A redesign of significant parts of Arizona’s education system is currently underway. A new A-F letter grade system, revised academic standards, and a thorough evaluation of our dated school finance formula to be more specific. Retooling these systems in a meaningful way is not for the timid. Instead, we must be bold in the belief that it is possible to achieve greater success in every Arizona school. Getting it “right” has never been more crucial.
Policies of this new era should be designed around what we hope to achieve – and know is possible. The next few months provide a wonderful opportunity to create policies that incentivize all schools to offer the highest quality education, regardless of zip code or school model. Arizona has already developed a strong system of choice and innovation in schooling that is driving rapid improvement and closing the achievement gap in many parts of the state. Our new funding formula and accountability system should be built around the evidence we have for what is most essential in order to offer exceptional quality.
At A for Arizona, we work closely with the roughly 100 low-income ‘A’-rated schools throughout the state. Regardless of school type or geographic region, these leaders clearly adhere to the belief that an “A”-grade is the standard all schools must seek and achieve in Arizona. An “A” is not a superior exclusive rating, nor should it be. It must be awarded to schools that are truly moving students forward with a minimum of a full year’s growth in a year’s time, getting students on (or above) grade level in all subjects, and helping students prepare for whatever is next, be it college, career, or the military.
Our biggest need in Arizona is to have far more students attend excellent schools. No longer can our formulas afford to be neutral in regards to quality or expectations for all. Greater funding should be offered to highly performing schools that are closing the achievement gap and making multiple year growth gains to ensure students get and/or stay on pace to graduate prepared. This increase in funding supports the additional time and resources it takes for low-income schools to reach and sustain an ‘A’ letter grade and ensures that these exemplary models can grow and work with others who wish to improve. To have the brightest future, our students are depending on us to get the formula right. This is essential for moving Arizona forward.
To read more about A for Arizona’s recommendation around school funding, read our submission to the Governor’s Classrooms First Council, here (starting on page 26): http://education.azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/proposals_0.pdf.