Expect More Arizona lays out goals for improving education

By Linda Kor

With concerns over teacher and funding shortages, as well as reported statistics that Arizona schools rank near the bottom nationally, Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) have created some long term education goals for the state.

The newly unveiled goals are part of the Arizona Education Progress Meter, a nonpartisan source of information that informs leaders and communities of where schools in the state are currently and the work that must be done to improve in areas ranging from quality early learning to postsecondary attainment.

According to Shannon Sowby, a representative for Expect More Arizona, the Arizona Education Progress Meter was launched in early 2016 and provides a set of eight indicators, including teacher pay, third grade reading and high school graduation.

“Last year, education stakeholders announced a target for post-secondary attainment in Arizona of 60 percent by the year 2030, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. To get there, every stage of the education continuum must improve and Arizona must close the education gap,” said Sowby.

Information on the Arizona Education Progress Meter shows that 42 percent of Arizona residents 25 to 64 years of age have completed a two or four-year degree, or a post-secondary certificate. The goal is to increase that to 60 percent. In addition, 15 percent of 16 to 24 year olds in Arizona are not going to school or working. The goal is to reduce that to seven percent.

Other statewide goals include:

* Increasing the number of Arizona high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary education after graduation from 53 percent to 70 percent.

* Improving the high school graduation rate statewide from 78 percent to 90 percent.

* Increase the number of students passing eighth grade math from 36 percent to 69 percent and those passing third grade from 41 percent to 72 percent.

* Ensuring that children ages 3 to 4 are in quality early learning settings by increasing that number from 21 percent to 45 percent.

Also included in the goals is increasing teacher salaries. According to Expect More Arizona, the median elementary school teacher pay in Arizona is ranked 50th in the nation, while secondary school teachers’ pay is rank 49th. The goal is to have salaries raised to meet the national median in five years.

According to its website, the overall goal of the Education Progress Meter is to create a more prosperous economy, ensure a robust talent pool for Arizona businesses, and equip students with the knowledge, skills and credentials necessary to obtain good jobs and contribute to the improved civic health of their communities.

A visit to the Expect More Arizona website provides not only current statistics, but also the progress being made and ways that people in communities like those in Navajo County can take part in the endeavor.

“The Progress Meter has been endorsed by dozens of cities, counties, nonprofits, government bodies and more. Stakeholders recently announced goals for each of the indicators that will feed up into the post-secondary attainment goal. Ultimately, improving education in Arizona will result in stronger individuals, a stronger economy and stronger communities,” said Sowby.

To learn more about the Arizona Education Progress Meter, visit Expect More Arizona at www.expectmorearizona.org.