The latest Arizona Department of Education (ADE) statewide assessment results revealed that Arizona students are failing in English and math. ADE published the results Friday, culled from the 2020-2021 versions of AzM2 and MSAA – the two versions of standardized testing administered to grades 3-8 and 10. The average passing rates differed depending on whether a student was from a district public school or charter school; charter schools had resoundingly better outcomes in statewide assessments, with an average of 10 percent more charter students passing the ELA and math sections compared to their district peers.
In district public schools, only 38 percent of students on average passed the English-Language Arts (ELA) section, while even less passed the math section – 31 percent. Approximately 84 percent of students took the ELA section, while 86 percent took the math section. Federal law requires at least 95 percent participation, but that requirement and others were made optional due to the pandemic.
When broken down by race, American Indian/Alaskan Native students had the lowest average passing scores in public schools, even below students who were classified as in the foster care system or homeless: 15 percent for ELA, and 11 percent for math. However, they ranked slightly above migrant students, 13 percent of whom passed the ELA section, and 11 percent passed the migrant section.
The highest passage rates by race came from Asian students: 69 percent for ELA and 68 percent for math. The highest passage rates of any non-racial classification came from military children: 53 percent for ELA, 44 percent for math.
All of the average passing rates in public schools under various classifications remained relatively consistent when broken down by grade level.
As for charter schools, the average percentage of students who passed the ELA and math sections increased by around 10 points or more. This was true for all types of students classified by ADE – students had higher passing rates at charter schools than the district public schools regardless of race, sex, or circumstance.
AZ Free News inquired with ADE what their plans are to address these falling test scores and the overall proficiency of Arizona’s students. They didn’t respond by press time.
In their press release, ADE called the test results “just one part of a student’s academic record.” The department announced that they had already “proactively” begun addressing the results through funding, programs, and initiatives, such as $9.6 million for online math education assistance from Arizona State University (ASU) and $6.5 million for extracurriculars from Discovery Education.
It appears that metrics of student success, like test scores, aren’t as much of a focus for ADE leadership. ADE Superintendent Kathy Hoffman has focused especially on COVID-19 mitigation in K-12 schools, calling for universal masking and criticizing Governor Doug Ducey for his opposition to such measures. It is unclear if Hoffman believes the same should be true for adults such as herself. As AZ Free News reported, the superintendent was caught maskless at a party last weekend. Hoffman still hasn’t addressed this incident.
After another long week of defending his decision to impose mask mandates for Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) students, Governing Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg hung out at a bar maskless last Saturday.
When asked, Greenburg told other reporters via email that confusion over his enjoying a maskless night at the bar while imposing mask mandates at SUSD was nothing more than a “baseless attack.”
“This video is another baseless attack by people whose agenda is to destroy public education and discourage people from serving,” said Greenburg. “It won’t work.”
The CDC cautions that pregnant women are at more of an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Just a few days earlier, Greenburg cursed at concerned parents during a board meeting. Greenburg later apologized, saying he let his frustration get the better of him.
“Jesus f***ing Christ, people,” muttered Greenburg on the hot mic.
Greenburg hasn’t been the only pro-mask mandate public education leader caught enjoying a maskless social life as of late. Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman attended a baby shower maskless and without adhering to social distancing. None of the other guests wore masks or socially distanced themselves, either.
Another data breach in two years has Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) holders wondering if their information is secure with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). This past week, it was discovered that the state’s contracted payment platform for ESA funds, ClassWallet, had allowed users to search for other ESA account holders and view their names and email addresses.
In a letter sent to ESA holders, ESA Program Director of Communications and Engagement Sarah Raybon explained that they became aware of the data breach last Friday. Raybon assured ESA holders that ClassWallet would resolve that feature over the weekend.
“Today, our team became aware of an issue in ClassWallet portal’s search feature that allowed account holders to view the names and email addresses of other account holders,” wrote Raybon. “Upon discovery, we immediately contacted the Treasurer’s Office (who holds the ClassWallet contract) and we spoke to ClassWallet directly. We have been advised that ClassWallet engineers will be working over the weekend to get this fixed.”
During the Arizona State Board of Education’s meeting last week, parents questioned why a violation of federal law was happening again. They pleaded with the members to remedy these issues sooner rather than later. One ESA parent, Kelly Pichitino, admonished ADE for not cleaning up their act and ensuring any contract holders follow federal law after last year’s data breach.
“I would like to know why, for a second time, my child’s name is available for a stranger to view along with my personal information?” asked Pichitino. “[I] would think that the department would invest a little more thought and care, time and accountability into their actions.”
Further public commentary at the meeting also focused on other issues with the ESA system, such as inappropriate or incompetent staff behavior, apparently arbitrary denial of funds for educational needs, little to no communication and transparency, and relentless rule or policy changes.
These issues were also detailed in written comments, which are available here.
This isn’t the first time that ADE has compromised ESA members’ information unintentionally. As Arizona Capitol Times discovered and reported last January, the ADE failed to properly redact the personally-identifying information of all ESA account holders when fulfilling a public records request to three requestors, one of which was a group that actively campaigns against ESAs: Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ).
Exposed information included parents’ first and last names, email addresses, the grade of their student(s), and any disabilities if a particular student had special needs.
The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) downplayed the data breach, saying that only “some” personal information was shared inadvertently.
“In the course of fulfilling a public records request to three individuals, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) inadvertently disclosed some personally identifiable information belonging to Empowerment Scholarship Account holders,” stated ADE. “ADE redacted the document subject to the public records request but failed to secure the integrity of the redaction prior to sending the data, and the document was able to be manipulated to reveal private information.”
Since January 6, FBI Director Christopher Wray has been targeting “domestic terrorism,” which he sees poised for a violent overthrow of American democracy. Nothing like that has taken place, but an actual domestic terrorist just caught a break from a prominent politician.
On his way out the door, disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to David Gilbert, a domestic terrorist serving a 75-year sentence for murder and robbery back in 1981. Gilbert, now 76, was a member of the Weather Underground, a domestic terrorist group that began with a formal declaration of war against “Amerika.” During the 1970s, according to an FBI report, the group claimed responsibility for 25 bombings, including the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and the office of the California Attorney General…
Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) will meet Tuesday, Aug. 31 to discuss public comments it heard over the last several weeks as the commissioners prepare to redraw the boundaries of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts and 9 congressional districts as required by law.
The five-member AIRC was formed in January with Democrats Shereen Lerner and Derrick Watchman, Republicans David Mehl and Douglas York, along with Erika Neuberg, an Independent, serving as chairwoman. The commission began its string of 15 hearings last month in an effort to hear citizens’ concerns and suggestions as AIRC prepares to map out Arizona’s 30 redesigned legislative districts (LD) and 9 congressional districts (CD).
The redistricting process requires boundaries to be redrawn under a plan that keeps districts at nearly equal population as required by the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions. It is based on population data garnered by the decennial U.S. Census.
Currently, each LD in Arizona represents about 213,000 people based on a 2010 Census population of nearly 6.4 million, while each CD serves about 710,000 people, give or take a few percent points. The AIRC must now start refresh to draw new boundaries for all the districts based on Arizona’s 2020 Census population of 7,158,923.
In developing those boundaries, the commissioners are required to consider six factors: equal population; compactness and contiguousness; compliance with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act; respect for communities of interest; incorporation of geographic features such as city, town and county boundaries; and creation of competitive districts where there is no significant detriment to other goals.
It is the respect for communities of interest and creation of competitive districts which prompted the most public comments during the AIRC’s recent hearings. One of the concerns stems from the decision of the last redistricting commission to split some counties into multiple legislative districts, such as Pinal County which was carved up as part of six LDs.
There are also concerns with the past practice of drawing congressional districts which incorporate disparate and distant communities, as with CD4’s current boundary. That boundary starts in the northwest corner of the state Mohave County, about one hour northeast of Las Vegas. The line then meanders south through Mohave and La Paz counties (minus a few hundred square miles in CD5) down to the northern part of Yuma County.
CD4 also encompasses much of central Arizona, including most of Yavapai County, and it even skirts most of the Maricopa County metropolitan area so it can incorporate parts of Gila and Pinal counties.
Meanwhile, CD1 covers all of four counties (Apache, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo), most of Coconino County, and parts of Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal, and Yavapai counties. By comparison, CD2 currently consists of Cochise County in the state’s southeast corner along with eastern Pima County.
At Tuesday’s virtual meeting, the AIRC is also expected to receive updates from mapping consultants and discuss an outreach strategy plan, as well as schedule additional public comment sessions. Among those closely following Arizona’s redistricting efforts is Fair Maps Arizona, founded in 2019 by current Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Gaynor.
Fair Maps Arizona is providing outreach efforts to help residents better understand legislative and congressional redistricting, and to encourage public comments.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is also closely tracking Arizona’s redistricting process. Gallego leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose political action committee announced earlier this month it plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in three southwestern states, including Arizona.
The PAC is expected to team up with grassroots organization to ensure the concerns of Latinos are taken into consideration by the redistricting committees in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.
“Redistricting will dictate how Latino communities are represented in the halls of Congress for the next decade,” Gallego said at the time of the announcement.