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Sacrifice and restructuring needed to improve education in Arizona

As any parent will tell you, doing the right thing for your kids is not always easy. Providing them with the support they need to succeed requires a lot of effort on our part as the adults. Making sure homework gets done or attending early morning parent-teacher conferences can be an inconvenience, but they are critical to our kids’ academic success.

The same is true in education reform.

Stand for Children came to Arizona two years ago willing to do the hard work required in making the state’s education system work better for our kids.

With emerging research on innovative, yet effective strategies and the development of more sophisticated technology, the way we educate our children is changing. For the past two years, Stand for Children has been advancing its outcome-based policy agenda in Arizona. Stand for Children is leading the way in calling for the development of new ways of educating students who think and learn differently from any generation before.

One of our key priorities is to ensure that all students are taught by teachers who are given clear goals and the support to achieve them. Working closely with education leaders such as Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal and Gov. Jan Brewer’s P-20 Council, Stand for Children championed principal- and teacher-evaluation reform in the 2010 legislative session.

As the State Board of Education, along with educators and other stakeholders across the state, develop a framework for this important evaluation component, it will be the first time in Arizona’s history that academic progress of students will be included in every teacher and principal evaluation in every school.

Unfortunately, not every district will have the capacity to employ an effective evaluation system. Small and under-resourced districts will be particularly challenged.

And, districts segmented into K-8 and 9-12 will have difficulty gathering the information needed to isolate what is working from the time a student enters kindergarten to their graduation from high school.

Parents are increasingly voicing their frustrations with trying to effectively guide their children through two different school districts during their K-12 education. Teachers responsible for ensuring a student graduates from high school are frustrated by the lack of preparation of students coming from middle school, making a fragmented system difficult for students and educators alike.

That is why we are working closely with Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, and House Education Chair Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, on HB2219, which calls for a fresh and objective look at unification and consolidation as a means of improving student achievement and accountability.

At a time when many of our schools are struggling, we have the opportunity to help reshape districts to be more responsive to student needs and be more efficient in the use of resources.

Stand for Children represents parents, teachers and business leaders who want a great education system that prepares our children to work and create a bright future for themselves and our state. These policy initiatives represent a significant step in that direction.

— Katy Cavanagh is the executive director of the Arizona affiliate of Stand for Children, a national child advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all children get a vibrant education.


  1. It all sounds nice, but with the anti-public school legislature starving the public schools, teachers are struggling just to make it through the day in many many districts with their increased loads and responsibilities while funding goes down, down, down. The best thing for schools and students would be a return to at least adequate funding levels and an attitude of respect for the profession. Stop giving breaks to corporations and private schools and use that money to preserve public school. Then you can talk pie-in-the-sky. But districts, little districts, unified districts and segmented district all suffer from low teacher and student morale and burnout. Solve that problem first.

    P.S. I am not a teacher, but a parent and grandparent.

  2. More options on the table is always the better choice. When we are lagging behind GLOBALLY, different alternatives have to be offered. We are educating a generation of digital learners with an out-of-date framework.

    Nationally we lag behind in EVERY subject, public school isn’t the answer and neither is private. When other countries educate their students better and cheaper, it is time for a system OVERHAUL.

    We have thrown money at the issue time and time again. It doesn’t work. If it did we would have 100% graduation rate. Two other countries spend more money than us, and we rank in the middle for our education system. This is proof enough that money is not going to solve this problem.

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