Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some Tips on Teaching Your Kids at Home

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 11:13 AM

School campuses are going to be quiet places at least through April 10. - TLM FILE PHOTO
  • TLM file photo
  • School campuses are going to be quiet places at least through April 10.
With schools closed across the state, school districts are now asking parents to step in and do their best to homeschool kids.

It's not something most parents have prepared to do, but districts are offering up whatever resources they can while schools remain shut down at least through April 10—and potentially longer, given that cases of COVID-19 are still rising across the state.

If you're looking for some lesson plans, here are some online resources:

Amphi School District has a list of fun resources for learning at home, including math games, free worksheets and printables, Duolingo and virtual field trips to places like the Louvre and the Great Wall of China. Visit

Expect More Arizona has a list of learning resources for kids and suggestions for how to talk to your kids about COVID-19, as well as resources in Spanish. Details here.

Though the Pima County Public Libraries are closed until further notice, you can still access digital materials 24/7 (and the due dates for items have been extended). Details here.

Arizona educator Joy Novack Rosson compiled a list of resources on ways to learn at home, including a website to explore the surface of Mars, elementary science lessons and classes for older teens or adults. Find the complete list here.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Gov. Ducey Announces School Closure Will Extend Through April 10

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 3:29 PM

Gov. Doug Ducey: "Our goal is to get kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible while providing parents and educators certainty so they can plan and make decisions."
  • Gov. Doug Ducey: "Our goal is to get kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible while providing parents and educators certainty so they can plan and make decisions."
Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman have announced that school closures will continue through at least April 10.

The press release from Ducey's office:

Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman today announced a two-week extension of school closures through Friday, April 10, 2020. Going forward, Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman will continue to provide updates and guidance about the need for continued school closures beyond that date.

View Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman’s open letter to Arizona families, educators, school leaders, and education community members HERE.

“Our goal is to get kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible while providing parents and educators certainty so they can plan and make decisions,” said Governor Ducey. “I’m grateful to Superintendent Hoffman for her continued partnership and leadership. We are unified in our efforts to address COVID-19, and will continue to keep parents and educators informed.”

“Our number one priority is the health and safety of all Arizonans, especially our kids,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “Our office continues to work closely with school administrators and partners to provide parents, families, and schools resources and flexibility to mitigate the impact of school closure. This will continue to be our top priority.”

Additional information about meals for kids, childcare, special education considerations, learning resources for families and educators and more can be found at

In their letter, Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman requested that schools continue to adhere to the following measures:

School administrators should make every effort to provide continued education learning opportunities through online resources or materials that can be sent home.

School administrators should work with the Arizona Department of Education to provide breakfast and lunch services for Arizona students.

As demand rises on healthcare professionals and first responders, schools should consider expanding child care programs currently available to ensure minimal disruption to these critical jobs as a result of the school closure.

When school resumes, school administrators should develop and implement precautions to ensure schools are a safe learning environment, including social distancing measures, regular intervals for administrators to wash and sanitize their hands, and guidance on how to properly and frequently sanitize election equipment and common surfaces.

More information about COVID-19 can be found at

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Arizona Closes Public Schools Through the End of March To Slow COVID-19 Spread

Posted By on Sun, Mar 15, 2020 at 3:54 PM

Gov. Doug Ducey: "A statewide closure is the right thing to do."
  • Gov. Doug Ducey: "A statewide closure is the right thing to do."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced this afternoon that all Arizona public schools are closing at least through Friday, March 27.

Here's the press release from Ducey's office:

Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman today announced a statewide closure of Arizona schools from Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, March 27, 2020. Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman will work with education officials and public health officials to reassess the need for the school closures and provide further guidance through March 27, 2020.

View Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman’s open letter to Arizona families, educators, school leaders, and education community members HERE.

“Over the past few weeks and in coordination with public health officials, we have been in close communication with school administrators to provide guidance and be a resource as it relates to the recent outbreak of COVID-19,” said Governor Ducey. “As more schools announce closures and education administrators express staff shortages within their schools, now is the time to act. A statewide closure is the right thing to do. While this measure will not stop the spread of COVID-19, it will bring certainty and consistency in schools across Arizona.”

“The health and safety of all our students is our top priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep our school doors open — schools provide important services and many families rely on them for nutrition, access to health care and in order to do their own jobs,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “I am in close contact with school superintendents, teachers, and parents and will continue working closely in partnership with schools to ensure that our families needs are met.”

Continue reading »

Monday, January 20, 2020

Results-Based Funding: The Haves and Have-Mores

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 2:16 PM


"This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base." George W. Bush
Bush made the comment at a high-rollers charity dinner where presidential candidates poke fun at themselves and their campaigns. Like any good self-deprecating joke, Bush's quip is on the money. In this case, literally on the money.

The HHM, the haves and have-mores. They're as much Doug Ducey's base as they were George Bush's. You see their fingerprints all over Ducey's education agenda. When he favors tax cuts over bringing schools back to their 2008 funding levels, that's all about the HHM. And he was thinking about their children when he created the results-based funding scheme. The way the funding is given out, the HHM's children are nearly certain to come out winners.

In my last post I compared how much results-based funding went to students in TUSD, Vail and the BASIS charter chain. Vail, it turns out, gets more than three times as much per student as TUSD. With one exception, every BASIS school is fully funded. That's because funding is based on the percentage of a school's students who pass the state's high stakes test, which is right in the wheelhouse of schools in high rent areas. For a district like TUSD which draws from many families living below the poverty level, passing the state test and qualifying for the funding is more hit-and-miss.

In a world where Ducey is governor and the legislature is majority Republican, the rich get richer, and their children get a richer education courtesy of results-based funding.

I decided to take a deeper dive into the data to see how the money is distributed to schools with children across the economic spectrum. I found funding inequities everywhere I looked.

Before I lay out the numbers, here are a few things I know for sure.

• A school doesn't deserve results-based funding just because it has no more than 10 percent of its students living below the poverty level.

• A school with 60 percent of its students below the poverty level is not 10 times more deserving of results-based funding than a school with 59 percent of its students below the poverty level.

• Any competent computer programmer could create a system for giving out the results-based funding in a more equitable way.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Results-Based Funding: A Tale Of Two Districts And a Charter Chain

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 10:56 AM


If Doug Ducey bragged about adding $70 per student to the K-12 education budget, the news would be received with yawns from the vaguely interested and howls of outrage from people who know Arizona needs to add a thousand dollars per student to reach Mississippi funding levels, two thousand to reach Arkansas and three thousand to reach Louisiana. In Arizona funding dollars, that translates to an added one billion, two billion and three billion dollars respectively.

So $70 per student, about $72 million total, doesn't even qualify as small potatoes compared to the funding Arizona needs to equal some of the poorest southern states, let alone the rest of the nation. It's chump change.

But Ducey is getting away with bragging about $72 million for schools by spending it, using words from his State of the State speech, "to reward and replicate success in our best public schools." Those "successful" schools will get either $225 or $400 per student from a program with the impressive-sounding name, results-based funding. True, only a quarter of the state's district and charter schools get any money, but it's supposed to be a reward for success, which sounds like a good thing.

Except that "success" is measured by the percentage of a school's students who pass the state's AZMerit exam, and as most everyone knows, students from higher income families tend to do a whole lot better on the tests than students from lower income families. So if it's all about passing rates, all the money would go to schools in high rent areas, and that would be too obviously, grossly unfair, even for Governor Ducey.

What to do?

Continue reading »

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Charter Schools: The Good, The Bad and The Costly

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2020 at 3:08 PM


Two recent, lengthy reviews on charter schools are both worth taking a look at.

One is a series of articles by the Arizona Republic reporter Craig Harris, who visited seven states to put together a big picture look at the charter school scene. Harris is probably the most even-handed reporter I've read on the subject. Most writers, including me, come at charter schools with some set agenda, which means the analyses are shaped by the writers' educational preconceptions. That's what makes Harris' reporting so refreshing. He detests charter waste and fraud and has gone after financial corruption in Arizona's charter sector with a passion. But when he looks at schools themselves, he tries to evaluate them on their merits. He finds things to like and dislike.

Harris' most recent investigative report focuses on charters in states other than Arizona which have a record of increasing the performance of students from low income families. The article links back to the earlier articles if you want to read the whole series.

The other important piece of investigative reporting comes from the Network for Public Education, a group begun by educational historian Diane Ravitch and others which has grown into a significant force in the educational battles raging across the country. NPE is decidedly against education privatization and the so-called "education reform" movement in general, which means you're not likely to hear much from them in the way of praise for charter schools. The recent report from NPE details the $1 billion in federal money wasted on charter schools which either never opened or closed since receiving the funds.

Continue reading »

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Friday, December 20, 2019

The Predatory History Of For-Profit Colleges

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 1:49 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

It needs to be written in big, bold, flashing red neon letters: Beware of For-Profit Education. Kindergarten through college, all of it. If for-profit education is not banned outright, then we need to regulate and enforce the hell out of it.

Case in point: the for-profit college industry.

For-profit colleges have taken some recent, well deserved hits after decades of swindling their students. Just this month, the University of Phoenix was fined $191 million for its misleading advertising and predatory recruiting tactics. The 105-campus, for-profit Corinthian College chain dissolved in 2015 under the weight of its own misdeeds.

The Obama administration began the latest attempts to clamp down on the worst excesses of the industry — there were a number of earlier attempts — and set about forgiving college loans for students who were bilked by for-profit colleges. The Never-Obama Trump administration has reversed many of the previous administration's regulatory measures, while Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was held in contempt of court for accidentally-on-purpose bungling the process of loan forgiveness.

Not many people were talking about the sins of the for-profit college industry when I began blogging about them a decade ago, beginning with a piece I wrote in November 2009, For profit colleges need oversight as well. At the time I thought I was being prescient. I thought I was ahead of the curve. It turns out I was actually three decades behind, or 60 years behind if you go back to the genesis of the problem at the end of World War II.

Here is a brief history of the abuses of for-profit higher education and ongoing, bipartisan attempts to fix the unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation which allowed the industry to run roughshod over its customers, followed by the George W. Bush administration's intentional reversal of anti-profiteering regulations so it could run rampant once again. I'm drawing most of the information from a long, detailed history contained in a report by the Century Foundation.

For-profit education scams date back to the 1944 GI Bill, which gave returning soldiers the opportunity to enroll in colleges and training programs. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs took advantage of the easy government money and offered bogus programs to GIs. Investigative reports exposed the fraud as early as 1946 in articles like the Saturday Evening Post's “Are We Making a Bum Out of GI Joe?” Congress passed a series of laws to correct the abuses beginning in 1948 and continuing through the 1950s.

In the 1960s, programs which were part of President Lyndon Johnson's War of Poverty opened new opportunities for scam artists to create fraudulent training programs. In 1971, Carl Bernstein, a few years before he and Bob Woodward began on their famous reporting on the Watergate break-in and its aftermath, wrote a series of articles about abuses at trade schools in Washington DC. Other investigative articles followed in other areas of the country. As a result, the office of Health Education and Welfare imposed new restrictions.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

What Will It Take For Arizona's Education Funding to Catch Up With Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and That Distant Star, West Virginia?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2019 at 1:43 PM


The next Arizona legislative session is on the horizon. Legislators are dropping bills ranging from the sublime — another attempt at ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment — to the ridiculous — prohibiting teachers from discussing the environment from an economic or social perspective.

It's never too early to talk about next year's K-12 education funding, even though the budget is usually the last thing the legislature votes on. So let's talk about it.

When I began blogging in 2008, I wrote a post, We’re Number One!.. In Lowest Per-Student School Spending. It was based on an article in the Star which cited a study putting Arizona at the bottom of the nation in per-student spending.

Ten years later, in 2018, we spent a thousand dollars less per student than in 2008 when you adjust for inflation. To get back to 2008's lowest-in-the-nation levels would have taken an additional billion dollars. We caught up a little this past legislative session thanks to pressure from the #RedforEd movement, but not much. We're still spending significantly less per student than we did a decade ago.

According to the state rankings for 2017-18 from the National Education Association, Arizona's per-student funding is $8,123. It's better than Utah and Idaho, but that's it. We're third from the bottom. The national average is $12,920, half again as much as we spend. You might find different figures elsewhere depending on how the numbers are crunched, but the NEA's are in the same ballpark as most other sources, and since it uses a consistent methodology across the country, we can compare spending state to state.

We have about a million students in our district and charter schools, which means it takes a billion dollars to add a thousand dollars per student. Arizona is $4,800 below the national average, so just to be average, we would have to spend another $4.8 billion a year.

It's true, Arizona isn't a rich state. It's possible average is more than we can manage. Maybe third from the bottom is the best we can do.

Or maybe not. I looked at what four southern states spend per student: Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia. All four states have a median income about $10,000 lower than Arizona's. According to a listing of states from richest to poorest, they rank among the five poorest states, while Arizona comes in at 27. Yet all four states have figured out how to spend significantly more per student than Arizona, between a thousand and four-and-a-half thousand more.

Continue reading »

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