Arizona’s legislative session is nearing the end, with major education reform legislation pending. Most notable of these is the “Truth in Advertising” bill. Senate Bill 1286 will require the state Department of Education to assign letter grades to Arizona public schools based upon overall performance and academic gains over time. The proposal is modeled after similar reforms in Florida.
For many years, experts all over the country have been talking about reducing racial and ethnic gaps in student achievement. I am happy to say that at least one state has done something about it. Want to guess which one?
This chart shows the national average for white students (blue line), the national average for Hispanic students (black line), and the statewide average for Hispanic students in Florida (red line). Florida’s Hispanic students went from being 25 points below the national average of white students in 1998 (approximately two and a half grade levels) to a mere six points below the national average of white students in 2009. In fact, if we see the same amount of improvement on the next National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, Florida’s Hispanic students will tie the national reading average of white children in 2011. Florida’s experience shows how to eliminate the achievement gap.
Here is the comparable chart for Arizona:
At the current pace of improvement over the past decade, Arizona Hispanic students would tie the nationwide average around 2090!
Fortunately, many in the Arizona Legislature seem serious about enacting far-reaching education reform. Florida has shown us there is no need for everyone reading this email to be long dead before Arizona finally closes its achievement gap.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute.
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