Today, the Arizona Chamber partnered with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Expect More Arizona to host “Phoenix Forum: Our Classrooms, Our Workforce, Our Future.” The event was attended by nearly 300 business leaders, education advocates, teachers and elected officials. The featured keynote speaker was Michael Petrilli, of the conservative education policy think tank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Petrilli spoke of the bold vision that Arizona has for its education future; and how improving our educational standards and adopting a quality, aligned assessment is a critical first step towards this vision. The Fordham Institute looked at Arizona’s current standards back in 2010, and graded them a B in math and a B in English Language Arts. The new Arizona College and Career Ready Standards received a B-plus in math and an A-minus in English Language Arts. It’s clear we’re heading in the right direction.
But the real problem with Arizona’s old standards was less in the content of the standards themselves and more in the assessment we used to measure those standards, the AIMS test. As Petrilli shared, AIMS defines third grade reading “proficiency” as being at or above the 23rd percentile. What Arizona needs to move forward and be competitive both nationally and internationally is a test that keeps us honest, and doesn’t allow us to lower the bar again.
Pearl Chang Esau, President and CEO of Expect More Arizona was on hand to share the story of one Arizona school district in a high poverty neighborhood who have embraced the new standards, and as a result have seen more than two years of academic gains in only half a school year. Many teachers were also in attendance, and were acknowledged by the crowd with a thunderous applause for the great work they do for Arizona’s kids. Their overwhelming support of the standards for the freedom it allows them to teach the way they know works for kids was a frequent topic of discussion today.
Superintendent Huppenthal was also in attendance, and deserves many thanks for his unwavering support of these standards that we know are working in our classrooms today. Three former Arizona Superintendents were also in the crowd- Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera and Carolyn Werner- to express their support for Arizona’s new standards.
I was glad to be a part of such a wonderful event, honoring the great work that Arizona has done in education over the last 20 years, and setting a vision for where we can be in the next decades.