COVID-19 pandemic causes Arizona to fall further behind on meeting key education goals

Jan 7, 2022, 4:45 AM

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)...

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona has several education goals to reach by 2030, and so far the pandemic has caused the state to fall further behind.

“This data is really a reflection of the pandemic on our education system,” Rich Nickel, president and CEO of the advocacy group Education Forward Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“So yes, we’re going to see results that we don’t like. But they’re not unexpected considering where we are.”

The Arizona Education Progress Meter was created in 2016. It sets goals for the state to meet on everything from access to quality early learning to post-secondary attainment.

The latest data for the progress meter shows an 11% drop in third grade reading proficiency and a 14% drop in eighth grade math proficiency over the past three years.

High school graduation rates saw a slight decrease while post high school enrollment now stands at 46%, down from 53% in 2018.

“We’re seeing that students of all ages, from early education to K-12 and postsecondary education, they’ve all been negatively affected by the pandemic,” Nickel said.

For Nickel, it’s especially concerning to see the number of 3- and 4-year-olds participating in early learning opportunities drop from 24% to 17% over the past three years.

“We don’t think it’s a far reach to predict that, that will ripple through the continuum as those students enter grade school and elementary school and continue on,” he said.

Nickel explained children who have access to quality early learning are more prepared for kindergarten. It also helps them develop their vocabulary, math and social skills. And as they move forward in school, they’re more likely to do well and graduate.

He added students living in poverty and students of color have been impacted the most by the pandemic and continue to perform at drastically lower rates than the state average.

“I think the way we should look at this probably isn’t thinking about how far does this put us behind, but what should we be doing moving forward,” Nickel said.

He said this should be “a catalyst” for state lawmakers, business leaders and education officials to come together and work toward meeting the state’s education achievement goals.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Person planting a 5 foot tree...

Some residents in Mesa qualify for a free shade tree

Qualifying Mesa residents can now enroll in the city's tree shade program, which offers eligible participants the opportunity to plant a tree in their yard at no cost.

3 hours ago

Teen girl accused of attacking, robbing victim, Gilbert police say...

Gilbert PD arrest teen girl accused of attacking victim in youth violence case

The Gilbert Police Department said on Tuesday it arrested a teen girl accused of attacking and robbing a victim in September 2023.

4 hours ago

Southbound I-17 was closed for a fatal crash on Feb. 20, 2024. (ADOT Photo)...

Southbound I-17 reopens just north of metro Phoenix after fatal crash

The southbound I-17 reopened at around 6 p.m. after a fatal crash caused a shutdown, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

7 hours ago

Bob Sanders will officially become the Buckeye police chief on March 3, 2024. (Buckeye Photo)...

Buckeye appoints new police chief to lead West Valley city

Buckeye announced Tuesday it had promoted Bob Sanders to police chief after serving a decade as deputy police chief in the West Valley city.

8 hours ago

Saiya, at First Avenue and McKinley Street in the Roosevelt Row area, had its last beam placed on t...

Downtown Phoenix apartment tower Saiya reaches construction milestone

A downtown Phoenix high-rise apartment tower that has been under construction for nearly two years recently reached a milestone ahead of its anticipated summer opening.

9 hours ago

Peso pluma singing on Mesa's Sloan Park stage in 2023....

Mexican singer Peso Pluma to stop in Phoenix on ‘Exodo’ tour this fall

Mexican singer Peso Pluma announced a stop in Phoenix on his upcoming tour, officials said.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 



The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

COVID-19 pandemic causes Arizona to fall further behind on meeting key education goals