Arizona’s students are among leaders in the nation in achievement gains in math and reading, but its per-pupil state funding, identified as the lowest in the nation, pulled the grade for Arizona’s public schools down to a D+ in the Quality Counts 2016 report released by Education Week‘s Research Center last week, “Called to Account: New Directions in School Accountability.”
The report ranks Arizona 45th among the states when looking at students’ chance for success, school finance and K-12 achievement combined.
For K-12 achievement, Arizona was in the middle of the pack, but Arizona students’ chances for success were ranked among the lowest of all the states.
- Arizona ranked third in the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade students’ proficiency rate changes in reading and math on the NAEP from 2003 to 2015.
- Arizona ranked third in the nation on eighth-grade students scale-score achievement gains in reading.
- Arizona students ranked fourth in the nation on gains in eighth-grade math scores.
- Arizona ranked fifth in the nation on the change in the number of students earning an advanced rating in math on the NAEP from 2003-2015.
- Arizona students ranked 10th in the nation on gains in fourth-grade math scores.
Arizona ranked slightly higher than the national average on the number of eighth-grade students proficient in mathematics on the NAEP in 2015, with 34.8 compared to the nation’s 32.1.
While Arizona ranked 14th in the nation in the number of eligible children enrolled in kindergarten programs in 2014, the state ranked 48th on the number of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool that same year.
Another area Arizona has made strides in is closing the poverty/achievement gap.
Arizona beat the national average in K-12 achievement change, and was just a smidge below the national average on K-12 achievement equity.
Spending and Equity
While Arizona scored highly in equity, the state received the lowest grades in spending.
In equity, Arizona ranked fifth in the nation on the amount of actual spending needed to bring all students to the median level, 17th on the relationship between district funding and local property wealth, and 29th on the difference in per-pupil spending levels at the 95th and 5th percentiles with $4,107 compared to the nation’s $4,655.
But in spending, Arizona ranked lowest in the nation on adjusted per pupil expenditures with $7,620 being spent on each Arizona student, much lower than the national average of $11,667 spent per student.
Arizona ranked 47th in the nation on state expenditures on K-12 schooling as a percent of state taxable resources, with just 3.8 percent of Arizona students in districts with per pupil expenditures at or above the U.S. average.
Opportunities for Success
The report also looked at the importance of education over a person’s lifetime from cradle to career by using 13 indicators that measure preparation in early childhood, performance of public schools, and educational and economic outcomes in adulthood.
State scores ranged from a 92.3 percent in Massachusetts to a 66.5 percent in Nevada. Arizona ranked 43rd in the nation with a 72.8 percent, below the nation’s 77.8 percent. Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada ranked lower than Arizona.
Arizona rises in achievement rankings
The report considered three aspects of student achievement: current levels of performance (status), improvements over time (change), and achievement gaps between poor and non-poor students (equity).
Massachusetts ranked highest with an 85.2 percent, while Mississippi ranked last with a score of 60 percent. Arizona was squarely in the middle, ranking 26th in the nation with a 70.7 percent, compared to the nation’s rank of 24th with a 71.0 percent.