(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Previously I had shown that if you compare general education low-income students, that Arizona charter schools made very large academic gains on the 2015 NAEP. This morning I woke up and thought: what if we compared Arizona charter school students to other statewide averages as a whole? Arizona has the highest percentage of students attending charter schools of any state. There are more students attending Arizona charter schools than Wyoming public schools after all, so why not?
I ran the numbers for 8th grade reading. Here are the results:
Well how about that? Now before you start babbling conspiracy theories about student demographics let me remind you of a few things. First of all, those states up at the top are all very pale complected, host Ivy League universities and have average family incomes in the six figures. Arizona meanwhile is a relatively poor state with a plurality of Hispanic students and a law which requires random assignment lotteries to charter schools. I don’t have statistics for the percentage of Hispanic students in Arizona charter schools but having visited many of them I can assure you that it will beat the living daylights out of the same figure for New Hampshire. In other words if you want to wildly speculate about student demographics you can lick the strings of Angus’ electric guitar while he has it plugged in to his portable nuclear generator necessary to burst your ear drums and make you love it.
Did I forget to mention that Massachusetts probably spends more than twice the amount per pupil when compared to Arizona charter schools? No? Ok well that too.
Well, maybe the 8th grade reading sample just happened to over-sample the highest performing charters in 2015. Could be-so let’s check the 4th grade reading numbers:
So it’s not much of a mystery to see why tens of thousands of Arizona parents sit unhappily on charter school waiting lists- the gap in scores between AZ charter schools and the AZ average is considerable. This is not to say that every Arizona charter school is fantastic (they aren’t) or that every AZ district school is low performing (this is not the case). Moreover Arizona district schools have been improving while dealing while a great deal of adversity since 2007 and in the end this is absolutely crucial. Key to that progress however is a growing little New England scoring school system out here in our delightful patch of cactus.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey campaigned on funding the wait list- getting more resources out to district and charter schools with long wait lists to get more of them in the door and off the list. I hope the above charts indicate just what a profoundly wonderful idea that would be, so…