional development in math and literacy will be part of the strategies to eliminate all D labels in the district and continue to move all schools up in achievement.