The AEA’s Nose is Growing

February 25, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Last week I had the opportunity to discuss Florida’s education reforms on the Arizona PBS public affairs program Horizon with Arizona Education Association President John Wright. We were discussing Florida’s Nation’s Report Scores and I was surprised to hear John make the following claim:

The steepest increases that Florida saw in both reading and math scores were between 1994 and 2002- before most of these reforms took place.

There are a few problems with this statement. First, the Florida legislature enacted most of the reforms in 1999, which falls between 1994 and 2002. The Nation’s Report Card gives tests both 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading and math. Florida students however did not take a Nation’s Report Card tests in 4th Grade Math, 8th Grade Math or 8th Grade Reading in 1994.

Florida’s 4th graders did take a test in reading in 1994. Between 1994 and 1998 (the last test given before the reforms) Florida’s reading scores increased by 2 points. After the reforms, Florida’s scores increased by 18 points. A ten-point gain approximately equals a grade level’s worth of learning.

I thought perhaps John had his dates mixed up, but there was something to his assertion on trends, but not so much. Going back as far as possible into the 1990s for each subject, the average gain during the pre-reform 1990s equaled 4 points. Post-reform, the average gain has been 20 points. I you calculate per year gains, the post reform period does almost three times better than the pre-reform years.

John also claimed that Arizona’s K-12 budget cuts were “pulling the rug from beneath the teacher’s feet.” The 2008 Superintendent’s Financial Report however reveals the total revenue per pupil to be $9707 per pupil while the 2009 Superintendent’s Financial Report reveals the latest figure at $9,424 per pupil: a whopping $283 per pupil decline.

The AEA has a budget several times larger than the GI, so it ought to be able to avoid outsourcing his research function to golf hecklers who don’t have their facts straight.


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