Continued Budget Uncertainty Causes Another IT Staffer to Exit

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 31, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Friday the departure of yet another experienced Information Technology employee. The employee is the latest in a series of exits from an award-winning IT team that have all cited “job uncertainty” as their reason for accepting positions elsewhere.

In the Arizona House of Representatives’ initial draft budget framework released this week, ADE was allocated a one-time funding of $7.3 million. That amount would provide resources desperately needed for the maintenance and basic operations of the Department’s data system, but it would still not allow ADE to finish developing its student data system; begin development on its payment system that was created in 1999; fund any new initiatives passed during this legislative session; pursue school-level funding initiatives; or provide reassurance of employment for ADE’s IT staff.

Additionally, the lack of any ongoing maintenance funding would continue to create instability for data system support in future years. ADE’s initial request for IT funding was $17.6 million for FY18, which included $10.1 million in maintenance and $7.6 million for development.

The most recent employee to leave the organization was the only staff member responsible for project-level financial reporting on AELAS, which is the overarching collection of systems that calculate school payments. After graduating from the Thunderbird School of Global Management with an MBA, this full-time employee worked on strategic financial management of IT systems for three years, focusing on reporting and forecasting for AELAS and the 150-plus IT systems that schools utilize daily.

“It is very telling that we lost an employee whose primary focus was to work on the IT budget,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said. “It is always disappointing to lose good people, but it is even more discouraging when all of this could have been prevented by having funds annually allocated to our IT maintenance budget, just like many other major state agencies do. I hope the Legislature can provide us as soon as possible with some clear assurances that we will be able to keep our staff and that schools will be paid without any issues both this year and in the future.”

Arizona has seen unprecedented job growth in IT over the past decade, rated second among all states in that category. In June of 2016, Forbes magazine even named the Phoenix metro area as the city “winning the battle for IT jobs.”

“Since Arizona has such a red-hot IT market, I’m afraid that we will lose more valuable employees to other external offers,” the Superintendent said. “If I had a family to support and no guarantee of a job on July 1, I would start looking too.”

Superintendent Douglas Meets With Secretary DeVos in D.C.

Secretary DeVos and Superintendent Douglas

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 24, 2017) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas recently returned from the national Council of Chief Superintendents of Schools Organization (CCSSO) annual conference in Washington, D.C. During her trip, she met with fellow state superintendents from around the country, as well as with United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, conferring on a number of topics.

Since Arizona was the first and only state to submit its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education, the CCSSO cited the leadership demonstrated to other states by the Superintendent and the Arizona Department of Education. Representatives from other states have already sought out the Superintendent to learn how they can replicate the initiatives Arizona has included in its ESSA plan.

Douglas was also provided the opportunity to briefly meet individually with Secretary DeVos, welcoming her to office and inviting the new Secretary of Education to visit Arizona. The Superintendent extended the invitation to Secretary DeVos in order to further demonstrate the work Arizona has already accomplished on developing standards, school choice and ESSA.

During her time with other state superintendents and school chiefs, the Superintendent was also praised for the state’s successes with providing a myriad of parental and school options. With her counterparts, she also discussed education policy and advocated an increase in funding for Native American education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, increased funding and Arizona’s Zip Code Project.

“It was an honor to meet Secretary DeVos and I am looking forward to working with an administration that is better aligned with our education goals,” Douglas said. “Under our partnership with the administration, I am hopeful that Arizona will receive increased funding and flexibility. In addition, CCSSO was very complimentary of our state’s ability to lead the way for our country and submit our ESSA plan before anyone else.”

The Superintendent has already scheduled upcoming regular conversations with CCSSO, her fellow state superintendents and with Secretary DeVos.

Superintendent Meets With Congress on Education

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 27, 2017) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas met with members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, as well as national education leaders in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, at the Council of Chief State School Officers legislative conference last week in Washington, D.C.

Superintendent Douglas first met with U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, to talk about the federal government’s role in education and express her support for Foxx’s efforts to ensure that its influence is limited. The Superintendent then attended meetings in the offices of representatives and senators from her home state, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert, as well as with Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

Rep. O’Halleran and his staff expressed interest in supporting rural schools and advocating for impact aid to schools on Indian reservations, while learning from the Superintendent that the Zip Code Project and Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative would both prove beneficial for his district. Representative Schweikert’s office was also eager to hear about the broadband initiative, joining Representative Franks’ office in its request for more support for Indian education.

Rep. Biggs shared his proposal to create additional flexibility for federal Title I funds and asked for additional details about the Common Core replacement that took place in December. His office was also interested in the submission of Arizona’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan and the ongoing need for support of Native American students.

Rep. Gosar was excited to hear about the impact that broadband connectivity could have on his district, while also discussing how to better support the Office of Indian Education, the Zip Code Project and pilot programs to promote college and career readiness.

“It is always an honor to meet with elected representatives and senators that are doing their part to ensure that Arizona is the best state in the nation,” Superintendent Douglas said. “After our meetings, I am confident that they will support our great state in addressing the needs of all of our students.”

Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative Launched

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 14, 2017) – In order to expand K-12 Internet access, affordability and student digital learning opportunities in schools across the state, most notably in rural areas, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today applauded the funding of the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted this morning to approve the one-time expansion of the existing Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF) to assist in the state matching investment of this program. The new grant will allow Arizona to receive ten dollars of funding for every dollar the state invests into the initiative.
Ultimately, the project could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in services to the state.

“Equal access to broadband services is critical to the success of a child’s education in the 21st century,” Superintendent Douglas said. “This program is an incredible opportunity for underserved children from small schools in rural parts of Arizona to have the same technology opportunities that are afforded to other children in the state.”

Last March, Arizona was one of the few states to be awarded the 2016 K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy grant through a partnership between the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Center, EducationSuperHighway (ESH) and the K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy.

“I commend my staff at the Department for making this opportunity a reality for so many students in rural areas,” Superintendent Douglas said. “My Public Information Officer, Stefan Swiat, wrote the grant application that enabled Arizona to have this opportunity, while State E-Rate Controller Milan Eaton has worked tirelessly to sign up as many schools as possible. My staff and I look forward to implementing this incredible program, which will bring tangible resources to rural students, schools and communities throughout the state.”

Designed to help support and guide states seeking to provide nearly every student with access to high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi access and enhanced digital learning, the NGA, ESH and Policy Academy will provide Arizona with advice and support on best practices in education, as well as help inform the scope and structure of the implementation process.

A thorough review estimates that the state match for this program may range from $8-13 million and that internet connectivity projects may span more than two years and benefit nearly 100,000 Arizona students. The state investment will draw down significant E-rate funds, which, in a majority of school systems, may pay for the entire cost of infrastructure construction.

To accomplish the state match, Commissioner Tobin and the ACC proposed establishing a new program which uses the AUSF fund to provide a portion of the state matching funds. A one-time distribution of $8 million from the existing AUSF would serve as the large portion of the state’s match, supporting telecommunications carriers which serve in high-cost areas of rural Arizona.

Since the grant was awarded, the Superintendent and Arizona Department of Education staff have worked to ensure participation from schools throughout the state. While all 15 counties already have a school moving forward with this initiative, as many as 200 school districts and charter schools have already applied for broadband services.

“While the Arizona Department of Education has provided the technological expertise, support and one-on-one engagement on this program, the Corporation Commission has taken the lead financially to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime initiative is funded,” Superintendent Douglas added. “Although I would have preferred that the funding come from the general fund, I am pleased that so many students will reap the technological benefits of broadband such as online classes and digital learning access, as well as the ability to conduct state-of-the-art STEM experiments.”

Schools and districts are encouraged to apply through an easy and straightforward process that is also available for the following fiscal year. Those interested in this opportunity are encouraged to contact EducationSuperHighway Outreach Coordinator Alyssa Cubello at [email protected] or State E-Rate Controller for Schools Milan Eaton at [email protected].

ADE Launches Legislative Email Campaign to Preserve Funding

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas launched an email campaign today to show unwavering support for the IT funding necessary to pay teachers, pay schools and protect student data. The campaign comes as a response to the many education stakeholders and concerned citizens who requested a platform to voice their support of Information Technology (IT) funding for the department.

In order to underscore the urgency of restoring IT funding, the “Be Heard Arizona! Email Campaign” provides Arizonans with a template email to communicate this vital necessity to their legislators. The initial fiscal year 2018 budget recommendation released in January did not allocate any funds for the maintenance and support of ADE’s IT systems that are responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and distributing billions of dollars to Arizona’s schools.

“I cannot emphasize the importance of urgency in this matter enough,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. “My staff has spoken with the governor’s office privately and they have assured us that they want to see schools and teachers paid. However, if we cannot promise our award-winning IT staff that they will have a job on July 1, they will leave to take advantage of the booming IT market in Phoenix.”

Two programmers have already left the Department for positions elsewhere, one of which cited job uncertainty as his reason for leaving in an exit interview. If the nearly 130 ADE IT staff members continue to accept external offers, the performance of the IT systems that pay schools, take attendance and distribute free and reduced lunch will undoubtedly be affected.

Those interested in helping raise the Arizona Legislature’s awareness about this issue can visit www.azed.gov/beheardAZ. The user-friendly letter prepopulated on the website also allows for personal comments to be added.

“The campaign’s goal is for the legislature and governor’s office to assure me that we will have the funding necessary to preserve my staff’s employment,” the Superintendent said. “We urge every citizen to join us in emphasizing to the Arizona Legislature that this critical issue get immediately resolved. Since this could affect the future of all of our schools, teachers and students, there has not been a more important issue I have faced during my tenure as Superintendent.”

Superintendent Sends Final Version of ESSA State Plan to DOE

(Phoenix, Ariz., Jan. 12, 2017) – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today announced that the final version of Arizona’s State Plan in response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act has been delivered to the U.S. Department of Education.

Arizona is the first state to submit a final version of its state plan to the federal government and was the first state in the nation to distribute its initial draft plan.
“Arizona has been at the forefront of ESSA implementation and innovation since its initial release. We were the first state to release a draft plan, the first state to release a second draft and now the first to submit our plan for federal review,” said Superintendent Douglas.

“I am extremely proud of the hundreds of hours of work put into developing this plan by my staff here at the Arizona Department of Education, and I am most thankful for the thousands of comments we have received from parents, teachers, administrators, stakeholder groups, community members and elected officials that truly helped make this a plan for all of Arizona.”
Under ESSA, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is responsible for creating a State Plan that reflects a shared statewide vision for Arizona’s students and schools.

To create the final version of the State Plan, Superintendent Douglas conducted extensive statewide outreach and engagement efforts to thousands of Arizonans through her We Are Listening Tour and via online resources.

ADE staff also met with dozens of stakeholder organizations and education officials to gather their feedback. This document reflects much of the input received after releasing the second draft of the State Plan in November, input that included thousands of comments from parents, teachers, school administrators, education stakeholder groups, business and community leaders, policymakers and members of the public. Comments and survey responses that have been received are available at www.azed.gov/essa/responses/.

ESSA, which is designed to replace No Child Left Behind as the primary federal legislation addressing America’s public education system, was passed into law by Congress in December 2015 and will take effect in the 2017-2018 school year. ESSA is marketed as affording states greater flexibility, and the new law encourages states and schools to innovate while maintaining a focus on accountability, state and local systems of improvement and a more balanced assessment system.

To give Arizona the most flexibility, the State Plan was designed to take a broad, generalized approach to the federal requirements. In response to feedback that the plan lacked the details needed for implementation, ADE developed a more specific and complementary Implementation Plan. Comments can still be made and will be considered for inclusion in the Implementation Plan.
ADE’s dedicated ESSA web site still will be updated frequently with information at www.azed.gov/essa.

Feedback also can still be submitted via email at [email protected] and Arizonans are invited to join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ESSAinAZ.
Anyone interested in receiving regular ESSA updates from ADE can sign up at www.azed.gov/essa/essa-updates/.

State Board Votes to Replace Common Core Standards

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today supported the State Board of Education’s (SBE’s) decision to replace the Common Core Standards by formally adopting the second draft of the 2016 Arizona English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Standards.

“These new standards represent the final step in the repeal and replacement of Common Core in Arizona and they reflect the thoughts and recommendations of thousands of Arizona citizens,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I would like to thank everyone involved in this important work for their contributions, from the more than 200 teachers who donated thousands of hours in working groups to the parents whose input helped shape these documents. I would also like to thank my amazing K-12 Standards team here at the Department for making this process possible.”

As part of the standards development process, the SBE and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) worked together to gather, process and incorporate more than 10,000 comments related to the standards, an effort that took place both before and after releasing a first draft to the public. The first draft was also reviewed by several nationally recognized technical experts, including prominent anti-Common Core authorities. Where applicable, their feedback was included in the second draft along with thoughts shared by members of the public.

“The federally mandated Common Core Standards were initially adopted by the SBE in 2010 without a thorough public review, which deeply frustrated many Arizonans,” continued Superintendent Douglas. “That lack of public input became an even larger concern as problems with the standards were identified, many of which were related to the resulting curricula. Thankfully, through this process I am proud to say that Common Core has at last been eliminated and that we now have excellent ELA and math standards developed by Arizonans for Arizona students. I look forward to using a similar continuous improvement process to ensure that all of our standards are updated as needed with extensive public input.”

The SBE’s action comes just over a year after it voted on Oct. 26, 2015 to formally reverse its 2010 decision to adopt the Common Core Standards, a result that effectively severed Arizona’s ties to them. Superintendent Douglas called for that vote as part of her 2016 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan, which was released on Oct. 1, 2015, and earlier in 2015 secured Arizona’s release from the copyright that would have prevented the state from making changes to the standards.

Superintendent Douglas invites all Arizonans to review the newly adopted standards at https://k12standards.az.gov/second-draft-2016-arizona-standards. The documents include red-lined changes that make it very easy to see where modifications were made and to identify the origin of the comments that led to those changes.

Parents, educators and members of the public can visit www.azed.gov/standards-practices/k-12-standards-feedback/ to provide additional feedback on any of Arizona’s academic standards.

Superintendent Diane Douglas Releases 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! Education Plan

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today released her 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! education plan, which presents a comprehensive vision for improving education in Arizona.

“I am thrilled to share this updated version of my AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan with Arizonans,” said Superintendent Douglas. “The plan represents how the people of Arizona believe we can make our schools the best in the nation, and I am very proud of everyone who came together to make the plan a reality.”

Based on feedback gathered during the Superintendent’s 2016 We Are Listening Tour, the 2017 plan includes new proposals, accomplishments from last year’s plan and progress updates for several ongoing initiatives. Because the focus of this year’s Listening Tour was #ParentsMustBeHeard, the Superintendent has also provided an executive summary of the plan that is designed to give parents a quick look at the proposals that are most likely to be of interest to them.

Highlighting the new proposals are several funding requests, which range from additional base funding for schools to use as they see fit to teacher salary increases and additional support for rural schools and capital needs. Funding was still the most common topic on the minds of those who attended the We Are Listening Tour or shared their feedback in other ways.

“It seems to me that as leaders in education we must ask ourselves, do we want Arizona to have the best education system in the world or simply the cheapest system we can get by with politically?” said the Superintendent. “For me, the answer is simple―I want the best for our students and I will partner with education stakeholders, Governor Ducey, and the Legislature to make that vision a reality.”

The 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan is available online at www.azed.gov/weheardyou.

Arizona Leads the Nation in Fourth Grade Growth on NAEP Science Assessment

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today announced that from 2009 to 2015 Arizona’s fourth graders led the nation in growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science test. Science scores for eighth grade students also increased significantly over the same time period.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for our students and their hardworking teachers,” said Superintendent Douglas. “While our state still has room to grow, these scores show that we are on the right track. I am also pleased that this progress has been made without sweeping changes to our science standards, which we now have the opportunity to build upon and improve.”

The average score for Arizona fourth graders increased by 11 points between 2009 and 2015 while the eighth grade average increased by seven. Of the seven states that showed the most dramatic growth over the same time period, none had adopted the national Next Generation Science Standards before the 2015 NAEP administration.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) recently opened the review process for the state’s Science standards, which were last updated in 2005. The public comment period on the standards is available through Dec. 3 and feedback can be submitted on ADE’s public feedback page.

Arizona also emerged as a leader in closing the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students, with Hispanic eighth graders making an 11 point gain and the gap shrinking significantly by six points. Additionally, no gender gap was present in either the fourth or eighth grade 2015 Science results.

“Supporting the success of all students is my top priority, so it is very encouraging to see that some of our state’s achievement gaps are narrowing,” said the Superintendent. “I will continue working with our schools and communities to ensure they have the resources necessary to make further progress in these efforts.”

Arizona is still scoring lower than the national average in both fourth and eighth grade, but has made significant progress toward matching the nation’s average performance.

The average NAEP Science score for Arizona fourth grade students was 149, while the average for the nation’s public schools was 153. For Arizona eighth graders, the average score was 148 compared to a national average of 153.

NAEP is designed to inform the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. The full report of the 2015 NAEP Science Results is available at https://www.nagb.org/.

2009 vs. 2015 NAEP Average Scale Scores

4th Grade Science Arizona National
2009 138*^ 149
2015 149^ 153
8th Grade Science Arizona National
2009 141*^ 149
2011 144*^ 151
2015 148^ 153

*Statistically significant from AZ 2015 at p < .05
^Statistically significant from National scores at p < .05


2009 vs. 2015 NAEP Average Scale Scores – Arizona Demographic Breakdowns

4th Grade Science White Hispanic Native American Black
2009 155* 124* 123 129
2015 166 137 128 139
8th Grade Science White Hispanic Native American Black
2009 157* 127* 126 126
2011 158 132 129 128
2015 162 138 130 131

*Statistically significant from AZ 2015 at p < .05

 

Arizona Department of Education Releases Final 2015-2016 AzMERIT Results

(Phoenix, Ariz., Sept. 15, 2016) – The Arizona Department of Education today released final combined performance results from the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 administrations of the AzMERIT statewide assessment and the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) alternate statewide assessment. An Excel file containing the results and additional details about the assessments have been posted at www.azed.gov/research-evaluation/assessment-results/.

The results include the total percentage of Arizona public school students who passed the assessments and the percentage at each performance level. In addition to the statewide results, proficiency rates are available for schools, districts/charter holders and counties. Breakdowns by grade level, subgroup (e.g., students with disabilities, English language learners, economically disadvantaged students) and ethnicity are also provided.

Arizona public school students in third grade through high school take AzMERIT. Students in grades 3 through 8 take an assessment in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics at their grade level. Students taking high school level English and math take End-of-Course assessments that test their proficiency in those subjects.

MSAA is Arizona’s alternate statewide achievement test for eligible students with significant cognitive disabilities. The MSAA alternate assessment is based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Eligible Arizona public school students take the MSAA Alternate Assessments for ELA and Mathematics in Grades 3 through 8 and Grade 11.

For more information on AzMERIT, please visit www.azed.gov/azmerit. For additional details about MSAA, visit www.azed.gov/assessment/ncsc/.

2015-2016 AzMERIT Final Passing and Proficiency Rates

Mathematics

Test Level % Passing Minimally Proficient Partially Proficient Proficient Highly Proficient
  2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016
Grade 3 42 46 27 25 31 30 29 29 13 17
Grade 4 42 45 29 29 29 26 32 34 10 10
Grade 5 40 46 29 27 31 27 28 31 12 15
Grade 6 33 39 37 37 30 24 22 24 11 15
Grade 7 31 31 47 46 22 23 18 22 13 10
Grade 8 34 26 41 51 25 23 20 17 14 9
Algebra I 32 37 45 44 23 20 23 27 9 9
Geometry 31 34 42 41 27 24 25 27 6 7
Algebra II 30 30 46 46 25 24 23 23 7 7


English Language Arts

Test Level % Passing Minimally Proficient Partially Proficient Proficient Highly Proficient
  2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016
Grade 3 41 41 43 45 16 14 30 29 11 12
Grade 4 42 46 41 40 17 14 36 34 6 12
Grade 5 32 46 36 31 31 23 28 32 4 13
Grade 6 36 38 39 41 25 21 32 32 4 6
Grade 7 33 41 42 38 25 21 29 35 5 6
Grade 8 35 33 39 44 26 23 27 26 8 8
ELA 9 27 34 44 38 29 28 22 25 5 9
ELA 10 32 29 47 54 21 17 22 20 10 9
ELA 11 31 30 51 53 19 17 20 19 11 10