Nation’s Report Card Reveals Remote Learning Devastated Arizona Students’ Intellect

Nation’s Report Card Reveals Remote Learning Devastated Arizona Students’ Intellect

By Corinne Murdock |

It appears the costs of pandemic-era remote learning far outweighed the benefits, based on the average student’s comprehension in math and reading.

According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data released Monday, Arizona students were middle of the pack in a nationwide decline. The state’s scoring revealed severe learning losses in math and nominal losses in reading. 


Nationwide, the NAEP report revealed a negative correlation between remote learning and learning loss. Chalkbeat displayed the correlation through graphs. Public schools and large cities experienced the greatest decline in math scores. 


In a press release, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) associate commissioner Daniel McGrath warned that learning losses in math could limit STEM candidates. 

“Eighth grade is a pivotal moment in students’ mathematics education, as they develop key mathematics skills for further learning and potential careers in mathematics and science,” said McGrath. “If left unaddressed, this could alter the trajectories and life opportunities of a whole cohort of young people, potentially reducing their abilities to pursue rewarding and productive careers in mathematics, science, and technology.”

The scores come after several years of Democratic leaders advocating for school closures amid the pandemic.

Julie Gunnigle, Democratic candidate for Maricopa County attorney, claimed in an August 2020 interview that remote learning would make kids smarter and stronger. Throughout the pandemic, she insisted that schools be restructured to prevent COVID-19 transmission before reopening.

“I think these kids are going to come out a lot stronger than, for example, my generation is. Like, having to cope with all of this. And a lot smarter, too,” said Gunnigle. “They’re going to be really prepared to brave this, well, brave new technological world.”

Last October, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told NPR that the number of school age-youth with mental health issues rose from 13-22 percent to 80 percent over the course of the pandemic. Last December, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reported that the pandemic caused a mental health crisis in the nation’s youth. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic further altered [youth] experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating,” stated Murthy.

Kathy Hoffman, incumbent Arizona Department of Education (ADE) superintendent, advocated for remote learning as recently as January. Like Gunnigle, Hoffman insisted that preventing COVID-19 illness was more important than an in-person education.

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

Majority of Arizona Students Continue to Fail Statewide Testing, Per Latest Report

Majority of Arizona Students Continue to Fail Statewide Testing, Per Latest Report

By Corinne Murdock |

The latest Arizona Department of Education (ADE) report reveals that a majority of Arizona students continue to fail the statewide assessment.

This year, only 41 percent of students passed the English Language Arts (ELA) portion, while 33 percent passed the mathematics section.

The ADE revealed these declining results last Wednesday in a press release. However, ADE presented the results as overall gains, noting that students experienced increases of three percent in English Language Arts (ELA) and two percent in mathematics. 

Yet, last year’s results may not be weighed against these most recent results — the 2021 assessment report disclosed that “a significant number of students” weren’t tested, and therefore those results shouldn’t carry as much weight. Test results from Hoffman’s first year in office, 2019, were only slightly better than those this year: 42 percent of students passed both ELA and math.

It could be argued that those results were part of an upswing in testing that occurred under Hoffman’s predecessor, Diane Douglas. In 2016, 38 percent of students passed ELA and math. In 2017, 39 percent of students passed ELA and 40 percent passed math. In 2018, 41 percent of students passed both ELA and math. 

Additionally, only a few percentage points were gained overall despite the ADE dedicating millions of COVID-19 relief funds to improve test scores.

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said that she’s petitioning the state to increase funding by lifting the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) to further improve test scores.

“If we want to continue increasing scores, defunding our public schools will have the opposite impact,” said Hoffman. “The infusion of federal dollars shows that increased funding can increase learning outcomes, not just on test scores but in our student’s abilities to thrive and contribute to our state.”

In an interview with “The Conservative Circus,” Hoffman’s opponent, former superintendent and attorney general Tom Horne, declared that the statewide assessment results constituted an emergency. He noted that student proficiency had fallen far from his 2003 to 2011 tenure, when Arizona students were over 60 percent proficient in math and over 70 percent proficient in English.

“It’s hard to imagine it could be worse,” said Horne. 

Horne claimed that Hoffman was focused on implementing systems that distracted from proper education, citing social-emotional learning (SEL) as one problematic distraction. 

“With social-emotional learning, the teachers are discouraged from imposing discipline because it might hurt some kids’ feelings,” said Horne. 

During the interview, Horne also opined that the ADE links to sexualized LGBTQ+ chat rooms for minors weren’t legal. As AZ Free News reported this week, Hoffman was sued last month for linking to these chat rooms on the ADE website. 

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

The Chandler Unified School District Must Refocus Its Priorities and Improve Its Transparency

The Chandler Unified School District Must Refocus Its Priorities and Improve Its Transparency

By Kurt Rohrs |

Just what exactly are the priorities of the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD)?

Every parent and taxpayer would love to know. But unfortunately, these priorities do not seem to be clearly presented in any readily available public communication. This makes it difficult to understand what the district is doing, why they are doing it, or hold them accountable for their performance. It’s time for the district to be much more transparent with the public.

That’s why I would like to suggest these five priorities for CUSD, which should be communicated clearly and made readily available to the taxpaying public that supports them.

  1. Catch up on learning loss from recent school closures. Some information indicates that our students are up to two years behind on their academic achievement. Many are falling behind, and CUSD must take this seriously.

  2. Ensure that Reading and Math proficiency is greater than 50% at every school. CUSD should direct massive amounts of resources to any school that falls far below this standard.

  3. Increase student retention. The district must compete effectively to increase their headcount by better satisfying the demands of parents who will ultimately make the decisions on which schools their children attend.

  4. Increase staff retention. It is critical to reduce the turnover rate for Certified (Teaching) Staff and Classified (non-Teaching) Staff. But CUSD must remember that issues with staffing aren’t always about money. While that is certainly something that needs to be examined, staff working conditions should be carefully considered as well. And the district should ultimately work to determine the primary reasons that staff leave their positions and take appropriate corrective actions.

  5. Improve career and technical education. CUSD should refocus attention back to developing practical knowledge instead of social conditioning. The primary mission should be to develop functional adults capable of supporting themselves and contributing economically to the community.

If CUSD is serious about the future of its students, it must refocus its priorities. And it should take a much more pragmatic approach to its communication. This will not only make the district more relevant, but it will improve engagement with the community, especially the parents who have the ultimate say in how their children are educated.

Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Arizona Standardized Testing Reveals Students Failing In English, Math

Arizona Standardized Testing Reveals Students Failing In English, Math

By Corinne Murdock |

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.

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