The Morrison Institutes Beat the Odds report related a disturbing prediction made at an academic conference concerning Arizona's future:
Kentucky's leading demographer, pointed to a map of the United States and said, The Southwest will be the Appalachian region of the 21st Century. Why?
Because, he said, Demography is destiny.
Latinos are the fastest-growing population group in the Southwest; they will soon make up a majority of public school students; and, as with Appalachian residents in the past, they have chronically low levels of educational achievement something that has hurt the economic competitiveness of states in the Appalachian region for decades.
Well slow down there, Hoss. Some states have shown that demography is not necessarily destiny. For example, the state of Florida has employed both tough standards and widespread school choice since the election of Jeb Bush in 1998.
The results: remarkable progress on NAEP fourth grade reading scores, especially among Hispanics. In fact, in 2007, the average Hispanic student in Florida scored higher on NAEPs fourth grade reading test (scale score 218) than the average of all Arizona students (scale score 210). In fact, Florida's Hispanic students are now easily within striking distance of the national average score for all students (220).
Also in 2007, Hispanic kids in Texas had a higher fourth grade NAEP reading score (212) than the average for all kids in Arizona (210).
Demographics don't have to doom our destiny, but Arizona needs to get serious about reform.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.
Morrison Institute: Beat the Odds
NAEP: State Profiles