Measuring up: Industry pros discuss the state of the Valley’s education system

July 6, 2007

By hammersmith

The Phoenix Business Journal’s editorial board is hosting a series of roundtables to discuss and debate issues affecting various industries. On June 14, local educators and education experts were invited to tackle a variety of topics related to the educational system in Arizona.

Roundtable participants included Susan Carlson (executive director, Arizona Business and Education Coalition), George Dean (president, Urban League), Gypsy Denzine (associate dean, College of Education, Northern Arizona University), Fred DuVal (regent, Arizona Board of Regents), David Garcia (assistant professor and coordinator, Arizona Education Policy Institute), Tom Horne (superintendent, Arizona Department of Education), Charles Jirauch (president, Arizona Business and Education Coalition), and Carol Peck (president and chief executive, The Rodel Foundation). Also participating in the discussion were Business Journal Senior Reporter Angela Gonzales and Editor Ilana Lowery. Advanced Strategies Center at Pinnacle Peak hosted and facilitated the forum.

The following are highlights from the gathering; click here for the full article.

Positive aspects of education in Arizona

  • New focus on academic rigor in the classroom.
  • The statewide attitude of urgency that something must be done.
  • The governor’s focus on education as a rallying point.
  • More rigorous standards being adopted in many subject areas.
  • Rising awareness among key business and civic institutions.
  • Increasing demand for accountability by the public for those involved in education.
  • More citizens willing to get directly involved in educational issues.
  • More young people at least considering education and teaching careers.
  • Businesses aware of the impact and asking how they can help.
  • Significant foundations in Arizona focusing on funding, research, and awareness.
  • Increasing awareness on the importance of lifelong education for work force development.
  • State university tuition among the nation’s lowest.
  • Partnerships developing between community colleges and universities.
  • Building new facilities and infrastructure to support our growth.
  • More overall connections in the educational sector to facilitate significant change.
  • Overall state growth brings in new ideas and leadership.
  • More educated workers from other states retiring here who can serve as teachers and mentors.

Negative aspects of Arizona’s educational system

  • The impact of a Legislature that may be focused more on cutting taxes than investing in the future.
  • Lack of qualified teachers.
  • Lack of progress in raising compensation and benefits for teachers.
  • The huge influx of English language learners.
  • Voter apathy hurts funding and investment in education.
  • Secondary education is still out of reach for many young people.
  • A general lack of appreciation of the importance of teachers and their profession.
  • The high mobility of our student population.
  • Lack of a clear vision and road map for education.
  • Parents who simply don’t understand the future importance of education for their children.
  • Stuck in a dialogue about how best to serve ELL students.
  • New arrivals not committed to Arizona as a community.
  • Extreme oversight and accountability measures affecting our teachers’ ability to educate on a daily basis.
  • Rate of growth and change makes it difficult to keep up with education capacity.
  • Inadequate research on outcomes and aligned investments in education.
  • Not funding technology and innovation in our educational environments.
  • Unclear whether our next governor will continue to focus on education.
  • Sidetracked by dialogue over standardized testing vs. the fundamental issues of education.
  • Turf issues between public and for-profit institutions of higher education.

Top 10 approaches needed to attract highly qualified teachers to Arizona

  1. Provide better starting compensation and salary.
  2. Create special incentive packages to recruit in specific academic areas of interest, such as math and science.
  3. Offer attractive benefits packages, including comprehensive health care coverage.
  4. Hire and develop strong school principals who create high-impact learning environments for their teachers.
  5. Provide social/community benefits and assistance for teachers, such as lower mortgage rates and tax incentives.
  6. Create an image in Arizona of strong investment and respect for the teaching profession.
  7. Provide high-quality mentors for new teachers.
  8. Provide opportunities for meaningful professional development for teachers.
  9. Invest in our colleges and universities to become nationally known and compelling places for aspiring teachers to learn.
  10. Require a high set of standards to become a teacher. Make the profession challenging and worthwhile.

Most significant ideas, learnings, concepts that roundtable participants took away from the discussion

  • Shared common opinions on several of the issues.
  • Need to be optimistic.
  • Stay focused on why education is important: for the welfare of the children.
  • Each one of us has a responsibility to meet the challenges.
  • More must be done.
  • Teacher compensation is important, and prestige of the teaching profession must be raised.
  • The business community is leading the way.
  • The governor gets high marks across the board.
  • We have huge gaps.