September 12, 2018
Warning: The sentences you’re about to read regarding Arizona education defies the common narrative. And they’re true.
Lost in all of the recent political debates is the fact that for the last 10 years, Arizona students have performed among the best in the nation, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the federal group that administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test widely regarded as the “Nation’s Report Card”.
The achievement gap is closing despite ongoing battles that have polarized the political and educational communities.
“What’s happening in classrooms across Arizona is simply exceptional,” said Lisa Graham Keegan of the A for Arizona. “Students and teachers in Arizona are making sustained, measurable advancements.”
In fact, this year’s release for 4th and 8th grade Math and Reading scores show Arizona largely sustained the large gains from 2015 and most of the steady gains from the last decade. Also worthy of celebration are 8th grade math scores for African-American students — which appear to be the best in the country.
NAEP was administered in the Spring of 2017 to 4th and 8th graders in 320 schools. For the first time, Arizona students are at the national average in 8th grade math, having closed a 4-point gap in a decade. Fourth grade reading, 4th grade math, and 8th grade reading are also showing significant improvement.
So, what does this mean? It means that despite all of the political and policy battles that have recently been taking place around Arizona’s educational system, there’s still a lot of good news coming from our public schools. We should strive to ensure that we’re learning from this news.
This means identifying what’s working and replicating it, and conversely, identifying what’s not working and eliminating it. In doing so, maybe we can try to steer future policy and political conversations towards more substantive debates focused on the one thing that nearly everyone agrees on: providing quality educational opportunities for all of Arizona’s students.