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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona: Dumbest state

    Every state has its claim to fame. South Dakota? Mount Rushmore. Idaho? Famous potatoes. And Arizona? Dumb people, apparently.

    Eyebrows and ire were raised last week at Arizona’s ranking in Morgan Quitno’s “”Smartest States”” report.

    Arizona finished an uninspiring 50th. That’s right, dead last. The dumbest state in the union. Feeling proud?

    Morgan Quitno Press, a statistics and reports clearinghouse based out of Kansas (ranked the 15th smartest state) releases the report annually – along with widely publicized rankings of healthiest states and safest states.

    The Smartest State rankings are based on 21 indicators ranging from reading proficiency scores to percentage of high school freshmen who graduate and from average class size, to teacher salaries. Arizona’s large class sizes, relatively low teacher salaries and high dropout rates just didn’t cut it. Our leaders at the state level were quick to dismiss the study.

    Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public education, responded with a playground retort: I know you are, but what am I? He lashed out, “”Morgan Quitno’s a stupid company, and I would estimate they have no employee with an IQ over 90.”” Great. That’ll show ’em not to say bad things about our state.

    Of course, the study does have some problems – the biggest being its title. The indicators cited provide no real knowledge of how “”smart”” individuals in our state are – just how well they’re treated by their educational system when compared with other states.

    The flaws of the study didn’t escape Gov. Janet Napolitano. The day after it was released, she responded, “”We are not the dumbest state in the nation. I can tell you that because I’m in the schools, and I’m with the students, and I meet with employers who are moving here. Why? Because they think we have a terrific work force.””

    While all that may be true, the study did raise some issues that deserve a response.

    The issue of funding deserves attention – now. Though it’s true that education funding has been raised during Napoltiano’s tenure as governor, focus must be put on ensuring that those increased dollars are going to the classroom.

    Out of every dollar spent on education in our state, only about 58 cents actually make it to direct classroom education. Raising this amount to at least 60 cents – the national average – would be a good place to start in our response to these rankings.

    Doing more to decrease our sky-high dropout rate is another important step.

    But all hope’s not lost. The same week the study was released, Mary Hinson, a special education teacher at Catalina Magnet High School here in Tucson, was selected as a member of USA Today’s All-USA Teacher Team – a who’s who of those making a difference in education in our country. And she’s certainly not the only teacher in Arizona making a difference in students’ lives.

    Here at the UA, dozens of students will participate in Teach for America and similar programs, and many more will graduate with education degrees. If these committed and well-trained individuals stay in state, what a difference they could make.

    Sure, the Morgan Quitno study isn’t perfect. But the only way to prove that we truly are the dumbest state would be to dismiss these rankings without considering how to improve things here.

    But we’re smarter than that, right?

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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