The Arizona Chamber believes that it is always a good idea to convene smart people in a room to fuel discussions and think outside the box. We proved this again at a meeting earlier this week with the Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Committee and special guests.

The conversation focused on the current status of education in Arizona, and exactly what state policies are necessary to spark a revolution in school quality. The smartest people in a bigger room—Arizona’s ‘A’ school leaders—hold the key to all of our questions and are our biggest asset.

At the Arizona Chamber Foundation and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we have launched a project called A for Arizona (www.aforaz.org), where we work with school leaders who attain (or get close to attaining) an ‘A’-grade from the state while serving very low-income students. It turns out that Arizona currently has about 100 of these ‘A’ public schools—district, magnet, and charter—with many more in the pipeline. What distinguishes these schools is not their governance, but their excellence. They are wholly committed to high expectations, are incredibly disciplined, and every school is willing to grow larger or teach others their work if only we will allow and support it.

A rapid expansion of high quality schools relies on support for the people who already know how to do this. We will stunt or kill the growth of this excellent sector by ignoring their existence or focusing all of our time and attention on what is not working in Arizona schools. Instead, we should be providing additional support for things like school space or buying the extra time it takes to be this good and to grow simultaneously.

Excellence is a decision before it is anything else. And our decision at A for Arizona is to advocate for state policy that supports the ‘A’ school leaders in Arizona who have decided to be excellent every single day.

We are putting our faith in the school leaders who are ready to make this happen.