Kathy Hoffman


Published: Published: April 5th, 2019

ADE and SBE Lead Stakeholder Group to Release Menu of Assessment Guidance

On behalf of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE), Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and President of the State Board of Education Lucas J. Narducci sent a letter to district superintendents and charter leaders regarding the future of statewide assessments. The letter was in response to a communication from the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) that stated Arizona law was at odds with current federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) law regarding assessment.

In December 2018, ADE made a request to US ED asking to waive certain federal requirements as they pertain to the Menu of Assessments state law (A.R.S. 15-741.02) that passed in 2016, which required Arizona to offer a Menu of Assessments to allow schools to administer an alternate assessment instead of the statewide assessment (i.e. AzMERIT). This was designed to be phased in over a set timeframe, beginning with high school in Spring 2019 and for grades 3-8 in Spring 2020.

Last week, ADE received notification from US ED that this waiver request was denied. Since that time, ADE and SBE officials have collaborated with education stakeholders throughout the state to communicate the effects this will have on schools, as well as to work toward solutions regarding the future of statewide assessments.

Please see the letters below from Superintendent Hoffman and President Narducci to Arizona schools, as well as the letter from US ED to ADE:

US ED Letter to ADE | ADE and SBE Letter to Schools

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Published: Published: March 29th, 2019

ADE Highlights Arts Education Excellence During Youth Arts Month

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) will wrap up “Arizona Youth Arts Month” this weekend, bringing to a close a month of celebrating excellence in arts education inside and outside of schools throughout Arizona. March, which is also known as “Dance in Our Schools Month,” “Music in our Schools Month,” “Theatre in Our Schools Month” and “Youth Arts Month,” is when arts educators throughout the state are recognized for their outstanding contributions to their respective communities.

“Arts programs are an essential part of a well-rounded education system,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said. “I want to thank all of the wonderful artists – both teachers and students – for enriching our state by sharing their talents.”

ADE extends a warm congratulations to this year’s Arts Teachers of the Year:

Arizona Art Education Association Teachers of the Year

Cathy Saraniero, Cocopah Middle School, Scottsdale Unified School District

Michelle Peacock, Saguaro High School, Scottsdale Unified School District

Arizona Music Educators Association Teachers of The Year

Eric Zimmerman, Band, Orchestra & Guitar Teacher, Moon Valley High School

Jennifer Randle, Orchestra Specialist, Mesa Public Schools

Anneka Kotterman, Music Teacher, Whipple Ranch Elementary

John Snyder, Secondary Choral Festival Coordinator, Mesa Public Schools

Arizona Dance Education Organization “Katherine Lindholm Lane Dance Educator of the Year”

Tiffany White, Mesquite High School, Gilbert Public Schools

Arizona Thespians Teachers of the Year

Corey Quinn, Central Region, Mountain Pointe High School

Laura Colletti, North Region, Centennial High School

Jessica Armistead, South Region, Cienega High School

Flagstaff Arts Council 2019 Viola Award Winner for Excellence in Arts Education

Kathy Marron, Thomas Elementary School, Flagstaff Unified School District

In addition, many schools and arts organizations around the state promoted high-quality arts programs and stories of excellence. JO Combs High School opened their new Performing Arts Center, Nogales Unified School District debuted murals in partnership with the Ben’s Bells organization to encourage kindness and the UBU Project promoted peer-led substance abuse prevention through the arts at Cactus Shadows High School.

In addition, the Rising Youth Theatre has utilized theater to stimulate healthy emotional development at Create Academy, while representatives from ADE were invited to join parents and families at arts celebrations in the Agua Fria and Alhambra School Districts. The ADE Office of Arts Education is also thrilled to announce that the arts are the first non-federally mandated discipline to link arts education student enrollment and access data on the Arizona State School Report Cards for greater transparency and accountability.

March also marked the announcement of winners of the Southwest Airlines and the Phoenix Suns “Heart of Freedom Art and Essay Contest,” Arizona Department of the Administration “Cybersecurity Calendar Contest” and ADE’s 4th Grade Collaborative Visual Arts Competition “WeAreAz” statewide arts competitions.

If you’d like to know more information about the Office of Arts Education and our programs, please visit our website: http://www.azed.gov/artseducation/. You can sign up for our blog and explore arts education resources.

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Published: Published: March 22nd, 2019

Arizona Wraps Up Its Celebration of National CACFP Week

In recognition of operators of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a federally-funded Child Nutrition Program administered by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), the Department joined 392 child care centers and preschools, 273 Head Start programs, seven emergency shelters, 325 afterschool programs, 12 adult day care centers and more than 2,200 in-home child care providers in celebrating National CACFP Week.

“We can all agree that basic nutrition is foundational to health and well-being,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said. “These are essential values that we all share, regardless of any cultural or socio-economic differences. In order do the work of educating our children, nothing is more important than ensuring the quality of their health.”

The CACFP helps participating facilities serve nutritious meals and snacks to children and adults in their care. In 2018, the CACFP provided over 31 million meals and snacks to children and adults in Arizona.

Additionally, the program supports caregivers and educators through their work in establishing positive eating habits, promoting healthy growth and development of young children, as well as supporting the health and wellness of older adults, the chronically impaired and disabled persons.

Participating providers receive financial support, training and technical assistance, as well as ongoing compliance monitoring visits to maintain program integrity. Those enrolled in CACFP facilities are afforded access to high-quality meals and snacks at no additional cost to the family.

ADE supports participating facilities willing to continue to celebrate National CACFP Week all year by exploring one of the seven opportunities outlined on the attached flyer. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to ask their care facilities about their participation in the CACFP.

For additional information about the CACFP or to access a list of facilities currently operating the CACFP, please visit www.azed.gov/hns/cacfp. Or feel free to call 602-542-8700 (press 1 for Community Nutrition Programs) to learn more about these invaluable programs.

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Published: Published: March 14th, 2019

Superintendent Hoffman Announces Capacity Review Findings

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today announced the findings of an internal capacity review of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The review was conducted to better ascertain ADE’s capacity to support schools and deliver a high-quality education to all students.

“I promised during my campaign that under my leadership ADE would be an agency of service and transparent about these findings,” Superintendent Hoffman said. “This capacity review has provided us invaluable information that we will use to develop a strategic plan forward that delivers on that promise.”

The review was conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) over a two-day period in February. During the two days, CCSSO gathered evidence on key aspects of the department’s capacity. The evidence was related to areas including vision and planning, ADE culture and capacity, as well as external relationships and communication. In the process of this review, CCSSO spoke with more than 80 staff members and external stakeholders including Superintendent Hoffman, her leadership team, administrative staff, mid- and upper-level ADE management, public school teachers, district superintendents, political partners and parents.

Among the key findings were that communication is improving, both internally and externally, with ADE employees and stakeholders both pointing to examples of noteworthy progress. Interviewees also praised the new administration’s focus on reaching out and listening to various education stakeholders.

The review also highlighted several areas where more work is needed. Specifically, the improvements in communication are just a start, and more can be done to build on the early work in this area. Additionally, there is a clear need for an overarching vision and strategic plan that unites and focuses the work of the department. This vision and plan would define success and set benchmarks for progress. Additionally, there was broad agreement that this process should heavily involve stakeholders that are served by the department.

In the coming months, the Hoffman administration will work diligently to develop a path forward with the end goal being a department of education that effectively and equitably serves students, schools and communities. The financial audit committee, which continues to meet, will release the findings of that audit at a later date.

Capacity Review Findings

In February 2019, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman invited the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to conduct a capacity review and present the results to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) leadership team. A capacity review is a rapid, yet thorough, review of the agency’s capacity, or the extent to which a state education agency is set up to deliver on its goals for students. A team from CCSSO interviewed agency staff and a diverse set of stakeholders from around the state to develop a full picture of system activities at all levels. We used this feedback to identify bright spots as well as areas of focus and potential solutions for ADE. The review will serve as a baseline by which progress can be measured over time. As ADE and its partners continue their work, this review will help everyone understand the areas of greatest strength and challenge.

Process

To determine ADE current capacity to achieve its goals for students, CCSSO gathered evidence from key stakeholders. We also looked at data in the public domain, and news and current events.

  • Superintendent Hoffman
  • ADE leadership team
  • Internal ADE staff at all levels
  • District superintendents
  • Teachers
  • Principals
  • Political partners
  • Advocacy groups
  • Parents

    Bright Spots

    Throughout our information gathering, consistent bright spots emerged.

    Department staff possess the will to deliver on the goals of the department. Staff consistently commended one another for their commitment to the work. ADE employees acknowledge that the agency exists to serve the field. There is a strong foundation to build on due to the dedication of staff.

    The leadership team is perceived to be off to a good start and they have generated a great deal of momentum and good will. Both staff and external stakeholders indicated their eagerness to work with Superintendent Hoffman and the new administration at ADE. Interviewees across the spectrum praised the Superintendent’s focus on reaching out and listening to various education stakeholders.

    Communication is already improving. Interviewees indicated that ADE has historically been siloed and hard to engage. However, both internal and external stakeholders were able to identify examples of dramatic improvement since January. External representatives pointed out Superintendent Hoffman’s presence at various events in the field since taking office, and ADE staff were happy to be receiving more communication from the leadership team.

    Areas of Focus

    Focus groups helped to identify various challenges.

    Strategic Vision. As is typical for a new administration, there is a sense of purpose, but no clear overarching vision that unites the work of the agency. Beyond campaign priorities, there is little guidance on what the core work is for the agency as a whole. Much of the development of goals and strategies up to this point has been driven at the program level within individual teams. Though this results in some clarity on strategy in those teams, there is no sense of what it all adds up to. The lack of agency-wide vision also means that priorities are often determined in reaction to the legislature. The state’s Every Student Succeeds Act consolidated state plan contains student outcome goals but there is not a sense that those goals are driving the department’s work.

    Plan for Implementing the Vision There is not yet a plan guiding the department’s work. Multiple teams within the department are doing duplicative and uncoordinated work, which makes it difficult to provide a consistent customer service experience to the field. For example, in many cases, external stakeholders do not know who to call to resolve an issue, or two people within the agency will give differing answers to the same inquiry. There is no consistent approach to implementation to reach the field at scale; districts are not currently looking to the department to help them in their work.

    Internal Focus and Investment. ADE is facing two key infrastructure challenges that must be resolved for operations to improve. First, the agency’s information technology systems are considerably out of date and not able to provide the reliable data needed for staff to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Second, there needs to be a focus on streamlining the human capital management process, which is overly complex in some respects, vague in others, and time-intensive, presenting major barrier to hiring, onboarding, retaining, and promoting staff at the department.

    Suggested Solutions

    The capacity review revealed some key areas of work that agency leaders should focus on in the next several months. Get clearer about the vision and make it public. Clarify ADE’s vision for students in Arizona and define what success looks like. Engage stakeholders in the development of this vision to build broad buy-in and to leverage the partnerships needed to advance that vision. Once established, make sure the vision is visible in the agency building for staff and is pervasive in ADE’s communications.

    Build a detailed plan. Engage stakeholders in the development and implementation of a clear strategic plan to execute on the vision.

  • The plan should be consistent with the vision statement and clearly describe the role that ADE plays in improving student achievement.
  • Establish key outcome goals, measures, timelines, and establish a “delivery unit” charged with executing the plan.
  • Engage staff and stakeholders in order to build broad ownership for the plan and ensure that everyone understands how their work connects to the vision.
  • Communicate the plan.
  • The strategy for building the plan, including a timeline, needs to be shared as soon as possible. It should also include shorter-term goals around some quick wins for 2019.

    Make it easier to hire, develop, and promote staff. The quality of the ADE staff is a clear strength, but they still face considerable barriers. The agency can reduce these barriers through procedural improvements, such as shortening the time it takes to fill vacancies, creating a universal onboarding and professional development plan, and improving visibility into the requirements for promotion. To the extent possible, repurpose the current employee evaluation tool into something that can drive more meaningful growth discussions.

    Build on existing goodwill among stakeholders. Superintendent Hoffman gets high praise for her outreach and availability. Stakeholders are looking to be more deeply engaged, and to be brought into discussions about how the agency’s vision will be implemented and what their role in that implementation might be. Superintendent Hoffman is still very new to office, so laying the groundwork now for meaningful engagement can help build a durable coalition for the future. Build predictable ways to receive feedback from the field and be transparent about how stakeholder feedback will be visibly reflected in the actions and priorities of the department.

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    Published: Published: March 1st, 2019

    Register for ADE Teacher Job Fairs!

    Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is encouraging potential teachers to attend the Southern Arizona Job Fair on Saturday, March 2 in Tucson and the Statewide Arizona Education Job Fair on Saturday, March 9 in Phoenix. Both job fairs will be hosted by the Exceptional Student Services Division of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).

    “Student success is not possible without highly-qualified teachers in the classroom,” Superintendent Hoffman said. “Schools only function with the hard work of our teachers, but year after year, we have seen a devastating number of teachers leave the profession or move out of state. Events such as these job fairs are incredible opportunities to help effectively address some of those concerns.”

    The driving force behind the event was to create a one-stop-shop for potential teachers and schools attempting to fill open positions. Thus far, at least 160 traditional district, charter, private day and Bureau of Indian Education schools will attend at least one of the job fairs, as well as at least 37 community partners that are ready to provide potential educators with a considerable amount of resources. There are already more than 900 registrations for either one of the events.

    A fingerprinting service, interviewing rooms for schools to discuss opportunities with candidates, as well as representatives from ADE will be on hand to counsel attendees on becoming a certified teacher in Arizona. The attending schools will be able to issue letters of intent and job offers to prospective teachers pending background checks.

    “The intent of events like our job fairs is for ADE to be an agency of service to the educational community,” Superintendent Hoffman said. “These events offer potential educators the opportunity to walk home with a job. It is free for prospective teachers to attend and you can literally go home having changed your life and the lives of your potential students for the better in one day.”

    The Southern Arizona Education Job Fair will take place on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at the Doubletree by Hilton Tucson Reid Park on 445 South Alvernon Way in Tucson, AZ, 85711 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. The Statewide Arizona Education Job Fair will be held on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Conference Center on 9495 W. Coyotes Blvd. in Glendale, AZ 85306 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

    To register or learn more information about either job fair, please visit http://teachinaz.com/. Media interested in attending should email or call the press contact listed above.

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    Published: Published: February 14th, 2019

    Superintendent Hoffman Applauds Passing of English Learner Bill

    Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today praised the signing of SB 1014 into law, which eliminated the stringent 4-hour state-mandated block of English-language instruction. The law also provides schools and teachers of English Learner (EL) students more flexibility to develop instructional models that best fit their individual needs.

    “For the past two decades, Arizona’s multilingual students have suffered from a misguided policy that has left them isolated, undereducated and unprepared to enter the workforce,” Superintendent Hoffman said. “The passage of this legislation will give tens of thousands of EL students a greater chance at success in school and in life, and their success will benefit all Arizonans. I applaud the governor and legislature for supporting this bill, as well as the advocates who fought so hard to make this happen.”

    During Superintendent Hoffman’s campaign for office, eliminating the 4-hour block was one of her foundational issues. The Superintendent’s research into bilingualism, as well as the unlimited feedback she has received from educators and students, consistently cited the 4-hour EL block as the biggest hindrance of academic success.

    SB 1014, which was sponsored by Senator Paul Boyer and Representative Michelle Udall, was passed with unanimous support by the legislature. The increased flexibility of the law will allow public schools and teachers to develop their own research-based models, which will be determined by the individual needs of their students.

    The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is currently working with EL stakeholders throughout the state to develop guidance that will enable a seamless transition to this less-restrictive approach. In addition, ADE will be charged with collecting data and analyzing the effectiveness of how schools implement their language instruction programming so best practices can be shared among educators throughout the state.

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    Published: Published: February 13th, 2019

    ADE Unveils New Comprehensive Education Calendar

    The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has unveiled a one-stop shop calendar for everything education in the state of Arizona. The comprehensive calendar will include events, professional development due dates, publishing dates and major submission deadlines.

    Programmatic technology specialists from Adult Ed and Exceptional Student Services worked with the ADE Information Technology division to develop this tool for educational stakeholders. The calendar will allow end users to filter by program, as well as role in a district or charter.

    The idea was developed after hearing repeated requests from the field for such a calendar. The goal is to combine all of the important statewide education dates, which includes everything from school finance to conference dates, in one easy-to-find place.

    To view the calendar, please visit http://www.azed.gov/calendar/events/.

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    Published: Published: February 12th, 2019

    Superintendent Hoffman Announces New ESA Director

    Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today announced the hiring of Karla Escobar as the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE’s) new Director of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Escobar has worked at ADE for the last seven years, having previously served in the role as ESA Director from February 2015 until April 2016, and most recently as a Dispute Resolution Compliant Investigator.

    “I am excited to work with Karla to ensure that the department manages this program with full transparency and accountability,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “This has been a very visible program over the past few years, which is why we have been particularly deliberate and especially thorough with our approach towards the program and the hiring process. We interviewed several external and internal candidates before deciding on Karla, who will not only provide both historical knowledge, but also seize upon this opportunity to restore confidence in the delivery of this program.”

    Escobar brings with her a detailed understanding of how the agency needs to adhere to all relevant state and federal regulations, as well as an ability to coordinate payments with the treasurer’s office and accurately process applications in a timely manner. She will work closely with ADE leadership to recommend policy and legislative changes to better improve program outcomes.

    In addition to her duties as ESA Director, Escobar will assist Superintendent Hoffman in leading a new ESA Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to engage stakeholders and examine all methods for improving program management.

    The education stakeholders involved in this task force include the governor’s office, the treasurer’s office, American Federation for Children, Save Our Schools and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. The task force’s aim is to seek bipartisan cooperation, an array of perspectives and a variety of solutions in order to determine the best course of action for the ESA program.

    Escobar will lead a staff of 11 other full-time employees, managing a program that dispersed roughly $58.7 million to approximately 5,000 students this past school year. The new ESA Director, who is fluent in Spanish and has a master’s degree in education, will bring a breadth of expertise to the position.

    More information on the ESA program is available at www.azed.gov/esa.

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    Published: Published: February 4th, 2019

    Supt. Hoffman Delivers State of Education Speech to House Representatives

    Please find the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman’s State of Education Speech to the House Representatives on February 4, 2019 below:

    Chairwoman Udall, members of the committee, thank you for having me here today.

    Let’s start with something we can all agree on: every day, Arizona’s amazing, dedicated teachers guide their students toward incredible achievements.

    As an educator and speech therapist, I know firsthand that our schools are tasked with more than teaching our children to read, write, and take tests. We are preparing them for success in school, at home, in their communities, and in their future careers.

    As I have traveled the state, I’ve seen that our teachers and support staff are eager to go above and beyond for their students because they know, like I do, that Arizona’s future starts in our schools. Across the state — in urban and rural districts alike — I have met so many teachers dedicated to serving their students despite the obstacles they face.

    One of my favorite school visits was to Mayer High School, just outside of Prescott, where I first learned about Future Farmers of America, or FFA. For those who are unfamiliar, FFA is a student organization that builds leadership skills as students learn about agriculture and animal life, all the way from birth to BBQ — their words, not mine. Many of the FFA students help their families make ends meet by working part-time jobs and raising animals to auction at fairs.

    Mayer’s FFA chapter utilizes the school’s 85-acre Land Laboratory, which includes a greenhouse, aquaculture center, metal shop, and a barn with cattle, goats, and pigs. Last year, thirteen of the chapter’s students received Industry Welding Certificates, and their chapter president received a scholarship to participate in a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. This past January, the students were awarded a $1,200 grant to clean up Big Bug Creek following the fires and floods that devastated their community in 2017.

    Mayer High School boasts exceptional programs like these — but it faces its own set of unique challenges. The FFA teacher advisor, Mr. Dinges, is the school’s lone agriculture teacher and, now in his fourth year, is one of the longest-tenured teachers at the school. After burning through five science teachers in four years, Mayer has NO science teacher, leaving students to take all of their science coursework through Computer Based Instruction.

    The school’s high teacher turnover rate is in part due to a lack of affordable housing in the surrounding area. Mr. Dinges told me that he and his family work around this issue by living in an RV near school property.

    Mr. Dinges is just one example of countless committed teachers across the state who are forced to find ways to overcome obstacles in their jobs. That list of obstacles is not short, and it should not fall on our educators to find solutions alone. I look forward to leading the Department of Education, and partnering with you — my colleagues in the Legislature — to work collaboratively to find solutions. But we must begin with a common language and acknowledgment of the challenges that our students and educators face.

    For one, addressing the social-emotional well-being of our students is now a critical job function for many folks working in our schools. The number of children dealing with trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences — including parental substance abuse associated with the opioid epidemic — has risen dramatically over the last few decades. At the same time, educators have seen an increase in behavioral challenges.

    What’s more, in an era of ballooning classroom sizes, teachers feel unequipped to manage a class of 30 children while also finding the time to provide individualized attention to their students, especially those that are facing depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. That’s why I am fully supportive of any plan to increase the presence of counselors, social workers, and school psychologists in our schools.

    Supporting students’ emotional wellbeing also means creating an inclusive environment that supports children from all backgrounds. After putting tens of thousands of miles on my car, and having to buy a second car, I know Arizona is diverse not just in terms of landscape, but also in its culture, language, heritage, and families.

    Our students come from families of all sorts, be it two parents, a single parent, grandparents, two moms or two dads. We also have students who are a part of the foster system and nontraditional homes. We should seek to understand and value these experiences, and build policies that reflect them.

    We must also consider students who are more likely to experience bullying and harassment — including students in the LGBTQ community. A simple step we can take to help reduce discrimination and bullying for these students is to repeal the “no promo homo” law — legislation that only contributes to an unsafe school environment. This policy is not just outdated, it has always been harmful and wrong.

    Building a true inclusive environment in our schools also means valuing multilingualism and celebrating diversity.

    Many businesses across the state are desperate for bilingual employees — but Arizona suffers from high drop-out rates of English-learning students. With only 18 percent of these students graduating high school, Arizona has the worst ELL graduation rate in the country.

    That’s why I am thrilled to support Representative Udall and Senator Boyer’s bills to reduce the restrictions of the 4-hour ELL block. This will allow students to spend more time immersed in general education coursework with their native English-speaking peers — something research shows actually improves ELL students’ success.

    But it is the success of all students that is the driving force behind my work as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I take it seriously because I know the stakes are high. So, when I’m asked about my thoughts on issues like charter school reform, my response is that I hold myself accountable for every Arizona child’s success — whether they attend a district or a charter school.

    That is why I am strongly committed to holding ALL schools to the same level of accountability – in transparency, in governance, and in procurement. The main purpose of charter schools should be to educate our children — not to profit at the expense of our communities. Any charter expenditure must be in the best interest of schools and the students they serve.

    I appreciate the Governor’s recommendation to increase staff at the Charter School Board. I think we can all agree there is an intense need for greater transparency and communication, which makes this one of the clearest places to get to work. I look forward to a spirited debate on charter school reform, and I hope bills proposed from both sides of the aisle get hearings, so we can forge bipartisan solutions that deliver fairness and equity for our students.

    It is impossible to discuss student success, however, without noting that the key to this success means ensuring every classroom is led by a highly qualified teacher. Right now, Arizona’s teacher shortage is nothing short of a crisis.

    Schools only function with the hard work of our teachers. But year after year, we have seen a devastating number of teachers leave the profession or move out of state. What’s more, in the next two years, twenty five percent of Arizona’s educators will be eligible to retire.

    This teacher shortage has a real impact on our students’ and our state’s future. Let’s consider, for example, that the national average of students enrolled in high school physics is 40 percent. In Arizona, that average is 20 percent. This is due in part to the fact that we have only 150 physics teachers across our entire state. How can we expect our students to become engineers, scientists, or doctors when we are not providing them access to physics, calculus, or other high-level STEM coursework?

    Let’s be clear: student success is not possible without highly-qualified teachers in the classroom. We absolutely must advance teacher recruitment and retention which means competitive pay and benefits across the board.

    In my conversations with teachers, a common concern is that their pay has been stagnant or even reduced by the rising cost of healthcare. One teacher recently shared that his pay has decreased every year for the past several years due to the increasing cost of healthcare and retirement benefits. The only way for him to find a pay raise would be to switch districts, which would not be in our students’ best interest. Just like any career, teachers deserve to know that their commitment to the field will result in fair pay increases that correlate with their years of experience.

    To support the upcoming generation of young teachers and be competitive with the private sector, we must also look at improving benefits – like paid maternity and paternity leave, or housing subsidies – that will draw more young people to the profession and retain our veteran teachers as they build their careers and their families in our state.

    And we cannot limit these improvements to just some teachers. In every classroom, it takes a wide range of professionals to make the school day run smoothly. Governor Ducey’s 20by2020 plan was a good start towards giving our teachers raises — but the plan limits the definition of “teacher” to only those that have homeroom classes. It excludes our art, music, and special education teachers, as well as support and classified staff, like counselors, speech therapists, paraprofessionals, and more. Raises for all of the talented, passionate employees who teach our kids can only be done with a dedicated, sustainable funding source — something that does not need to be referred to the ballot. You, as legislators, can do this. I’m encouraged that the conversation so far this session has focused on HOW we will fund education, and not IF we will.

    We must provide these necessary supports to allow educators to focus on their primary purpose: teaching future generations. It is a matter of respect.

    I’m proud to say that the we have already started to address many of these pressing issues in just my first few weeks in office. But we must do it right and collaboratively, which is why my first priority is improving communication and transparency between the Department of Education, the public, and this legislative body.

    To increase our transparency, we have begun the process of conducting a top-to-bottom audit of the Department to discover what works and what doesn’t work. This audit is not meant to be punitive — it is a tool for holding me accountable to my constituents. The results of this audit will provide us a full picture of departmental operations and finances, and serve as the basis for future decisions regarding the funds we have been entrusted. As we make those decisions, we ask for your support and confidence in our ability to steward these funds effectively and for their intended purpose.

    We will also be working with expert partners to conduct an internal capacity review, so that we can organize ourselves to ensure that our department is once again an agency of service.

    And we also will be working with you. Those of you on this committee are important advocates for education in Arizona, and I look forward to partnering with you — and offering the help of my team at the Department of Education — as we work to build success and solutions in the coming months.

    Already, many of you have extended to me a great courtesy: finding the time to talk. Together, we’ve begun to exchange ideas and explore how we can meet the standard of educational excellence we know we can achieve. We are so much more powerful when we collaborate.

    To those of you who have already joined me for a conversation, I say, “thank you.” To those of you I’ve not yet met with, I say: “Let’s make it happen!”

    This is important, because ‘collaboration’ and ‘partnership’ have not always been the first words to characterize the relationship between the Department of Education and the Legislature. We can change that. I intend to be an active partner with you, your colleagues in the Senate, and the Governor to meet our shared goals together.

    Let’s elevate the voices of educators and students by celebrating their incredible achievements. Let’s make our schools attractive places to work by providing teachers the supports they need to creatively and proactively meet the needs of their students.

    Time and time again, we see that when educators are given the opportunity to lead, they can transform their classrooms and their communities.

    If you don’t believe me, just ask the rural principal I met from Pinal County. He shared with me the “Cowboy Code of Conduct” his school instituted as a guiding set of principles to motivate students and improve their work ethic. In Pinal County, cowboys are role models, and his students were excited to learn the principles of cowboy ethics.

    The rules of the code were simple: always finish what you start, take pride in your work, and know where to draw the line. But these lessons resonated more deeply with students because their educators were empowered to connect student-learning with everyday examples in their community.

    This is what happens when we let educators lead because they are the true experts of education. Our policies will be most effective when we value and listen to educators, and when we work together to build solutions for our students, our teachers, and our schools.

    There is a lot of work to do, and together, we will get this right.

    Thank you.

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