Schools That Make the Grade

For 15 years, In&Out Magazine has been the definitive source of “Everything that’s going on” in and out of the community. We thank you, our readers, as well as the businesses that support the magazine through advertising, for that opportunity. But with little going on, and many businesses suspending or canceling their ads during the Covid-19 crisis, we are suspending publication of the magazine and web sites for the month of May. 

Sandra Day O’Connor was recently awarded the A+ rating. In&Out Publications Staff Photos
Behind the Coveted A+ Ratings

Sandra Day O’Connor High School was one of five schools in the Deer Valley Unified School District awarded an A+ rating this spring from the Arizona Educational Foundation, and one of 41 schools statewide to receive the designation. It was the only one in NoPho, the I-17 corridor from Norterra to New River. Meanwhile, six others in our area tout the award, having received it in recent years [see list below]. The trademarked award—officially called A+ School of Excellence—is administered by the non-profit Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF).

What A+ Means

Awarded schools have strong academic records, stable leadership, and “a caring culture conducive to learning,” explained AEF Executive Director Bobbie O’Boyle. A+ schools can tout the award for 3-½-years, a period justified by the institutional stability required to achieve the status, O’Boyle said.

“The A+ award is sort of a seal of approval from an outside agency that looks at the school with an objective eye,” O’Boyle told In&Out.

Basic Eligibility

Any public school, district or charter, with some combination of K–12 grades is eligible—if they meet these criteria:

  • Been open at least six years.
  • Have an A or B rating from the Arizona Department of Education (a totally separate A–F rating system based wholly on test scores and other statistics).
  • Have a principal who has been at the helm at least three years.
  • Meet various legal thresholds, such as complying with civil rights laws.

Previously awarded schools can apply only after the 3-½-year term expires.

The Process

“It’s a pretty robust application process,” said DVUSD spokesperson Monica Allread. Sandra Day’s application was 36 pages, Allread said, including goals and changes that led toward the goals, plus data and other documentation. Some 20 people contributed.

AEF reviews the written applications and sends judges to visit each school. About 130 judges are involved, all volunteers. Nearly all of them are principals, assistant principals, application writers, and other school leaders from schools that have already earned the A+ designation, O’Boyle said. About 1 percent—donors or other educational organizations—go along as observers.

Typically, schools don’t apply unless they have high confidence in their prospects, O’Boyle said. That helps explain why over the past 10 years, 70 percent of the schools that applied got the A+ rating. There are no fees for schools to apply nor to tout the awards.

The Right Stuff

The state’s A–F ranking is “a good starting point” for evaluating schools, O’Boyle said, “but it certainly doesn’t tell the story of the whole school. An A+ school is one teachers can’t wait to come to, students can’t wait to come to, and parents can’t wait to send their kids to.”

Are A+ Schools Superior to Others?

“Not necessarily,” O’Boyle said. “This award is something that a school has to be proactive about.” An outstanding school may not have taken the initiative or might not meet all eligibility requirements.

What is the AEF?

The nonprofit raises about $380,000 per year to fund the A+ awards and other efforts, including the state spelling bee and Teacher of the Year Awards. More than two-thirds of the funding comes from corporate grants and contributions, about 25 percent from foundation grants, and 7 percent from individuals. O’Boyle is the only salaried employee of the foundation.

A+ Schools in NoPho

DVUSD schools in our area currently allowed to tout their A+ rating, and the year in which they received it:
Sandra Day O’Connor High School (2018)
Canyon Springs STEM Academy (2016)
Gavilan Peak School (2016)
Stetson Hills School (2016)
Anthem School (2015)
Barry Goldwater High School (2015)
Diamond Canyon School (2015)


Help Save Our Community
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country and even more so this community. Supporting local businesses during this crisis can help keep our community economically viable. Please strongly consider supporting the businesses below, In&Out Magazine's display advertisers, as well as those in the Classifieds section of the magazine (see the full April 9 issue in PDF form). Many of these businesses have been part of the fabric of this community for two decades, not just serving our professional, service and retail needs but stepping up to support local charities, sports teams and so much more. Tip: If you know you’ll need to schedule a service, consider contacting a local business you trust and paying the standard fee for the deferred service. The links below go to their web sites.

Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates • 602-242-4592
Anthem Senior Living • 602-909-9550
Appliance Pros • 502-501-5501
Business Network of Anthem • 623-455-9630
Carroll Law Firm • 623-551-9366
Century 21 Real Estate - Jeff Huff • 623-223-1221
Creative Home Enhancements • 623-551-5409
Daisy Dream Homes Real Estate • 623-879-3277
Daisy Mountain Dentistry • 623-551-5250
Desert Foothills Air Conditioning • 480-595-0938
Edward Jones • 623-551-0523
Element Dental Centers • 623-551-5555
Hand & Stone Massage • 623-551-6602
Kendallwood Design • 602-252-3844
Kodiak Roofing • 602-501-7717
Luv My PC • 480-703-6609
Merrill Gardens • 623-201-4881
North Valley Water Solutions • 623-551-0515
Preferred Business of Anthem • 623-551-0523 
Prickett Realty • 623-551-8111
ProSkill Services • 623-551-7473
RE/MAX Professionals - Mike Higgins • 623-640-7502
Rise Above Remodeling • 623-551-2013
Soft Water Plus • 623-551-7383
SonoranScapes Landscaping • 602-842-9948
State Farm Insurance - Justin Simons • 623-551-3700
Storage at Anthem • 623-226-8634
Sunset Cabinets • 623-687-6579
Thompson & McGinnis Attorneys at Law • 602-952-2666
Titan Tree Care • 623-444-8448
Titan Pest Control • 623-879-8700
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical • 623-551-6688

For more local businesses, see In&Out Magazine Classifed Ads >>>  
Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites and Live Science. He has written four novels. .

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites and Live Science. He has written four novels. .

npneditor has 531 posts and counting.See all posts by npneditor