What Should We Do with the D and F Letter Grade Schools? 

What Should We Do with the D and F Letter Grade Schools? 

By John Huppenthal |

In 2008, I introduced and passed legislation to grade schools in Arizona on the A through F letter grading system. The system was to be based on the test scores and academic gains of students. 

If I were king, I would abolish the system which I established. I believe that it has inhibited innovation, damaged great schools, and shifted the focus in education away from the critical areas most fruitful for getting better outcomes in Arizona.

Letter grading, in part, has resulted in Arizona not achieving the full dividend we might have received from our tremendously advanced school choice environment. We are doing very well, but we should have done even better. 

These detrimental effects particularly affect D and F rated schools. 

I’ve worked inside such schools daily as a volunteer since leaving as Superintendent in 2014, so I have been able to directly observe the effects. Tremendously skilled and dedicated principals and teachers apply to work in such schools because they have a passion for the students. Then, a few years later, they are “all burned out”—as one father described his daughter, a teacher, during a recent fundraiser. These schools burn through principals and teachers at a horrifying rate with teachers, particularly excellent ones, leaving for more satisfying work environments. 

Certainly, such schools have always been high pressure environments, but the letter grading just increases the pressure, already unhealthy, to an absolutely toxic level. 

As Superintendent of Public Instruction, I had the ultimate test score database: every student’s testing results for six consecutive years. I could tell you the academic gains of Basis students when they were in Basis schools and when they were in other schools. Bottom line? The academic scale score gains of the top schools were 20% higher than the academic gains of the D and F schools. That’s all. That’s it. 

Being a volunteer as former Superintendent, I was immune to all that pressure. I ran my math class exactly the way I wanted to run it. When the thought police showed up and demanded to know if I was teaching to the standards, I assured them absolutely. The students who didn’t know how to count were counting. The students who didn’t know how to add were adding. The students who didn’t know how to multiply were multiplying. They were all on their way toward the fractions, decimal, and proportion standards of fourth grade. They weren’t there yet because none of my fourth-grade students had achieved third grade standards, and few had achieved second grade standards. But we were on our way. 

My scale score gains were double the statewide average. But not the best. One other teacher bested me by a point, a particularly inspirational sixth grade teacher. One year, one class in a school with 27 classes was not enough to rescue the school’s letter grade. 

That teacher still haunts me. He should have received great accolades for his accomplishment. He should have been featured on TV. His students loved him. He was saving students from jail. He was saving students from drug addiction. He was saving students from prison. Instead, he soon left the school. 

This year, I am working in kindergarten. Why? Because as I did my work, I came to understand that the initial years in school are, by far, the most critical years. In these years, students establish their personal identity, their habits, and their foundational skills.

How does this relate to letter grading? Letter grades can only take into account academic gains from fourth grade to eighth grade. Our first test is at the end of third grade, establishing the baseline for measuring academic gains in fourth grade. 

The academic gains from fourth grade to eighth grade are less than the academic gains from the start of kindergarten to the end of third grade. 

So, the entire letter grade system is based on the least important half of the pie. As a result, the attention of the entire system is shifted away from where it should be focused—the early years. 

Education culture is the foundation of our entire society. How we think, how we interact. Our degree of interconnectedness. We can do better. We should be the state the goes full free market. Get rid of letter grades. Instead publish customer satisfaction scores. And let’s find out what percentage of parents believe their child is getting an INCREDIBLY GREAT education when given a choice between that and very good, good, or poor.

Schools That Require Teachers to Attend Grooming Training Must Be Held Accountable

Schools That Require Teachers to Attend Grooming Training Must Be Held Accountable

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

Once upon a time, teachers were measured by their ability to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. And schools did everything they could to ensure that the teachers they hired were trained properly in these critical subjects.

But now, too many school districts have refocused their priorities, opting to indoctrinate our kids with diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve certainly seen it with the cleverly disguised Marxism inherent to Critical Race Theory. But this isn’t the only avenue the left is using to come after students.

Pushing gender and sexual identity have also become popular. One Arizona school district has even gone so far as to encourage children to replace their “deadname”—the birth name that individuals reject upon transitioning genders—with their preferred name on their school ID. And now, a school in that same district, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), has required middle school teachers to attend grooming training…

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Where Does Arizona’s K-12 Education System Rank Nationally?

Where Does Arizona’s K-12 Education System Rank Nationally?

By John Huppenthal |

Mainstream media loves to disparage Arizona’s kindergarten through 12th grade education system. State rankings are often the source of this disparagement, invariably ranking Arizona 47th, 48th, or 49th.

Over the past year, U.S. News and World Report ranked New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut as the top education states in the nation, first through third, respectively. Next, WalletHub ranked these same three states as the top three states in the nation. Then, along comes an organization called Scholaroo also ranking Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut as the top three K-12 education states in the nation.

They all agree on the three states with the top rankings, but where do they rank Arizona? They rank Arizona respectively, 47th, 48th, and 50th. That would seem pretty definitive.

But do these three states really have better schools than Arizona? Both U.S. News and WalletHub seem to think so . But is their ranking based on science? Are they correct? Are they completely out of whack? Let’s check their analysis.

The U.S. Department of Education performs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, spending over $100 million per year to measure the performance of the U.S. K-12 system. The National Assessment is based on a random sample of over 3,000 students in each state. This sample is pulled once every two years.

U.S. News, WalletHub, and Scholaroo each make a fundamental error in the way they compare states. Because Connecticut is 75% White and 42% college educated, they are comparing the test results of a White student with college educated parents with a minority student from Arizona with immigrant parents. That’s not science. That’s a joke.

We can use the National Assessment data to make an apples-to-apples comparison. 

Here are is the data for 8th grade math scores of Blacks and Hispanics for Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Arizona:

8th Grade Math ScoresArizonaMassachusettsConnecticutNew Jersey
Blacks267267256266
Hispanics269269263269

Arizona 8th grade math scores for Blacks and Hispanics (42% of our K-12 student population) are equal to or greater than all these states considered top three states by WalletHub and U.S. News

In other words, if test scores are your measure, Arizona’s schools are among the very best in the country in educating Blacks and Hispanics.

These are media companies. It’s not unusual to find them to be short on scientific standing. When you dig in to find out why the media companies get it so wrong, you find that the source of their error is that they are comparing a low-income Hispanic Arizona student with a high-income east coast White student and pretending that you can make a conclusion from that comparison about the quality of schools. No reputable researcher believes that. Each state has a different percentage of Hispanic, Black, and White students.

We can expand this 8th grade math comparison to all 50 states. When we do, we find that Arizona Blacks rank 3rd, only a point away from first. Only two other states have 8th grade test scores for Blacks higher than Arizona. Arizona Asians rank 5th, Arizona Hispanics rank 14th, and Arizona Whites rank 6th.

Race is only one factor you can adjust for. Several years ago, the Urban Institute did a more comprehensive regression analysis which also took into account parent’s education and family income as well as race. In that ranking, Arizona ranked 13th in the nation. Even that analysis is suspect. Arizona ranks 4th in the nation in the percentage of foreign-born Hispanics. The Urban Institute’s analysis did not separate foreign-born and native-born Hispanics and as a result, ranked Arizona lower than it might otherwise have been.

We know that Arizona schools, strengthened by the nation’s most competitive school environment for 30 years, rank much higher than the mainstream media would let us know. And perhaps higher than the leftist think-tanks want to admit.

Phoenix Pastor, Former NFL Player Demands Teacher Fired For Deriding School Choice 

Phoenix Pastor, Former NFL Player Demands Teacher Fired For Deriding School Choice 

By Corinne Murdock |

Pastor Drew Anderson called for the Arizona Board of Education to revoke the teaching license of controversial elementary school teacher and prominent Red for Ed, Save Our Schools activist Wes Oswald. As AZ Free News reported, Oswald posted a video of himself cutting up a national school choice scarf as a “really fun craft” in honor of National School Choice Week. Anderson — lead pastor of Legacy Christian Center, chaplain of the NFL Alumni Association, and former NFL player — appeared on the Conservative Circus radio show on Monday to discuss his petition against Oswald. 

Anderson’s perspective on the issue wasn’t borne out of mere opinion. The pastor explained in an Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece that he was one of the lucky few that benefited from school choice. Anderson recounted that the opportunity likely saved his life.

“Growing up, I had to attend the same K-8 government assigned schools that the rest of the black kids in my neighborhood had to go to and it was challenging to say the least. Many kids did not see graduation day and my five closest friends were either in prison or dead by the time we were 18 years old. Fortunately for me though, I was able to escape those schools and by the grace of God was able to attend an outstanding private Catholic school which led to me graduating high school, going to college on a scholarship, and ultimately living my dream and playing in the NFL,” said Anderson. “Today I am a pastor and not only do I fight to win souls for Jesus, but I also fight for children, especially minority kids, to have the same opportunity I did growing up and attend the right school to help them achieve their goals in life like I did.”

In a follow-up with Conservative Circus host James T. Harris, Anderson asserted that school choice is the key to achieving equal opportunity. He lambasted Oswald for calling himself a champion for children’s needs while opposing school choice.

HEAR PASTOR DREW ANDERSON DISCUSS SCHOOL CHOICE

“Next to anything in this modern-day era, school choice is the only way that inner city kids right now are having an opportunity to even remotely catch up or get up out of the poverty situation that they’re living in. So to see somebody that calls themselves an educator be so heinous to me is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen,” said Anderson. “How do you call yourself a champion for kids and you’re discriminating against kids based on your own opinion, which to me is crazy.”

In response, Harris opined that the destruction of an image of hope for so many children, especially those of color, was especially appalling.

“I think it’s a powerful image of why parents should be pulling their kids out of government-run schools or at least have the choice to put them where they want to,” said Harris.

On the topic of current teacher’s unions, Anderson added that removing choice from education could be likened to a modern-day slavery: an “educational slavery” that he asserted lends to the school-to-prison pipeline. The pastor insisted that the state could reduce the more than $30,000 it spends on prisoners by investing in the $15,000 he asserts it would cost to give students school choice.

“Back in the day, there was a union that fought hard to keep slavery because slavery was so productive for the people in the South, and right now, James T., we have what I call ‘educational slavery’ and we need to abolish educational slavery. Educational slavery is what’s funding all these private prisons, because there’s this thing called the ‘public school to prison pipeline’ that nobody wants to talk about,” said Anderson. “If I can chain you up to a public school that’s failing and a public school that’s in a bad area, then eventually I can chain you up to a wall in a prison and have you working for thirty cents a day instead of being a productive, tax-paying citizen. It’s time for us to start properly incarcerating people and it’s time for us to properly educate people. And the way you properly educate people is to give them a choice to pick whatever school’s best for them.”

Anderson noted that he’s praying for individuals like Oswald that are against school choice. 

“I pray for them because most of them have no idea of what they’re even talking about because none of them are black, first of all. None of them are from the inner city, second of all. And none of them, when they say ‘save our schools,’ none of them are talking about saving our schools that over 79 percent of most minorities have voted to say that they do want school choice,” said Anderson. “I’m not against public schools at all. But what I am against is hindering people from picking what education works best for them. I’m praying for people like that because the ignorance that they spew and the ignorant view that they hold, they’re hindering kids from being properly educated.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

This Past Year Proves We Cannot Ignore School Board Elections

This Past Year Proves We Cannot Ignore School Board Elections

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

For a long time, school board elections have been one of the easiest to ignore. Maybe it’s because the names on the ballot don’t stand out as much as the candidates for President, Governor, or U.S. Senate. Maybe it’s because people are too busy to research the candidates. Or maybe it’s because voters who don’t have kids—or whose kids are not in public school—don’t see how school board elections can affect them.

But if 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that even the smallest election has consequences. And nowhere has that been more obvious than with the leftist agendas that have taken over Arizona’s school districts this past year.

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