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This Just In

Eve Rifkin Uncategorized

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The US Department of Education just release some “good news”. The national graduation rate is at an all-time high and the achievement gap between white students and student of color has narrowed. Arizona educators would be well-advised, however, to take the extra minute and click on the link to the National Center for Education Statistics. This table outlines each state’s four-year graduation rate and includes disaggregated data regarding race, ethnicity, and demographics.

Arizona students as a whole are still trailing around 7.5 percentage points behind the rest of the nation. But given the abysmal state of public education funding in Arizona, this doesn’t sound too bad. What should strike any Arizona educator who reads this is the percentage of Limited English Proficient students who are graduating in four years. 18.1%. This makes absolutely no sense given that almost 10% of AZ students are limited English proficient. California, which has a similar percentage, sees 65% of its LEP population graduate within four years.

So, in the words of Marvin Gaye, what’s goin’ on?

As the AZELLA testing coordinator at my small school, I know I spend about 8 hours each summer taking online trainings in preparation for the next year’s round of testing. I spend another 2 hours hand-entering my kids’ placement scores, and another 10-12 hours administering a fall and spring test.

That’s close to 24 hours focusing on a testing program designed to help LEP students. I wonder what would happen if I spent those same 24 hours actually helping my LEP students do their homework, prepare for upcoming exams, write papers, etc. It’s hard to say how this shift would play out in terms of numbers, but with an 18% four-year grad rate, it can’t get much worse.



Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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Comments 3

  1. Alaina Adams

    I saw these stats too and was equally perplexed. And I work with these amazing kiddos every day – many of whom are 5th year seniors because they still don’t have enough core credits to graduate… because many of the mandatory 4 hour block English classes count as electives. Many of these same students are also in night school to earn those additional core credits.. which often puts the graduation rate of English Language Learners at 5 or 6 years instead of 4. Sometimes they comment that they feel behind their American counterparts, and I’ve been frustrated alongside my students this year and keep cheering them on. And with an intense focus on being “college-going,” I often wonder if it’s a game of “hurry up and wait…” many of my students may not be able to afford the out of state tuition associated with being undocumented and attending college, and it’s a continual challenge to help them meet graduation and college-going benchmarks when many of them state that is just not an option for them anyways. Having said all of this, reading about the work that people like you do to change the conversation and support our kids gives me hope. ;)

  2. Beth Maloney

    These stats baffled me, as well. Then I realized that I spent three hours earlier this week finalizing my second quarter Individualized Learning Plans for my language learners…and still have hours left of work to finish them, which will have to be done over winter break. Then when I return to school in January I will have to write their third quarter plans, which will likely take even longer. I wonder how my students’ scores would look if I could spend that time with them instead of writing reports…

  3. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    What Alaina said. The four hour block kills graduation hopes for many ELL’s. GEtting proficient is all I seem to preach to my 8th graders these days. Read, write, speak. Get proficient and open all the doors for yourself. From what I hear from experienced ELD teachers though, the cutoff scores for AZELLA are often baffling and seem arbitrary from an outside perspective. I am new to all of this… but a lot of things make me wonder.

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