June 30, 2013
Those who lag behind in the classroom lag behind in the real world, according to the just-released “Condition of Education 2013.”
The dry facts presented in the annual report – mandated by Congress and produced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the federal entity responsible for collecting and analyzing education data – substantiate what one might suspect.
Adults who were left behind as children are:
This kind of thing can haunt a state. Arizona, for instance, has the fourth highest percentage of schoolchildren living in poverty. That too is found in the data tables supporting the report.
And unfortunately, educational shortcomings have a way of perpetuating themselves.
The likelihood that 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds will attend “pre-primary” school programs up to and including kindergarten – which are regarded by educators as having an important bearing on later success in school – is tied to the education level of their parents.
The report shows that whether out of lack of interest by their parents or the inability to pay for this early education, just 53 percent of the young children of high school dropouts are enrolled in a pre-primary program. That compares with 58 percent of the offspring of high school grads, 71 percent of those with undergraduate degrees and 75 percent of those with graduate degrees.
The report does not break out pre-school participation by state. But Arizona, which funds only a half-day of kindergarten and no pre-K program, might pale in comparison with those national numbers.
The report does, however, break out overall government support for education by state. As has been often documented, Arizona puts up less resistance – relative to other states – to the conditions that afflict its young people.
By the accounting contained in the education report, Arizona ranks 47th in per capita expenditures on all levels of education. It ranks 36th in its support of colleges and universities, but only 49th in support of elementary and secondary education.
In one piece of good news for teachers, their average salary of $48,691 ranked 32nd.
But their classrooms are bigger than others. Arizona’s ratio of pupils to teachers ranks behind all other states except Utah and California.
Arizona’s legislative majority blames the high pupil-to-teacher ratio on the school districts, claiming they spend too much of their budgets outside of the classroom and not enough on teaching. The state auditor general is assigned to target that ratio in an annual audit of every district.
The national data shows, however, that this is one of the few areas where Arizona does better than most – at least in comparison with school districts in other states. Teachers represent 51.8 percent of total school staff in Arizona. That’s 19th best in the country. The national average is exactly 50 percent.
Unfortunately the finger-pointing over this frustrates the bigger discussion on what, if any, additional investments in classrooms could bring a payback in paychecks.
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