I’m so inspired by listening to school leaders who already give so much, as they plan how to give even more.

It happened again at A for Arizona’s 3rd annual Tubac Teach-In, where dozens of low-income, ‘A’ school leaders brainstormed how to contribute to our shared goal of seeing a 10 percent annual increase in the number of low-income students attending an ‘A’ school. These individuals are already investing in their own students above and beyond what a paycheck requires. For them, student success is personal and it’s inspiring to see.

Our Tubac retreat also revealed that we’re turning a corner in Arizona by taking a far more unified approach to achievement than I’ve seen in years past. We’re leaving the charter v. district divide behind and moving forward as one. Our low-income ‘A’ school leaders are becoming energized around the idea that they are models for other schools to follow. One leader was so enthusiastic about helping other schools succeed, she said, “Send me the ‘F’ school leaders!”

Arizona’s best schools are led by educators who are not only increasing the number of students their own schools can serve; they are reaching out and sharing what they know, encouraging other schools to get “On-the-Way-to-A.”

This is what it will take to ensure that every child in Arizona has access to the school that fits their potential. It takes an ever expanding universe of exceptional leadership and that is happening in Arizona. There has never been a time of greater academic gain in our state, and it owes to these great school leaders who understand what it takes to inspire their classrooms and their communities.

Here are just a few ideas underway that gained shape and speed in Tubac:

  1. Hosting an “On-the-Way to ‘A’ Leader Day” event, led by rural and urban low-income ‘A’ leaders. This event would aim to inspire more low-performing school leaders about what is possible and what it takes to get to ‘A’.
  2. Developing a “Parent Leadership Cadre” from low-income ‘A’ schools that would encourage families to organize in support of ‘A’ schools and increased access to quality schools.
  3. Strengthening teacher/principal pipelines by partnering with entities like Teach For AmericaOneTeacher, Center for the Future of Arizona’s Beat The Odds Leadership Academy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Talent Pipeline Management Initiative. Aspiring teachers and principals should be in high performing schools, period.

These are achievable goals, homegrown by the teaching teams in ‘A’ schools, and will surely result in a growing number of great classrooms.

A for Arizona’s Tubac Teach-In once again validated for me the critical importance of getting these leaders together and providing them time and space to think through how they transform their amazing, “odds-beating” work into something that is expected and achievable statewide. In this season of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to work alongside these committed leaders who seek for every Arizona student to grasp a future full of opportunities.