News


Published: February 11th, 2020

Superintendent Hoffman Delivers First Annual State of Special Education Speech

Chairwoman Allen, Vice-Chairman Boyer, members of the committee:

Thank you for having me and for the opportunity to deliver the first annual State of Special Education today. Last week, I spoke to the House Education Committee about the need for a comprehensive plan for our public education system.

But one specific area of this system deserves our immediate and intense focus — special education.

There are currently 150,000 Arizona students in special education whose needs range in severity and in the kinds of supports they need for success.

Whether a student faces mobility issues or speech challenges, emotional needs or learning obstacles – that student deserves access to quality professionals with the expertise and resources to support their individual needs.

As a speech therapist in our public schools, I worked with a team of educators to ensure that all students have access to a quality education and saw many students overcome extraordinary challenges.

For example, early in my career, I worked with one of my favorite students who I refer to as Mason, who had brain damage from severe seizures. His mother shared with me that Mason relied on using 5 picture cards to communicate at home.

Through intensive speech therapy, I taught him to use an iPad to communicate and significantly expanded his vocabulary. By the end of the year, for the first time, he was able to say “I love you” to his mom.

The skills taught in our special education programs extend far beyond the classroom – into homes, playgrounds, birthday parties, and eventually, into the workplace.

But in my conversations with school leaders, I have heard countless times that our underfunded special education system leaves many schools with difficult choices on where to make cuts in order to provide services – choices they should not have to make.

A 2007 cost study revealed a $100 million-dollar gap between what schools were receiving for special education and what they were spending. Today, any principal or special education director will tell you that gap is even greater.

I am encouraged to see bipartisan support for increasing funding for special education – and I again want to thank this committee for passing Senator Allen’s bill, SB1060 which takes an important step toward filling that gap.

But I think we can all agree that this is just a first step – with special education historically underfunded at the federal level, state resources are even more critical.

I’ve heard from so many people – parents and educators alike – who are frustrated by years of cuts that have resulted in an under-resourced system that is stretched thin.

As a result, our state is facing a severe shortage of certified and licensed professionals in all areas of Special Education.

Even though there are 16,000 certified Special Education teachers in Arizona right now, less than half are currently reported as teaching in our schools.

Shortages in these teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and School Psychologists are at crisis levels.

None of these positions were included in the 20×2020 raises – and many of these professionals are paid higher wages in other industries, like healthcare or in private practice.

Contributing to the shortage is the fact that special education teachers face higher rates of burnout as they balance teaching among high caseloads, mandatory paperwork, limited resources and high turnover of support staff.

Given this reality, it’s critical to provide comprehensive supports for special education teachers — especially during their first years in the classroom. This is why the Arizona Department of Education’s Exceptional Student Services team developed an exciting new program called Teach Camp.

Teach Camp was designed in partnership with the Arizona Council for Exceptional Children to improve the retention of new special education teachers. It offers an extensive, year-long system of supports, including ongoing professional development and connection to a network of peers. Last year’s Teach Camp assisted 140 educators – and is fast becoming a national model.

Our specialists at ADE have found innovative ways to support teachers. To build on that success, I’m grateful for your partnership with ADE in all the ways we serve the field.

Last year, with Senator Boyer’s leadership on SB1318, ADE created a Dyslexia Specialist position for the first time in Arizona’s history. We are thrilled that Michelle Hodges – a middle school interventionist and developmental preschool teacher – is now working with teams across ADE to ensure all of Arizona’s students receive effective reading instruction, and that schools know best practices for identifying students with dyslexic characteristics.

I want to thank Senator Boyer for sponsoring SB1491, which you are hearing today, and which includes funding for Michelle’s position as well as two more full-time employees who will provide trainings to K-3 educators across the state. I urge this committee to support this bill and allow ADE to build a team that, together, will help our schools meet the needs of struggling readers, especially those with dyslexia.

Another part of Michelle’s new role is supporting our Early Childhood team in educating preschool providers on how to identify language processing challenges.

Preschool is often the first time a student can be evaluated by a professional who can develop a plan that meets their unique needs and abilities. Increasing access to preschool means earlier diagnoses, greater prevention, and reduced gaps in intervention. Preschool is also one of the strongest predictors of academic success.

Programs like First Things First and Head Start have laid the groundwork for families to access early childhood services, but without dedicated state funding, too many families, in rural and urban areas alike, lack any access to preschool – a problem exacerbated by our state’s recent loss of $20 million in federal Preschool Development Grants.

I wholeheartedly support – and urge your support of — the bipartisan bill HB2806 which would help restore this funding. It is critical that our preschool programs serving families across the state have the resources they need to keep their doors open.

The success of our students with special needs indicates the success of the entire public education system and the success of our state. Across Arizona, we’re seeing Districts build more inclusive school communities.

For more than 17 years, this has been the case in Mrs. Jana Martin’s class at Miles’ Exploratory Learning Center in Tucson Unified – where 13 third through fifth-grade students who are deaf or hard of hearing are taught alongside their peers.

The school’s seven co-enrolled classrooms are led by one certified Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher and one general education teacher and supported by licensed speech therapists and classroom aides.

Like all dual-language programs, receiving instruction in both American Sign Language and English enriches the learning of all of the students in Mrs. Martin’s class and builds important bridges that ensure no child feels as though they are learning differently.

In today’s public education system, every child should feel that they are valued. And I know what our students are capable of when we give them the tools to succeed.

But it will take investment — in special education educator pay; in high-quality pre-school; in the services that students need, to make this a reality.

We can do this fairly. And we can do this now.

So, I ask you, our state leaders, to invest comprehensively in our public education system, in our students receiving special education services, and in the coming generations of Arizonans that will define the future of our great state.

Posted in News, Press Releases |
Published: September 26th, 2019

Five Arizona Schools Earn Blue Ribbon Recognition

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today proudly announced five Arizona schools have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education (US ED). The five schools receiving this honor are Alhambra Traditional School in Phoenix, Arizona College Prep Erie Campus in Chandler, Ash Fork Elementary School in Ash Fork, Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School in Phoenix and the Montessori Education Centre Charter School in Mesa. These schools are among the 312 public and 50 non-public schools that will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 14-15.

“This is a wonderful accomplishment for these five schools,” Superintendent Hoffman said. “A commitment to high academic standards and a focus on closing achievement gaps is vital to the success of all students. I want to congratulate the administrators, educators, staff, and students for the hard work that led to this distinguished honor.”

US ED recognized the 362 schools across the nation for their overall academic performance or for their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

For photographs and brief descriptions of the 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools, please visit https://www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.

 

Posted in News, Press Releases |
Published: July 19th, 2019

Supt. Hoffman Asks Legislature to Release Funds for ESA Program

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman asks the legislature to release funds for ESA program and addresses Representative Mark Finchem’s call on the Attorney General to investigate the Arizona Department of Education’s Empowerment Scholarship Program:

“It has been and remains my administration’s intent to run the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program effectively to serve enrolled students and families. With the ESA program’s exponential growth in recent years, the legislature’s failure to adequately fund the program’s management has resulted in an increased burden for families. Parents should rightfully be upset by long hold times, and they should call their legislators and demand to know why there is over $3 million in dedicated ESA administrative funding sitting in an account, unavailable for use by the Arizona Department of Education to manage the ESA program.

The statute governing the ESA program allows for 4 percent of program funding to be allocated to cover program administration. Currently, our ESA Department receives less than half that amount – 1.62 percent. It is hypocritical for members of the legislature to attack the department on this issue when they have failed to fully fund the administration of this program year after year.

As of today, there are nearly 6,500 students on the ESA program, with more than 1,300 new applications waiting to be processed. We employ 10 full-time ESA specialists who are responsible for taking calls, processing applications and contracts, reviewing expense accounts, investigating misspent funds, and more. This equates to a caseload of roughly 650 ESA students to one specialist, which is unacceptable for workload realities.

Despite these challenges, my administration is actively working on solutions that will allow us to better serve those relying on this program. These solutions include moving to a new payment system which will be easier for parents to use, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately, and reducing the need for parents to call the department with questions on expenditures. We plan to transition to this new system in the coming months. It is an incredibly busy time of year for our ESA department, and we have approved overtime for members of our ESA staff to work this weekend and we are also working to reallocate other department resources to help answer phones to reduce hold times. The bottom line is that the department is working diligently to administer this program, despite the lack of resources allocated by the legislature.

I have made it a priority since taking office to build working relationships with members of both parties in order to best serve students and families. Arizonans deserve government officials who will work together to solve problems and find solutions — especially when it comes to our children. I am disappointed that any lawmaker would participate in efforts that only serve to damage the relationship between the department and the legislature. We have already spoken with Attorney General Brnovich’s office about our shared commitment to transparency and ways we can work collaboratively to support students and families. I appreciate his office’s willingness to work with my administration.

I urge lawmakers to provide the full amount of allowable administrative funding, so the department can effectively implement and manage this program. To do any less does a disservice to students and families.”

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Published: June 24th, 2019

Supt. Hoffman’s Statement on Proposed Sex Ed Amendments

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman’s statement on the proposed amendments regarding sex education at today’s State Board meeting:

“Today during our State Board of Education meeting, we heard nearly four hours of public comment regarding proposed amendments to board policies about sex education. I greatly respect that parents came to this meeting to advocate for their families and I appreciate the sensitivity that surrounds this topic.

While I have many takeaways from the comments, it became clear to me that there is misunderstanding about what is decided by districts and what guidelines can be set by the State Board of Education. Sex education curriculum is determined by districts and local school boards. Parents have always had the right to opt their child in or out of these health courses if they wish to provide that information themselves. The language proposed today did not attempt to change this, nor did it mandate or institute additional curriculum. The minor changes were intended to clean up outdated language in state guidelines and ensure that any curriculum a district chooses is medically and scientifically accurate.

I heard from community members and parents who were concerned about the information their children would be provided if their districts were to account for LGBTQ students in health education. Arizona’s public schools exist to serve all students who walk through their doors. However, for decades, codified bigotry has denied too many children information about their sexual health. I am greatly concerned with the health of our students. With rising rates of suicide, depression, and transmission of STIs, it is my utmost priority that all students have access to medically accurate information so that they can make healthy, informed choices. It is a matter of safety and respect.”

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Published: May 6th, 2019

Superintendent Hoffman Announces New Leadership Position Focused on Equity

The application process for this position is now closed. Individuals selected for consideration will be contacted directly. 

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today announced the creation of a new executive leadership position at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) focused on issues of equity. The Associate Superintendent of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will be charged with driving ADE’s internal and external efforts to better serve under-represented, marginalized, and at-risk students and their families.

“All of Arizona’s students deserve the chance to succeed and reach their full academic potential, regardless of their background,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “This leadership position is among the first of its kind in the nation. It reflects my administration’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion both in our internal practices and in the state policy we help drive.”

Among other responsibilities, the new Associate Superintendent will be tasked with identifying opportunities for cross-agency collaboration, developing a state strategic plan for equity initiatives, and working with the Policy & Government Relations team to propose legislative solutions to state lawmakers. The Associate Superintendent will also participate in many of the State Superintendent’s task-force groups that focus on issues of equity, such as the African American Advisory Council, Latinx Advisory Council, Culturally Inclusive Practices Advisory Council, and more.

Interested individuals can apply by e-mailing their resume and cover letter to [email protected] using the subject line “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” Acceptance of applications will end on May 24, 2019. The full job description for the Associate Superintendent of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion can be found below.  

 

Associate Superintendent of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Responsible for:

  • Leading ADE’s internal efforts to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.
  • Identifying opportunities for cross-agency collaboration to better serve under-represented, marginalized, and at-risk students and their families.
  • Providing ADE staff with professional development and resources focused on cultural competence and biases.
  • Leadership and oversight of program areas assigned by the Superintendent.
  • Assessing internal processes in collaboration with Human Resources to ensure that workplace policies are equitable, culturally responsive, and promote diversity.
  • Developing a state strategic plan for equity initiatives and related public policies with the input of stakeholders and ADE staff.
  • Engaging with staff, districts, and community stakeholders on equity issues and proposed solutions to strengthen communities through more equitable resources and educational practices.
  • Working with Policy & Government Relations team to propose legislative solutions for lawmakers.
  • Participating in committees, advisory councils, or task force groups that focus on issues of equity (e.g. African American Advisory Council; Culturally Inclusive Practices Advisory Council), and support committees and ADE staff on the implementation of collective ideas and goals.
  • Monitoring statewide data on achievement gaps among groups of students and bring together ADE staff and other stakeholders to develop strategies and solutions.
Posted in Announcements, News, Press Releases | Tagged , , , |
Published: April 11th, 2019

Superintendent Hoffman Celebrates Repeal of Anti-LGBTQ Curriculum Law

Today, the state legislature fully repealed anti-LGBTQ legislation regarding HIV/AIDS curriculum, sometimes referred to as the “no promo homo law,” with strong bipartisan support, and the Governor signed it into law minutes later. This repeal means students will no longer be denied access to medically accurate, science-based information regarding HIV/AIDS.

More importantly, after nearly three decades of this law placing stigma on our LGBTQ community, the repeal sends a signal to every student, teacher, and family in Arizona that they are welcome in our schools – regardless of who they are and who they love.

I ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction because I saw firsthand the impact of these laws in our classrooms. I knew we could no longer stand by and allow discriminatory practices to be our status quo. Equality Arizona, GLSEN Phoenix, Aunt Rita’s Foundation, Planned Parenthood Arizona, one n ten, ONE Community, Human Rights Campaign, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Students’ Association, and many more groups have long fought for this bill’s repeal. I also want to thank Senator Martín J. Quezada for his tireless leadership on this issue.

I applaud my colleagues in the legislature for taking this important step toward building a better and more equal state. Today, and every day, we say: all are welcome in our schools.

Posted in News, Press Releases |
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: 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.

Posted in News, Press Releases | Tagged , , , , |
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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