Arizonafication of Teacher Education

Dana Saar, who commented on my previous Huffington Post blog criticizing the New York Times for establishing an alternative online teacher certification program with a community college based in Arizona, neglected to mention that he is a member of the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board.

Mr. Saar wrote: "It appears Mr. Singer is long on criticism and very short on detail... This is a new certification program so there's no data on its success yet. It's a program that breaks tradition with typical teacher preparation colleges. I hope Mr. Singer is not so entrenched in his traditions that he dismisses all alternatives."

I also hope I am not so entrenched in tradition that I dismiss all alternatives. My problem is not tradition, but the state of education in Arizona and the potential Arizonafication of education in the United States. What follows is a brief list describing the state of education in Arizona. School boards around the country and state education departments must decide if this is the quality of education they want to offer people in their communities and whether a teacher certification program based in Arizona is going to provide the quality of teachers they want working in their schools and teaching their children.

1. An analysis by the Arizona Education Network of the Arizona Learns published by the Arizona Department of Education "shows a significant decrease in the number of excelling schools in Arizona. In 2008-2009 there were 321 traditional schools and 74 charter schools excelling in the state. In 2009-2010 the number of excelling school dropped to 221 traditional and 51 charter. While changes to the AIMS test may explain part of the difference, it is likely that three years of significant cuts to school funding, including the elimination of many gifted programs, is now affecting our best schools."

2. According to an editorial in the East Valley Tribune: "Arizona lawmakers, struggling like so many of their counterparts across the nation to make ends meet, got some sobering words this week from executives, who said the state is not producing the caliber of high school and college graduates we need to turn the economy around. But it didn't stop legislators from endorsing a budget proposal that savages state aid to public schools, cuts contributions to community colleges by more than half and forces universities to dig even deeper in the face of record enrollment."

3. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Arizona fourth and eighth graders perform below the national average in math.

4. Only two states scored below Arizona on a 2009 national science assessment given to a sample of students.

5. In 2005/2006, EPE Research "Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform" reported that Arizona ranked 50th in the United States in per student spending adjusted to regional cost differences.

6. American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank committed to free markets and limited government, ranked education in Arizona 45th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia.

7. According to the United States Census Bureau, Arizona ranks 39 out of 51 in the number of residents who have at least a high school diploma.

Shame on Arizona and shame on the New York Times.