What a wild time to be in our nation’s capitol! The A for Arizona team rallied in Washington last week for a series of events and meetings with our national partners. Our time there was fruitful, sharing about the Arizona experience and the contributing factors to our rapid education gains.
Throughout our discussions, a shared sense of urgency emerged for today’s students. The idea that whatever we endeavor to reform in the sphere of education should start with the “single-child” in mind, rather than the “million-child.” Meaning, how will our policy lever or school incentive improve the outlook of one child, in today’s classrooms? Every decision I make, I see a former student’s face as I try to weigh the impact each proposal will have on his or her life right now. With the right skills and training, that one child could go on to extraordinary things that change their community and the world. They deserve the opportunity to reach that potential, and our communities deserve to feel their impact.
Our children cannot wait for incremental change—we need to prepare them today by investing in new ideas and approaches that have proven to be successful. Our meetings in D.C. focused on an earthquake of bold ideas and how to disrupt the status quo. Fortunately, in Arizona, we are already embracing this—from the thousands of new seats approved each year in quality schools by our State Board for Charter Schools to legislative changes like bonuses for K-12 schools that excel in college-level coursework. These are things that will have a direct and quantifiable impact on children today.
Institutions and systems take time to reform, but in the context of a child’s schooling years, time is a luxury we simply don’t have. In four years, a student’s entire high school career has flown by, and with it the chance to prepare them for the brightest possible future. Many last week agreed that a common reflex is to protect antiquated institutions and procedures that impact the adults running them.
Instead of investing in big E Education, let’s focus on what is actually helping kids right now. While long, aspirational goals have their place, there is action to take today that will forever transform the life of one child, starting right now.
As we round the corner of a New Year, who are the students we can help this year, right now? Today’s students are counting on us to embrace and implement policies that reorganize education around them. There isn’t wait time for us to get it right. In his closing remarks to us at the ExcelinEd National Summit, Governor Bush said, “This is a time for big thinking and courageous leadership to encourage each other to move the needle so that more and more children gain the power of knowledge…” We could not agree more!