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Making education the No. 1 priority in the state
Expect More Arizona, a pro-education, nonpartisan, public-private partnership, brought its statewide campaign to Yuma Wednesday aiming to better prepare Arizona's high school students for future employment.
The campaign's goal is to inspire residents to not only improve education in Arizona but make it a top priority, said Jim Pitofsky, director of Arizona Community Foundation and an Expect More board member.
After a forum with Kofa High School students in which the partnership engaged in a dialogue with students on how to improve education, Expect More officials shared their findings with The Sun's editors. Also attending were Nicole Magnuson, Expect More lead consultant; Toni Badone, Yuma Union High School District superintendent; and Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce.
Pitofsky said they didn't go to Kofa to preach but to listen. And students said they wanted school to be tougher to better prepare them for college and a career.
Expect More is all about strengthening education by coaxing individuals to run for school boards, tutor a child or volunteer at a nonprofit that supports education, Magnuson said.
"Some haven't got the time to volunteer so they can donate to a local school foundation or 'adopt a classroom,'" Magnuson said. " We have a link at our Web page, www.expectmorearizona.org, where you can click on 'donors choose.'"
At Kofa, Magnuson presented the highlights of a recent survey of 1,600 Arizona high school students.
Some of her findings noted that only 22 percent felt fully prepared for college and 50 percent maintained their parents had the most influence on their education.
"The students said, 'My parents keep me in check. If I get a bad grade then they're on me," she said. "They push me to try harder."
Another 39 percent responded that Arizona students perform worse academically than their peers nationwide, she added.
Rosevear said they were preaching to the choir, as Yuma gets things done by partnerships and if Expect More is viable, it will work better here than anywhere. He said he already has a model program launched through the Yuma Business Education Council (YBEC) that was created three years ago by himself and Gary Knox, former Crane School District superintendent.
YBEC, a group of 35 business people and educators, meets bimonthly to bring the real world of business to the classroom by forming partnerships between teachers and business leaders to explain to students how classroom concepts, such as algebraic applications, are used on the job.
"We knew early on what skills sets were needed by employers that were lacking in students," Rosevear said.
But he noted that Arizona will not become a leading center of technology until it improves education and that even when the economy was strong, the state ranked 49th in per-pupil spending.
Educational leaders know Arizona has very talented children, Badone said. But educators need to cultivate students to be creative beyond just being technology savvy. Students must think more creatively, she noted.
"Other countries put a lot more time in the school day and it's clear we need to spend more time in the classroom," Badone said. "But it's going the other way."
Badone said she liked Expect More's campaign. Yet she emphasized that if educators want to inspire students to be more like teachers, then schools need to expect more from teachers themselves. And the way districts draw quality teachers is to offer attractive compensation packages.
Pitofsky said residents cannot wait for money to begin to flow to the state, that everybody has a role to play and strive to make an impact on education.
Learn more about what you can do - visit the Expect More Arizona website.
William Roller can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6858.