Arizona's Trick or Treat Education
By Dick Foreman
With all due acknowledgment to ACEI-Global who compiled data nationwide on these 10 scary facts, I wondered how this all related to Arizona. Here are ten quick facts that, well, could scare the friendliest Arizona ghost.
1. The public education tradition is rich in the United States, and our students used to rank near the top in just about every category of student achievement and accomplishment. But that was thirty years ago. Scary fact number one, out of the 23 industrialized countries, the USA now ranks 18th. And for Arizona? Well, it’s even scarier. According to U.S. News and World Report, among the 50 states, Arizona ranks 43rd in student achievement.
2. Overall, education spending has increased in the United States (Arizona spends less today per student than in 2009!) but both reading and math scores have not significantly changed. We get the same bang for more bucks or less bucks. And what’s really scary is that this mushy result of seeming insignificance has triggered both a cry for more investment in public education and less. Sheesh. That’s what’s really frightening! Student achievement data is a policy sword that advocates for causes use to cut both ways. But they both can’t be right, can they?
3. The USA, among the leading 30 developed nations, has now slid to 25th in math and 21st in science. Arizona, for example, has 1.1 million students, give or take. We have less than 200 certified physics teachers. Yeah, that’s scary.
4. Only about 70% of American high school seniors earn a diploma nationwide. Arizona is just behind the national average. What’s really scary? What in the world will the 30% do with all their free time?
5. Well, scary fact number five is directly a result of scary fact number 4. Arizona is a leader in one very significant and lousy statistic, we are a nationwide leader in disengaged youth (young adults aged 16 to 24 who are not in school and who do not have a job). Bottom scary line? High school dropouts are 8 times more likely to go to prison.
6. Also related is scary fact number 6. The future workplace is not very useful to those disengaged youth because nearly 90% of future jobs and 85% of current jobs REQUIRE at least some postsecondary education. Doesn’t that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up?
7. But what is a diploma worth given this scary fact? Nearly 6 million students nationwide, grade 7 through 12, do not read at grade level. Up to 80% of 7th and 8th graders cannot read at grade level in some states. The latest AZMerit test scores reveal improvement in all of these categories for Arizona students, but we still have less than half our students testing proficient in spite of these increases. 45% of the 88,000 Arizona 3rd graders who took the test are “minimally proficient” in reading. And that’s an improvement over last year…And I thought Edgar Allen Poe was scary.
8. Scary fact number 8, and this should come as no surprise, but a talented, skillful teacher in the classroom is the best indicator of student achievement. Yet nearly 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year based on nationwide statistics. And in Arizona, this scary fact is, well, even a bit worse than that. Boo!
9. Arizona has placed great emphasis on student achievement and accountability in the 4 core subjects of English, reading, math, and science. But only 1 in 4 students are fully prepared and grade level ready to pursue their university degrees. What's even scarier is where’s the accountability for the accountability?
10. Scary fact number 10. We do understand the needs of the current and future workforce. We also understand that we are not meeting those needs. But of the students who actually do graduate and attend college, only about half attain their 4-year degree…within 6 years. Time for a re-boot, Hal.
Arizona students should not be subject to a Trick or Treat education. It’s time to table the tricks and start figuring out the treats.
NOTE: Dick Foreman is president & CEO of ABEC. To contact, please send him an e-mail.