By Education Finance Reform Group
Education is a marathon in which every child is expected to finish the race, but they don’t have access to the same training tools before the race starts or during the race. Project Rocket is a step towards addressing disparity in academic achievement between students from high-income families and their less affluent peers. Our experience and significant data shows that the “achievement gap” in our student population is due in large part to external factors of low socio-economic status. As you know, not all students enter school with the same preparedness and skills. Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds often enter our schools without the benefits of quality early education, sometimes with misdiagnosed or under diagnosed physical and mental disabilities, and with significant trauma related to substance abuse, domestic violence, food insecurity and violent crime in their neighborhoods.
We firmly believe that these children have the potential to succeed just as their affluent peers can, but a student’s ability to make the appropriate academic gains is being hampered by the negative impacts of poverty and the lack of additional resources needed due to their circumstances.
Arizona is in the top 15 states nationally for people living in poverty. Although the poverty rate has dropped over the last few years, Arizona remains above the national average, and in our rural communities the poverty rate is even higher. If Arizona is going to move academically nationally, we must address the impact of poverty in our schools.
This program targets dollars to the neediest students with proven intervention strategies that can make a difference for these students. The idea is predicated on the premise that children who are born into and continue to live in harsh socio-economic conditions should be afforded every opportunity to succeed. That requires additional and ongoing resources and interventions to ensure academic growth and performance. These children deserve the time and attention they need to succeed, and Project Rocket is recognition of this and should be applauded and built upon.
School district superintendents from throughout the state comprise Education Finance Reform Group.