Arizona must simultaneously increase the size and the overall effectiveness of our K-12 teacher workforce. Fortunately, we can accomplish both of these feats with bold new policies.
Surveys demonstrate that private school teachers are much more satisfied with their jobs than their public counterparts. Many might be willing to teach in the private as opposed to the public sector. Expanded parental choice would increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession-especially for the large pool of frustrated former public school teachers who could return to the classroom.
Second, dynamic new public school research demonstrates conclusively that students learn far more in a large classroom with a talented teacher than in a small class with a less effective instructor. Arizona should therefore allow principals to reward quality instructors with much higher compensation, affording more students the opportunity to learn from our most effective instructors under a "value added" assessment. The status-quo of salary schedules rewarding mainly longevity and across the board salary increases for both the effective and the ineffective have short-changed our students.
In such a value-added system, students receive beginning and end of year exams, and teachers are evaluated based on the amount students learn over the course of the year-not on what they knew coming in. Value added analysis would allow principals to reward success and remediate and/or eliminate failure in an equitable fashion. Such a system would simultaneously increase student achievement while relieving the teacher shortage.
In 2005, 48% of Arizona public school 4th graders scored "below basic" in reading. This is a tragedy, and our low-income students are the primary victims. Schools failing to teach the early basics go on to watch their students drop out of school in droves. We can and must do much better for Arizona's children by thinking outside the box.
This article originally appeared in the Arizona Republic , November 27, 2005.
"Sprawl" is a dirty word in Phoenix these days. According to one Arizona Republic columnist, "Limiting sprawl and turning development back into our cities would go far to addressing a host of ills, including balkanization and destructive competition."
But the endemic character of Phoenix growth may be just the very same kind of development that has characterized cities throughout Western civilization, even dating back to ancient Rome.
Sprawl, it turns out according to a new book, is not the scourge of 20th century Sunbelt economies, or even of the United States. Indeed, even Europe's shining examples of compact development have exhibited consistent outgrowth towards the periphery for some time now, even well before the advent of the automobile and public transit.
Local commentators blame Phoenix's failure to nurture a compact, downtown-centric development pattern for myriad ills plaguing the local economy and culture (both real and falsely perceived). And yet, having missed out on a supposed national "urban renaissance," Phoenix continues to lead on any number of economic indicators, while simultaneously assimilating one of the largest number of in-migrants from both other states and abroad.
As the author notes, among the great cosmopolitan centers of the Western world, the population density of London peaked in the early 19th century, in Paris in the 1850s, and in New York City in the early 1900s. Before them and since then, expanding economies with increasing incomes have exhibited what I will call the inexorable centrifugal force of growth.
And here comes the kicker. Despite all the belly-aching about Phoenix's rampant sprawl into the desert, the metro area's density has been increasing for at least 20 years.
The bottom line is, as one reviewer of the new book puts it: "Sprawl is and always has been inherent to urbanization. It is driven less by the regulations of legislators, the actions of developers, and the theories of city planners, than by the decisions of millions of individuals-Adam Smith's 'invisible hand.'"
In other words, sometimes the laws of economics are as sound as the laws of physics.
Satya Thallam is a former fiscal policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in economics at Emory University.
-Bruegmann: "Sprawl: A Compact History"
-Slate Book Review: "Suburban Despair: Is urban sprawl really an American menace?"
-Kotkin: "The New Suburbanism: A Realist's Guide to the American Dream"
-Goldwater Institute: "Phoenix Rising: A City of Aspiration"
-Postrel: "Why the Fixation on Downtown is Wrong"
- Arizona Republic: Stakes high; will cities duke it out?
Fact or fiction: The educational performance of Arizona students is improving.
To judge from the proverbial champagne corks popping in public schools around the state as a result of rising scores on the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test, one would conclude that schools are doing better at the job of education.
Not so fast. The AIMS results are contradicted by the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress results, which show that Arizona test scores have stagnated.
The NAEP tests suggest that rising scores are not the result of improved student performance, but of watering down the state tests to manufacture better results.
The overall national 2005 NAEP scores in reading are sobering: 38 percent of all American fourth-graders scored below the most basic level, along with 29 percent of eighth-graders.
An analysis of NAEP results by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation labeled Arizona one of six "worst offenders" because their NAEP scores actually decreased while state test scores showed improvement.
By contrast, Florida schoolchildren boosted performance on both state tests and NAEP. Not coincidentally, Florida in 1999 adopted the nation's most comprehensive K-12 education reform, and has since actually strengthened accountability measures, while Arizona has diluted its standards.
Increased choice and competition in education improve educational performance. Arizona should adopt school-choice legislation that allows children to choose private as well as public schools.
Arizona needs to make more educational options available to children who need them most. Such a step would ensure that when we think we're moving in a forward direction, we really are moving closer to our destination.
The writer is a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute and will be speaking in Tucson at the Goldwater Institute Speaker Series Luncheon December 1, 2005. This article originally appeared in the Arizona Republic , October 31, 2005.
Three years ago this month, ASU president Michael Crow delivered his inaugural address, A New American University, The New Gold Standard. Dr. Crow declared, "I would like to see ASU develop a reputation for its entrepreneurial boldness. The enterprise imperative must become a part of our culture." Hear, hear.
But in an apparent devaluation of the gold standard, Dr. Crow now insists that "this vision cannot be achieved through reduced state investment." As author of The Privately Financed Public University, I selected the University of Michigan as a case study in what is possible when a public university embraces an entrepreneurial approach to fundraising. U-M's experience shows public universities can increase their revenue and reduce their reliance on state funding if they have the will to do so.
Through vigorous private and alumni fundraising efforts, U-M established its core endowment of $250 million in 1988 and increased it to $4.2 billion today. During the same period, U-M completed major infrastructure improvements of almost every campus building totaling $1.8 billion, predominantly funded by non-state sources.
ASU's alumni base is twice as large as U-M's, over one-quarter million compared to 110,000. Yet U-M is doing something right because its graduates are two times more likely to give to their alma mater than ASU graduates.
U-M's example shows that when there is a will, there is a way. Financial self-sufficiency, not taxpayer subsidies, is the true gold standard of new American universities.
- Arizona Republic: "Private funding can lift ASU, UA to new levels"
- Arizona Republic: "Public funding vital to state universities"
-Goldwater Institute: "The Privately Financed Public University: A Case Study of the University of Michigan"
-Arizona State University: A New American University, The New Gold Standard
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