How Arizona advances equity - AZEdNews
Sections    Friday March 24th, 2023

How Arizona advances equity

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  • Lisa Irish   |   Arizona Education News Service

A Portion Of The AZEdNews AZ Equity Report Card Infographic By Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

The National Urban League recently released an ESSA State Plan Equity Report Card giving Arizona an overall poor rating on 12 equity indicators, with an excellent grade on three indicators, a sufficient on five other indicators and poor on four indicators.

The report card was developed “as a culmination of what we were working on with ESSA, after the state plans were all approved by the U.S. Department of Education, we embarked on an analysis – a review of 37 state plans,” Huggins said.

Over the course of looking at the plans, the National Urban League developed 12 equity indicators in April 2019, criteria of what qualifies as excellent, sufficient and poor, and provided opportunities for state departments of education to react, respond and provide feedback on areas where there could be improvement, Huggins said.

The report cards are just part of the National Urban League’s report “Standards of equity and excellence: A lens on ESSA state plans” released in April 2019.

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Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
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“It has been wonderful to see the affiliates in Arizona really take hold of the analysis of the state plan for Arizona and really hold to account what is going to happen after the plan,” Huggins said. “What we read is simply what the states submitted to the federal government and said this is what we plan to do. It’s great to have advocates and allies on the ground to really show them what the plan was stated and what’s actually happening in reality.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has been working with groups around the state to make sure their voices are heard, because the state has until April 2020 to enact changes in these areas, said Broughton said.  

Unfortunately, Arizona received a poor score on the 12 equity indicators, and “three of our priority areas, so that gives us a lot of opportunity and potential to do work,” Broughton said.

The focus is now on subgroup performance, equitable access to effective teachers, and supports and interventions for struggling schools, Broughton said.

“You hear a lot, ‘You want to go to school in this community, because it is an A school or it is a B school,’ because a lot of businesses promote schools based on their letter grade,” Broughton said.

But many people may not know that if the school or district chooses, they do not have to include subgroups AzMERIT scores – such as English Language Learners, children of color, low-income students, homeless or migrant students, and special education students – in those letter grade calculations, Broughton said.

But Supt. Hoffman said the state can increase accountability by making subgroups more meaningful and requiring that schools don’t include subgroups receive a lower score in that area of the letter grade, Broughton said.

In addition, the definition of consistently underperforming used to identify schools for targeted support is vague, Broughton said.

“There’s not a lot of difference in what we’re doing for schools that need that support and those that need additional targeted support,” Broughton said. “We want to define that better and we can strive towards really making sure there’s a difference.”

As far as educator equity goes, “our plan is very vague for teachers,” the definition of ineffective is lacking, as are the efforts to reduce the incidence of low-income students and students of color being taught by out-of-field, ineffective or inexperienced teachers, and the state should prioritize setting aside three percent of Title II funds for efforts to improve equitable access to effective, diverse teachers, principals and other school leaders, Broughton said.

Also, “we have the opportunity for the state to prioritize professional development on cultural competency in its plan with a few details, but I want more than a few details,” Broughton said.

The state has the opportunity to reduce the number of low-income students and students of color being taught by out-of-field, ineffective or inexperienced teachers by working closely with local education agencies, Broughton said.

The state also is working at implementing evidence-based strategies that create a pipeline of diverse educators using place-based efforts, residencies, mentoring, induction and support, Broughton said.

“This is a conversation I know for sure that the African American Advisory Committee is having with the Superintendent of Public Instruction about creating ways to get people of color excited about coming to Arizona to teach, acknowledge that we need teachers of color, and we need to create a pool of money to make sure that happens,” Broughton said.

“At the end of the day, we want all students to succeed because of not in spite of,” Broughton said.