Yesterday our Arizona Chamber and A for Arizona team wrapped up two days in beautiful Austin at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation K-12 Business Engagement Strategy Session. Chambers of Commerce and other results-driven advocates from around the country joined to celebrate revisions to federal law, which will make it clear that states will lead the way in setting expectations for accelerated performance for all students and schools, increasing the quality of schools we offer, and being clear and honest with the public about our progress.

The ball is squarely back in Arizona’s court where it belongs – and as always, the quality of education for our students is a humbling responsibility. We’re very grateful to members of our Arizona congressional delegation who helped roll back constraints on states’ rights in the old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and to amplify roles for states and their leaders in its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). [Please do note that every education law needs a catchy title and acronym.]

This new flexibility allows Arizonans to ensure our education system serves all students and to develop local solutions when that doesn’t happen. It has been affirming to remind ourselves that Arizona’s leadership never sits idle, waiting for direction. The coalition we have at home is strong, active, and has been productive, even as we lived the Austin lifestyle. We are energized at how far ahead Arizona is in closing the achievement gap, the “honesty gap” in communicating student achievement, and in developing custom options for students, schools, and communities.

It’s important that we recognize good intentions all around. We do not take the federal role in education lightly, particularly when it comes to our most challenged students. We know that the past decade or so has been a period of significant improvement for traditionally underserved students – in part because of a national requirement for data about every student, every year.

This meeting in Texas was a fabulous overview of the federal law as it stands today, and a great reminder that all of us have an obligation to work daily and with urgency to advance every opportunity for all of our students to attend the best schools possible.