Report gives Ariz. education mixed grades
Jan. 7, 2009
education gets high marks for holding schools accountable and for rigorous
student standards, but once again the state pulls a failing grade in financing
The assessment is contained in a report called "Quality Counts 2009: Portrait of
a Population," released today by Education Week magazine.
This year the annual report added English-language learners to its analysis of
states' efforts to hold schools accountable for educating all students.
English-language learner students increased nationwide by 57 percent between
1995 and 2005 and now number about 5.1 million.
concludes that while most states have taken steps to address the increasing
English-language learner population, many have varying degrees of success.
In Arizona, about 10.7 percent of the state's 163,165 English-language learner
students progressed into regular classrooms, compared to the national average of
12.9 percent, for the 2006-07 year.
"(There's a) mismatch between the supply of ELL specialists and incentives to
attract them," said Amy Hightower, deputy director of the Quality Counts survey.
But while Arizona's numbers lagged, the state is the only one to have taken
steps in several areas to attract English-language learner teachers for the
Those steps include statewide English-language learner teaching standards and
incentives for teachers to earn certification. In return, teachers must
demonstrate competence through periodic testing. In addition, English-language
learner students are now taught for 4 hours a day, a significant increase from
the previous 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of schools, said he expects future evaluations
to improve because of the changes.
"We are about to experience a skyrocketing in reclassifying our ELL students
into (English) proficiency," Horne said.
He added that the latest state Department of Education figures show
English-language learner students progressing by 22 percent for the 2007-08
year, or double the previous year cited by the Quality Counts report.
It remains to be seen whether the state can afford to continue the progress. The
Legislative session begins Jan. 12 and lawmakers will have to cut at least $1.2
billion from the current budget. The Arizona School Boards Association says cuts
to education are inevitable since K-12 schools make up 43 percent, or more than
$4 billion, of the entire state budget.
And that was one of the biggest criticisms in the Education Week report,
which gave the state a D+ in school finance.
In the student-spending subcategory, the report ranked Arizona last in the
nation with $7,112 per student, according to Education Week's formula,
compared to a national average of $9,963, for the 2006 year.
While state Education Department figures typically show even lower numbers for
Arizona student spending, Horne did not dispute the Education Week data
and said he would continue to push for more funding.