• STRONG public schools = a STRONGER economy

  • The Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC) is the coalition of Arizona business and education leaders committed to help create public education policy essential to a vibrant, growing Arizona economy.  The coalition is a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, statewide membership organization focused on K-12 public education, while recognizing the importance of early childhood development, post-secondary education and workforce development.

     

    What we do.

    • Convene - ABEC provides reliable information and insight on education and convenes regular forums to increase members' knowledge and ability to impact K-12 education's direction and quality.

    • Connect - ABEC offers ongoing opportunity for statewide networking between and among education and business leaders, and direct access to the people who are shaping Arizona education policy and practice.

    • Collaborate - Building on its strong reputation, ABEC collaborates with other major stakeholders in framing and advocating informed policy positions to key decision makers.

    • Create - ABEC leads the creation of a nonpartisan environment and platform for shaping long term education policy and financing, built on hard facts and practical experience.

    Recent Accomplishments

    • Provided high profile leadership in the successful campaign to restore $29 million in funding for public school JTED/CTE programs.

    • Established a $3 million ongoing energy-saving pilot program for school districts approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission; exploring additional revenue-generating initiatives in collaboration with superintendents and utility companies across the state.

    • Produced and communicated to legislative leaders, opinion leaders and media ABEC’s principled positions on major tax and education policy bills presented during the 2016-2019 legislative sessions.

    • Engaged key legislators from both parties in address most challenging, complex education issues on an on-going basis.

    • Continuing expansion of  ABEC’s Middle School Career Exploration Project, sharply increasing number of business partners participating in this successful program.

    • Coordinated, in partnership with Cox Communications, Legislative Candidate debates for the contested districts statewide, airing to over 1 million viewers in both 2018 and 2016.

  • Members

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  • Dick's Blog

     

     

    Recapturing our

    Public Education SWAG

     

    By Dick Foreman

    Where did we lose our swag, Arizona? More importantly, why would any of us accept the tumult that has besieged our public policy process, and more importantly, our governing board meetings and ESPECIALLY our classrooms?

    How do we get our swag back?

    First, the problem. 

    We have clearly become shaped by narratives that combine just enough facts (while eliminating others deemed problematic) to justify philosophical schemes instead of proven, classroom techniques.

    That doesn’t work. 

    So why do these “narratives” persist? I would humbly suggest, it is time for those who harbor conspiracies to listen to Arizona’s business, education and community leaders. Candidly, they have never spoken with a more consistent and strong voice. I just hope that through all the “local” noise, our school staff can hear the throbbing heartbeat of a much greater and more important statewide audience. 

    What are they saying?

    First and foremost, they ALL highly value Arizona teachers and classroom support personnel and humbly acknowledge the issues our classroom teachers have been facing. This is 100% the opposite, however, to what many school leaders see in their boardrooms and classroom interactions throughout Arizona. It is so counter-culture to have to overcome extreme debates and, candidly, ignorance of basic facts, before any real conversation can even begin and, sadly, police escorts have been more and more the basis by which school board meetings conclude.

    But we do not suffer having good data which can drive not only better outcomes based on solid empirical evidence but also, and equally important, restore pride and recognition of the Arizona classroom teacher and the incredible work being done by all classroom support services in this pandemic.

    Here’s some of that incredible and powerful data. 

    NWEA is an ABEC member who has testified in the legislative process and presented at ABEC's 2019 Annual Conference where ABEC considered Arizona’s current assessment tools and whether they are indeed working to advance student achievement to meet our collective expectations and as published as The Arizona Progress Meter. It is very fair to say that we discovered that not only our schools, but our state board, universities, and community colleges share a keen interest in continuing to improve assessments and fully endorse the use of those objectives. This is bi-partisan and effectively bridges the spectrum of community parents, business and local leadership. Bravo.    

    And now we must also deal with what some (incorrectly) term “Covid Learning Loss” or the “Covid Slide” (like this past year was simply an extension of the previous year’s “Summer Slide.”)

    Neither is true.

    A recent study by NWEA (https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/25/us/school-test-scores-covid-pandemic/index.html) clearly demonstrates what educators, scholars and business leaders have known for quite some time. We do need to continue to improve our assessment tools, but we must acknowledge two key concepts to make the progress for all students that we virtually all agree must take place to get our swag back.

    First, the pandemic impacts on students cannot and should not stop in classroom instruction, which virtually every study and analysis finds is the single greatest contributor to student success when, and this is the critical caveat, a highly qualified teacher is in the classroom. This is not a continuing discussion about a “teacher shortage” anymore. There are “teachers” in front of every class every day. This is a “Qualified Teacher Shortage” and the associated failure of policy makers to recognize the need for both safe, properly constructed and resource supported public education classrooms with highly trained and motivated classroom teachers is the most fundamental and critical first step. 

    And, I just have to say, parent choice does not result in student achievement success. It moves kids around, sure, but no data suggests this to be the overall answer. Clearly, and I do not argue, that parent choice can, at times, resolve student learning and education success issues. But, and this is a big “but,” the data stubbornly screams for a qualified teacher in every classroom with a reasonable number of students with resources appropriated by student equity measures. Both our district schools and public charter schools generally do a wonderful job and should not be pitted one against the other. That’s the false premise that so damages good will. The proper public policy question is; just how are students gaining in the academic expectations we all generally agree upon?

    Second, and this is irrefutable from the data from the NWEA analysis of over 5.4 million students nationwide and the impacts of the pandemic on their learning. The major learning deficiencies (NOT losses as NWEA would tell you) is significant, disturbing and deeply entrenched in, you guessed it, socio economic data and demographics which, unfortunately, equally tracks test score data with a stubborn and miserable consistency. We’re talking up to a one year difference of 17 points in math alone for African American students, as just one example, in just the past year! 

    Nobody, and I mean nobody, can convince me that without applying student equity to funding, we’ll EVER find the means, the pathways and the actions to address that. Thank goodness that many major business groups now lead the way in league with virtually ALL major education groups with the same demand, we must engage student equity in our funding formula as promoted by Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. We should be listening to these leaders!

    Why, you ask? Aren’t we just throwing money at teachers? Please.

    Let’s be real. The data clearly demonstrates we must be in our classrooms with a highly qualified and motivated teacher and for the groups most impacted by the pandemic (and they are EXACTLY the same groups that have been impacted by funding shortfalls) we must break down barriers to learning with small group interactions that take place at the same time and in the same grade to fill learning gaps while expectations for grade level achievement are LEFT INTACT for all. We do not need to hear how we are going to rob one group of students to fund another group of students. We need to increase the funding capacity to permit exactly the two points above or the story will repeat year after year. And our swag will continue to suffer.

    I remain unsure how to otherwise prevent rude and, sadly, even dangerous behaviors and governing board room misconduct. That’s what law enforcement is for I suppose; sad, but true.

    The vast majority of us do not worship at the altar of conspiracy. We prefer data driven, fact-based thinking, policy and administration. That’s what we need to support in Arizona’s public schools, and that’s the swag so obviously at stake for our lack of consistent, unified support. 

    We need to get our swag back with data driven action, results and policies.  

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