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Fisher v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 15, 2018

Roy and Josie Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs,
United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
Anita Lohr, et al., Defendants, and Sidney L. Sutton, et al., Defendants-Intervenors, Maria Mendoza, et al., Plaintiffs, United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
Tucson Unified School District No. One, et al., Defendants. SCHOOL FINAL 2016-17 PROJECTED 2017-18 Proficiency Achievement Gap Between White and African American Students 2015-16 & 2017-18 Proficiency Achievement Gap Between White and African American Students 2015-16 & 2017-18 SCHOOLS AA ELA 2015-16 & 2017-18 AA MATH 2015-16 & 2017-18 HISPANIC ELA 2015-16 & 2017-18 HISPANIC MATH 2015-16 & 2017-18




         This Report is responsive to the provisions of the September 6, 2018 Court Order (Doc. No. 2123 at pp. 25-26) related to magnet schools. The Court's Order states:

The Special Master is currently responsible for recommending the termination of noncompliant magnet schools or programs, with the exception of any school or program where the District has prepared an improvement plan… which has been approved by the Special Master…. The Special Master shall expressly identify the criterion guiding these determinations as being relevant to improving: 1) integration, 2) the minority achievement gap, and 3) the school's student achievement profile….
The Special Master shall base his recommendation on express criteria and guidelines for identifying a successful magnet program. Such criteria and guidelines developed by the Special Master, shall be provided to the District for incorporation into the CMP for future use.

         In this Report, the Special Master does not recommend that the Court take any action at this time. In its recent order, the Court gave the District explicit direction regarding magnet schools and tasked the Special Master with responsibilities for evaluating magnet schools by making recommendations with respect to their future status. The Special Master is asking that the parties treat this report as directions to be acted upon as he and the parties work collaboratively to implement the recommendations herein. Of course, should they object to any of the Special Master's proposals, the parties should inform him accordingly, and he will initiate a meeting among the parties in order to facilitate efficient progress over the next three months and beyond. The Court has ordered the District to submit a comprehensive magnet plan by the end of the school year. At that time, plaintiffs and the Special Master will have an opportunity to advise the Court about aspects of the plan they do not support.

         The Special Master will then report to the Court and the parties with respect to the progress the District is making to improve the magnet schools identified in this report as being at risk of maintaining magnet status. That may include a recommendation that the Court direct the District to develop transition plans for specific schools that do not appear to be making progress necessary to demonstrate that they are able to remedy to a reasonable extent the concerns identified by the Special Master in this report. However, the Special Master assumes that in most, if not all cases, it will be necessary to know how well students perform on the 2019 AZ Merit tests of academic performance before a decisive judgment can be made about the magnet status of any school.

         This somewhat unusual approach is motivated by awareness that some of the schools identified in this report have not yet been advised of their vulnerability and that, in any event, the schools deserve the time - even if it is short - to demonstrate that they have the capability to move effectively to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes of their students and to do so in ways that are consistent with the USP.


         The criteria identified in the USP for determining magnet status fall into two categories: integration and academic quality.


         A school is considered integrated if no race exceeds 70% of the school's student population and the students of any other race do not comprise plus or minus 15% of the District-wide proportion of students of each race in schools with similar grade structure to the school being evaluated (e.g., a K-5 school, etc.). However, it would be very difficult for a school to alter its racial composition for the entire school in a short time. Therefore, the Court approved - for the purposes of retaining and attaining magnet status - that the integration criteria would apply to the entry grade in a given school (e.g., K) with a requirement that that integration status be sustained in subsequent years (e.g., 1 and beyond).

         Academic Quality

         Academic quality for purposes of determining magnet status involves five measures:

1. The letter grade assigned to the school by the state. The state uses student performance on statewide standardized tests as a major consideration in determining these grades. Letter grades that are acceptable are A and B. See Table I.
2. Whether the state test scores of the of African American and Latino in a particular school exceed the average test scores of African American and Latino students in schools throughout the District with similar grade structures (e.g., K-5). See Table II.
3. The size of the achievement gap in mathematics and English language arts (ELA) comparing test scores of white students to those of African American and Latino students. See Table III.[1]
4. The extent to which the school has narrowed or eliminated the achievement gaps. See Tables III and Table IV.
5. Improvement in the passing scores on state tests of African American and Latino students.

         While these different measures usually point in the same direction, that is not always the case. Gaps may differ for African American and Latino students and for different subjects. Schools with high overall performance may have larger achievement gaps than schools where students achieve at lower levels. When such ambiguity exists, the Special Master may use other factors that affect the learning environment schools, such as the levels of school discipline problems.

         Summary Recommendation

         The Special Master recommends that no magnet school lose its magnet status at this time. However, the Special Master recommends that five of the 13 magnet schools be informed that they might not retain their magnet status beyond the current year depending on whether the District takes appropriate action to address problems in these schools during the current school year.

         The five schools that are vulnerable to losing magnet status before the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. Those schools are: Booth-Fickett, Holladay, Borton, Roskruge, and Drachman. The reasons for their vulnerability and general ...

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