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Educational mediocrity may be closer than it appears

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Educational mediocrity may be closer than it appears

When driving, if you look in your side-view mirror, you're reminded that "objects in mirror are closer than they appear." In Arizona, lawmakers, parents, and schools are struggling to gauge how close we are to high achievement levels in our state.

Since 2011, more and more schools earned higher scores on the state's A-F report cards. Nearly 63 percent of schools in the state earned an A or a B on the most recent ratings. This might mean that the low performance we fear for students is quietly slipping behind us.

Or that Arizona has taken an exit off of the highway.

Last November, research from the Arizona Board of Regents revealed that half of Arizona's high schools only had 5 percent or fewer of their graduates earn bachelor's degrees within 6 years (the national average is 60 percent). Just 40 of the state's high schools accounted for 62 percent of all of the Arizona high school graduates that finished college around the country.

Combining the Regents' data with the A-F grades reveals that 3 out of 4 graduates from A-rated high schools—the best public schools Arizona has to offer according to the state report card system—did not finish college at a 4-year institution within 6 years after enrolling in college.

The Arizona Department of Education is now revising the A-F school grading scale in preparation for the switch to a new test aligned with the national Common Core academic standards. Parents, students, and schools need clear indicators about what high achievement looks like, even if that means revisions to the current formula to bring some schools back down to earth.

Grading schools with letter grades is a simple, direct way to help parents find a great school for their children—but only if the grades represent success.

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