Educators react to Gov. Ducey's signing of bill that exempts schools from letter-grade evaluation

Under a new bill signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, schools are now exempt from being letter-graded this year.

Under the bill, students still get letter grades, but schools won't. Gov. Ducey says House Bill 2402 will provide flexibility around the state's A through F letter grade system for schools.

In addition to signing HB2402 on Feb. 15, Gov. Ducey also signed an executive order that directs the state's Board of Education to use assessment data from this school year to compare to past years.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Education have released a statement, which reads:

"It is no secret that the past year has been tumultuous for our students and schools. By signing HB 2402, Governor Ducey provided needed stability to schools by pausing A-F school letter grades related to Federal and State Accountability for School Year 2021. In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-03, the Arizona Department of Education stands ready to work with the Arizona State Board of Education to analyze data around the learning that occurred during the pandemic and strategies to address the opportunity gap to help schools meet all students' academic needs."

Educators react

News of the bill's signing comes just two months ahead of the AzM2 test in April. Data from standardized testing will be analyzed to see how much learning loss there has been since the pandemic struck. Standardized testing was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

"About 80% of our students are in-person learning every day, and about 20% are remote learning, and it will be a tremendous challenge to get those 20% of students in our state testing that's coming up," said Dysart Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Steve Poling, who supports Gov. Ducey's decision.

Dr. Poling says currently, it's about finding out what students need to catch up in their education.

Malcolm Leinwohl, a science teacher at Chaparral High School, says what matters is the students' education.

"We don't do get a grade this year. Doesn't mean we're not gonna be working for the kids anymore," said Leinwohl.

Gov. Ducey also cited a study, saying students on average started Fall 2020 three months behind expectations in math, and a month and a half behind in reading. Leinwohl says he's proud of his biology students adapting to virtual learning all year.

"The kids really rolled with the punches," said Leinwohl. "They really understood what the teachers were going through. It really was a partnership."

Tutors speak out about learning loss

Brian Galvin with Varsity Tutors says spring 2020 was shaky for many schools, due to the start of the pandemic. Now, students are behind.

"More kids are behind In a handful of different skills, but it’s a little harder for teachers to predict," said Galvin. "Usually you move from one thing to the next for teachers. Can you kind of know where the review is necessary, because there are more things that kids ask. Like in the spring, you’re playing more of a game of wack o' mole for teachers trying to get everyone caught up."

Tutors say across the board, students are struggling with math. Shannon Nichols, who owns Bright Tutoring, says she hired eight more tutors to help the influx of struggling students.

Nichols says when it comes to math, creativity is key, such as taking pictures of math problems and teaching students that way instead of through a computer.

"Math is a very pen-and-paper subject where you line it up," said Nichols. "I have used graph paper for students that struggle with tha. To have to do that virtually, where you have to type in the numbers and the spacing has to be correct is difficult, because you can misplace it and it's a totally different number than if it was on paper and you look at it differently."