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Arizona Republic.

Arizona ranked at top in education freedom
January 23, 2002

By Karina Bland

With the most charter schools in the country, Arizona ranked first in education freedom nationwide in a study released Tuesday.

The study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a non-profit think tank, said students in states with the most education freedom, charter schools, private school vouchers, home-schooling and choice among public schools, also fared better on a key national test, the math portion of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The top ranking didn't come as a surprise to Kristen Jordison, director of Arizona's Board for Charter Schools, considering the state's 400 charter schools, nor did the improved test scores. The board reviews charter schools' performance every year, ordering corrective action if schools start to fall behind.

"It's nice to be first in something," said Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association, the state's teachers group, referring to Arizona's usual position closer to the bottom when it comes to education funding and graduation rates.

"But I would be a bit skeptical about whether we can attribute that (the improved test scores) solely to educational choice," she said.

Arizona students' scores on the national math test have steadily improved in the past several years, Kotterman said, attributing the change to a renewed emphasis on the basics of reading and math.

©2002 Arizona Republic


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