Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

Director of Student Achievement

Katrina Sacco

“As the Payson Unified School District continues the journey to materialize Continuous Improvement of Student Achievement (PUSD School Board Goal #1), we must take a closer look at aligning the AZ Standards for College and Career Readiness with grade level appropriate curriculum. Aligning the standards to curriculum and student achievement to learning provides the road map needed to ensure students reach proficiency. As a district, we moved to the unified implementation of Beyond Textbooks as well as implementation of a new K-12 ELA and math curriculum to ensure that we are providing all of our students with the necessary tools to demonstrate success on the assessment and to open doors for success in college and life beyond. Beyond Textbooks is a “framework” that aligns standards, formative assessment, and the calendar to teaching. It is a web-based program that allows teachers to access AND upload amazing standards-based lessons onto the website to be included in a collection that have been vetted by a team of professional educators to ensure that they are at the level of rigor and expectation needed for success in teaching the AZ State Standards for College and Career Readiness. Beyond Textbooks' processes and structures are already aligned to the standards and they follow research-based best practices! They have a proven record and PUSD is committed to its utilization and adjusting to make it our own! 

Rigorous curriculum and strong teaching practices will continue to be a focal point in Payson Unified School District.  With newly adopted English Language Arts curriculum (K-12) as well as the implementation of McGraw-Hill K-12 math curriculum in Fall 2019, PUSD will continue to EXCEL academically.  It is both challenging and exciting to be a part of national and state-wide, educational reform! As professional educators, we owe it to the children of PUSD to prepare them with the skills they will need to be successful in the world that awaits them.”

*Academic Update*

Arizona Science Standards and Assessment

In October 2018, the State Board of Education approved new Science Standards. This is an important milestone for Arizona since the previous standards were approved in 2004, and the landscape for Science instruction has changed. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is currently beginning the process of designing a new Science assessment to measure student’s attainment of the new Science Standards. Please visit the K12 Science Standards website for important information regarding the transition and implementation timeline as well as assessment information. Arizona Science Standards.

New Menu of Assessments

Pursuant to state statute, the State Board of Education was required to adopt a statewide assessment in English language arts (ELA), mathematics and science. The Board was also required to adopt a Menu of Assessments for grades 9-12. Local education agencies were able to select an assessment from the Menu to administer in lieu of the statewide assessment. Assessments on the Menu had to be: 1)  high quality; 2) meet or exceed the level of rigor of the state academic standards; and 3) be able to be scaled for accountability purposes (A.R.S.15-741.02)

In 2018-19, Federal law intervened and stated that a consistent measurement (tool) of standard mastery across the state, must be used in order to qualify for Federal grant funding. This is a substantial funding source for schools in our state.    Therefore, all Arizona schools will continue to assess students in the Spring of each year using AZM2 (formerly known as AzMERIT).  High schools still have the option to select an additional assessment from the approved vendors listed on the  Menu of Assessments to administer to 11th grade students.   All LEAs must administer the statewide assessment in ELA, Math and Science regardless of their choice from the Menu.  PUSD has opted to test all 11th grade students with the ACT test which is one of the three approved vendors.  

Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (AZCCRS)

Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards give Arizona students the skills they need to be successful in life. Simply put, they are a set of expectations placed on students to ensure that when they leave the classroom they are prepared to become informed, productive members of their community. Upon graduation, these students will be ready to not only compete in a competitive job market, but to excel.

Arizona education standards have long been adopted by the Arizona State Board of Education to ensure every child in our great state has the skills to move through our school system.

These new standards, Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, were adopted in 2010 after extensive public comment and public meetings by the Arizona State Board of Education. Schools began implementing the standards during the 2013 school year.

Across the state, Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards are being implemented to ensure that all students have the academic knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college, career and life. These standards significantly raise the bar for our students, and focus on critical-thinking, problem solving, and effective communication skills. However, when it comes to improving educational outcomes, there are no substitutes for quality curriculum, effective teachers, efficient administrative leadership, and engaged parents.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in December of 2015, is the successor to No Child Left Behind(NCLB), making it the newest installment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. This new law restores the authority in education policy to states and local education agencies(LEAs). This page is designed to be a hub of information and resources to assist us in designing and implementing our own Arizona education system to best serve our students.

A-F Letter Grade Accountability

In 2010, the Arizona Legislature enacted Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S. §15-241) to create the A-F Letter Grade accountability system which was adopted in June 2011 by the State Board of Education. The A-F Letter Grades are designed to place equal value on current year achievement and longitudinal academic growth, specifically the growth of all students as well as a school’s lowest achieving students. This system has recently been updated in response to a law passed by the Arizona Legislature last year. Although this system is very complicated, there are two main takeaways that I see;

1. The K-8 model has a significant emphasis on Growth (50% of the grade) and a new category of Acceleration/Readiness (10% of the grade). The remaining percentage is focused on “Proficiency”.

2. The High School/Alternative High School  models include a  category entitled College and Career Readiness Indicators  and an increased emphasis on High School Graduation Rate. “Proficiency” levels and student growth percentage round out the remainder of the formulas.  Payson Center for Success is scored using a separate model which was adopted for alternative high schools.  As we move forward with the implementation of these letter grades, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or clarifications you may need.

Move On When Reading

In this information age, acquiring the ability to read and write proficiently is both necessary and crucial for a student’s academic success. It is essential that K-3 students have full access to effective, strategic and purposeful reading and writing instruction using strategies that have been proven to be successful with research and evidence.

Arizona State Statute 15-704 requires school districts and charters to provide effective reading instruction, with initial screening; on-going diagnostic and classroom based reading assessments, and a system to monitor student progress.

Arizona Revised Statute 15-211 requires all school districts and charters with a K-3 program to submit a comprehensive plan for reading instruction and intervention across grade kindergarten through grade three. State funding is provided to schools to support the implementation of their K-3 reading plan. The goal is to have all grade three students in Arizona reading proficiently at grade level.

Arizona Revised Statute 15-701 states that if data on the third grade statewide reading assessment is available and demonstrates that a student scored “not proficient” the student shall not be promoted from the third grade. Students are identified by the state and reported back to the District. The District will make contact with parents/guardians of any students eligible for retention.

There are two exemptions in Arizona Revised Statute 15-701. In accordance with the new law, a school district governing board or the governing body of a charter school is allowed to promote a student who earns a score of “not proficient” on the third grade statewide reading assessment only for the following reasons:

The student is an English Language Learner or Limited English Proficient who has received less than two years of English instruction; or a student with disabilities has an individualized education plan (IEP), and the IEP-team, which includes the student’s parent/guardian, agrees that promotion is appropriate. 

An Important Note for Parents:

The AzM2 (formerly AzMERIT) exam is given  in the spring of each school year. Once the spring  AzM2 scores are available, schools will contact parents/guardians of identified students to discuss intervention options for that student.

Students enrolled in Arizona public schools are required to take a statewide achievement assessment for accountability. All Arizona public schools, including districts schools and charter schools, are required to properly administer state and federally mandated assessments. Click here to view PUSD and AZ state schools assessment results. 

AzMERIT is Now AzM2
In November 2014, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted a new statewide achievement test, AzMERIT, for Arizona students. This assessment is given in the spring of each school year and assesses Writing, English Language Arts, and Mathematics in Grades 3-11. Students taking high school level courses took an End-Of-Course test correlated with the completion of the academic standards reflected in that course.  As of FALL 2019, all End-Of-Course assessments have been suspended and students will test at their grade level in grades 3-8 and 10th grade (regardless of course level).  

Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS)
AIMS Science is a Standards Based Assessment that measures student proficiency of the Arizona Academic Content Standard in Science. It meets federal requirements for student assessment. It is administered in the spring to students in Grades 4, 8, and high school. There are no changes in this assessment at this time.

Arizona’s English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA)
AZELLA is a Standards Based Assessment that measures a student’s English language proficiency based on the Arizona English Language Proficiency Standards. AZELLA meets both state and federal requirements in assessing the language proficiency of students identified as second language learners and determines placement for appropriate instruction.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
NAEP is a national assessment of academic content outlined in the NAEP Academic Frameworks. The assessments are given to a sample of students in Grades 4, 8, and 12. There are no individual student, school or district scores.

Response to Intervention (RTI)
Each school has a process in place to provide supports to students who are struggling to master academic content. Response to Intervention (RTI) models follow a specific protocol of interventions that may prevent children from being referred to special education.Response to research supported interventions has the potential to help struggling students catch up to their age-peers and succeed in school. Each RTI program monitors how well students are responding to these instructional interventions to assure they make good progress in reading and math.

Career & Technical Education
The Payson Unified School District offers a comprehensive Career and Technical Education (CTE) program with career exploration opportunities in 8th grade and variety of career preparation programs for grades 9-12.

CTE programs offered at Payson High School:
-Agriculture Science
-Automotive Technology
-Construction Technology
-Culinary Arts
-Information Technology (IT)

CTE programs offered on the Gila County Community College Campus:
-Fire Science
-Website Development (an extension of the IT program)

Juniors and seniors who successfully complete 11th and 12th grade CTE courses earn dual-enrollment credit, earning both credit toward high school graduation and community college credit. Students who complete a program and pass the end-of-program assessment earn a certificate of proficiency.Each program has a student organization that plays in integral part in the students’ CTE experience. See the Payson High School website for details about the activities of these organizations.

District Curriculum

District Curriculum is based on the Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards (AzCCRS), rigorous national standards that prepare all students for college and career readiness by graduation.

Beyond Textbooks

Beyond Textbooks (BT) is a “framework” that aligns standards, formative assessment, and the calendar to teaching. It is a web-based program that allows teachers to access and upload amazing lessons onto a website to be included in a collection that have been procured by a team of professional educators to ensure that they are at the level of rigor and expectation needed for success in teaching the Az. State Standards for College and Career Readiness.

English Language Learners

The Payson Unified School District ELL program is based on the mainstream model for schools who have a low number of LEP students. Each student enrolled in the ELL program participates in a designated language block or has an Individual Language Learner Plan (ILLP) based on their AZELLA scores and other academic assessments. A portion of the required  English language instruction takes place in the SEI classroom while the remainder of the time is in an academic setting. In elementary school this would be a regular homeroom classroom; at middle and high school this would be a reading or language arts class. It is permissible in this model for ELL students to be in classrooms with non-LEP students. The ELL teacher coordinates with the classroom/content area teacher to ensure that the student is receiving instruction that supports the ELD standards and that the student is successful in this setting. The student’s ILLP may be modified during the school year should the student need more or less time in the SEI classroom.

Arizona Law

The PUSD ELL Program complies with all state and federal regulations for English language education, including:

English Language Education (ARS15-752). Subject to the exceptions provided in section 15-753, all children in Arizona public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English and all children shall be placed in English language classrooms. Children who are English learners shall be educated through sheltered English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year. Local schools shall be permitted but not required to place in the same classroom English learners of different ages but whose degree of English proficiency is similar.


Arizona Department of Education

Office of English Language Acquisition Services