As children grow, parents can track their progress through doctor’s visits, developmental milestones and more. It’s easy to compare them to other kids to understand how they’re doing, but in a state where teacher pay ranks last in the nation and recession-era spending cuts have left schools struggling, how can residents understand the health of the school system? And what tools exist to dig deeper and determine whether certain populations within schools are being offered the education they deserve.
Two Arizona-based nonpartisan education advocacy groups, Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona, have created the Arizona Education Progress Meter, an online shared data sourcing tool aimed at helping educators, elected leaders, parents and voters understand the state’s status on everything from access to quality early learning to post-secondary attainment.
“Access to information is a key part of our work to make sure parents can hold schools accountable for the progress of their children,” says Ylenia Aguilar, Arizona Education Organizer at UnidosUS.
“Tools like the Arizona Education Progress Meter can go a long way to helping close the information gap and bring parents closer to schools. At UnidosUS we are working with partners and advocates in Arizona, Florida, California and other states to ensure states live up to the standards mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act and schools are held accountable for the progress of all students, including students of color and English Learners,” Aguilar adds.
In today’s economy, nearly 70 percent of jobs require training or education beyond high school. Unfortunately, only 43 percent of Arizonans currently hold a post-high school certificate or degree. And to boost attainment levels, every level of the education spectrum will need to improve.
That’s why Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona announced specific goals that support a shared vision for education in Arizona. That vision is that all students, regardless of their background, income or zip code, have the opportunity to succeed at every step of the education continuum. The Progress Meter’s areas of focus and 2030 goals are:
- Quality early learning: Boost the number of 3- and 4-year old children in quality early learning settings from to 45 from 24 percent
- Third grade reading: Increase the AzMERIT passage rate to 72 from 44 percent
- Eight grade math: Boost the AzMERIT passage rate to 69 from 41 percent
- High school graduation: Improve the state’s graduation rate to 90 from 80 percent
- Opportunity youth: Decrease the number of youth ages 16-24 who are neither working nor in school to 7 from 14 percent
- Post-high school enrollment: Raise the number of high school graduates who enroll in postsecondary education immediately after high school to 70 from 53 percent
- Attainment: Improve the state’s postsecondary attainment rate to 60 from 43 percent
- Teacher pay: Raise teacher pay to the national median (by 2022)
Hispanic students currently comprise 44 percent of our state’s K-12 student body. But where 43 percent of Arizonans hold a 2- or 4-year degree or professional certificate, that figure drops to 20 percent among Hispanics.
White youth are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, and 55 percent of White students pass the English language arts portion of AzMERIT, while only 30 percent of Latino children do so. To increase attainment levels and truly give each child a chance to succeed, Arizona must close that achievement gap.
Thankfully, there are already hard-working teachers and inventive programs that are helping to do just that. For instance, Osborn School District in central Phoenix has worked with key partners to launch a dual-language preschool that complements their current dual-language program and allows students to embrace learning in both English and Spanish. On the other end of the continuum, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education has created campaigns to help all high school students apply to, and pay for, college.
Those are just a few of the ways that schools, nonprofits, and businesses are working to improve education for all students and eliminate the achievement gap in Arizona. Because as the adage goes, it takes a village. Everyone can play a role in improving education, whether that’s in the home, at a local school or through a nonprofit service organization.
This is a guest post from Expect More Arizona, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan education advocacy organization working to ensure every child receives an excellent education every step of the way. For more information visit ExpectMoreArizona.org.