Tag Archives: education system

Chad Heinrich is vice president of public affairs for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

We need to truly measure students’ knowledge and skills

In the business world, when something isn’t working, we work hard to change and adapt it to better meet the needs of the market. The same should be expected of our education system in Arizona.

For years we’ve been operating off a system that isn’t hitting the mark and meeting the needs of future employers. Extremely low standards coupled with a test that told students they were graduation-eligible at merely a ninth- or tenth-grade level have left Arizona behind in the dust. A system that resulted in nearly 53 percent of high school graduates who do not qualify for admission to our state public universities along with 59 percent of community college students requiring remediation. Worse yet, the old system didn’t prepare students for employment. Local businesses have stated many times that newly hired high school graduates are deficient in reading, writing and math and lack basic communications skills.

So where do we go from here? The Arizona Legislature made a bold move in retiring Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) during the 2013 session, a decision that was strongly supported by the business community. In implementing Arizona’s higher, more rigorous K-12 standards, there is a clear need for a new assessment that measures those standards and skills needed for employment.

The State Board of Education is in the process of selecting a new assessment; however, there are some basic things we know to be true about the configuration of a new test. First, the test selected will align with the new standards, while providing students with an opportunity to go beyond rote memorization and demonstrate their critical thinking skills. The new test will give teachers and parents a clearer picture that students are on track for college and career, something AIMS did not do. Importantly, the test will help students measure the skills demanded by today’s employers.

Instead of a high stakes “pass or fail” determination that required a student to pass the AIMS test to graduate, high school students will get a “college or career readiness” score that might eventually be factored into their course grades. Students and families will have a score that is worth paying attention to, instead of an ambiguous “pass” that only tells them they have mastered the skills of a tenth grader.

Additionally, these tests will likely be the same across much of the country, meaning students will be held to the same expectations in each grade across schools, districts and states in a way that has not been possible until now. As they prepare for life beyond high school, this will create an environment where Arizona students will know if they are competitive with their peers across the country and around the world.

As business leaders, we have supported the accountability systems the legislature has moved forward over the past several years, including school A-F letter grades, teacher and principal evaluations, as well as Move on When Reading, Arizona’s third-grade, reading-retention law. These accountability measures are all dependent on data that monitors how students are doing and how much they are progressing from year to year, which requires a meaningful assessment.

The business community will continue to strongly advocate for the adoption and funding of a high-quality, aligned assessment. It is critical that we better prepare our students for college and career, and this starts by adopting a functional assessment that students, families, teachers and employers can rely on to truly measure knowledge and skills.

Chad Heinrich is vice president of public affairs for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

Chalkboard - Making the Grade for Growth

STEM Education – Making The Grade For Growth

Arizona Leaders know it’s a problem.

“When one of our top employers of scientists and engineers says that if he had the decision to make all over again, he would never bring his business and its thousands of high-wage jobs to Arizona because of the lack of commitment to education, that is a call to action,” says Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

The top employer Stanton is talking about is Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO, who told state lawmakers in no uncertain terms that cuts in education are stifling Arizona’s economic development. But the financial aspect of education isn’t the only thing suppressing the state’s ability to prosper in the technology and bioscience industries. It’s the quality of Arizona education that’s killing us, according to another Valley tech leader.

“Our high schools are a mess,” says Steve Sanghi, CEO of Microchip in Chandler. “They are among the worst in country and that is a major problem that we need to address before the state can prosper.”

Sanghi sees many hopeful workers come into Microchip looking for a job, but are unable to pass a remedial math test that the company gives to all prospective employees. If they cannot pass, they cannot get hired, Sanghi says.

“STEM education — science, technology, engineering, math — is where we lack,” Sanghi points out. “That’s where the most competitive, high-paying jobs will be in the future. That’s where other countries are taking our jobs and taking our positions. That’s where we need to improve, but that’s a very tall order.”

It seems like a Herculean task. Arizona ranks 44th in the country in the Quality Counts report, compiled each year by Education Week in conjunction with the Education Research Center. That ranking represents a slight drop from the state’s standing in last year’s report.

“Today’s students have a lot of distractions,” Sanghi says. “We cannot compete with Hollywood stars or sports figures because they are bigger than life. It’s easy to get students to dribble a ball or go into music or arts. It’s crucial that we get them interested in science and technology before pop culture gets them. Once pop culture gets them, we can’t get them back.”

The only way to change the way students view education is through visionary leadership, says Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, a statewide movement dedicated to making Arizona education the best in the nation.

“Our leaders need to start viewing education as an investment, not as an expense,” Esau says.

Many of Arizona’s leaders are taking the challenge to heart and introducing programs and legislation aimed at promoting and strengthening STEM education in the state:

  • Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, has introduced a bill to make it easier for STEM professionals to become certified to teach and bring their expertise to the classroom.
  • Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, has introduced legislation to boost STEM education in poorly performing schools by calling for the State Board of Education to intervene when a school has earned a D or F for two consecutive years.
  • And Stanton, who campaigned on an education platform even though he was publicly criticized because school districts, not cities, have jurisdiction over education in Arizona, has created a Mayor’s Futures Forum on Education.

 

“The city of Phoenix is not as well-positioned as it should be to compete in the national economy,” Stanton says. “We need more of our kids graduating high school and studying in areas that will create the jobs of the future.”

Ironically, the man who has been the biggest critic of the state’s poor education record may be the man to help give it a much-needed spark. Retired Intel CEO Barrett has been named chairman of the Arizona Ready Education Council. He will be heading “Arizona Ready,” which is dedicated to helping Arizona students prepare to succeed in college and in careers that will boost the state’s economy. To improve education, Arizona Ready has established specific, measurable goals and accountability for everyone involved in educating our children.

“There is a lot of room for improvement in the K-12 education system in Arizona,” Barrett says. “I believe it is the responsibility of society to give the next generation the tools to be successful.”

Barrett insists that Arizona schools need to strive not just to be the best in the state, but they need to challenge themselves to be the best in the world so Arizona can compete in the global marketplace.

“It is not appropriate to just compare one local school district, or state, with another,” Barrett says. “You have to compare the accomplishments of your students with the best in the world.”

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agrees with Barrett that raising the standards is imperative to improving education and creating a pipeline of future workers with the skills to succeed in tomorrow’s tech-heavy industries. To accomplish that, Arizona Ready is raising the standards and hopes to accomplish these goals by 2020:

  • Increase the percentage of third-graders meeting state reading standards to 94 percent. In 2010, 73 percent met the standard.
  • Raise the high school graduation rate to 93 percent.
  • Increase the percentage of eighth-graders performing at or above “basic” on the National Assessment of Education Programs (NAEP) to 85 percent. In 2010, the numbers were 67 percent in math and 68 percent in reading.

 

“Every kid has that dream of becoming a celebrity in Hollywood or becoming a sports star,” Sanghi says. “But the chances of the average high school student making it in Hollywood or in sports is 1 in 1,000 at best. But if we can get them interested in STEM and get them to dream about becoming a doctor or scientist or engineer, the chances of them achieving their dream is pretty high. Most will be able achieve that.”

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

West-MEC provides career and tech training

West-MEC Provides Career And Tech Training To West Valley Teens

Keeping with its goal of enhancing the education system in the West Valley, WESTMARC is a major proponent of West-MEC — the Western Maricopa Education Center District. West-MEC is a public school district that provides Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to more than 21,000 high school students in the West Valley. West-MEC was formed in 2002 after eight west side communities voted to form the Western Maricopa Education Center. Today, 12 districts and 39 high schools make up the West-MEC district. Not only is WESTMARC a business partner with the school district, but also, President and CEO Jeff Lundsford is on West-MEC’s governing board.

Greg Donovan, West-MEC superintendent, says combining efforts and expenditures allows West-MEC to offer students more than any one district could offer alone.

“Some career and technical education programs require a lot of very expensive equipment,” he says. “Individual districts may not have the space, money or expertise to offer such programs, so we help fund the programs and provide the necessary equipment.”

West-MEC programs include classroom instruction, laboratory instruction and work-based learning. Some of the career and technical education programs offered include business, finance, marketing, technical and trades, and health occupations. A school district works with local business and industry to build educational links to employment and continuing educational opportunities. Business leaders such as Mike McAfee, director of education for the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association (AADA), which represents and supports all new car dealers in the state, work with the school district. They help determine employment sectors to focus on the type of programs and equipment needed for training.

McAfee helped Peoria High School become the first high school in the West Valley to earn NATEF Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and offer a class that teaches brakes, steering suspension, electrical and engine performance. High school students in the West-MEC district can take the same automotive classes at Glendale Community College. Ford, GM and Chrysler provide new vehicles and equipment for the program at no cost to the college so students can train on new vehicles. Gateway Community College has the same type of partnership but with Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Kia.

“With more than 230 million cars and trucks on the road today, demand for highly skilled techs is going to continue,” McAfee says. “So when we employ students in their junior and senior years, we want them to continue their education.”

Experienced technicians typically earn between $30,000 and $60,000 annually in metropolitan areas. Incomes of more than $70,000 are not unusual for highly skilled, hard working master technicians, according to the AADA.

Stephanie Miller, a graduate of Willow Canyon High School in Surprise, wanted to explore a career in health care, so she took a two-part, CTE lab class during her senior year. When the class was over she was certified as a phlebotomist in Arizona. Miller’s certification landed her a job at Sun Health Del E. Webb Memorial Hospital, where she works as a part-time phlebotomist. She also attends Arizona State University and is taking classes to earn a degree in physical therapy.

“This is my first job and I make well over $10 an hour so I consider myself lucky,” Miller says.

Justin Rice, 19, a graduate of Centennial High School in Peoria, took automotive and medical CTE classes during his senior year. The Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) classes were held at Glendale Community College. Since Rice was in high school, he did not have to pay the $800 tuition for the EMT classes.

“If I hadn’t had this opportunity, I would still be saving to take the classes today,” he says.

Rice now works as a part-time EMT for First Responders Inc., which provides medical support during Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns games, and for Little League games.

West-MEC opened a new cosmetology training center in July for students who attend high school in the West-MEC district. The 10,000-square-foot facility in Peoria is operated through a partnership between West-MEC and Gateway Community College’s Maricopa Skill Center. The center opened with 240 students and next year, enrollment will increase to 480 students, which is the center’s capacity. Students who complete the state-required minimum 1,600 hours of instruction will be eligible to take the state cosmetology board exam to become certified cosmetologists.

Chris Cook, West-MEC’s director of marketing and public relations, said the two-year cosmetology program costs $1,200 instead of $8,000 to $15,000 for the same program after high school.

A 2007 survey conducted by the National Accreditation Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences showed that owners of Arizona salons are hoping to hire more than 6,800 individuals this year.

“Students benefit greatly from these programs,” Cook says. “It’s a stepping stone to a career or post-secondary education.”