Arizona Moves up One Spot in 2017 Quality Counts Ranking

Author: Michelle Boehm, Research and Evaluation Analyst

February 1, 2017

Education Week recently released its 21st annual Quality Counts report, Under Construction: Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation. The annual report features state rankings and grades with this year’s theme highlighting state progress in implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.

According to the report, Arizona fell below the nation’s average of C with a grade of D+. The state moved up one spot from the previous year, ranking 44th nationally. Massachusetts received the highest ranking this year with a B, and Nevada ranked lowest with a D. 

State rankings and grades are based on three indices (Chance for Success, School Finance, and K-12 Achievement): The K-12 Achievement index includes measures related to performance and equity on indicators such as reading and math performance and high school graduation rates. The School Finance index examines school spending patterns and equity in funding distributions. Finally, the Chance for Success index includes 13 indicators spanning cradle to career (i.e., early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes). A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on these three indices.

Arizona received the following grades/rankings on each index:

Arizona highlights from the 2017 Quality Counts Report include:

Arizona continues to lag behind other states in school spending.

Arizona received an F on the spending portion of the School Finance index, compared to a national average of D. The state’s 2014 per-pupil-expenditure was $8,125 compared to a national average of $12,156.

Arizona’s performance on the equity portion of the School Finance index (e.g., disparity in spending across school districts) was on par with the nation with a grade of B.

While many Arizona students continue to struggle academically (e.g., the state received a D- on current status in achievement), the state has shown some notable progress over time:

Arizona achievement gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments in 4th grade math, 8th grade math, and 8th grade reading from 2003-2015 are among the greatest in the nation. Arizona fell within the top ten states for greatest scale-score improvement in these areas within this timeframe.
Arizona ranked 28th in closing the achievement gap between low-income and non-low-income students on NAEP from 2003-2015. The poverty-gap slightly narrowed among 8th grade students.

“Arizona has made some improvements that are highlighted in this year's Quality Counts report,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation.  “However, we must acknowledge that we have a long way to go to ensure that all of our students are receiving a high-quality education.  We must continue to stay committed to issues of academic preparedness and equity for all students in Arizona.” 

The 2017 Quality Counts report highlights Arizona’s strengths in addition to the significant amount of work to be done across the education spectrum.  Helios Education Foundation believes every individual in Arizona and Florida should have the opportunity to attend and be prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. In order to create these opportunities, the Foundation strategically partners with organizations and institutions to improve student academic preparedness across the education continuum. Helios Education Foundation uses data such as those presented in the Quality Counts report to inform its work and gauge education progress across the two states.

To read more about the Quality Counts report, click here.

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