Originally published Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 06:05a.m.
Monday’s official release of the Arizona State Board of Education’s letter grades for schools statewide has undoubtedly sparked plenty of water-cooler talk between parents, administrators, teachers and community leaders alike in the past 48 hours.
Upon seeing a specific school’s grade, a community member’s reaction likely went one of two ways: “Boo-yah!” or “What the hell is going on here?”
Let’s take a breath, everyone. Especially you, parents!
If your school received a not-so-satisfactory C, D or heaven forbid, an F, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you made a bad decision enrolling your child in that respective school.
And if your school received an A or a B, don’t party like a rock star who can tell the future, either. It still doesn’t mean you picked the right school for your young student.
Only 16 percent of all grades issued to schools in the state were A’s, by the way.
First, I’d like to point out my initial observation to being a first-time parent in this unique state grading system. Our schools are being graded by a state that was nearly dead last in spending per pupil a year ago.
A report by the Arizona Auditor General to the Arizona Legislature revealed that in 2016, Arizona spent $9,136 per pupil in operational (instruction, administration, food service, transport, student support, etc.) and nonoperational (land, buildings, equipment) compared to the national average of $12,496.
In the instruction portion of that total, Arizona spent just $4,145 per pupil compared to the national average of $6,726, nearly 40 percent less.
In 2015, New York led the nation with $21,206 in total spending per pupil, Alaska was second with $20,172 and Washington D.C. was third with $19,396 per student.
So if your school managed to get a B or C within the parameters of the state’s formula with the few resources it’s been provided, celebrate! They’ve produced a miracle in front of our very eyes.
For elementary schools, the AZMERIT test scores determined 90 percent of its state-given grade. High schools were graded differently, factoring in the AZMERIT along with graduation rates and how they’re preparing students for a career, among other factors.
But when it comes to our kids’ education, the most important thing, I believe, is to make sure to choose the school that’s right for your child, and what works best for their educational needs.
You can’t put a price, or a letter grade on that.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is associate sports editor and a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.