Massachusetts versus Arizona (?!?) in the World Series of Schools

March 23, 2020

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Ok so you need distraction from this global pandemic business, so I’ll share some stuff I’ve been up to at the Arizona Charter Schools Association. Pop quiz hot-shot! Based on the Stanford Opportunity Project data who has the higher quality education system-Arizona or Massachusetts? Sean F. Reardon linked state tests across the country and gave proficiency and growth scores for most of the public schools in the country. Each dot in the above chart is an individual public school.

On paper this is no contest- Massachusetts lead the nation in NAEP scores for many years, AZ has below average 4th grade scores and kind of average 8th grade NAEP scores. This is reflected on the horizontal axis- the vast majority of MA schools land on the right side of the zero line meaning they are above average grade level proficiency. Keep in mind however that proficiency is highly correlated with student demographics, and Massachusetts is a socio-economically advantaged state. Growth on the other hand is much less correlated with student demographics and Arizona students show more of it than any other state during this period (2008-2016). And by the way, you don’t need to squint to see blue in what Keith Jackson called “hallelujah-land” (Keith of course referred to the end zone, where as I am referencing the upper right quadrant- high growth and high proficiency) and that disappointing quadrant below it (high proficiency low growth) is looking pretty bright orange. Those two super high growth schools at the top of the chart are charter schools in South Phoenix and Nogales-Ruiz Leadership Academy and Mexicayotl Academy, respectively.

Massachusetts is the highest proficiency state and Arizona the highest growth state, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Second pop quiz hot shot!

Which state does the best on a productivity basis? Here’s a hint: