Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Arizona has a fairly strong standards-based system and uses its tests to hold schools accountable for results. Arizona is one of six states that have clear and specific standards in English, mathematics, science, and social studies/history in elementary, middle, and high school.
The assessment system relies on multiple-choice items except in English, where the state also uses extended response questions. Tests are aligned to state standards in English and math in elementary, middle, and high school. But the state does not currently have tests aligned to state standards in science or social studies, which lowers its grade.
Arizona produces report cards with student test results at the school level and assigns ratings to schools based on a variety of criteria. The state’s accountability system includes help for schools rated as low-performing and sanctions for schools consistently rated as low-performing or failing. But the state does not provide rewards for high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Only Alaska scored lower than Arizona this year in efforts to improve teacher quality. While prospective high school teachers in Arizona must earn passing scores on one or more of the subject-knowledge portions of the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment, not all middle school teachers must do the same. Arizona requires a minimum of 24 credit hours of coursework only for subjects for which tests are not available. The state has regulations to create a performance evaluation for teachers already in the classroom, but the evaluation has never been implemented. A plan is expected to be presented to the state board of education in the summer of 2005 for final approval.
Arizona is also one of only five states that have not established or piloted alternative routes to recruit new teachers into the profession, although it is in the process of doing so. The state does not pay for professional development for teachers. And it does not hold its teacher education institutions accountable by identifying low-performing programs or by publishing the passing rates of programs’ graduates on teacher-licensing exams. Arizona is one of only seven states to include the number of new teachers on school report cards, but the report cards include no data on teachers with emergency certification, out-of-field teachers, or highly qualified teachers.
School Climate: Arizona’s average elementary class size of 24.5 pupils, as reported in the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, is the highest in the nation. The state allows money from its classroom-site fund to be used to lower class sizes. However, class-size information is not included on school report cards.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that 8th graders in Arizona are more likely than those elsewhere to attend a school where a school official reports that absenteeism and tardiness are moderate or serious problems. Students also are more likely to attend schools where a school official reports that a lack of parent involvement is a moderate or serious problem.
The state has strong school choice provisions. Arizona has a statewide system of open enrollment, and the Center for Education Reform rates the state’s charter school law as the strongest in the nation. Arizona also requires that the quality of school facilities be assessed every five years.
Equity: Arizona has a barely positive wealth-neutrality score, indicating that property-wealthy districts receive slightly more resources than their poorer counterparts do. The state ranks 26th out of the 50 states on that measure.
Arizona has a high coefficient of variation, which indicates wide variation in spending from one school district to another. Arizona ranks 39th among the states for its coefficient of variation. The state ranks 30th on its McLoone Index, which compares the total amount spent on students in districts below the median with the amount that would be needed to ensure that all districts spent at least at the median.
Spending: Arizona ranks second to last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in education spending per student, matching just 77.7 percent of the $7,734 U.S. average in 2001-02.
The state is also second to last on the spending index, which takes into account how many students in the state are funded at or above the national average, and how far the rest fall below that average. Fewer than 1 percent of students in the state are in districts that spend at or above the national average.
Arizona spends 3.8 percent of its taxable resources on education, equal to the national average. From 1992 to 2002, spending in the state rose by an average of 1.7 percent a year, adjusted for inflation.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 109