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AZ school districts crunching the numbers as AIMS test scores are released

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As Tucson area students start a new school year, local school districts are finding out if they made the grade in the latest round of arizona's aims standardized testing.

No Tucson area school districts got failing grades.

Catalina Foothills, Tanque Verde and Vail Unified Districts all got "A's" as did the Benson Unified School District.

The Amphitheater, Flowing Wells, Marana and Sahuarita districts got "B's."

The Sunnyside District got a "C."

Tucson's largest school district got a high "C" grade for 2014, two points aways from a "B" which is where the Tucson Unified School District was the year before.

In TUSD some troubled schools improved while others fell below the bar. 

No TUSD school got an "F."

Taking a look at letter grades in the high schools, Palo Verde Magnet, Sabino and University will all be putting this one on their marquees.

Each scored an "A."

The high schools that scored "B's" are Cholla Magnet, Sahuaro and Tucson Magnet.

Making our way down to the "C" high schools, they are Catalina Magnet, Pueblo Magnet and Rincon High.

There are four schools with "D's".

Santa Rita High School fell from a "C" to a "D."

Robison Elementary has a "D."

Two middle schools, Utterback and Valencia, have "D's."

TUSD says the letter grades are based on several factors, including AIMS test scores, along with other standardized tests and graduation rates and student mobility.

TUSD addressed both the letter grades and AIMS test scores today.

This is Dr. H.T. Sanchez' first full school year since being hired as TUSD superintendent.

Sanchez says he's making changes that came out of an education audit.

That includes changes in curriculum and teacher training that he believes will improve scores.

He says last school year was challenging.

"With all the changes, all of the challenges, all of the school consolidations and coming right out of a year in which budget cuts were on the lips of everyone, we're really focused on an aligned curriculum, smaller class size, more support on campus--on top of the 140 positions that were central office that have been moved out to the sites and the $4.4 million that have moved out of central office to the sites to enable smaller class size," Sanchez says.

Sanchez says several schools have improved, some even jumping two grades.

Here are the highlights from a TUSD news release:

· Palo Verde Magnet School, which was an underperforming school placed in the turnaround process in 2011, reached A status this year.

· Drachman bumped up two grade levels, from a C to an A this year.

· Marshall and Tolson Elementary Schools gained two grade levels, from D to B.

· Johnson went from an F to a C.

· Banks, Davidson, Vesey, Vail and Cholla rose from C to B grades.

· Oyama and Catalina rose from D to C schools.

Sanchez says those maintaining low scores or that have declined will get special attention this year for their students, their teachers and their administrators.

TUSD also will be participating in a leadership program out of the University of Virginia.

Sanchez says it will be implemented at six schools.

They are Catalina Magnet High, Lawrence Intermediate, Johnson K-2, Mission View Elementary, Cavett Elementary and Utterback Middle School.

"Imagine a menu of best practices. And University of Virginia works with us to identify on a campus---out of that menu--which items would best serve the needs of that campus. And so it's years of best practice compiled. I think they're in version 11. So they've done this 11 different cohorts across the United States. So we're getting the benefit of other successes," Sanchez says.

AIMS testing will be ending, but school districts don't know yet what Arizona will use to replace it.

The Arizona Department of Education already is saying the new test, whatever it may be, will lead to more students failing.

Sanchez gives failing marks to the message.

He calls it disheartening, negative and the wrong message.

"To be very direct, I just don't want to send a message out to our teachers and administrators and community that when a new test comes out we expect to see more kids fail. I think what we have to do is say, if the goal is for this new test to be more difficult, then what we have to take a look at is how we roll out the curriculum. Let's make it more meaningful and interesting and engaging for our teachers and for our students."

See the results from all of the school districts here:

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