Improving Isaac
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 6, 2006

School leaders identify, fix problems in learning

Betty Reid

Maria Chaparro was excited when she learned the word "painter" in English.

The Isaac Middle School sixth-grader beamed the day she properly pronounced the word to her teacher, carefully sounding out the "p" and "t" and forcing her tongue not to roll on the "r."

"I feel 'painter' is a big word I learned," said the 11-year-old. " I feel better because the more I learn the English language, the better I will be able to do in school."

It's enthusiasm like Maria's that could play a major role in getting the middle school campus to earn high marks on the federal government's report card in September. Isaac Middle School is one of four campuses in Maricopa County that have failed Adequate Yearly Progress, under the federal mandate known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Maria's school did not pass the federal progress report in 2005 because a portion of its students consistently failed the Arizona AIMS reading test.
The middle schoolnow must show improvement on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test two consecutive years to get off the federal watch.

Work has started under the direction of Isaac Superintendent Kent Scribner, who arrived in 2003 when more Isaac schools rated poorly on federal and state report cards. Five Isaac schools failed AYP, and eight were rated below average on Arizona Learns.

This year, only Isaac Middle School failed to meet federal standards and pass AYP.

Once schools perform poorly on both report cards, the Arizona Department of Education dispatches intervention specialists. Many Isaac schools have remade themselves since 2003.

Scribner has hired nine new principals since he became superintendent. He's now focusing attention on Isaac Middle School.

John V. Fernandez, Isaac interim principal, with Irvin K. McDonald as assistant principal, are his most recent hires.

The results of the AIMS test point to where the students need the most help.

"What has been great about looking at data is for us to be able to identify which students are good in math, which ones are good in reading and writing," Scribner said. "Then the students are matched to the areas where they need most help."

Fernandez and McDonald also made changes at Isaac. Among them:

Students now are on a block schedule. That allows them more face time with teachers each week.

Students spend more time with a teacher.

The campus added one hour to the school day in math, reading and writing
for 200 students who need help.

The tutoring center, where English language learners such as Maria go for
help, is outfitted with 11 certified teachers.

The administrators also added an incentive to the schedule for middle
schoolers who might not be motivated to stay after school. It scheduled fun
classes such as sports, chess and a lesson about animals after the math,
reading and writing classes.