The Arizona Board of Education’s current math competency requirements that serve as a guide for the promotion of eighth grade students will remain the same for now, after a bill designed to add additional provisions died before reaching the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 2473, introduced by state Republican Rep. Michelle Udall of Mesa, would have required the board of education to implement a series of interventions for sixth- through eighth-grade students who score in the bottom 10 percent on the math portion of the AzMERIT test and do not have an individualized education plan.
Rep. Udall said the bill was assigned to the appropriations committee but was never discussed.
“It had a fairly large appropriation and it would have had to been added to an agenda with 20 or 21 other bills,” Rep. Udall said. The bill would have appropriated $10.7 million in fiscal year 2018 from the general fund, according to the bill summary.
State Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard of Phoenix, who was the only member of the House Education Committee to vote against the bill, said she did not know how the state would pay for it. The bill passed the committee as amended, 10-1.
“My first reaction was ‘how are we going to finance a program like that?’,” Rep. Norgaard said.
Rep. Udall said state Republican Rep. Heather Carter of Cave Creek recommended setting up an ad hoc committee to possibly rewrite the bill for future legislation.
Rep. Carter, who said she has participated in multiple ad hoc committees that produced meaningful results, said Rep. Udall could continue to meet with individual stakeholders, but Rep. Carter said this important issue of education promotion requirements should involve the public.
“I think this is such an important conversation that to be able have a public discussion would be a benefit, and hopefully she (Rep. Udall) can build public support for this issue,” Rep. Carter said. “She is a great advocate for this issue, and I look forward to working with her.”
An ad hoc committee would gather stakeholders involved in the core issues.
“It would be both junior high and high school teachers, curriculum specialists, parents,” Rep. Udall said. “I would love get students on it to share their insight, especially students that have struggled in math.”
Rep. Udall said this committee would meet several times a week, at a time not yet specified, to study eighth-grade promotion and high school math readiness.
Rep. Udall said the committee likely would come up with recommendations for legislation and funding.
“Once the idea came up of holding these stakeholder meetings, and especially getting students involved and getting more input on it, I really think that is going to come up with a better product,” Rep. Udall said.
She said she talked with Suzan DePrez, Mesa Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, about the bill several times before it was introduced. Rep. Udall said Ms. DePrez would probably be invited to participate in the ad hoc committee. Rep. Udall said she wants input from curriculum specialists and a representative from the state’s largest public school district.
Ms. DePerz’s secretary said the administrator was not available to comment.
Mesa Public Schools has students that this bill would affect, according to Joe O’Reilly, the district’s executive director of student achievement support.
Mr. O’Reilly said roughly 480 sixth-graders made up the bottom 10 percent of scores on last year’s Mesa AzMERIT test. Of those 480 students, Mr. O’Reilly said 226 have received special education services. He said roughly 10 percent of students make up the bottom 10 percent, depending on the grade level.
Rep. Udall said planning for the committee will start when the current legislative session has ended. She said she is committed to getting students ready for high school math.
“It is all focused around on making sure students are ready for high school material when they get there,” Rep. Udall said. “Working on their math skills themselves, but also this perception that it is OK to fail your seventh and eighth grade classes and move forward, we need to tell students that what they do in seventh and grade matters.”
Joe Jacquez is a journalism student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and wrote the article as a class assignment.