A partnership between Governor Ducey’s office and education groups launched a program across Arizona to train school principals in order to create more student success.

In Gov. Doug Ducey’s 2018 executive budget recommendation, he called for $250,000 to match equivalent funds from the philanthropic community to expand school leadership and training opportunities through the Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy, which was officially launched on Wednesday.

Beat the Odds School Leadership will offer a minimum of 50 new slots to train Arizona’s principals, Ducey said during the kickoff announcement for the academy on Wednesday at the Phoenix Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix.

These slots will be focused towards Arizona’s low-socioeconomic communities, which is where Arizona has the best opportunity to close the academic achievement gap, Ducey said.

The public/private partnership includes the Center for the Future of Arizona, the governor’s office, the National Institute for School Leadership, Helios Education Foundation, Burton Family Foundation and Beat the Odds Schools Leadership Academy.

“Collaboration between the public and private sector is critical to finding solutions for improving the quality of Arizona’s education system,” Ducey said in a statement. “Investing in the effectiveness of school leaders will have a long-lasting impact on our school system as a whole, creating better experiences for teachers and preparing student learners to reach their fullest potential.”

The Beat the Odds Academy looks to equip school principals with the skills needed to close student achievement gaps while creating a talent of pipeline for school leadership. Principals in the program will go through 12 two-day units delivered across a year and a half.

The academy will go over strategic leadership coursework, standards-based educational systems and instructional practices in English, math and science.

Currently, the Phoenix Unified School District has 15 of its principals and district administrators enrolled in the program.

Helios Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna stated a focus on leadership training will help school performance improve in Arizona while addressing student achievement gaps.

The state of the education system in Arizona has been in the spotlight for some time. Arizona has ranked low in many national rankings for education and was recently ranked 43 in the nation for education by U.S. News & World Report’s Best States Rankings.

The same report specifically ranked Arizona’s Pre-K-12 education at No. 47 nationally as well.

The state has been working to improve its education, more recently focusing on teacher pay.

Early this year, Ducey called for a raise in pay for teachers in his budget proposal.

“My budget will outline a permanent, lasting salary increase to all of Arizona’s teachers. This will be above and beyond raises they may be receiving from Prop 123, or overrides, or from their districts,” Ducey said in January.

Last year, Arizona voters passed Prop 123, which injects $3.5 billion into Arizona’s education system through an increase of state land trust withdrawals over the next 10 years. During the campaign for Prop 123, Ducey said the initiative was just the first step in boosting Arizona’s education.

During Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s state of the city address, the mayor said he is still met with concern about Arizona’s education and its quality. Stanton said there is a “crisis” facing the state’s public schools and that the State Legislature’s lack of continued education efforts since Prop 123’s passage was “a broken promise.”

While adding more money to the education system, Ducey said improving education in Arizona is also about moving policies forward.

“It’s about teacher salaries, but it’s also about principal leadership and executive training and that’s what this program does,” Ducey said about the Beat the Odds Academy. “It’s a $250,000 investment and we think it has a great return on that investment for our schools and for those teachers.”