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State Board of Education takes big step toward assuring knowledge base for 21st century learners

We’ll be expecting more from Arizona high school students, thanks to Monday’s action of the State Board of Education. The board increased minimum graduation requirements to include three credits of math and three credits of social studies for the graduating class of 2012, and four credits of math and three credits of science for the class of 2013.
The math requirements include Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II or its equivalent. In rare cases, the board has provided for the use of a personal curriculum to modify the math requirement. That said, Algebra II is considered a “gateway” course to higher mathematics and students with Algebra II under their belts are known to be better prepared to succeed overall in post-secondary education.
Implementation of these increased requirements will strengthen the pipeline for both postsecondary education and the workforce. Raising the bar for Arizona graduates cannot be done without the collaboration of communities, parents, legislators and business leaders and their commitment to strategies that will assure necessary resources.
Although current math standards are developed for 9th and 10th grade only, the Department of Education will introduce standards for 11th and 12th grades in January ’08. Career and Technology Education coursework is being reviewed to assure inclusion of rigorous math and science.
Arizona Academic Scholars, an initiative of the Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC) in partnership with the State Board of Education, exists now in participating school districts. It bridges the gap between the current state minimum high school graduation requirements and the board’s new requirements. Visit azacademicscholars.org for more information.
The Teacher Education Partnership Commission has made recommendations designed to better equip the state to recruit high quality teachers, including compensation strategies, using alternative routes to teacher certification, recruiting former and retired teachers back into the classroom and promoting teaching as a profession. We still have questions to answer. How do we ensure that our English Language Learners are successful? How do we fully utilize the senior year? How can dual enrollment be enhanced? How can we best prepare elementary and middle school students for more rigor?
We have far to go to make these goals successful. ABEC applauds the diligence and thoughtfulness of the State Board. While we’ll be expecting more of Arizona grads, we need to expect a lot more of ourselves and our policy-makers and be willing to commit to assist.
Susan Carlson is the executive director of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.

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