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Opinion

Bengert: Scottsdale Unified failing many graduating students

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In a recent piece, Superintendent Menzel of the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) highlights what he considers a list of accomplishments for the 2023-2024 school year. According to him, this period has seen significant progress and achievements in improving academic outcomes.

Let's delve into the statistics.

This year, nearly 1,800 seniors graduated from SUSD, with 11 seniors recognized for academic excellence during the May 14 governing board meeting. Superintendent Menzel specifically noted that 51 graduates received math and science diplomas. But what about the remaining graduates? How have they fared after supposedly receiving a “world-class, future-focused” education from SUSD?

When these graduating seniors were juniors in 2023, their proficiency levels were assessed. According to the Arizona DOE school report card system, the overall performance is not encouraging.

  • Only 63% demonstrated proficiency in ELA, leaving 37% lacking proficiency.
  • Math proficiency was at 55%, indicating that 45% were not proficient.
  • Science proficiency was a mere 25%, leaving 75% not proficient.

On average, only 48% were proficient across all three academic subjects.

Given these outcomes, it seems appropriate to reconsider the SUSD slogan “Because kids.” It should be restated as “Because some kids.” A school district's performance should be judged by how well it supports its lowest-performing students.

Despite these concerning academic records, three outgoing governing board members decided to extend Superintendent Menzel's contract for two years with a 4% raise.

Dr. Menzel's emphasis on using class time for “Social Emotional Learning” and “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" at the expense of academic teaching appears to be falling short for SUSD students. Unsurprisingly, parents are withdrawing their children from SUSD and staff turnover, including principals, is at an all-time high.

If you share my frustration with the governing board's rubber-stamping of Dr. Menzel's failing agenda, I urge you to vote for change this November. Let's elect Jeanne Beasley, Drew Hassler and Gretchen Jacobs to the SUSD school board. These candidates are committed to academic excellence, fiscal responsibility and school safety.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.