Another legislative session has come to an end and, although short, some say it was one of the most intense in recent memory. From an education perspective I can see why. If I were still teaching, I would be feeling a little dizzy from all the twists and turns. Thankfully, Arizona’s hardworking educators remained undeterred and laser-focused on teaching students the valuable skills they need to succeed in life.
As I watched various committee debates on education issues unfold over this last session, the former 5th grade teacher in me couldn’t help but think about how some of those very same communications and collaboration life skills we teach to Arizona 10-year-olds might just benefit everyone.
Take for example, the ability to present an argument based on evidence or to listen to and evaluate a different point of view. These skills are part of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards. In the 5th grade, one standard reads: “Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence (5.SL.3).”
As it relates to education, evidence for supporting or opposing any bills ought to be grounded in research and facts tied to student success. For instance, here’s a piece of useful evidence: Countless schools have already been implementing Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards for 2-3 years and have seen dramatic improvements in student learning.
That’s why I am incredibly grateful for the support of business, education and parent groups all across the state, as well as many legislators, on this top education priority. Because of their focused efforts, these higher standards are still in classrooms today. We can also thank our elected leaders for beginning to turn some attention back to higher education, continuing funding for K-3 literacy, as well as prioritizing resources for the state’s education data system and an assessment that will help us replace AIMS — an outdated test that set the bar too low.
With this session behind us, we look forward to working with our elected leaders and policymakers to address the many other elements needed to make Arizona’s public education system world-class for all children.
We must provide the support teachers need to ensure their students flourish under the more rigorous K-12 standards we have put in place. We must prioritize investments in Arizona’s public education system to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed, starting with high quality early learning. We must make Arizona a place where we can recruit and keep outstanding teachers in every classroom. And, we must ensure that every child, regardless of background or zip code, is able to attain more education after high school, because in today’s job market, high school is no longer enough.
I recognize it’s unrealistic that any two people would agree on everything, let alone an entire legislative body and myriad interest groups. But to those who disagree, I ask you to commit to working across partisan lines and finding a path forward for all students. Let’s focus less on our differences and more on the amazing progress we could make together.
Everyone says they care about the success and well-being of Arizona’s kids. Starting with a shared vision of world-class education for every Arizona child, and a healthy dose of those 5th grade communication and collaboration skills, let’s prove that we mean what we say.
— Pearl Chang Esau is president & CEO of Expect More Arizona.