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Arizona using innovation to try to raise test scores

Most Arizona parents said they do not feel their children are being challenged enough in school, nor does the educational environment transform them into knowledgeable adults.

“Three out of four fourth-graders in Arizona cannot read proficiently,” said Dana Naimark with the Children’s Action Alliance. “Only four states score worse than we do.”

Reading at the appropriate level is important, as it is a gauge of how students will do in the future.

“When we look at the overall trends of the test scores and the other outcomes — the graduation rates and the success that students have in critical thinking — we know that we’re not meeting our own expectations so there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Naimark said that Arizona has seen the highest cuts to education in the country and the lost funding does matter when it comes to nearly every facet of giving children a proper education.

“They have larger class sizes. They have less technology in the classroom. They have a shortage of things like books, computers, desks,” she said. “Things that are really detrimental to the outcomes we all want.”

However, Jonathan Butcher, an education expert from the Goldwater Institute, said there is no direct link between increased spending and higher achievement, but feels the state has worked to improve low test scores.

“Generally speaking, the traditional public schools in Arizona, our average scores tend to be near the bottom around the country when it comes to things like math and reading,” he said. “Having said that, we also have some of the highest performing schools in the entire country.”

Butcher said Arizona has led the country in education innovations, like an online school report card.

Both experts agreed the state has been better at holding schools, teachers and students more accountable, which is good for a child’s chances at success.