State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has a column in today’s paper (you can read it here) extolling the extent of school choice in our state.
As he accurately notes, Arizona has the greatest school choice program in the nation, from home-schooling to the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts that provided funds for kids to attend private schools.
And he accurately notes — repeatedly — that he was one of the early proponents of school choice, way back in 1993.
And he accurately notes that school districts have responded to the competition with more customized programs and even entire schools.
He ends his column this way:
“I am proud of the journey we have taken over the last two decades. I am excited about the opportunities before us, to continue to expand the best school-choice environment in the nation.
School Choice Week was a dream for me. It is now a reality that honors Arizona’s commitment to provide choice for every parent and high quality education opportunities for every child.”
But something’s missing in Huppenthal’s paean to school choice — results.
And maybe he omits that kind of important information because — after 20 years of his beloved choice — the results aren’t necessarily encouraging.
Yes, school districts have tweaked programs based on parent desire, and yes, we have hundreds of charter schools, including a small number that are among the best in the nation.
But has education improved over the 20 years?
Well, we’re number one in a recent study — number one in high school dropouts, even more dropouts than Mississippi.
We had a 75% high school graduation rate, one of the lowest in the nation.
Our charter schools — according to the one comprehensive, state-wide study, done by Stanford — are no better than their district counterparts, and many are much worse. Only a small handful exceed their district competition.
SAT scores? Not much change. Slightly better in math, slightly worse in English (listed as one of the Top 10 “De-Proving States on the Verbal test — you can read it here).
For our high school graduates who do go on to college? Even more of them are taking remedial courses in math, English, and even reading.
So, after 20 years of the choice Huppenthal is so proud of, not much has changed, except it seems that our high school graduates are even less prepared for college than their counterparts were 20 years ago.
Hardly something to cheer about.