As the school year comes to a close, I think it’s important to reflect on the past year. But it’s also a time to move forward. As we prepare for the coming year, I would like to share my vision on how we better prepareArizonastudents for career and college success.
Each year, the economy is becoming more dynamic, globally interdependent, and information driven. To meet the demands of the 21st century, ensuring student proficiency, not just adequacy, in core areas like math, reading, and writing is critical. But it’s not enough. To succeed, students graduating from high school must be tech savvy, task flexible, and critically thinking, adaptive problem solvers.
Here’s the reality: Arizona students, on average, remain significantly behind their state and world peers in academic achievement. Unlike states at the top of the education ladder, too many ofArizona’s families face enormous socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic challenges. It is my job, the education community’s job, and the parent’s and guardian’s job to help them overcome those challenges. Optimizing our current kindergarten through twelfth-grade (K-12) education system alone won’t be enough to help our students catch up.
The system itself needs to change. Classrooms that successfully align enriching instruction with innovative technology (blended learning classrooms) and team-based learning environments are showing promising results. That’s the directionArizonaneeds to go. That’s the direction I’m going with the Department.
We need to unite and mobilize the education community behind a common purpose: to ensure all ofArizona’s students graduate from high school college- and career-ready. We’re partnering with education stakeholders at all levels to share resources and moveArizonaforward. We must come together as an education community to create transformational schools: schools structured around implementing research- and results-based best practices; teaching critical, deep thinking skills; and using blended learning environments. We must have schools that are publicly willing to be accountable to parents and students.
Arizona’s adoption of Common Core Standards represents a significant opportunity to moveArizonaforward, to better prepare students to succeed in college and in their careers. Aligning teacher lesson plans, classroom materials, and how teachers instruct their students with these new, rigorous standards requires a tremendous effort, but will result in a momentous change in how schools are organized to educate children.
More important than setting the bar high, though, is building the “ladder” that schools, teachers, and students need to reach those standards. That’s the job of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE): to provide educators with the training and support they need to meet the tougher standards and increase student learning. Since taking office a little over a year and half ago, I’ve been reorganizing the Department to do just that: provide better support and more efficient service to schools, teachers, and administrators. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office to let me know how ADE can better support you in the years to come.
John Huppenthal is the Arizona Department of Education schools superintendent.