It’s an exciting time for proponents of enhanced and expanded technology in Arizona’s schools. As a result of a lot of hard work and a number of breakthroughs, Arizona has opened the door for significant educational advancement over the next several years. But sustained commitment is needed at both the state level and, most important, at the school level to move through this doorway into 21st-century education.
Digital Arizona Council’s task teams have, over a short six months, produced a comprehension draft, “Strategic Plan for Digital Capacity.” This 141-page working draft document is being used to guide the actions of the Arizona Departments of Education, Transportation, and Administration; Arizona governor, and all Arizona health care entities and communities. It is an order of magnitude beyond the national efforts for 100 megabyte digital capacity to every school with a realistic target of a minimum of cost-effective 1 gigabyte for each and every of our 2,100 Arizona schools. The planning team was also the implementation team driving state senator Adam Driggs’ enabling bill, SB1402, through this year’s legislature to be signed by the governor. This bill supports an innovation where the state lays fiber-optic conduit in trenches along Arizona state highways. This changes the economics so that digital capacity (broadband) providers will have a positive business model to bring service to rural and currently isolated urban users.
After 15 long years of ineffective efforts, Arizona’s Department of Education acquired a new CIO a year ago who has brought the state-level database – decision support system to full operation. ADE has just been funded by the legislature to initiate the planning and design mode to create a school-teacher-level, real time data-supported – decision support system with the capacity to support all Arizona schools.
I was at the Arizona Capital Times education panel in mid-May with Jamie Molera, Arizona Board of Education; Senator Linda Lopez, Senate Education Committee; Representative Doris Goodale, House Education Committee; and John Huppenthal, Arizona Department of Education superintendent. I walked away with an immense sense of satisfaction that across the political spectrum and centers of power, “they get what it takes to innovate.” They know what is needed for Arizona to move education from an increasingly ineffectual legacy education model to the practical promise of eLearning- enabled 21st-century education.
Arizona must continue to accelerate its efforts on its own. Little support can be expected from the federal level. Congress is stuck in intellectual confusion and bitter partisanship. Have any of you heard one word on education from either the R or D presidential candidates? Doctrine and wacky ideas continue to trump basic economic sense and logical fiscal and monetary policy.
With this vacuum Arizona has seized the opportunity to mount a very strong, maybe nation-leading effort at the state level. It is now time for our local charter operators, school leaders, and teachers to move from the secure byway of legacy education and take the risk of traveling the new highway of 21st -century education.
Ted Kraver, Ph.D., is president of eLearning System for AZ Teachers & Students, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)3 volunteer systems design and advocacy task team. eSATS is a volunteer nonprofit advocacy organization that was formed in 2003 to transform Arizona’s K-12 education system from legacy education to eLearning. You can reach Ted at email@example.com.