Well, it may not be New York, but exciting things are happening at the 2nd Annual Teach-In here in Tubac, Arizona. This A for Arizona event kicked off last night and continues until tomorrow morning. We’ve gathered 47 educators, advocates, and partners from the policy arena to talk about current education issues and to share excitement about where we’re headed.

If you’re wondering why we picked Tubac, it’s because the highest density of low-income ‘A’-schools are in Southern Arizona. It’s where the largest number of our leaders continue to make the commitment to be great day in and day out.

A key theme this year is that Arizona is doing exceptional work in the area of education, with some of the best success stories happening in low-income and minority schools. We’re committed to spreading the word about these exemplary schools and how they are busting down stereotypes by turning out high-achieving students of all backgrounds.

Of course the most important part of that equation is the driven school leaders who are true change agents and engines for education success in Arizona. The hard work of these leaders is paying off as evidenced by recently published NAEP scores, which reveal Arizona students are outpacing their peers across the country.

Last night, State Historian Marshall Trimble set the stage for much of the discussion surrounding success in education. He reminded us all just how special Arizona is by highlighting some of Arizona’s unspoken heroes and leaders. This resonated with many of our leaders who don’t get near the credit they deserve for their extraordinary work to produce success despite challenging circumstances.

This afternoon’s “Arizona Policy Palooza” featured a powerhouse panel, which included Janice Palmer of the Arizona School Boards Association, Dawn Wallace from Governor Ducey’s Office of Education, Becky Hill of Hill Advocacy, Alicia Alvarez of the Classrooms First Council and ‘A’ school leader, and Lisa Graham Keegan of A for Arizona. With the number of education issues on the state’s front burner, there was no shortage of topics for this distinguished panel to discuss. They covered: A-F school grades, AzMERIT, Proposition 123, Classrooms First Initiative Council, Advanced Placement, and more. All agreed no one issue can serve as a silver bullet, but steady focus across the spectrum of reform ideas will result in benefits for all our students.

In addition to broader policy discussions, we’ve also heard about specific initiatives, like the CollegeBoard/code.org partnership, which is working with A for Arizona to expand low-income schools’ access to high quality computer science coursework. Since half of the more than nine million STEM jobs of the next decade will require computing experience, this is an important endeavor that will give Arizona students a leg up.

There’s more to come tomorrow as we wrap up this year’s Teach-In. We’re hopeful that all will leave southern Arizona more optimistic about the future of education in Arizona as we keep the conversation focused on recognizing and replicating excellence.