Roosevelt not up to state minimum
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 17, 2006

Betty Reid

What children are learning in Roosevelt classrooms does not meet Arizona standards, state officials told educators at the south Phoenix school district.

This is bad news for the Roosevelt School District, which has been struggling with failing schools and political infighting. In December, the district launched into high gear to increase student test scores and prepare them for the AIMS test in March and April.

But it's too late for hundreds of students who were promoted to high schools ill-equipped to pass the required writing, reading and math AIMS to get a high school diploma, officials said.

"They are not prepared for the course work in high school," said Tom Horne, state schools chief. "It's terrible. It's the worst thing by a long shot."

Horne said the curriculum - what the student learns in the classroom - is not the primary reason 20 Roosevelt schools performed poorly on Arizona Learns that has ranked the state's individual schools since 2001. Horne also blamed nepotism, cronyism, micromanaging and political power struggles between the Latino and African-Americans to improving student scores.

Many Roosevelt schools ranked average or below average on Arizona Learns.
Ignacio G. Conchos is one of Arizona's 11 failing schools now run by the state and is where the first concerns about quarterly benchmark scores started.

Arizona Department of Education's school intervention specialist hired a curriculum consultant to look at the campus benchmarks at Conchos. The in-district test helps teachers determine where a child excels and needs help in math, reading and writing.

The consultant found the benchmark tests failed to measure a child's learning every two months as required by federal law and notified district officials in December. Those gave the district and state a wider glance at Roosevelt's curriculum.

Mark Dowling, Roosevelt superintendent designee since November, said the curriculum has "some gaps" but could not say how much of it is aligned to state standards. Dowling said the district responded to the findings by launching a revision of the curriculum that will mirror Tucson Unified School District and Tempe Elementary School District.

Dowling said the new Roosevelt curriculum will be ready by next month and will be implemented during the 2006-07 school year.

Parent not surprised

District officials said parents have not been notified about the curriculum glitches because its governing board has yet to see the state findings. A meeting with board members and state officials was postponed last week because several leaders were out of town.

The curriculum fiasco didn't surprise Roosevelt parent John Ramos because he has been battling the district about a lack of uniform student discipline.

If each school operates with its own set of discipline rules, then the state should not expect Roosevelt to have a uniform curriculum, Ramos said. The president of League of United Latin American Citizens' South Phoenix Council said the losers are the students.

"I know of parents whose children are in high school, who came from Roosevelt and who are reading at fourth- and fifth-grade level," Ramos said. "I'm not excusing a parent's role from their children's education but I'm saying a system should be there to educate the children. If there is a school doing well with a curriculum, why can't Roosevelt mirror that system?"

Why only one?

Michael Pops, a parent whose daughter is in high school and formerly attended Roosevelt's John R. Davis School, is upset about how the district promoted his child without reaching the Arizona standards.

But he wondered why the state took over only Conchos and the rest of the Roosevelt's failing schools if all were using the same curriculum.

"How can you punish one for doing bad when all 19 should be failing because their curriculum was not aligned to state standards?" Pops asked. "Those schools should be in state receivership, too."