Arizona Learning Camp to Help Students Recover from Pandemic Gets Funding for a Second Year

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced Tuesday that the AZ OnTrack Summer Camp (AOTSC) would receive funding for a second year, giving kids another opportunity to catch up on learning lost during the pandemic.

“In light of this barometer of our kids’ success, there’s no time to waste to catch our kids up. We must continue to pour on the gas in our efforts,” Ducey said. “We know our kids lost ground during the pandemic – it was not good for them. In Arizona, we kept schools open, made critical investments in literacy programs and launched a summer camp to prevent further learning loss.”

Ducey made the announcement at the Chris-Town YMCA, one of the hosts of this year’s AOTSC, where he said, “Let’s do it again, let’s do it bigger, more robust with more resources.” He also stated that he hoped other states would look at Arizona and replicate this success.

The AOTSC stemmed from a $19 million investment that Ducey made in 2020 to help students the pandemic had negatively impacted. According to the governor, 70,000 students from all 15 Arizona counties attended one of the 685 camps last summer to catch up on mathematics, reading, and American civics. Of the students who attended, 86 percent either made progress toward, met, or exceeded the learning goals set by the camp. For those in the higher grade levels, over 5,300 academic credits were recovered, setting more students on track to graduate.

Ducey appointed Former State Schools Superintendent Lisa Graham Keegan to chair the AOTSC, and she said keeping it around next year is the correct move for Arizona students.

“We saw how reconnecting students with their teachers, their school work and their peers reinvigorated their love of learning. Governor Ducey’s decision to fund AZ OnTrack for another successful summer shows his understanding that the only way to make up for lost time is to add time,” said Keegan. “I am so grateful for his dedication to Arizona’s parents, educators and students.”

Ducey’s announcement came the day after the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the 2022 Nation’s Report Card (NRC), which showed how students were hit academically by the pandemic. The NRC took the average mathematics and reading grades for fourth and eighth grades. In both subjects, fourth-grade scored an average of 232 and 215, respectively, while scores were 271 and 259 for eighth. All scores are out of 500. Overall, only around 30 percent of students in either grade are at or above a proficient level in reading or math. Compared to the rest of the nation, Arizona’s average scores ranked in the 30s across most grades and subjects.

Of note, aside from eighth-grade reading, every grade declined in assessed subjects from 2019 to 2022. Moreover, there were no improvements in mathematics across the entire country, with eighth-grade math scores declining in every state except Utah, which remained the same.

“Eighth grade is a pivotal moment in students’ mathematics education, as they develop key mathematics skills for further learning and potential careers in mathematics and science,” said Daniel J. McGrath, acting as NCES associate commissioner for assessment. “If left unaddressed, this could alter the trajectories and life opportunities of a whole cohort of young people, potentially reducing their abilities to pursue rewarding and productive careers in mathematics, science, and technology.”

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].

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