Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 3, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Arizona Education Report Card


  • A report on some of the latest changes in Arizona's education system, from kindergarten through universities and charter schools.


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," beginning with kindergarten through 12th grade and on into college, there are many challenges with public education in the State. Community colleges serve more students than the state's three public universities, and universities are looking at ways to redesign the system to deal with future growth. Arizona's education report card, next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizon." A look at some of the tasks facing our public education system. For more than a decade, charter schools have been an option for Arizona students. They are public schools that can be run by private businesses, nonprofit organizations and even school districts. Charter schools are exempt from many regulations traditional public schools face, such as teacher certification. Those schools designed to compete with traditional public schools and improve student performance. First up, Mike Sauceda profiles a charter school that has educators singing its praises.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Sophomore Ramon Rojas plays a recital at the Arizona School for the Arts. The school in existence since 1995 is one of the 70 original charter schools in Arizona created when the movement was called an experiment. [music plays]

>> Mike Sauceda:
Mark Frances is the founder and president of the Arizona School for the Arts, located in central Phoenix. He mortgages his house to get the school started.

>> Mark Frances:
When I first heard about charters in 1993, that's when the discussion started. I was actually working in arts administration. I had been in higher education for the better part of my life. The opportunity to run a high-quality performing arts school with a high equality academic program was just something that I couldn't resist, and amazingly enough, it was passed in '94 and got the application and we were approved in 1995.

>> Music Teacher:
That's a good observation, because it breaks that stem rule, doesn't it? Very good. Okay, so let's start from the beginning please.

>> Mike Sauceda:
The school's focus is a classical arts education.

>> Mark Frances:
We have three areas in which we focus. We have a partnership with Ballet Arizona where the students study at the studios of Ballet Arizona and receive their instruction from the school of Ballet Arizona staff. We have a partnership where high school students work with Phoenix Theater at the studios of Phoenix Theater across the street from us, and work with professional staff of the Phoenix Theater, and then we developed our own in-house music conservatory. It's pretty much a classically oriented program. In other words, it's ballet. The students in music are trying to access the classical concert music literature, and the theater is a very process, rather than just plain performance approach.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Frances says the school has a graduation rate of 100\%.

>> Mark Frances:
We have a college prep curriculum that has been very, very successful. It's been successful in that the teachers really work together. It is truly as a professional learning community, and teachers have, in fact, in many ways, the teachers are really driving this. And it's our staff that has brought the success that we've had.

>> Mike Sauceda:
The school has produced results, Frances says 90\% of the students go on to four-year colleges.

>> Mark Frances:
In fact, the first sentence of the purpose of charter schools is to improve pupil achievement. We have taken that very seriously. It's been at the forefront of our existence.

>> Mike Sauceda:
He says his school's success is born out in aims test results. For the school year 2003-2004, 65\% of the schools 8th graders exceeded or met aims standards. In the reading portion of aims, 92\% of Arizona Center for the Arts met or exceeded the test that compares to 50\% for all schools statewide.

At the beginning of their formation, charter schools were thought to have an advantage attracting the brightest students.

>> Mark Frances:
One of the things I'm pleased with, a lot of people will say, you know, the school is doing so great because you are cherry picking your students. You get art students and you are getting all of these very bright children, but interestingly enough, many of our students come in and they are actually very difficult to educate children. Many of them were students not doing well in their previous schools and they have come into our environment and the vast majority of them have done what we've asked them to do, and mostly the way we've been able to break through that is that the culture here is actually, you know, one of achievement.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Although Arizona School for the Arts students have exceeded state performance, that's not true of charter schools in general. From the Department of Education, for the spring of 2004, 6\% met or exceeded the math portion of AIMS, compared to 14\% of traditional public school students. In the reading portion 25\% of 12th grade charter schools students met or exceeded standards compared to 27\% of district school students, and in the writing portion, 35\% of grade 12 charter schools students met or exceeded the AIMS test while 39\% of district school students did the same. District school students outperform at the 8th and 3rd grade levels for the spring of 2004 as well.

>> Teacher:
Put that in there. You could use a mixture of other colors.

>> Student:
Just to get it darker?

>> Mike Sauceda:
There are now 500 charter schools in operation in our state. At the end of the 2004 school year, there were nearly 44,000 charter schools students compared with nearly 454,000 in traditional public schools in Arizona. The ratio mix of charter and traditional public schools are similar.

>> Teacher:
What are bugs? I mean insects?

>> Teacher:
Insects, okay.

>> Mike Sauceda:
When charter schools were first started it was said in law that they would be established to provide a learning environment that would improve pupil achievement. The Goldwater Institute examined traditional schools on SAT 9 reading achievement and achievement growth. The Goldwater Institute concluded that the study could not prove weather charter schools were superior, but it found that charter schools students who started with lower achievement results showed more growth in achievement then traditional public school students. The left leaning economic policy institute published a book that says that charter schools produce lower test stores that cannot be explained by student backgrounds. Opinions on charters schools are split along ideological lines but not for the founder of Arizona School for the Arts, Mark Francis.

>> Mark Frances:
It's a funny thing about charter schools in Arizona. I'm -- you know, an old-fashioned liberal Democrat from Minnesota, probably about as blue as you can get, and yet, I find that most of my -- I still even contribute to the Democratic Party, put that down. But, you know, most of my allies are conservative Republicans, so it's a really funny ally or alliance that we have together, and frankly, the legislature takes a lot of hits and deservedly so for a number of things from my standpoint, but boy, in terms of charter schools, they really got it right.

>> Michael Grant:
Almost all of graduating seniors from Arizona School for the Arts go on to seek a college degree. And the State's three diverse universities all face some common challenges, expanding access to students across the state, enhancing the diversity of the student body, and the inefficiencies within the university system as well as loosening the financial constraints on both students and the state. These issues have compelled the Arizona Board of Regents to work to redesign the university system. Merry Lucero reports.

>> Merry Lucero:
Our state's three public universities, Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University, all face the on-coming wave of coming economic and social changes. Among them, Arizona's rapidly rising population growth is expected to climb to more than 8.5 million people by 2020. Nearly 73,000 high-school graduates are projected by 2018, and university enrollments, currently at 115,000 could top 185,000 by 2020.

>> Mary Jo Waits: We know we're a fast growing state, but when you think about how many students we could potentially have and what's the capacity it would take to actually have first and foremost seats at the table, just to have a spot for them, that was a real eye opener, I think.

>> Merry Lucero:
So the Arizona Board of Regents has worked for more than 10 months on a plan to redesign the university system to prepare for future growth. Mary Jo Waits directs the feasibility and design study for the project. Seven public forums were held across the state. Citizens and student staff, faculty and business group stake holders participated. The reaction varied.

>> Mary Jo Waits:
When you suggest something new and different, a redesign, people think it's grander than it was. So we get two kinds of reactions, one would be, this is a huge opportunity, we want a really bold redesign of the university system for the 21st century, and then there would be other people who are like Oh, no, let's go careful here, so you have those kind of reactions and it's a hard to find the balance between how can you be bold and then how can you make sure that the change isn't too bold that everybody just says no.

>> Merry Lucero:
Waits says the universities presidents are on the right track to that balance.

>> Mary Jo Waits:
The three presidents, we have three outstanding presidents of the university, not just our point of view, but if you go outside of Arizona, they are really highly regarded and they have sat on a strategy in each case for excellence in their mission areas, and this is a recognition of we should give that time to take place, and carry out those changes, but also, what can we do from a Board of Regents, in terms of policy to facilitate those changing directions and then what more details do we need to know about the tuition and the missions of the universities that can help them succeed.

>> Merry Lucero:
Varying tuition is an objective of the redesign project. The plan asserts that ASU and the U of A would have the highest tuition, NAU and ASU's west, downtown and Mesa campuses would have the next highest. NAU-Yuma, the UA South and other NAU programs would have the lowest.

>> Mary Jo Waits:
Those areas, and the university that have focused on research and the cost of a research institution obviously has higher costs, so we would be able to have higher tuitions and mandatory fees at those institutions and then try to have a different way to have a lower tuition rate and then the lowest tuition rate, so that students have a choice.

>> Merry Lucero:
Another goal of the project, to assure the future landslide of racially diverse students will have access to the university system. Births in Maricopa County, from the group once referred to as "minority" has become the majority.

>> Mary Jo Waits:
The other thing we know about that future pool from K-12 is 50\% of it will be Latino or Hispanic students. So obviously, you have to recognize that this is a big pot of future talent in the State and we need to pay real close attention to how do we get them into college and how do we make sure they succeed.

>> Merry Lucero:
Waits says the study maintained that the university system can improve in all areas for all races and the focus should be on graduation rates for all students.

>> Michael Grant:
Rather than attending a university, many graduating high school seniors opt for community college instead of the university. What are the State's community colleges doing to meet their rapidly growing populations? That's just one concern facing our community college system, which serves nearly 200,000 students across the state. Paul Atkinson profiles Gateway Community College in Phoenix, where about 8,000 people take classes.

>> Teacher:
How about X minus 4, okay? And again, I think I would make one more change and put an equal sign right there.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Scott pike teaches an intermediate algebra course at Gateway Community College in Phoenix. His class reflects the diversity found on campus.

>> Lisa Young:
Our students come from all populations, many different countries, not just our community, but all over the valley.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Gateway started out as a vocational school in 1968. It has since expanded to offer a wide variety of classes. It's one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County community college district.

>> Lisa Young:
Basically each college has its own niche where they serve their community, but many of our students will attend multiple campuses, and our school is mainly occupational and vocational, but we do serve general studies and transfer students as well.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Susan Mills teaches art at gateway. Community colleges have a core staff of instructors but hire working professionals like mills to teach.

>> Susan Mills:
It creates these relationships between the students and between members in the community who are engaged in the community and provide this type of an example, and in some cases even provides possible educational and work experiences for students.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Community college classes are more affordable than universities, averaging about $150 per class, compared to about $600 at a university, but there are other advantages.

>> Tanya Smith:
It's cheaper than going straight to ASU. But for the most part it's just -- it's a little easier to get in and out of. It's more comfortable than a university setting.

>> Shine:
I actually have more fun at community colleges than I do at university. It seems like the teachers are more enthusiastic about their material rather than just here's your material, I've been doing this for 20 years, give me your paper, you know. They actually will help you out. They want to you think about the subjects.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Casey Caldwell goes to gateway as part of an early college/high school where he can get both high-school and college credits.

>> Casey Caldwell:
It's more flexible, you can take more time. It's easier to hold a job.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Gateways early college high school is one of about 07 in the nation paid for with private funds. It's a reflection of how creative community colleges can be.

>> Lisa Young:
We're very innovative at gateway. We can grow in the directions we need to support our students. So we've changed with technology, with time, with being able to bring new programs on, to really meet the changing needs of industry, and so we're just always changing.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Case in point, a new health sciences building enables gateway to help meet the growing need for nurses and other medical professionals.

>> Lisa Young:
A lot of our medical programs have waiting lists, so we have nuclear imaging. We have our nursing program. We work with some of the other colleges for a bilingual nursing program, so those programs are at the forefront. We're trying to meet the demands of industry.

>> Paul Atkinson:
New buildings, programs and courses are paid for with a combination of funds. Community college districts rely on property taxes, tuition, and appropriations from the legislature to pay for majority of expenses.

>> Bob Salmon:
What you see is the larger share of community college funding in each district comes from the homeowners. The property owners within that district. They have the biggest stake, the biggest share in getting that economic engine driving that comes through the community colleges. That's really where the lion's share up to 50 plus percent.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Funding will be a critical issue for Maricopa County and other community colleges. The money is needed to meet one of the fastest growing populations in the State. Last year, Maricopa County voters approved a bond worth almost a billion dollars to pay for new facilities and equipment. Students will also pay about 10\% more in tuition, making that funding count is key for community colleges.

>> Bob Salmon:
The community colleges and higher education that will numerically touch more citizens in this country and in this state, than any other form of higher education. Being so, we've got to get more mileage out of that. We've got to get more bang for the buck. We do what we do very well, and we should positively exploit that resource, not only in this state, but in the country, fortunately, the president of the United States recognizes that. We believe Arizonans do, too. Hopefully the legislature will continue to recognize that as they take a look at the needs of community colleges as we continue to evolve.

>> Paul Atkinson:
As community colleges brace for an influx of new students, the system must also deal with the politics of Arizona's higher education, where universities fight among themselves and community colleges, for money and programs.

>> Bob Salmon:
Right now, there is too much bickering going on. There is too much pride of ownership, if you will, and even competition in an unhealthy vein. Competition should be healthy. What we should be competing with is the other states in America, not with one another. We have the ability to form wise partnerships, and we want to form those wise partnerships, we have to form those wise partnerships or Arizona is going to be a major user.

>> Paul Atkinson:
For now, community colleges such as Gateway must focus on their role in higher education and workforce development. For some students, it's a chance to gain a new skill or expand their knowledge. But for many, community colleges help plant the seeds of success, seeds that quietly grow in the shadow of their bigger partners in higher education.

>> Michael Grant:
And finally, those of us who have had children have heard them say they can't wait to finish school because it is so hard. Perhaps in response, you've thought, if they only knew, and you smile and remember your own school days. Tonight, we bring you the sites and sounds of a typical day in the life of some K-12th grade students and teachers in the Tempe union school district.

>> Deborah Novotny:
And one and play and --. One, two, three, and four. [music plays]

>> Rushing --

>> Deborah Novotny:
okay, Joshua?

>> Kindergarten Student:
Every time you wake up in the morning, I find my dog standing on my bed.

>> Kindergarten Student:
I don't want to wake up, so I can go to school. So my mom has to wake me up, and I don't want to.

>> Deborah Novotny:
You just want to sleep in, don't you.

>> Kindergarten Student:
And I hold the pillow, and my mom picks me up from the pillow.

>> Deborah Novotny:
You and the pillow together?

>> Kindergarten Student:
It's like a bulldog.

>> Deborah Novotny:
A bulldog, right?

>> Kindergarten Student:
It's all Chubby. It's all muscular, Chubby.

>> Deborah Novotny:
We have another friend with their hand up.

>> Kindergarten Student:
And then she gets off the bed and then she goes -- and then she would come up to both of our beds until we get out of them.

>> Jennifer Patterson:
Over and up, over and up, over and up (snaps fingers). Number 7, this is an interesting one. This is using your logic smarts. On -- any time you see a story problem, I would read through it a couple of times, make sure you understand what they are talking about, look for signal words in it, and if you don't get what they are talking about the first time, read it again. Just to make sure you are clear on what they want you to do. All right. So here we go. Tom read one book last month and two books this month. Each month, this year, Tom will read one more book than he did the month before. So, which of these statements is true, based on this information they gave us?

>> Amanda Smith:
Again, we are creating an image in your poetry, using the words to put the reader there, like we've done with 4A. Now, in your package, you have the format for the "I remember" poem. Remember it's 8 lines of "I remember..." and the last line is "but most of all, I remember". Now do you have to have 8?

>> Student:
No.

>> Amanda Smith:
Can you have less than 8?

>> Student:
No.

>> Amanda Smith:
You may have as many as you want, don't make it a book. I'm going to go ahead. You may divide up, get where you need to be and go.

>> Student:
I can start with, I remember --

>> Student:
three, four and one and play and -- don't rush on the top.

>> Jeri Wade:
We're going to be hitting you with a lot of integral tests or a lot of tests to tell whether something is convergent or divergent. What we have here is called the integral tests. This looks like Greek to you, but it's not so bad.

>> Student:
You can split the bottom into this, which turns into this, so you can split it into two fractions. If you find that X approaches infinity, one over infinity is just zero

>> Student:
the whole area of the carpet is zero by taking out the middle of the scare. I did a sequence of -- you take out 8 parts of the 8 remaining scarce.

>> Student:
To find the sum, you can split the two fractions up, and then add them at the end, and then you can use the geometric, because it is a geometric series except instead of N minus 1, you don't have this first team.

>> Student:
I got 5 minus X.

>> Jeri Wade:
Everybody have that?

>> Student:
So you still take A 1 minus R and your A for this is 1. And your R is one-half.

>> Student:
This cancels out. You have A times negative 1, which equals negative 3, so divide both sides and you get A equals 3.

>> Teacher:
You're rushing. Water?

>> Teacher:
And the last one.

>> Student:
Go!

>> Class:
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes.

>> Michael Grant:
For transcripts of "Horizon" and to find out about upcoming topics, visit our web site. You'll find it at www.azpbs.org. Thanks very much for joining us for this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

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