Kids and learning – it’s not miraculous

August 28, 2012 by  

“I have an 8-year old in third grade, and she’s doing great,”  said an excited African-American mother whose child was a recipient of one of 2,666 education scholarships.  “It’s miraculous the way she has changed.”  It really wasn’t a miracle – it was opportunity.

When students in failing schools are given better options, guess what?  They excel!  Just last week, in fact, Brookings Institution researchers’ released a much-anticipated report proving the fact.  The study tracked African-American kids in Albany, NY – chosen at random by lottery – from Kindergarten through college.  The lucky kids chosen to receive education scholarships to attend a private school were 24% more likely to attend college than those who were not so fortunate.  And at less than half the cost!  They tracked 2,666 students out of 20,000.  Read the study here.

Arizona, unlike New York, continues to expand students’ learning opportunities – especially for kids trapped in failing schools and other at-risk students.

But options alone are not enough!  If we expect college-ready high school graduates, we must raise our standards beyond the requirement that students pass a minimum skills 10th grade aims test!  Our 200 year old education model is leaving U.S. students in the dust –  below the OECD average. Here’s how we’re changing that in Arizona:   

  • School Choice expanded – 200,000 additional families are now eligible to use Arizona Empowerment Scholarships to attend the school of their parents’ choice including students in failing schools, active military & pupils with disabilities.  Increased school tuition tax credits to $1,000 from $500 per individual donation helps new and continuing students afford the school that best suits their needs.
  • Stabilized K-12 funding for students – Despite the worst economy since the Depression, kept funding above $8,700 per student per year
  • Stopped social promotion & funded it –  3rd graders not proficient in reading must be retained; Committed $40 million to the K-3 Move-On-When-Reading initiative
  • Expanded pool of “Experienced Teachers” – Created a specialized teaching certificate for prospective teachers with expertise in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering or mathematics)  – especially valuable to rural schools
  • Teacher / Principal Evaluations – Enabled a reliable, research-based teacher and principal evaluation model
  • Reduced regulatory requirements  for highly performing school districts
  •  “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing” (Vince Lombardi) – Committed $6.2 to new data system to measure & compare individual student achievement throughout the state
  • Protected University and College professors’ liberties –  Educators cannot be denied tenure because of their political or religious beliefs
  • Reformed Teacher Tenure – Allowing school districts to let bad apples go
  • Rewarding student achievement – not seat time –  The innovative Grand Canyon Diploma enables districts and charter schools to challenge and reward high-achieving students
  • A – F School Labels – Rather than confusing verbiage, A-F labels allow parents to easily evaluate their child’s school

The aim is excellence.   Schools are competing for students more than ever.  Whether incorporating online, technical & career education skills,  traditional, STEM or blended learning options – the status quo is giving way to the expectations of a higher educated workforce.  And parents’ ability to choose the best option for their children is key.

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