Arizona drops in overall education rankings, but 'achievement' on rise - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Arizona drops in overall education rankings, but 'achievement' on rise

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Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 6:14 am | Updated: 12:38 am, Sun Jan 15, 2012.

Arizona dropped in the overall state rankings in this year's Quality Counts report released Thursday from Education Week.

The report gave a C-minus to Arizona, just below the national average of a C. Arizona ranked 44th out of 51 (Washington D.C. was included in the rankings), down from last year's ranking of 42nd.

The report measures everything from assessments and standards to school finance and a student's chance of success.

But there was a bright spot this year. Arizona jumped from 43rd in the category of K-12 achievement to 31st.

Rebecca Gau, director of the Arizona Ready Education Council - the governor's initiative on education - said the jump may be attributed to changes in the state's math standards a few years ago.

The K-12 achievement category looks at how students perform on the NAEP - the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is given to Arizona fourth and eighth graders in math and reading.

A few years back, the state aligned its math standards closer to the NAEP. While AIMS scores dropped considerably after that was done - they're starting to creep back up - it's meant students taking the NAEP are performing better.

"We've done a lot of work in those areas. We have a lot of good best practices starting to be implemented in Arizona. Obviously we have tons and tons more work to do," Gau said.

Some of that work is being done as the state adopts the national Core Common Standards, which will raise the bar in education.

Chandler Unified School District governing board member Bob Rice agreed there are a lot of changes being done to improve education. Change takes time, and it may be many years before Arizona makes an even bigger leap when compared to other states, Rice said.

"I absolutely think we are (making improvements)," Rice said. "The challenge is, I think whenever the ranking comes out is really understanding what the measures are. School districts have certain standards they are working toward. Chandler has Journey 20/20 (a statement of district goals) we are working toward to improve the district that we think are the right measures for education. They may or may not line up for what these other groups think."

Indeed states across the country have different measures to grade their schools. While Arizona currently uses the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, other states may use their own tests or national exams. AIMS will disappear in a few years as the assessment is changed to address the Common Core Standards adopted by Arizona and most states in the U.S.

In this year's Quality Counts report, which is compiled by Education Week journalists working with the Education Research Center, no state received an A. Maryland ranked highest for the fourth year in a row, but received a B-plus (last year it got an A). Two other states received Bs, while five states got a B-minus. Five states also received a C-plus.

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