A guest post by Glenn Hamer and Eileen Sigmund
We often praise Arizona’s current approach toward education, which emphasizes equipping our highest performing schools to expand or replicate. Apparently we aren’t the only ones to notice this fresh direction. Just this week the U.S. Department of Education announced that Arizona is one of only eight states to receive an award to expand high quality charter schools across our state. The $15.7 million grant will be used for new school start-up costs – a perfect way to rapidly provide more Arizona students access to an excellent education.
This fits squarely into the vision state leadership has for growing educational opportunity in Arizona, not to mention the missions of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, New Schools For Phoenix, and the A for Arizona initiative sponsored by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This grant will directly support the growth of high performing public schools in Arizona, making the best possible education available to more and more Arizona students.
Arizona was one of 27 states to apply for the grant, and only an elite eight received it. The fact that the competition was steep says something about Arizona’s stand out commitment to high quality schools. The award is a direct result of our focus on excellence, rapid improvement of quality charter schools, and commitment to close or takeover failing schools. In this regard, the numbers speak for themselves: Since FY2012, Arizona Tier 1 (‘A’ or ‘B’-rated schools) quality charter seats have grown from 58 percent to 72 percent. Conversely, students in Tier 3 (‘D’ or ‘F’-rated schools) have decreased from nine percent to five percent, and that number continues to shrink.
The award also represents much deserved recognition for the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, with a special call-out to Janna Day, who serves as president of the state board. Their fierce commitment and determination to increase the quality of charter schools across the state is improving the overall quality of educational choices in Arizona.
We all stand to gain when Arizona’s educational excellence receives the national spotlight. It enhances the state’s reputation and highlights Arizona on the map in terms of economic growth and expansion. Our continued push for rigorous standards, an honest A-F grading system, and growing the number of ‘A’ schools benefits students, families, the economy and our overall community.
We often hear our governor describe Arizona as the best place in the country to work, play, recreate, and retire. And now, let’s add…learn.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Eileen Sigmund is the president and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association.