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When students drop out, we all miss out

k-12 school, students, kids, classroom, teacher, testingThe business community is united in its support for higher academic standards in Arizona’s education system so our graduates are prepared for a career or a higher educational opportunity. A strong education system is the foundation of a strong work force, which contributes to a strong economy.

Arizona employers demand an education system that delivers prepared graduates. While Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards have been adopted and are in the classroom, it’s imperative that community and business leaders continue to support the standards throughout implementation.

With new, more rigorous standards in place, a more fundamental component of preparing students for college or career must be addressed — getting them across the stage with a high school diploma in hand.

Students who earn a high school diploma are vital for business owners and our state’s economy. Similarly, it’s important that these graduates are prepared and possess the skills needed for college and career.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, 22 percent of Arizona high school students will drop out. I recently had the opportunity to join members of the Arizona Mayors Educational Roundtable when they released their latest report on the economic impact of Arizona’s current dropout rate. This report concludes that the more than 18,000 students who will drop out this year will cost the state $7.6 billion over their lifetimes. While academics and economists may debate this figure, an economic impact anywhere close to this conclusion can’t be ignored.

Every student who drops out of high school is a lost opportunity for students to develop a skill set, allowing them to play a valuable role in the local community and economy.

Every student who drops out is a lost opportunity for our communities, our economy and our future.

Phoenix has the fourth highest dropout rate in the country, but community members and students don’t have to settle for that ranking. Knowing the economic impact offers another opportunity to work together to address this issue. It’s time to focus on supporting students so they graduate from high school and are prepared for college or a career.

As Arizonans prepare for the start of another school year, let’s focus on working together to support higher academic standards, critical thinking and problem solving in the classroom so students graduate from high school prepared for life’s opportunities.

Improving Arizona’s education system will take more than just higher academic standards; it will take a community effort to keep students in school and help them through their educational journey so that upon high school graduation they have options for their future. Let’s work together to ensure Arizona’s students receive and complete the world-class education they deserve and that our economy demands.

— Chad Heinrich is vice president of public affairs and economic development for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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