Learn More About Possible Solutions

Best Practices – What works? What ideas are out there for improving our schools?

We have some outstanding schools in Arizona. We can also have some significant hurdles to overcome to improve our education system – academic performance, student graduation rates, access & participation levels in higher education and public education funding all need to be improved.

Beginning July 1st we will be building a forum which provides links to best education practices and great ideas from around our state and our nation. We will examine individual schools, districts and even states that have successfully improved their economic performance and investment.

While there are no easy, quick solutions we are not willing to settle for excuses that Arizona must be at the bottom of the nation in educational investment. We do not accept that our student test scores are the best that they can be. We believe that we can work together to provide a higher quality schools, and we believe that we should settle for nothing less than to be a global leader in education and research.

Want to get a head start? Here are some links to research related to some of our issues here in Arizona:

Information Relating to Arizona School Performance

Educating Arizona: Assessing Our Education System (Birth-Grade 12)
January 2008, Arizona Community Foundation
This report examines Arizona’s student performance and system indicators and concludes with seven suggestions for improving the schools in our state.

Lead with Five: Five Investments to Improve Arizona Education
Rodel Foundation, February 2005

Bridging the Grad Gap: Measuring the Economic Benefits of Educational Attainment in Arizona
Center for the Future of Arizona, September 2007
This report from the Center for the Future of Arizona examines the economic benefits of investing in higher education. Among their findings: “Earning an associate degree or occupational certificate can nearly double earnings relative to those of employed dropouts. The economic gain in per capita income for high school graduates with an associate degree or an occupational certificate over the income of employed high school dropouts is $16,597…”

“Annual per capita income for Arizona high school graduates with a two-year associate degree or occupational certificate is $8,766 more than that for employed high school graduates. The economic advantage of a high school diploma (with no continuing education studies) is $7,831 when compared with the annual per capita income for an employed Arizona dropout.”

Education Watch State Report: Arizona
The Education Trust, April 2009

A recent overview of the state’s student population, the levels of achievement in reading and mathematics, and high school and college graduation rates.

Robert M. Bracker Elementary, Nogales
US Department of Education – Blue Ribbon Arizona School 2007

An examination of one Nogales school which has registered notable gains in academic performance.

A Most Excellent Existing Program:  First Robotics
First Lego League programs currently exist in schools across our state.  The program epitomizes ’21st century learning’ – combining critical thinking skills, science, math, technology, team work and hands-on learning into a comprehensive and fun experience.  Please take a moment to see what the students of Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix accomplished this year as the winners of the 2008 FIRST Robotics Chairman’s Award:

FIRST Robotics Champions

School Funding and Academic Performance – Highlights from Around the United States

State Public School System Ranked Best in the US by 2 Reports
Washington Post, January 8, 2009

Excerpts from article: “A six-year Maryland effort to spend billions of dollars more on public education has led to major performance gains that have helped make the state’s schools the best in the country, according to a pair of independent reports released yesterday……The MGT report found that for every additional $1,000 spent per elementary student, proficiency rates rose 4 percent. They rose 8 percent on the same measure for middle school students.

“Additional money, with strong accountability, can make a difference,” Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, said in response to the two reports.

“I think what this report means is that we, the people of the state of Maryland, have made a huge investment in education, and that investment is paying off,” O’Malley said. Echoing the governor, banners draped in the Annapolis High auditorium proclaimed: “Maryland Public Schools — A Great Investment!”

A Uniform System of Public Schools Benefits Minnesota
P.S. Minnesota, 2009

Excerpt from webpage: “Minnesotans reap the benefits of investing in public education through:Increased personal income of future wage earners, providing a broader tax base to help support necessary state infrastructure such as roads and bridges and natural resources.

  • A stable economy, including solid property values and high employment.
  • Decreased cost of state services such as MinnesotaCare, incarceration, and community college remediation costs and lost earnings.”

Closing the Achievement Gap Through Additional Funding, High-Quality Instruction, and a Focus on Early Literacy
Lessons from New Jersey Districts, Center for American Progress, April 7, 2009

Excerpt from article: “The results of early childhood education and intensive early literacy programs show growth in student achievement,” said Munoz. “The Elizabeth [New Jersey] students who attended these programs at the age of four outscored students who had not attended these programs by 11 points in grade three and 14 in grade four.” The data collected on the Abbott schools’ progress as a whole consistently demonstrates this type of achievement. “It’s unusual to see these kinds of gains district-wide,” Anrig said. “So we think there are a lot of implications for national education policy in looking at what happened in New Jersey.”

Governor Paterson Announces Historic $1.75 Billion Increase in Education Funding, Advances Goal of Universal Prekindergarten
Governor’s Press Release April 9, 2008

Excerpt: “Even in difficult fiscal times, we still must strive to provide critical funding for our education system,” said Governor Paterson. “New York must be ready to address both the challenges and opportunities presented by the global economy, and that means ensuring that our students have the knowledge they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Urges New, Long-Term Investment in Student Achievement That Takes Burden Off of Local Property Taxes
Reuters, 23 May 2008

Excerpt: “Statewide, the Governor’s school funding plan would invest $2.6 billion over the next six years with a new funding formula based on the results of the General Assembly’s report, which, for the first time ever, set a per-pupil-funding target to provide a high-quality education in each school district.”

Governor Signs Landmark Education Reform Bill
May 19, 2009

Excerpt: A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261. The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.”

Education Best Practices & Success Stories

Public School Insights: What is Working in Our Public Schools

Best practice information compiled by the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of education groups from around the United States.

Arizona’s Public Schools Making a Difference Every Day

Recent good news and best practice information from schools around the state.

Teacher Pay

Teachers, Performance Pay, and Accountability: What Education Should Learn From Other Sectors
Economic Policy Institute, May 2009

Excerpt: “Some school policymakers are promoting a new idea for improving the schools: merit pay plans that would tie teachers’ pay to the scores their students earn on standardized math and reading tests. Advocates of this approach base their support on two assumptions: first, that merit pay is long-established and widespread in the private sector, and second, that students’ test scores are a reliable way to gauge how well teachers are doing their jobs. Both assumptions, according to a new research report issued today by the Economic Policy Institute, are faulty.”

Rodel Foundation Teacher Initiative

Information on an Arizona-based teacher incentive and development program.

Early Childhood Development

Lifetime Effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40 (2005)

Excerpt: This long term study examined the impact of early childhood education on a group of individuals from 1962 through the present day. Excerpt: “From 1962-1967, at ages 3 and 4, the subjects were randomly divided into a program group that received a high-quality preschool program based on HighScope’s participatory learning approach and a comparison group who received no preschool program. In the study’s most recent phase, 97% of the study participants still living were interviewed at age 40. Additional data were gathered from the subjects’ school, social services, and arrest records.”

“The study found that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool.”

Preschool Experience in 10 Countries: Cognitive and Language Performance at Age 7
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2006

Excerpt – Selected findings:“Controlling for family and cultural influences, four findings emerged that are consistent across all of the countries included in the data analysis.

Children’s language performance at age 7 improves as:

  • The predominant types of children’s activities that teachers propose are free- choice rather than personal/social. From greatest to least contribution, activity types were as follows: free-choice activities (teachers let children choose); physical/expressive activities (gross- and fine-motor physical activity, dramatic play, arts, crafts, and music); preacademic activities (reading, writing, numbers, mathematics, physical science, and social science); and personal/social activities (personal care, group social activities, and discipline).
  • Teachers’ number of years of full-time schooling increases.

Children’s cognitive performance at age 7 improves as

  • Children spend less time in whole group activities (the teacher proposes the same activity for all the children in the class-songs, games, listening to a story, working on a craft, or a preacademic activity).
  • The number and variety of equipment and materials available to children in preschool settings increases.”

The Economics of Investing in Universal Preschool Education in California
Rand Corporation, 2005

Partial Summary: There is increased interest in California and other states in providing universal access to publicly funded high-quality preschool education for one or two years prior to kindergarten entry. In considering such a program, policymakers and the public focus on the potential benefits from a universal preschool program, as well as the estimated costs. This study aims to inform such deliberations by conducting an analysis of the economic returns from investing in preschool education in the state of California. The benefit-cost analysis undertaken in this study indicates that there can be positive returns for California society from investing in a one-year high-quality universal preschool program. The authors’ baseline estimate, which is arguably conservative, is that every dollar invested by the public sector beyond current spending will generate $2.62 in returns. And this estimate does not account for an array of other benefits not captured in their analysis because of data limitations.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
Website, 2009

Excerpt: The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, housed at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, is a multi-disciplinary collaboration designed to bring the science of early childhood and early brain development to bear on public decision-making. Established in 2003, the Council is committed to an evidence-based approach to building broad-based public will that transcends political partisanship and recognizes the complementary responsibilities of family, community, workplace, and government to promote the well-being of all young children.

School Choice / School Reform

Best Evidence Encyclopedia
Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Website, 2009

Which research programs have been successfully evaluated in valid research? What works in education? The Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE) presents reliable, unbiased reviews of research-proven educational programs to help evaluate academic and structural performance.

CSRQ Center Report on Elementary School CSR Models

This report provides a scientifically based, consumer-friendly review of the effectiveness and quality of 22 widely adopted elementary school comprehensive school reform (CSR) or schoolwide improvement models. Each model is profiled and rated in the following categories:

Category 1: Evidence of positive effects on student achievement.
Category 2: Evidence of positive effects on additional outcomes.
Category 3: Evidence of positive effects on family and community involvement.
Category 4: Evidence of a link between research and model design.
Category 5: Evidence of services and support to schools to enable successful implementation.

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