March 2014 at Arizona Ready

Dear Friends and Supporters,

As Arizona’s economy grows, the fastest growing jobs continually require more advanced knowledge and skills in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In fact, the Arizona Commerce Authority lists the following economic focus areas as the state continues to grow: Aerospace and Defense; Bioscience and Healthcare; Technology and Innovation; Renewable Energy; Optics and Photonics; Advanced Manufacturing; and Advanced Business Services. Our students must be prepared to take on these new jobs.

STEM education is critical throughout the education pipeline, but we have focused on 8th grade as a significant benchmark indicating student success beyond high school.  We are currently not on track to meet our goal of 85 percent of 8th grade students performing at basic or above on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)  by 2020, and we continue to be ranked 40th in the nation in math on the NAEP. However, as the state rallies behind our educational goals, there are many activities families as well as local communities can do to help.

Local organizations such as Lowell Observatory and the Arizona Science Center offer exciting events, venues and activities for families and kids of all ages to engage in STEM. In addition, running February and March, the 3rd annual Arizona SciTech Festival hosted hundreds of public STEM events throughout the state. This Festival provides great opportunities for people of all ages to engage with STEM in fun and creative ways. When the official Festival is over, there are events year-round that are posted at www.azscitechfest.org.

Activities such as these expose children to STEM topics and careers in ways they might not always find in the classroom. In addition, showing students that their community values these fields can inspire them to stay engaged in STEM education. These experiences are invaluable and, if intentionally connected to what a student is learning in the classroom, can be a critical tool to helping students prepare for the education and workforce ahead of them.

There are always opportunities for everyone in the state to participate with Arizona Ready. Focusing on STEM education and informal learning are just two ways to help us reach our 8th grade education goal. If we all participate, we can make significant improvements to education for all Arizona students.

 

Sincerely,

The Arizona Ready Team

 

RESOURCES

 

Arizona SciTech Festival

 

Arizona Science Center STEM Programs

 

Lowell Observatory

 

Retreat at Tontozona

 

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

 

Arizona Commerce Authority

 

 

February 2014 at Arizona Ready

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Financing a college education can be a daunting task for students and their families. Despite the understood importance of a postsecondary education, certification or training, saving for it is too often neglected due to a lack of either information or of financial ability. There are, of course, many financial aid options, and families with students of any age can and should be thinking about college funds.

Now that seniors have already applied to college and are exploring what financial options are available, a good place to start is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). By filling out a FAFSA you can determine what financial aid you are eligible for and can start to map out what additional funds you need to acquire. This past month, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE) held its annual “College Goal Sunday” events to assist students and families explore financial aid options. Although the priority deadline for the FAFSA is quickly approaching on March 1, you still can apply beyond that date.  In addition, the ACPE has valuable resources on its website and can certainly help families navigate through the FAFSA application.

Once you have filled out your FAFSA, explore the financial aid options available from your college or university by contacting its financial aid office. Here you can find a variety of scholarships that can help fill gaps not covered by the federal aid. Application deadlines for scholarships can vary by institution and type of scholarship, so be sure to visit the office early and stay on top of any deadlines.

Of course, it is never too early to think about college funds. So, even if you can’t afford to put aside much on a yearly basis, every bit helps motivate students to continue their educational endeavors. If you don’t know where to start, explore some of your options through the Arizona Family College Savings Program (www.az529.gov). This site can set you on a path to find the right college savings plan for your needs, whether it be for a four-year university, community college, trade school or training program.

A postsecondary education is critical to a successful future, and it is often a family effort to get students where they need to be. Don’t let a fear of financial resources deter you from exploring options. With a little research and work, you can gain assistance in funding your college education and can easily create a plan to save college funds for your child(ren).

 

Sincerely,

The Arizona Ready Team

 

RESOURCES

 

Arizona College Goal Sunday

 

FAFSA Website

 

Arizona 529 (College Savings) Plan

 

Financial Avenue—Financial Management Lessons

 

Practical Money Skills—Financial Literacy for Everyone

 

January 2014 at Arizona Ready

Dear Friends and Supporters,

January is always an exciting month at the Capitol with the start of Legislative Session and the unveiling of the Governor’s policy priorities and budget proposal. But amidst all of the policy-making excitement our office was particularly thrilled to hold our first official Parent Ambassador meeting at the Capitol.

Our Parent Ambassador Program is a fairly new initiative we launched in an effort to connect with parents in a more meaningful way. It is an avenue for parents to become more engaged with statewide education reforms and decisions, and for us to learn more about what is happening at a local level. It is open to parents statewide and has flexible times, locations, and activities.

Our first official event was a day at the Capitol for a great group of parent volunteers. They attended an Arizona Ready Education Council meeting, heard from Read On Arizona and Expect More Arizona about opportunities to get involved, and shared issues/strategies from various parts of the state. It was an informational but interactive day, and we were impressed with the enthusiasm of the parents who came. Their insight and drive to make a difference in their communities and schools was quite inspiring.

With so many changes happening within education in Arizona it can  be difficult for all of us to keep our eye on the end goals. It is absolutely essential that we have open lines of communication between those working at a statewide level and parents, who are essential partners in education at every level. It is especially critical for parents to know the vision of the State in addition to what is happening in their child(ren)’s classroom. Shaping that context can help give all of us a common ground to build upon, and we expect the Parent Ambassador program  to be a great platform to do just that.

Although the program is up and running, we are always accepting new participants. If you are interested, please email us at azready@az.gov. By working together and engaging in meaningful communications everyone in the community can help elevate education for all of Arizona’s students.

 

Sincerely,

The Arizona Ready Team

 

RESOURCES

 

Governor Brewer’s Four Cornerstones Of Reform

 

Governor Brewer’s Budget Proposal

 

Arizona Ready Education Council Meeting Materials

 

Arizona Aims Higher

 

Graduate Prepared AZ

 

 

 

December 2013 at Arizona Ready

News Article

Dear Friends and Supporters,

For those working in the Arizona education system and parents of students who are currently enrolled in k-12 education in our state, summative assessments are nothing new. In fact, the AIMS exam is given each year to determine if students are learning what they need to know. In the next year, however, we expect the assessment system in place now will be changing for the better.

Assessment scores are used for a variety of accountability measures in Arizona, and they are the main method for tracking our educational progress statewide. Summative assessments, like AIMS, are given toward the end of the year and test whether or not students learned the necessary skills and knowledge over the academic year. In Arizona, this information is used to determine things such as school and district grades, students needing to be retained in third grade as outlined in the recent Move on When Reading law, and high school graduation. The assessment is so important to the system that it is essential we commit to using a high quality one in line with the higher bar we’ve set.

The state will be administering a new assessment in 2015, which will be selected by the State Board of Education in 2014. No matter what assessment is selected, there are a few qualities that must be included. The new assessment should:

- Assess Rigorous Standards: The assessment must be aligned to the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards so that we fairly examine what students have been exposed to all year and what they have learned;

- Be Technology Based: A quality assessment should allow for parents and teachers to quickly have access to a student’s scores so that necessary interventions can be made in a timely manner;

- Move to process-based questions and away from “fill in the bubble”: Bubble scan sheets do not provide sufficient evidence that a student has knowledge of a concept. We must allow for deeper questions and require deeper answers;

- Have Postsecondary “buy-in”: Our postsecondary community must recognize the value of the state assessment scores so that when high school seniors are told they are college ready, colleges and universities agree; and

- Be Comparable across states: Not only does cross-state comparability assist families who move a lot, such as our military families, but it also allows us to see how our students are performing in comparison to other students around the country.

In addition to these changes, a new assessment will bring a new base level of scores that will look as though the scores have dropped from the previous year. As we raise standards in Arizona education, it is important that we stay the course as we face such challenges and continue to work toward a more efficient system that better prepares our students to take on the rigors of a 21st Century workplace.

 

Sincerely,

The Arizona Ready Team

 

 

RESOURCES

Arizona Department of Education—Assessment  Webpage

 

Edutopia Assessment Guide

 

Article: Why Is Assessment Important

 

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