PHOENIX — An advocacy group gives Arizona a C-minus in a national report card on education policy but notes the state has made strides in reform and has room for growth.
In fact, Arizona wound up ranking eighth in the report by StudentsFirst, which graded states on how closely their public school policies follow the group’s platform.
Eleven states received Fs, while none received As.
StudentsFirst, led by former Washington schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, lauded Arizona for building momentum in its public schools by elevating teaching. The report also said the state’s grade benefited from recent policy changes, including the adoption of better educator evaluations, new Common Core Standards and increased transparency with school performance information.
Through Arizona’s education system often gets low marks in national ratings, experts here weren’t surprised that the state fared well with StudentsFirst, which they said is fairly conservative in its outlook.
“When you read a report with StudentsFirst’s name at the top, you don’t need to open it because you’re already going to know the types of findings you’ll see — it’s that predictable,” said Audrey Beardsley, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Rebecca Gau, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Education Innovation, said the report’s assessment was mostly accurate when looking at the criteria for what the organization values.
She said it was “just nice to see Arizona on top for once,” even if that means a C-minus.
However, Gau said there were a few “glaring errors” lowering Arizona’s ranking, including failing to recognize the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account for struggling families.
Pearl Chang Esau, president of the education advocacy group Expect More Arizona, said the report provided a solid description of the progress the state is making in public education. But she said Arizona can’t stop there.
“The next two to three years are so important for Arizona to really step up and make sure we didn’t just pass a bunch of policies,” Chang Esau said. “Time will actually tell if we can improve the capacity for schools to achieve at a higher level.”
Tracey Benson, communications director for the Arizona School Boards Association, said it’s hard to compare the report to Arizona’s education-reform plan, which doesn’t fully align with StudentsFirst’s goals.
“StudentsFirst is pushing some very specific policy changes,” she said. “We have our own measures of success.”
Arizona groups such as the Arizona School Boards Association have worked over the past few years on more aggressive plans to improve public education, with the hope of reaching these goals by 2020.
“Our state needs to get students college and career ready and focus on decreasing the achievement gap we know exists,” Benson said.
Critics of StudentsFirst say its platforms of elevating teaching, empowering parents, spending wisely and governing well are unrelated to state policy goals and may not provide the results students need to succeed.
Beardsley said other variables need to be considered when evaluating state performance.
“At the end of the day, [Arizona] still has very low test scores,” she said. “We still have issues with teacher effectiveness and teacher quality, especially in high-need areas. We still have bilingual education students really struggling in some of our schools. We have problems left to address.”
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food