Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 2, 2007


Host: Richard Ruelas

state Lawmaker/Soldier


  • We talk with Arizona State Representative Jonathan Paton of Tucson about war, and his recent service as an Army Intelligence Officer in Iraq.
Guests:
  • Tom Horne - Arizona's Superintendent of Schools
  • Ed Sloat - Director, Research, Planning and Assessment, Peoria Unified School District
Category: Military

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas:
Tonight on Horizon, state and federal school accountability systems are sending mixed messages about the quality of our schools. We'll find out what can be done to solve the problem. And we'll talk to a state representative who started his legislative service late this year -- because he was serving in Iraq. Those stories are next on horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible through the contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
Good evening, I'm Richard Ruelas. Welcome to Horizon. The state house and senate unveiled their budget plans this week. The two plans have very similar spending amounts but key differences in priorities. Today at a news conference Governor Napolitano said she favors one of those proposals -- the Senate's.

Janet Napolitano:
From a process standpoint, I thought it was a very good process. That a number of weeks ago, I want to say nine or ten weeks ago, the republicans and democrats began sitting down and really going through the budget together. There were compromises on all sides. This office was informed of the negotiations as they went along. There were changes made as the process went along to accommodate new numbers and new information as it came, in as it always does, over the spring. And I think that by and large, from my standpoint in terms of what I presented in January, there were some significant gives on my part. But the vast majority of what I think we need for education, transportation and so forth are included in the budget. And I think it's a fair compromise and a fair plan for next year for Arizona.

Richard Ruelas:
The state budget requires of course the majority vote by both the house and the senate, and the governor has final approval. We'll have more on the state budget Friday on the journalists' roundtable edition of horizon. Thank God not tonight.

Richard Ruelas:
Arizona's public schools get report cards from the state. They're supposed to help us evaluate how our schools are performing. But as David Majure reports, the information they provide is sometimes quite confusing.

Teacher:
Look right here. Now, you are going to measure your measurement books. One time you're going to measure one side like this.

David Majure:
There's quite a bit of measuring that takes place in public education. The AIMS test measures what kids learn, and labels tell us how schools measure-up.

Sandi Kuhn:
Three years ago, we were considered a performing school. A year ago we were considered an underperforming school.

David Majure:
Sandi Kuhn is principal at Lowell Elementary School in Mesa.

Sandi Kuhn:
Over 75\% of my students come from homes where English is not the primary language.

David Majure:
In the past few years Lowell received three of six possible labels
under the State's school accountability system known as "Arizona Learns."

Sandi Kuhn:
This year we were identified as a "Performing Plus" school. That means we're doing well, that our students demonstrated the knowledge that we have been teaching them.

David Majure:
The "Performing Plus" label is included in the school's annual report card available on the Arizona Department of Education's website. That report card also shows that Lowell failed to make adequate yearly progress or AYP, as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Sandi Kuhn:
It's very confusing. It's very difficult when you look at a school report card to see a school like mine that is performing plus under the state standards and yet under the federal standards we did not make AYP And how do you make sense of that? It's very difficult.

David Majure:
Whether it makes sense or not, this much is true - failing to make adequate yearly progress can have virtually nothing to do with student achievement.

Sandi Kuhn:
That's correct. When you look at the federal system under AYP, we met all the academic goals under AYP.

David Majure:
Lowell Rlementary is not alone. In fact, dozens of Arizona's top schools, those labeled as highly performing and excelling, also failed to make AYP in 2006. This often has something to do with the percentage of students tested. The magic number is 95.

Sandi Kuhn:
So our children achieve academically. But we were labeled as a school not making AYP because we did not test 95\% of our students in a specific subcategory.

David Majure:
No Child Left Behind divides students into many different categories based on gender, race, economic status, language and disability.

Sandi Kuhn:
For us, I believe there are 77 categories.

David Majure:
At least 95\% of the students must be tested in each category that has more than 40 kids.

Sandi Kuhn:
And if you miss in one area, then you were considered as a school that is not making adequate yearly progress.

David Majure:
Lowell school missed AYP not because it didn't test enough of its kids, but because some didn't count as being tested. Specifically, sixth grade Hispanic boys who were also classified as special education.

Sandi Kuhn:
If a child identified as Special Ed in their individual educational plan, or their I.E.P., you can indicate in that plan accommodations that could be made for that child that deal with their disability. So if a child is learning disabled in the area of reading, if they take the math test they could have the items on the math test read to them. And that's considered a nonstandard accommodation. If we make a nonstandard accommodation for a Special Ed child, under the federal system they are counted as not tested, even though we assess them.

David Majure:
Kuhn believes students should be tested, that their progress must be measured. But she'd also like a system with an extra measure of common sense, one where making adequate progress is based more on academic achievement and not so much on the types of kids the school gets - through the luck of the draw.

Sandi Kuhn:
Yes, I would say that for some it is luck.

Richard Ruelas:
I'll be yearning for a state budget discussion when we're done. It's very confusing. But trying to make sense of it and joining me to talk about student testing and school accountability are Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Schools, and Ed Sloat, the Director of Research, Planning and Assessment for the Peoria Unified School District. Superintendent Horne, you've told parents essentially, ignore the federal label, count only on the state label. Why do you tell them that?

Tom Horne:
Exactly. There's a very simple distinction that makes it clear to everybody. That is, the state system we worked very hard to make it fair and accurate. And the achievement levels we have are reliable. They really tell you how good the school is. The federal system that says you did or did not make adequate yearly progress is completely irrational, makes no sense, and is to be ignored. The reason for that is, we look comprehensively at the whole school. The federal government, the principal actually understated it. The federal government has 235 different categories. If you fall short on one category, it doesn't matter how well you do on the other 234 categories. You could have the highest test scores in the state. If you test 94\% rather than 95\% of fourth grade Special Ed kids the school still fails to make adequate yearly progress. That makes absolutely no sense. So look at the state labels, not federal.

Richard Ruelas:
If your counterpart from the federal level were here, she'd say the federal system is trying to do the same thing on a nationwide level. What would your response be to the feds saying this system works all right?

Tom Horne:
I haven't heard anyone from the federal government make sense out of their own system. Part of what they're saying is they want to make sure some group doesn't get left behind even though the overall average is good. But you can do that with all educational categories like making sure the bottom 10\% makes progress rather than difficult it up into 235 categories it. Makes no sense the way they're doing it. I think we're getting some agreement on a national level the federal no child left behind act is making no sense on how they're evaluating schools.

Richard Ruelas:
How are the parents deciding if the schools in your district are doing well or not?

Ed Sloat:
Last year in Peoria we had like 13 of our schools not make A.Y.P., yet all of those 13 schools ranked highly on the Arizona labels, performing plus, highly performing and excelling. And it is very confusing for parents. They call the school, the teachers, the superintendent and they ask what's going on? Are our schools failing? Are we doing the right job? It's very hard to explain there are two independent systems going on here. I have to agree with Superintendent Horne on this one. The federal A.Y.P. system is extremely rigid. As he said, over 220 some odd or 30 cells of which independent calculations. If one student -- if in a school one student causes us to drop below in one of those 235 cells --

Richard Ruelas:
30-35, yeah.

Ed Sloat: --
Then that school is labeled as not making A.Y. P. To the parents of that district, that is translated into being failing. They're going to assume that that label means -- until the easy learns labels come out, that somehow the school has failed their children. And it's just simply not the case.

Richard Ruelas:
It seems like some of the trouble especially with the federal system versus the state system is how we test special needs children, English-learning children.

Tom Horne:
The biggest injustice is with the English language learners. In Arizona we give the kids three years to bring the skills up to English so they can pass an academic -- by fourth year the school is responsible if they're not proficient we can take them over so they're highly motivated. The federal government says you have to do it in one year, kid to pass a test in two years. Not one educational expert in the country anywhere who says that's possible to get the kids up to speed after only one year. The reason it's not so much of a crisis in other states is you have to have 40 English language learners in a grade level before it matters. But if you're a school that has 40 English language learners in a grade level, or about 50 in Arizona, you're doomed to failure. You cannot make adequate yearly progress no matter what you do. Because nobody thinks you can get English language learners up to speed in one year.

Richard Ruelas:
How do you think your district will do? And then we'll get the statewide perspective. The name of the program is no child left behind. Eventually that's the goal, 100\% achievement. How do you think a district is going to do as the benchmarks keep rising?

Ed Sloat:
I think Peoria will be exactly in the same boat as any other district. As those benchmarks keep rising, as the proportions that have to meet adequate yearly progress increase, it's going to be harder and harder for the special populations under the E.L.L. students not English fluent or Special Ed students that have nonstandard accommodations according to the guidelines set forth under special education law that they're not going to be counted or the E.L.L. students that are forced to take an English language reading test are almost 9 by definition not going to score highly on that. That's why the Arizona system that we have now is much more accommodating, it's much more sensitive to the fact that it takes a number -- some years for students that are not English fluent to be fluent enough to sit and take an English language reading test.

Richard Ruelas:
The act is set to expire -- the renewed -- this is the first crack congress has taken to renew it. You and a bunch of other people in your position are trying to think of ways to improve the system?

Tom Horne:
Yes. It's called reauthorization. It's up for that this year. In a lot of other acts, it gets postponed for two or three years and they just reauthorize from year to year way it exists. It may be changed this year. If they can get the bills out of committee by mid may they're hoping they can do it this year. English language learners, special education, growth models, there are certain areas where we hope we can get improvement. The state school officers and I have all worked together to try to lobby our congress men and senators. They were sent a letter saying they should stop their irrational policy on English language learns trying to hold them accountable after one year.

Richard Ruelas:
Are you trying to read tea leaves on who might become president in 2008 to see if -- what their thoughts are on school accountability, high stakes testing?

Tom Horne:
That is if they don't get it out of committee by mid may, then they'll have to wait until after the next presidential election what will be the point of view of the next president. My view is, instead of having a 1100-page bill, which is what no child left behind was, there should be a 11-page bill. Set for the principles which I agree with. Standards, assessment, accountability, so we're sure kids are taught what they need to learn and schools are accountable. But let the states manage the details. If you have the federal government manage the details with a 1100 page bill and intrusive department of education, no one can mess things up the way the federal government can.

Richard Ruelas:
M. Sloat, again students are the issue here. With especially special needs kids is, there a way to test them you think would be fair?

Ed Sloat:
I think certainly. The one thing that you would not want to do -- now, I personally think is unethical is you take a student that obviously is not being instructed at grade level or doesn't have the English language skills to take a grade level test and subject them to that experience because public policy says they have. To what you're doing is you're subjecting them to an assessment experience that they're not going to do well in only to give them the paper back to tell them that they failed. I find that to be unethical. If a student in Special Ed is being taught at the third grade level or below grade level, then the assessment experience should match the instructional experience that's occurring in the classroom. And to use assessment that's not matched to instruction, it's not useful. The data is not useful for instructional improvement. It's not useful in this world of data-driven decision-making to do better instruction or modify your instruction to hem the student because it's not valid.

Richard Ruelas:
You're saying -- we'll finish up.

Ed Sloat:
I think the point here is for all these special area students, the key point with measurement is to measure what that instructional environment is, whatever it happens to be. I can't see that you would subject a student that's not English fluent to a reading comprehension test. Because what you're measuring is whether he can comprehend in English.

Richard Ruelas:
When this gets to the decision-making, parents are so concerned about is my school doing well but is my child being taught. Are these tests an adequate measure of how the kid is learning?

Ed Sloat:
Certainly for the special populations the answer would be no, at least from my point of view.

Richard Ruelas:
For the general student population, do you think the tests are an adequate measure of how the student is doing in school?

Ed Sloat:
They're a partial measure. I don't think -- one could argue 12 -- I don't think one could argue that a math score or reading score encapsulate the total goals of public education. There's so much more to what's going on in a classroom and in the life of a child as he progresses through a Peoria School from kindergarten kids to 12th grade that is more than just a math score or reading score. So one of the criticisms that a practitioner would have, a measurement person or teacher in the class would have, that accountability systems that attempt to measure how "good" the education is, if it's restricted to just the easily-measurable things called reading and math, the public doesn't understand that that's just a small snapshot of what's going on in the classroom.

Richard Ruelas:
But the public likes accountability.

Tom Horne:
Absolutely. And the aims test is the Arizona instrument to measure standards. So the parents are finding to what extent are the students learning the students. The teachers got together and decided the standard -- kids should learn. Every question on the AIMS test is a performance of an objective on the standards. From an individual student point of view it's a very good measure for the parents to know are the students learning the standards the teachers decided the students should learn at that grade level in reading, writing and math. We will have a science test and I hope they'll give us a history test.

Richard Ruelas:
You could fault AIMS for doing the same thing, just testing reading and math.

Tom Horne:
We need science and history and hopefully the arts, then we'll get a more comprehensive picture.

Richard Ruelas:
Do you think that accountability and this push especially in Arizona, that we've started something that is now out of control that feds got involved in that's part of an accountability movement?

Tom Horne:
Well, I think accountability is excellent. You have to have standards and you have to measure the standards and you need to hold schools accountable for what they do. The problem is, the federal government messes it up, doesn't get it right. And because I believe in accountability very strongly, it makes me upset that federal government messes it up. But if the people look at the state standard and what achievement profile the state schools got. It will be a good measure of how the schools doing.

Richard Ruelas:
We'll see how they do in Congress. Thank You very much.

Tom Horne:
Thank you.

Ed Sloat:
Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
He started the year serving his country in Iraq as an army intelligence officer. Now he's back, serving Arizona as an elected state lawmaker. We'll talk with Representative Jonathan Paton in just a moment. But first, here he is taking the oath of office, six weeks into the legislative session.

Jonathan Paton:
I, Jonathan Paton, do solemnly swear, that I will support the constitution of the United States of America, and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of state representative of the state of Arizona. According to the best of my ability. So help me, God. [applause]

Richard Ruelas:
Joining me to talk about his service in Iraq and some of the bills he's been working on since he's been back is state representative from Tucson, Jonathan Paton. Good to see you, sir.

Jonathan Payton:
Good to see you.

Richard Ruelas:
Why did you go? You volunteered, right, to head to Iraq? Even though it was already pretty much troublesome when you decided to take off.

Jonathan Paton:
Because I believe that if you stand for something, and I supported our actions in Iraq originally, I felt that I should follow through if I had the ability. So that's why I did it.

Richard Ruelas:
You see -- how close -- I imagine you watch the news probably differently than most of us. How do you see the situation as you keep up on it daily in Iraq? Security situation?

Jonathan Paton:
Well, I think it's a difficult situation. There's no doubt about it. The one thing that I am very encouraged by was some of the results of the surge. There's certainly been some spectacular explosions, those kinds of things that have happened. But the numbers of deaths seem to have dropped, at least for coalition forces as well as for some of the forces -- or some of the Iraqi civilians. So it seems to be improving. I think we're going to have to wait until the fall to see exactly how much it's improved. But I'm very encouraged by that and what's going on in anbar right now.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you see improvement? Because you said you were there for some of the surge.

Jonathan Paton:
Correct.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you see improvement after that? Or was it already happening before that?

Jonathan Paton:
It was really just beginning. We saw some improvement with the first couple of units, the brigade combat teams that were coming in the theater. As soon as they would come into Baghdad, I would be responsible for getting them intelligence equipment, getting them training and assisting them with their intelligence operations. It was a busy time. We heard about the surge long before the American people heard about it and were having to make preparations for that.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you think it was enough when you heard the number of troops coming over?

Jonathan Paton:
I had hoped there would be more. But I'm realistic about the political situation. Americans are certainly tired of seeing sort of a stalemate that's been going on right now. And I know that they are let sent to go forward with -- reticent to go forward with more troops. But in my opinion it should have happened a long time ago.

Richard Ruelas:
When you speak now as being a politician, how would you go about letting the American public know to have patience and maybe even to support more troops going in? How do you do a sales job on this politically?

Jonathan Paton:
I think you have to be as candid as possible. I think you need to tell the American people just how tough it's going to be. I think you need to be honest with them about those difficulties. But you also need to be honest about what the alternative is. I think that's been the biggest problem in this whole conflict. We've been told we have a choice between pulling out or staying. In but we're not told what will happen if we do pull out. Most of the commanders and soldiers in the field will tell you if we pull out precipitously there will be a blood bath in the country. And we will own that mistake forever.

Richard Ruelas:
Is there -- today the democrats failed to override the veto. Are benchmarks of some limit an idea, setting some timetable for the Iraqi government to get things going?

Jonathan Paton:
I think benchmarks are good. But the problem is, if you put benchmarks down you're also taking away -- and you say we're going to pull out, you're also taking away your incentive for keeping -- their incentive for realizing that there's going to be some account about for you. You have the benchmarks certainly. But you don't want to come into a situation where they believe that we're pulling out no matter what. And then they stop performing at all.

Richard Ruelas:
You would hate to set a benchmark if you feel they won't reach it, they start feeling the pullout. But then again, if we don't threaten the pullout do you see the Iraqi government stepping up?

Jonathan Paton:
It's a tight rope that we're walking, to be honest with you. That's very difficult to do. What keeps them accountable is the fact that we have troops there. We can certainly threaten to pull out those troops. But if we really do it, we lose that accountability. That's the conundrum we're in.

Richard Ruelas:
I guess if you're going to sell it to the American people you need the trust. It seems judging from the polls that the American people don't have that trust anymore in this administration. How do you resolve that issue?

Jonathan Paton:
The only thing you can do is to be as candid as possible. We look back on World War II and listen to the speeches that Winston Churchill gave his people. They were pretty dire. They were pretty grim. He leveled with them and said, look, this is going to be a difficult fight. And the British people, the American people with our own president Roosevelt and Truman, we realized they were going to be that difficult. And we were able to therefore go forward. And when there was progress, it was real. And the public accepted it.

Richard Ruelas:
I guess now that you're back the legislature must seem like a breeze comparatively.

Jonathan Paton:
You know, the one thing that they say is that leaving and going into the army, I was told it would actually make the legislature seem like a warm and inviting place. So that's actually -- I think that's happened.

Richard Ruelas:
And we can briefly talk about some of the battles ahead in the legislature. The budget again seems like a more inviting climate than it has been in previous --

Jonathan Paton:
It has. There is a different climate there. My seat mate, Senator Tim Bee is, doing a great job as president. I think we've got a good package. We're going to have to fight it out between senate and house. But I think at the end of the day we'll have a good budget that reflects the values of the American people and the people of Arizona.

Richard Ruelas:
So what are your priorities in the budget? What tax cuts?

Jonathan Payton:
I want to see accountability. I want to make sure that money is being spent wisely and that we don't use any gimmicks or anything like that as we go forward.

Richard Ruelas:
Good deal. I appreciate your time. And welcome back to the country.

Jonathan Paton:
Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
Take care.

Mike Sauceda:
Bees all over the world are disappearing and scientists are not sure exactly why. But they may be getting closer to an answer. A local bee keeper says he's lost several hundred hives and he speck hates on what might be causing the bee colony collapse. Learn more about what's making bees disappear Thursday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Richard Ruelas:
Thanks for joining us on this Wednesday evening. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a good night.

student Testing & School Accountability


  • state and federal school accountability systems are sending mixed messages about the quality of Arizona’s public schools. Find out why Arizona’s top-rated schools can fail to meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress. Guests: Tom Horne, Arizona Superintendent of Schools; Ed Sloat, Peoria Unified School District Department of Education School Report Cards
Guests:
  • Tom Horne - Arizona's Superintendent of Schools
  • Ed Sloat - Director, Research, Planning and Assessment, Peoria Unified School District
Category: Education

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas:
Tonight on Horizon, state and federal school accountability systems are sending mixed messages about the quality of our schools. We'll find out what can be done to solve the problem. And we'll talk to a state representative who started his legislative service late this year -- because he was serving in Iraq. Those stories are next on horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible through the contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
Good evening, I'm Richard Ruelas. Welcome to Horizon. The state house and senate unveiled their budget plans this week. The two plans have very similar spending amounts but key differences in priorities. Today at a news conference Governor Napolitano said she favors one of those proposals -- the Senate's.

Janet Napolitano:
From a process standpoint, I thought it was a very good process. That a number of weeks ago, I want to say nine or ten weeks ago, the republicans and democrats began sitting down and really going through the budget together. There were compromises on all sides. This office was informed of the negotiations as they went along. There were changes made as the process went along to accommodate new numbers and new information as it came, in as it always does, over the spring. And I think that by and large, from my standpoint in terms of what I presented in January, there were some significant gives on my part. But the vast majority of what I think we need for education, transportation and so forth are included in the budget. And I think it's a fair compromise and a fair plan for next year for Arizona.

Richard Ruelas:
The state budget requires of course the majority vote by both the house and the senate, and the governor has final approval. We'll have more on the state budget Friday on the journalists' roundtable edition of horizon. Thank God not tonight.

Richard Ruelas:
Arizona's public schools get report cards from the state. They're supposed to help us evaluate how our schools are performing. But as David Majure reports, the information they provide is sometimes quite confusing.

Teacher:
Look right here. Now, you are going to measure your measurement books. One time you're going to measure one side like this.

David Majure:
There's quite a bit of measuring that takes place in public education. The AIMS test measures what kids learn, and labels tell us how schools measure-up.

Sandi Kuhn:
Three years ago, we were considered a performing school. A year ago we were considered an underperforming school.

David Majure:
Sandi Kuhn is principal at Lowell Elementary School in Mesa.

Sandi Kuhn:
Over 75\% of my students come from homes where English is not the primary language.

David Majure:
In the past few years Lowell received three of six possible labels
under the State's school accountability system known as "Arizona Learns."

Sandi Kuhn:
This year we were identified as a "Performing Plus" school. That means we're doing well, that our students demonstrated the knowledge that we have been teaching them.

David Majure:
The "Performing Plus" label is included in the school's annual report card available on the Arizona Department of Education's website. That report card also shows that Lowell failed to make adequate yearly progress or AYP, as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Sandi Kuhn:
It's very confusing. It's very difficult when you look at a school report card to see a school like mine that is performing plus under the state standards and yet under the federal standards we did not make AYP And how do you make sense of that? It's very difficult.

David Majure:
Whether it makes sense or not, this much is true - failing to make adequate yearly progress can have virtually nothing to do with student achievement.

Sandi Kuhn:
That's correct. When you look at the federal system under AYP, we met all the academic goals under AYP.

David Majure:
Lowell Rlementary is not alone. In fact, dozens of Arizona's top schools, those labeled as highly performing and excelling, also failed to make AYP in 2006. This often has something to do with the percentage of students tested. The magic number is 95.

Sandi Kuhn:
So our children achieve academically. But we were labeled as a school not making AYP because we did not test 95\% of our students in a specific subcategory.

David Majure:
No Child Left Behind divides students into many different categories based on gender, race, economic status, language and disability.

Sandi Kuhn:
For us, I believe there are 77 categories.

David Majure:
At least 95\% of the students must be tested in each category that has more than 40 kids.

Sandi Kuhn:
And if you miss in one area, then you were considered as a school that is not making adequate yearly progress.

David Majure:
Lowell school missed AYP not because it didn't test enough of its kids, but because some didn't count as being tested. Specifically, sixth grade Hispanic boys who were also classified as special education.

Sandi Kuhn:
If a child identified as Special Ed in their individual educational plan, or their I.E.P., you can indicate in that plan accommodations that could be made for that child that deal with their disability. So if a child is learning disabled in the area of reading, if they take the math test they could have the items on the math test read to them. And that's considered a nonstandard accommodation. If we make a nonstandard accommodation for a Special Ed child, under the federal system they are counted as not tested, even though we assess them.

David Majure:
Kuhn believes students should be tested, that their progress must be measured. But she'd also like a system with an extra measure of common sense, one where making adequate progress is based more on academic achievement and not so much on the types of kids the school gets - through the luck of the draw.

Sandi Kuhn:
Yes, I would say that for some it is luck.

Richard Ruelas:
I'll be yearning for a state budget discussion when we're done. It's very confusing. But trying to make sense of it and joining me to talk about student testing and school accountability are Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Schools, and Ed Sloat, the Director of Research, Planning and Assessment for the Peoria Unified School District. Superintendent Horne, you've told parents essentially, ignore the federal label, count only on the state label. Why do you tell them that?

Tom Horne:
Exactly. There's a very simple distinction that makes it clear to everybody. That is, the state system we worked very hard to make it fair and accurate. And the achievement levels we have are reliable. They really tell you how good the school is. The federal system that says you did or did not make adequate yearly progress is completely irrational, makes no sense, and is to be ignored. The reason for that is, we look comprehensively at the whole school. The federal government, the principal actually understated it. The federal government has 235 different categories. If you fall short on one category, it doesn't matter how well you do on the other 234 categories. You could have the highest test scores in the state. If you test 94\% rather than 95\% of fourth grade Special Ed kids the school still fails to make adequate yearly progress. That makes absolutely no sense. So look at the state labels, not federal.

Richard Ruelas:
If your counterpart from the federal level were here, she'd say the federal system is trying to do the same thing on a nationwide level. What would your response be to the feds saying this system works all right?

Tom Horne:
I haven't heard anyone from the federal government make sense out of their own system. Part of what they're saying is they want to make sure some group doesn't get left behind even though the overall average is good. But you can do that with all educational categories like making sure the bottom 10\% makes progress rather than difficult it up into 235 categories it. Makes no sense the way they're doing it. I think we're getting some agreement on a national level the federal no child left behind act is making no sense on how they're evaluating schools.

Richard Ruelas:
How are the parents deciding if the schools in your district are doing well or not?

Ed Sloat:
Last year in Peoria we had like 13 of our schools not make A.Y.P., yet all of those 13 schools ranked highly on the Arizona labels, performing plus, highly performing and excelling. And it is very confusing for parents. They call the school, the teachers, the superintendent and they ask what's going on? Are our schools failing? Are we doing the right job? It's very hard to explain there are two independent systems going on here. I have to agree with Superintendent Horne on this one. The federal A.Y.P. system is extremely rigid. As he said, over 220 some odd or 30 cells of which independent calculations. If one student -- if in a school one student causes us to drop below in one of those 235 cells --

Richard Ruelas:
30-35, yeah.

Ed Sloat: --
Then that school is labeled as not making A.Y. P. To the parents of that district, that is translated into being failing. They're going to assume that that label means -- until the easy learns labels come out, that somehow the school has failed their children. And it's just simply not the case.

Richard Ruelas:
It seems like some of the trouble especially with the federal system versus the state system is how we test special needs children, English-learning children.

Tom Horne:
The biggest injustice is with the English language learners. In Arizona we give the kids three years to bring the skills up to English so they can pass an academic -- by fourth year the school is responsible if they're not proficient we can take them over so they're highly motivated. The federal government says you have to do it in one year, kid to pass a test in two years. Not one educational expert in the country anywhere who says that's possible to get the kids up to speed after only one year. The reason it's not so much of a crisis in other states is you have to have 40 English language learners in a grade level before it matters. But if you're a school that has 40 English language learners in a grade level, or about 50 in Arizona, you're doomed to failure. You cannot make adequate yearly progress no matter what you do. Because nobody thinks you can get English language learners up to speed in one year.

Richard Ruelas:
How do you think your district will do? And then we'll get the statewide perspective. The name of the program is no child left behind. Eventually that's the goal, 100\% achievement. How do you think a district is going to do as the benchmarks keep rising?

Ed Sloat:
I think Peoria will be exactly in the same boat as any other district. As those benchmarks keep rising, as the proportions that have to meet adequate yearly progress increase, it's going to be harder and harder for the special populations under the E.L.L. students not English fluent or Special Ed students that have nonstandard accommodations according to the guidelines set forth under special education law that they're not going to be counted or the E.L.L. students that are forced to take an English language reading test are almost 9 by definition not going to score highly on that. That's why the Arizona system that we have now is much more accommodating, it's much more sensitive to the fact that it takes a number -- some years for students that are not English fluent to be fluent enough to sit and take an English language reading test.

Richard Ruelas:
The act is set to expire -- the renewed -- this is the first crack congress has taken to renew it. You and a bunch of other people in your position are trying to think of ways to improve the system?

Tom Horne:
Yes. It's called reauthorization. It's up for that this year. In a lot of other acts, it gets postponed for two or three years and they just reauthorize from year to year way it exists. It may be changed this year. If they can get the bills out of committee by mid may they're hoping they can do it this year. English language learners, special education, growth models, there are certain areas where we hope we can get improvement. The state school officers and I have all worked together to try to lobby our congress men and senators. They were sent a letter saying they should stop their irrational policy on English language learns trying to hold them accountable after one year.

Richard Ruelas:
Are you trying to read tea leaves on who might become president in 2008 to see if -- what their thoughts are on school accountability, high stakes testing?

Tom Horne:
That is if they don't get it out of committee by mid may, then they'll have to wait until after the next presidential election what will be the point of view of the next president. My view is, instead of having a 1100-page bill, which is what no child left behind was, there should be a 11-page bill. Set for the principles which I agree with. Standards, assessment, accountability, so we're sure kids are taught what they need to learn and schools are accountable. But let the states manage the details. If you have the federal government manage the details with a 1100 page bill and intrusive department of education, no one can mess things up the way the federal government can.

Richard Ruelas:
M. Sloat, again students are the issue here. With especially special needs kids is, there a way to test them you think would be fair?

Ed Sloat:
I think certainly. The one thing that you would not want to do -- now, I personally think is unethical is you take a student that obviously is not being instructed at grade level or doesn't have the English language skills to take a grade level test and subject them to that experience because public policy says they have. To what you're doing is you're subjecting them to an assessment experience that they're not going to do well in only to give them the paper back to tell them that they failed. I find that to be unethical. If a student in Special Ed is being taught at the third grade level or below grade level, then the assessment experience should match the instructional experience that's occurring in the classroom. And to use assessment that's not matched to instruction, it's not useful. The data is not useful for instructional improvement. It's not useful in this world of data-driven decision-making to do better instruction or modify your instruction to hem the student because it's not valid.

Richard Ruelas:
You're saying -- we'll finish up.

Ed Sloat:
I think the point here is for all these special area students, the key point with measurement is to measure what that instructional environment is, whatever it happens to be. I can't see that you would subject a student that's not English fluent to a reading comprehension test. Because what you're measuring is whether he can comprehend in English.

Richard Ruelas:
When this gets to the decision-making, parents are so concerned about is my school doing well but is my child being taught. Are these tests an adequate measure of how the kid is learning?

Ed Sloat:
Certainly for the special populations the answer would be no, at least from my point of view.

Richard Ruelas:
For the general student population, do you think the tests are an adequate measure of how the student is doing in school?

Ed Sloat:
They're a partial measure. I don't think -- one could argue 12 -- I don't think one could argue that a math score or reading score encapsulate the total goals of public education. There's so much more to what's going on in a classroom and in the life of a child as he progresses through a Peoria School from kindergarten kids to 12th grade that is more than just a math score or reading score. So one of the criticisms that a practitioner would have, a measurement person or teacher in the class would have, that accountability systems that attempt to measure how "good" the education is, if it's restricted to just the easily-measurable things called reading and math, the public doesn't understand that that's just a small snapshot of what's going on in the classroom.

Richard Ruelas:
But the public likes accountability.

Tom Horne:
Absolutely. And the aims test is the Arizona instrument to measure standards. So the parents are finding to what extent are the students learning the students. The teachers got together and decided the standard -- kids should learn. Every question on the AIMS test is a performance of an objective on the standards. From an individual student point of view it's a very good measure for the parents to know are the students learning the standards the teachers decided the students should learn at that grade level in reading, writing and math. We will have a science test and I hope they'll give us a history test.

Richard Ruelas:
You could fault AIMS for doing the same thing, just testing reading and math.

Tom Horne:
We need science and history and hopefully the arts, then we'll get a more comprehensive picture.

Richard Ruelas:
Do you think that accountability and this push especially in Arizona, that we've started something that is now out of control that feds got involved in that's part of an accountability movement?

Tom Horne:
Well, I think accountability is excellent. You have to have standards and you have to measure the standards and you need to hold schools accountable for what they do. The problem is, the federal government messes it up, doesn't get it right. And because I believe in accountability very strongly, it makes me upset that federal government messes it up. But if the people look at the state standard and what achievement profile the state schools got. It will be a good measure of how the schools doing.

Richard Ruelas:
We'll see how they do in Congress. Thank You very much.

Tom Horne:
Thank you.

Ed Sloat:
Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
He started the year serving his country in Iraq as an army intelligence officer. Now he's back, serving Arizona as an elected state lawmaker. We'll talk with Representative Jonathan Paton in just a moment. But first, here he is taking the oath of office, six weeks into the legislative session.

Jonathan Paton:
I, Jonathan Paton, do solemnly swear, that I will support the constitution of the United States of America, and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of state representative of the state of Arizona. According to the best of my ability. So help me, God. [applause]

Richard Ruelas:
Joining me to talk about his service in Iraq and some of the bills he's been working on since he's been back is state representative from Tucson, Jonathan Paton. Good to see you, sir.

Jonathan Payton:
Good to see you.

Richard Ruelas:
Why did you go? You volunteered, right, to head to Iraq? Even though it was already pretty much troublesome when you decided to take off.

Jonathan Paton:
Because I believe that if you stand for something, and I supported our actions in Iraq originally, I felt that I should follow through if I had the ability. So that's why I did it.

Richard Ruelas:
You see -- how close -- I imagine you watch the news probably differently than most of us. How do you see the situation as you keep up on it daily in Iraq? Security situation?

Jonathan Paton:
Well, I think it's a difficult situation. There's no doubt about it. The one thing that I am very encouraged by was some of the results of the surge. There's certainly been some spectacular explosions, those kinds of things that have happened. But the numbers of deaths seem to have dropped, at least for coalition forces as well as for some of the forces -- or some of the Iraqi civilians. So it seems to be improving. I think we're going to have to wait until the fall to see exactly how much it's improved. But I'm very encouraged by that and what's going on in anbar right now.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you see improvement? Because you said you were there for some of the surge.

Jonathan Paton:
Correct.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you see improvement after that? Or was it already happening before that?

Jonathan Paton:
It was really just beginning. We saw some improvement with the first couple of units, the brigade combat teams that were coming in the theater. As soon as they would come into Baghdad, I would be responsible for getting them intelligence equipment, getting them training and assisting them with their intelligence operations. It was a busy time. We heard about the surge long before the American people heard about it and were having to make preparations for that.

Richard Ruelas:
Did you think it was enough when you heard the number of troops coming over?

Jonathan Paton:
I had hoped there would be more. But I'm realistic about the political situation. Americans are certainly tired of seeing sort of a stalemate that's been going on right now. And I know that they are let sent to go forward with -- reticent to go forward with more troops. But in my opinion it should have happened a long time ago.

Richard Ruelas:
When you speak now as being a politician, how would you go about letting the American public know to have patience and maybe even to support more troops going in? How do you do a sales job on this politically?

Jonathan Paton:
I think you have to be as candid as possible. I think you need to tell the American people just how tough it's going to be. I think you need to be honest with them about those difficulties. But you also need to be honest about what the alternative is. I think that's been the biggest problem in this whole conflict. We've been told we have a choice between pulling out or staying. In but we're not told what will happen if we do pull out. Most of the commanders and soldiers in the field will tell you if we pull out precipitously there will be a blood bath in the country. And we will own that mistake forever.

Richard Ruelas:
Is there -- today the democrats failed to override the veto. Are benchmarks of some limit an idea, setting some timetable for the Iraqi government to get things going?

Jonathan Paton:
I think benchmarks are good. But the problem is, if you put benchmarks down you're also taking away -- and you say we're going to pull out, you're also taking away your incentive for keeping -- their incentive for realizing that there's going to be some account about for you. You have the benchmarks certainly. But you don't want to come into a situation where they believe that we're pulling out no matter what. And then they stop performing at all.

Richard Ruelas:
You would hate to set a benchmark if you feel they won't reach it, they start feeling the pullout. But then again, if we don't threaten the pullout do you see the Iraqi government stepping up?

Jonathan Paton:
It's a tight rope that we're walking, to be honest with you. That's very difficult to do. What keeps them accountable is the fact that we have troops there. We can certainly threaten to pull out those troops. But if we really do it, we lose that accountability. That's the conundrum we're in.

Richard Ruelas:
I guess if you're going to sell it to the American people you need the trust. It seems judging from the polls that the American people don't have that trust anymore in this administration. How do you resolve that issue?

Jonathan Paton:
The only thing you can do is to be as candid as possible. We look back on World War II and listen to the speeches that Winston Churchill gave his people. They were pretty dire. They were pretty grim. He leveled with them and said, look, this is going to be a difficult fight. And the British people, the American people with our own president Roosevelt and Truman, we realized they were going to be that difficult. And we were able to therefore go forward. And when there was progress, it was real. And the public accepted it.

Richard Ruelas:
I guess now that you're back the legislature must seem like a breeze comparatively.

Jonathan Paton:
You know, the one thing that they say is that leaving and going into the army, I was told it would actually make the legislature seem like a warm and inviting place. So that's actually -- I think that's happened.

Richard Ruelas:
And we can briefly talk about some of the battles ahead in the legislature. The budget again seems like a more inviting climate than it has been in previous --

Jonathan Paton:
It has. There is a different climate there. My seat mate, Senator Tim Bee is, doing a great job as president. I think we've got a good package. We're going to have to fight it out between senate and house. But I think at the end of the day we'll have a good budget that reflects the values of the American people and the people of Arizona.

Richard Ruelas:
So what are your priorities in the budget? What tax cuts?

Jonathan Payton:
I want to see accountability. I want to make sure that money is being spent wisely and that we don't use any gimmicks or anything like that as we go forward.

Richard Ruelas:
Good deal. I appreciate your time. And welcome back to the country.

Jonathan Paton:
Thank you.

Richard Ruelas:
Take care.

Mike Sauceda:
Bees all over the world are disappearing and scientists are not sure exactly why. But they may be getting closer to an answer. A local bee keeper says he's lost several hundred hives and he speck hates on what might be causing the bee colony collapse. Learn more about what's making bees disappear Thursday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Richard Ruelas:
Thanks for joining us on this Wednesday evening. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a good night.

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