Trouble in Arizona’s charter school paradise?

Arizona has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, and has no charter cap.

If Arne Duncan is to be believed, Arizona – with so much charter school “innovation” and “courage” – ought to be the best possible place for your child to get an education.

Let’s see how that looks in NAEP achievement and other factors:

  • Grade 4 NAEP Mathematics Rank, 44 out of 50
  • Grade 4 NAEP Reading Rank, 47 out of 50
  • Grade 8 NAEP Mathematics Rank, 37 out of 50
  • Grade 8 NAEP Reading Rank, 42 out of 50.
  • Arizona‚Äôs class size average is second highest in the nation, with an average of 24.2 students per class, compared to a national average of 15.3. Arizona is one of only four states in the nation that have increased class sizes over the last ten years.
  • Oh, yes, and Every national ranking of per pupil funding consistently shows Arizona at or near the bottom of the 50 states.

Charters under the microscope

My mom, who keeps an eye out on Arizona education issues for me, just pointed me to this eye-opening article splashed across the pages of yesterday’s Arizona Republic. It describes a new era of accountability for charters which may be the beginning of trouble in this charter school paradise.

The report says:

Over the past two years, state regulators have reviewed 78 of Arizona’s original charter-school operators, the first to be granted 15-year contracts to create privately run public schools funded with state and federal money.

State officials are now taking unprecedented steps to weed out the worst of the schools. They put a third of the operators on probation and denied new contracts to four more. Two charter operators did not reapply, and one surrendered its contract.

This effort marks a stark difference from the years when politicians and school-choice advocates pushed rapid growth of charter schools above all else, viewing them as game-changing innovations.

School-choice supporters believed parents and students would reject badly run charter schools and allow only the best to remain open. That reliance on the marketplace for regulation is fading, even among the strongest advocates.

Perhaps this potential beginning of the end of the love affair between the 1% and charter schools is behind the increasing push for privatized school turnarounds. The shell game continues.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.