Education in Arizona has not made much progress in the last year, according to the latest Quality Counts summary. The state received a C-minus in the 2009 report, the same grade it received last year.
The report also gave the nation a C, the same grade as last year. This is the 13th year of Quality Counts, put together by Education Weekly's Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.
Maryland, Massachusetts and New York were the top three scoring states this year.
The 2009 national report put special emphasis on English language learners. It examined statistics from each state about the number of English language learners and how they are doing.
The focus came because of the jump in English language learners in the country, from 3.2 million in the 1995-96 school year to 5.1 million in 2005-06, a 57 percent increase.
Arizona is one of six states where the population of English language learners is more than 14 percent of student enrollment. The data is based on the 2005-06 school year. The other states are California, Alaska, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.
But Arizona is doing better than most states in helping those students move toward language proficiency. Based on testing done in 2006-2007, nearly 50 percent of Arizona's English language learners are making progress, above the national average of 34 percent.
"I believe in the next couple of years we're going to see those rates skyrocket," state superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne said.
He makes that assessment based on the state's new mandate of a four-hour-a-day Structured English Immersion program.
"Of the three districts that started early with our models, every one of them more than doubled the percentage of students who are being classified as English proficient" at the end of the year, he said.
In Arizona, proficiency is based on the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA), administered once a year.
The Mesa Unified School District was one of the three districts that started the model in some of its schools last year. It has the largest number of students identified as English language learners in the state, said Irene Frklich, director of the district's English Language Acquisition Development. Nearly 11,000 of the district's 69,700 students are placed in programs for ELL.
"We have continually had student progress in the positive," Frklich said about student achievement toward English proficiency.
In addition, about 2,000 teachers have earned an English as a Second Language endorsement, Frklich said. The ESL endorsement requires six courses, along with a practicum and a second language learning experience.
The state requires that anyone who holds an education certificate - teachers and administrators - must earn a Structured English Immersion endorsement, which is two college classes, Frklich said.
In terms of teachers, Arizona is going to need 14 percent more teachers for English language learners in the next five years, according to the Quality Counts study.
The nation needs more than 55,000 teachers for English language learners in the next few years.
The national study also looked at the achievement gap between the progress of all Arizona students compared to English language learners.
While 67 percent of all Arizona students in grades four and eight showed proficiency on the state's mathematics test, only 30 percent of English language learners showed proficiency.
In reading, 64 percent of students in those same grades showed proficiency on the state's test while nearly 17 percent of English language learners showed proficiency.