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Failing schools have nowhere to hide

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Failing schools have nowhere to hide

Two new tools will force Arizonans to take a hard look at how our schools are performing – and make it difficult for low-performers to hide behind "fuzzy" labels.

First, the Arizona Department of Education will be replacing the convoluted labels of "performing," "excelling," etc., with letter grades over the next two years — providing a more obvious way to talk about school quality. According to data from last week's release of Arizona's A-through-F school ratings, more than 93,000 students attend a school rated "D."

No school received an "F" because schools will have to earn a "D" for two consecutive years before receiving an "F." However, the new system has been a wake-up call for some who discovered their "excelling" school is really just a "B."

Second, a new "Global Report Card" allows comparisons of math and reading achievement levels between school districts and 25 developed nations around the world.

A project led by Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jay Greene, the "Global Report Card" allows website visitors to compare their school district to others nationally and globally. Think the number of Arizona students attending "D" schools is sobering? Make sure you're sitting down when you look at how Arizona compares internationally. Eighty-five percent of students in Canada score better in math than the average Tucson Unified student.

These new tools will help parents and lawmakers hold schools accountable. Public education expenditures are the single largest part of the state's general fund budget, and between 2000 and 2009, total spending per pupil increased 47 percent.

We know how important the investment is, and now failure has nowhere to hide.

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