Education Reform

Too often, the traditional public-school model fails students and teachers. Charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and merit pay are giving students a better education and teachers a better career.

<p>Too often, the traditional public-school model fails students and teachers. Charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and merit pay are giving students a better education and teachers a better career. </p>

“From the moment we entrust a package to an overnight delivery service, sophisticated technology tracks its every move. We can go on line the next morning and watch its progress toward the final destination. If something goes wrong, we know in an instant’"and can take immediate steps to address the problem.

There's an interesting phenomenon taking place at a west Phoenix elementary school.

It's called the Pride Program, and it's giving sixth-graders challenging courses in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

School administrators are implementing the back-to-basics program to lure students to Cartwright Elementary, which has lost more than 1,200 students to area charter and private schools. Martha Garcia, president of the school's governing board, says the school is "offering so much more now than before that we can attract some of those students we lost."

Roughly 350 Tombstone students have been waiting more than a year to move from their historic, but crowded, 83-year-old high school into their new school. The new Tombstone High School remains closed indefinitely because, as school superintendent J. Ronald Hennings admits, "We just can't get kids to it."

Even after spending $7 million, and going $600,000 over budget, Tombstone school and district officials still need one more thing: a new road that leads to the school. And, of course, lots more money to build it.

According to a recent poll most Arizonans support school choice. There was no funny business in this poll. Prepared for the Alliance for School Choice, the poll asked if respondents supported or opposed school vouchers, and explained vouchers in plain language: vouchers are funded by the government, private organizations, or by some combination of both, and provide money to parents to select which public or private schools they would like their children to attend.

A resounding 62 percent supported vouchers, only 30 percent opposed them.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics yesterday released its annual report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being. So what do the indicators indicate?

Despite the media attention such reports garner, isolated indicators give little meaningful information.

Teacher quality matters, enormously. Dr. William Sanders, the leading researcher in the field of value-added assessment, explains, "Race, socioeconomic level, class size, and classroom heterogeneity are poor predictors of student academic growth. Rather, the effectiveness of the teacher is the major determinant of student academic progress."

Many students will soon bring home the first report card of the new school year. Your child's report card should give you a good sense of how your child is faring in his classwork. But how can you know if your child's classwork is comparable to classwork in neighboring schools?

How do you know when an "A" really is an "A"?

A visit to GreatSchools.net might be just the thing. Two million people a month visit this free clearinghouse established to give parents the information they need to know about schools.

With over 150,000 English language learners (ELL) attending Arizona public schools, U.S. District Judge Raner Collins was correct to say these students need help "as soon as possible."  But the funding distribution plan he devised won’t get the job done.

Collins ordered that $21 million in fines accrued by the state be dispersed to schools according to ELL enrollment. If carried out, the ruling will increase supplemental funding for each ELL student from roughly $360 to about $500. Governor Napolitano would like that amount to be closer to $1,300.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne appeared on Sunday Square Off this week to reassure viewers, despite what they may have heard, that Arizona students score above the national average on tests. Well likely hear the same message when Mr. Horne delivers his State of Education speech later today.

In other words, dont worry, be happy!

Republic columnist Jon Talton recently used his Sunday column to describe a school-choice program that passed the Arizona Legislature with bipartisan support as "right-wing utopianism." ("As Democrats go, Napolitano makes a good Republican," Oct. 9). Researchers familiar with the academic work on choice programs have tired of such ill-informed rhetoric.

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