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The 13 Worst Schools In Arizona Today

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The 13 Worst Schools In Arizona Today

Securing your child’s academic success starts with avoiding the worst schools and finding the right fit for your family. Sadly, Arizona continues to face numerous issues with its public education system. A 2023 State Education Report released by Scholaroo ranked Arizona’s public education system as the worst in the U.S. 

A 2021 survey from WalletHub ranked the state’s education system as one of the worst in the country, at No. 48/51, including the District of Columbia. Arizona was found to have the worst student-faculty ratio in the nation. Additionally, it had the third-worst high school dropout rate and was near the bottom of the list for Average ACT scores(No.44). 

Our blog explores the thirteen worst schools in the state based on student performance in standardized test scores. We also considered student-teacher ratios, equity achievements, graduation rates, and college outcomes assessed from publicly available data. 

Notably, the ranking based on academic performance doesn’t define the schools. The institution may rank higher on other vital metrics, such as the learning environment and extracurricular activities. Research widely and visit the schools for you to make an informed decision about enrolling. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Early Childhood Center

4615 S 22nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85040

Martin Luther King, Jr. Early Childhood Center is a public elementary school under the Roosevelt School District No. 66 (RSD No. 66). The school features small class sizes and an innovative curriculum as its major allure. MLK Jr. Elementary serves roughly 188 “Monarchs” in preschool through third grade. 

The 2019 AZMerit data, the standardized testing results for the state, indicates students at the school are performing worse than their peers across the state. Only 25% of the third-graders that sat for the state assessments performed at or above grade level in math. Additionally, only 21% of the kids were proficient in English. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center has a 99% minority enrollment, and 44% of the students come from economically-disadvantaged households. Test scores for these at-risk groups fall below the state average, with the students performing worse than their peers in English and math proficiency tests. 

GreatSchools.org, a popular review site, gave the school a 1/10 overall rating, with similar scores on test performance and equity achievements. Public School Review ranked MLK Jr. Early Childhood Center at 1,673 out of 1,854 K-12 schools in Arizona

John F. Kennedy Academy of Inquiry

6825 S 10th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042

John F. Kennedy Academy of Inquiry is a public school in the Roosevelt Elementary District. The school prides itself in providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for roughly 356 “Colts” in prekindergarten through third grade. JFK Academy of Inquiry also offers K-3rd grade alternative educational programs. 

The school’s performance in standardized state assessments is well below expectations. JFK Elementary ranks 967 (tie) in reading proficiency and 944 (tie) in math proficiency out of the 1,006 ranked elementary schools. Only 18% and 20% of the students achieved or exceeded proficiency requirements in English and math, respectively. The scores are far below the state average of 42% for each. 

The chronic absenteeism rate at JFK Elementary is higher than the state’s average, at 38%. The state’s median is 25%. The rates are higher for the school’s minority population, who comprise 98% of the student body. 

English, math, and science scores for lower-income students at JFK Academy of Inquiry are below the state average for learners from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds. Sadly, these learners make up 90% of the population. GreatSchools.org awarded the school a 1/10 score on test scores, equity ratings, and overall ranking. 

Photo of elementary students in class.
The school's performance on standardized tests and its high absenteeism rate are far below the averages for the state.


Alta E Butler School

3843 W Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85009

Alta E Butler School is the next institution on our list of the worst schools in Arizona. It’s a public school under Isaac School District 5 and home to roughly 551 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade students. With twenty-five equivalent full-time teachers, A. E. Butler School has one teacher for every 22 kids. 

The school received a 1/10 overall rating from GreatSchools.org. The students’ test scores in state assessments are well below expectations, and learners are making far less academic progress than their peers across the state. Only 14% of the kids managed to meet or exceed the proficiency requirement set for math. The pass rate in English and science was 20% and 31%, respectively. 

Students eligible for free or reduced lunch are 89% of the population. The learners from economically-disadvantaged families perform worse than their peers in other schools within the state, with lower scores in math, English, and science. 

Public School Review placed Alta E. Butler in position 1846 out of 1,854 schools. U.S. News also ranked the school’s performance in math and English within the bottom 10% of all ranked Arizona schools. 

Rice Elementary School

San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, AZ 85550

Rice Elementary is an average-performing public school in the San Carlos Unified School District. It serves approximately 579 learners in prekindergarten through fifth grade. The school aims to empower students to grow holistically and become effective global citizens. With 48 full-time equivalent teachers, Rice boasts an impressive student-teacher ratio of 12:1. 

While the kids may receive personalized attention, their performance in state assessments falls short of the set proficiency recommendations. Only 7% of the learners attain proficiency in math or English. Additionally, only 15% of the students performed at or above grade level in science. 

In comparison, the state averages for math, English, and science were 42%, 42%, and 52%, respectively. Parent reviews of the school are overly negative, with one parent complaining about the teaching staff in a scathing review on GreatSchools.org. 

Test score results for students from low-income backgrounds are lower than the state’s average for economically-disadvantaged learners. Only 7% attained proficiency against a state median of 30%. Unfortunately, 87% of the students at Rice Elementary come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. 

GreatSchools.org gave Rice Elementary a 1/10 rating. The proficiency scores for math and English place the school at position 998 (tie) and 1001 (tie) out of 1,006 rated schools in Arizona. 

Photo of elementary students lying on a colorful carpet.
Despite small class sizes and personalized attention at Rice Elementary School, only 7% of the learners attain proficiency in math or English and 15% perform at or above grade level in science.

©Sunflower Light Pro/Shutterstock.com

Fourth Avenue Junior High School

450 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364

Fourth Avenue Junior High School is the next school on our list of the worst schools in Arizona. It’s a sixth through eighth-grade school in the Yuma School District One. Fourth Avenue serves roughly 392 students, with a faculty size of 24 full-time teachers. 

Test scores at Fourth Avenue fall below the state average in almost all of the core subjects tested. The proficiency pass rate in math was 11% in the 2019-2020 school year. 14% of the kids attained proficiency in English, and 26% were proficient in science. The performance falls short of the state’s median score of 42%, 42%, and 52%, respectively. 

Additionally, test results for learners from low-income households are below the state average for at-risk students. Fourth Avenue has a minority population of 95%, and 85% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. 

Fourth Avenue ranked 583 (tie) for its math proficiency results and 589 in English out of 622 middle schools in Arizona. GreatSchools.org gave the school a 1/10 overall rating in test scores and equity achievement and 2/10 in academic progress. 

Madge Utterback Middle School

3233 S Pinal Vista, Tucson, AZ 85713

Madge Utterback Middle School, founded in 1959, is a public magnet school in the Tucson Unified District. The school offers a seven-schedule with four core units and three electives daily. It’s home to roughly 230 sixth-, seventh-, and twelfth-grade students. 

With 30 equivalent full-time teachers, Utterback Middle has one of the best student-faculty ratios in the state. The school has one teacher for every eight kids. Sadly, students perform worse math and reading than the district or state average. 

Only 12% of students gain proficiency in math. Additionally, 15% of students perform at or above grade level in English. The performance is lower than the district’s average of 34% in math and 36% in English. 

The student’s performance in advanced courses is also below expectations. 19% of the students sit for Algebra 1, with an average pass rate of 69%. 74% of students across the state passed the exam. 

Photo of young middle school students on a table taking on an assignment together.
Despite an encouraging environment, the performance of students at Madge Utterback Middle School lags behind the state average in math and English proficiency as well as advanced course exams.

©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Canyon Day Junior High School

4621 S 9th St, Whiteriver, AZ 85941

Canyon Day Junior High School is next on our list of the worst schools in the state. The school is within the Whiteriver Unified School District. It is home to roughly 487 “Rough Riders” in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Canyon Day has approximately thirty teachers on campus and multiple supporting staff. 

The school’s performance in state assessments is well below expectations. Students are more likely to fall behind in their academic progress, with only 7% and 6% attaining proficiency in math and English, respectively. This places the school’s performance in the bottom 10% within the district, 601 (tie) for math and 613 (tie) in English, out of 622 schools. 

The school received a 1/10 rating from GreatSchools.org on its equity assessments. Underserved students at Canyon Day are lagging in academics compared to their peers across the state. Besides, out-of-school suspensions and chronic absenteeism rates amongst at-risk students are far higher than the state averages. 

Crestview Preparatory High School

2616 E Greenway Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85032

Crestview Preparatory High School is a public charter alternative high school in Phoenix operated by the Leona Group. Formerly Ocotillo High School, the school aims to provide the best educational environment to prepare students for college or entry into the workforce. The school’s current enrollment is roughly 213 students in ninth through twelfth grade. 

As an alternative school, Crestview Prep serves many at-risk students. The school’s performance is below the state average. Only 11% of students attain proficiency in English and 7% in math. 

The average high school graduation rate at Crestview Preparatory is 33%, against a state median of 79%. Only less than one percent of the students enroll in dual enrollment programs that can enable them to earn college credits. The state’s average is 6%. 

Additionally, only less than 3% of the students manage to sit for SAT or ACT entrance exams. The low participation rate may be an indicator of the school’s college preparatory programs. 

Underserved students at Crestview Prep have lower academic grades and graduation rates than their peers. Only 8% of the at-risk students excel in standardized tests, while others have an average pass rate of 19%. 

Photo of high school students taking an exam.
Crestview Prep's graduation rate is a mere 33%, and less than one percent of students enroll in dual enrollment programs to earn college credits.


Bisbee High School

325 School Terrace Rd, Bisbee, AZ 85603

Bisbee High School is a public college preparatory school under the Bisbee Unified District. The school serves ninth through twelfth-grade students and has a population of roughly 322. GreatSchools.org gave Bisbee an overall 3/10 rating. 

The school ranks poorly on college preparation and readiness metrics. While the school has a higher graduation rate than the state’s average, the test scores for common core assessments are well below expectations. Only 10% of students achieve the proficiency grade in math. Additionally, English and science have a pass rate of 18% and 16% respectively. 

Students at the school can sit for advanced placement coursework and exams. However, less than 13% took at least one AP exam, with none passing. Additionally, underserved students at Bisbee High may lag behind their peers in academic achievement, with huge gaps identified in college readiness and test score ratings. 

U.S. News ranks the school within the bottom 30% of all schools nationally, within 13,383-17,843, with an average performance score of less than 25/100. Public School Review ranked Bisbee High at position 1596 out of 1,854 K-12 public schools. 

Kingman High School

4182 N Bank St, Kingman, AZ 86409

Kingman High School is the next institution on our list of the worst schools in the state. Founded in 1917, this college preparatory high school is one of the oldest schools in the state. It is home to roughly 1,004 students in grades 9-12. 

GreatSchools.org gives the school an overall 2/10 score. Kingman High scores low on college readiness and preparation metrics. First, the school’s graduation rate of 62% is lower than the state’s average. Additionally, the students perform poorly in state assessment tests.

Only 19% of the students attain proficiency in math and English. Only 28% perform at or above grade level in science. The students also score lower than the state average in advanced coursework, such as Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry. 

The school has a 39.2% minority enrollment, and 65% of students coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These underserved, at-risk students perform worse than their peers, increasing the achievement gaps. 

Kingman High is ranked within the lower 30% at 13,383-17,843 nationally. It also ranked in the bottom 50% of public high schools in the state on performance on state-required tests. 

Photo of high school students seated in a circle outside class on grass.
Only 19% of students attain proficiency in math and English, 28% perform at or above grade level in science, and 65% come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.


Coconino Community College

2800 S Lone Tree Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86005

Coconino Community College is a small, two-year community college in Coconino County. The school has an open admission-policy offering over 50 associate degree and certificate programs. The college serves roughly 2,929 students on its Flagstaff campus. 

The college has one of the lowest graduation rates in the state. Only less than 7.9% of the students graduate from Coconino Community College within 150% of the normal completion time. For context, the average graduation rate nationally is 41.9%. 

The median earning rate for Coconino Community graduates is also lower than the national average. Graduates earn roughly $30,500 ten years after enrolling at the school. The pay is 11% lower than the national median of $34,300. 

Northland Pioneer College

1001 W Deuce of Clubs, Show Low, AZ 85901

Northland Pioneer College, a small, two-year community in Holbrook, AZ, also makes it into our list of the worst schools for its less-than-stellar student outcomes. The school serves the Navajo communities, offering associate degree and certificate programs. 

Northland Pioneer College has a low graduation rate, with only 6% of the students graduating after 150% of the normal completion time. Additionally, Graduates at the school have a median income of 30,100 a decade after enrolling at Northland Pioneer. This rate is lower than 12% below the national average. 

Photo of college students seated outside enjoying themselves.
With a low graduation rate and median income lower than 12% below the national average, Northland Pioneer College has failed to provide quality education to its students.


Rio Salado College

2323 W 14th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

Rio Salado College is a two-year public college headquartered in Tempe. The school is part of the Maricopa County Community College District, offering associate degrees and certificate programs. The school also has 15 satellite campuses and centers across Maricopa County. 

The student outcome rankings earned it a spot on our rankings. The school has an average graduation rate of 6%, within 150% of the normal completion time. 15% of the students receive federal loans, with an average student debt of $7,897 among the graduates. Less than 19% of the students are servicing their loans, against a national average of 47% national average. 

Rio Salado College in the News!

Rio Salado might be a little bit under the radar in most people's minds. However, the school does have some interesting stories from 2023. At the time of writing this is what Rio Salado College was reported for.

Rio Salado College partners with the Tempe Chamber of Commerce to address gaps in workforce skills.

Strada Education Network awards $1.5M grants to ASU, Rio Salado Community College.

A Comprehensive Guide To Arizona’s Worst Schools

The Arizona State Department of Education continues to battle many setbacks in improving student outcomes, ranking low on student-teacher ratios, graduation rates, and high dropout rates. The schools on this list are ranked based on academic performance, with students being at a greater risk of falling behind their peers in academic achievements. 

Notably, the rankings don’t define the schools. Some, such as Crestview, are alternative schools tailored to serve at-risk students who historically perform lower than their peers. You may need to take time to evaluate all schools before deciding on where to enroll your child.

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