New Nation’s Report Card shows AZ students almost a year behind in math

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute 
The Nation’s Report Card released 2009 results on its 4th- and 8th- grade math test, and you can examine the results for Arizona and other states here.

The news is not good. Arizona has stalled out with bad scores.

With a score nine points below the national average, Arizona 4th graders know almost a grade level less math than the average American student. Florida and Texas–states with similar levels of spending and student demographics–both scored above the national average.

I noted previously that Arizona students have scored below the national average on 32 of 32 NAEP exams at various grade levels and subjects since the early 1990s. Now you can make that 34 of 34, with 4th and 8th grade reading results coming out in a few months.

Public school apologists can recite their litany on spending and learned helplessness, but don’t expect any results, they imply, until Arizona has the combination of old money, hedge fund billionaires and high income tax rates of Connecticut.

Despite a reform push during the 1990s, the fact is that on the whole Arizona is a K-12 backwater and will remain so until it decides to get serious about reform. Since the 1990s, Arizona’s AIMS has been dummied down, and the positive impact of choice programs have been drowned by enrollment growth. Rome continues to burn, we continue to fiddle.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. That’s a year behind in EVERYTHING, not just math.
    Our kids just repeated the same course level they’d already completed in another state. Arizona’s 8th grade is another state’s 7th grade. Awful.
    The cost of school overhead in buildings, salaries and equipment has not translated into a corresponding rise in education achievement.
    Paying more money to staff who are actually “facilitators” to avoid being held responsible for competency in any given subject is throwing good money after bad.
    Dump “facilitating,” get back to “teaching”. Dump flashy, heavy, expensive textbooks for proven curriculum.
    It’s cheaper to go back to basics.
    The education establishment culture argued that “facilitation” would give better results. Hard experience has proved that wrong. Back to “teaching” and teacher competencies.

  2. What alternatives to the status quo should we be looking at? Dr. Ladner seems to criticize “public school apologists” and but I can’t contemplate an acceptable alternative to public schools that isn’t subject to the same geographic and resource limitations. Moreover, whether it’s a net benefit of cost, alternatives to public school don’t permit broad-based curriculum mandates from the state.

    Wanumba suggests going back to a “proven curriculum,” and laying aside the programs that have inflated the costs of education in recent history. To a certain degree, I concur. I don’t think the teaching of math, science, and English is sufficiently revolutionized every few years to support schools being made to purchase and train their teachers in brand new curricula. I’ve taught previously using decades old textbooks, and I failed to appreciate any failings. That said, there are many justifiable expenses for public schools, reflecting the increased role of schools as caretakers of children whose parents work. (Again, I’m not willing to take a position on whether this development is good or bad, only that it is)

  3. American public schools used to deliver a reasonable and “classical” education. It’d be terrific if they would go back to what worked before for everyone. They aren’t now, absolutely due to deliberate and radical changes of every aspect of teaching and the curriculum of each subject, and are not open to changing what they’re doing wrong, which is why parents, who can’t wait around, are forced to look elsewhere for the skills their kids need to succeed in college or the trades.
    The education establishment is demanding more money with no explanation of how more money for the same losing product is going to miraculously make student achievement happen.
    We had four kids in four different grades in AZ schools last year – and can attest by hard experience that the schools are running ONE YEAR behind the nation, and we previously we had 6 kids in 6 grades in French schools overseas and can attest that American education nationally is running at least a year, even more behind foreign schools.
    Which would then put Arizona at least THREE years behind standard international expectations.

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