“I am expected to stand in front of a group of people and publicly shame my school, staff, students, and community.”
Those are the words of Keiko Dilbeck, the Principal of Kino Junior High, a school that belongs to a circuit of Mesa Public Schools. The reason for this proclamation? Under her supervision, this school was the only one to receive a “D” grade in the state’s largest district.
As principal, Dilbeck was coerced by the state into announcing the letter grade to members of the community who reside within the zoning section of Kino Junior High. Otherwise, she faced a defunding for her school. An upset Dilbeck continued on, “I implore you to provide true support and innovation for struggling schools. A letter grade and public shaming without any regard for the challenges our school faces is worthless.”
The struggles that Mrs. Dilbeck is talking about revolve around poverty, language, and education barriers. After all, almost 90 percent of the student body at Kino Junior High receives either reduced or free lunch. Also, a majority of the students in the school are enrolled in either special education programs or are members of the English as Second Language curriculum.
The test that Arizona used to come up with these grades is called the AzMerit. Mrs. Dilbeck stated that this sort of standardized testing will continue to hurt the school’s grades, pointing once again to the English-language learners and special education programs. She stated, “Kino’s English language learner population grew 56 percent this year, and next year’s seventh-grade special education population is expected to double. These two points of data are early warning indicators that our school will continue to struggle with the letter grade.”
Due to these sensitive situations, it was important for the State Superintendent, Diane Douglas, to speak up. She stated, “I just want people to understand that doesn’t come from us. It’s not an arbitrary decision. The letter…that’s a requirement from the state.”
With the state stepping in to save schools given grades of “D” and “F,” Arizona will work hand-in-hand with Kino Junior High to get to the bottom of what is causing these low grades. As part of this program, the school must come up with a development plan that maps out the plan of attack for improvements.