Articles tagged with Arizona School Boards Association

Ariz. districts look to early childhood programs to boost long-term achievement

The following article was originally published by the Arizona School Boards Association

By Tracey Benson, ASBA Director of Communications

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It may be an old saw, but it well summarizes what many education leaders across Arizona and the nation believe to be true about the relationship between college and career readiness and early education – the learning and experiences that happen between birth and age 8.PAT 14

Current research about brain development and early learning backs those beliefs, according to Karen Woodhouse, chief program officer at First Things First, a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help children be successful once they enter kindergarten. For example:

  • 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before they enter kindergarten, and the quality of a child’s interactions with adult caregivers – from parents to childcare providers and preschool teachers – lays the foundation for a lifetime.
  • Differences in children’s vocabulary first start to appear at 18 months.
  • A child’s vocabulary, attention and general knowledge at 3 and 4 years old correlates to their reading comprehension levels at ages 9 and 10.

With the implementation of new, more rigorous academic standards in Arizona and the Move On When Reading law, which requires students to be reading at a sufficient level before they can be promoted from third to fourth grade, the stakes have been raised for preparing children for K-12 success.

Dr. Debbie Pischke, director of the Peoria Unified School District’s preschool program for the past 19 years, and a regional partnership council chair for First Things First, says early childhood education is more important today than ever before. Peoria USD serves approximately 1,000 preschool students through 40 programs on 15 campuses. Scholarships are available for more than one-fourth of those children through a grant from First Things First.

“In education we talk about the achievement gap a lot, but there was a readiness gap before there was an achievement gap,” she says. “We know that the brain a child brings to kindergarten started way before they got there. The pathways for learning were established by age three.”

Pischke and others say that achievement gap may widen if early education isn’t more fully addressed.

While preschool attendance is not the only indicator of readiness, it is one. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 Kids Count report, 46 percent of all U.S. children attend preschool. In Arizona, only 33 percent do.

That could become a bigger problem. “Kindergarten is no longer about reciting the ABCs,” Pischke says. “Today when children come into kindergarten, they need to know how to work with other children, listen to an adult other than mom or dad, pay attention, demonstrate persistence, be able to control their emotions and body appropriately for their age.”

They also need pre-math and pre-literacy skills.

She repeats a saying she once heard at an early childhood conference to drive home her point: “The speaker said, ‘You can’t climb the ladder of success if the first rung is broken.’”

Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Kelty also is concerned that without more aggressive early preparation and greater access to early childhood programs, the achievement gap will grow. “We see too many children starting behind, and that gap is rarely closed,” says Kelty. “We’re so used to blaming the K-12 system (for this), instead of asking how we can provide more access to quality early education options for children and their parents.”

A community survey conducted this year in Coconino County revealed that 53 percent of children in the county enter kindergarten unprepared to learn what is now expected of them. “Our county data and our statewide data are reflecting that (lack of preparedness) in our students’ academic performance,” he says.

Woodhouse, Pischke and Kelty all note that the academic and social costs to children can be high if they enter kindergarten unprepared. School districts incur financial costs, specifically those associated with remediation and retention. These education experts contend that rich early childhood experiences, whether at home, or through preschool or quality childcare settings, can reduce those costs.

A growing cadre of advocates from business, economic development, government and the social service sectors say the positive effects of investment in early childhood education are even more far reaching. Rob Grunewald is one of those advocates. An economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, he will speak before a group of Arizona citizens that will gather this fall for the annual Arizona Town Hall, where the topic of early childhood education in Arizona will be explored in-depth.

“Research shows that investments in early childhood education can return up to $16 for every $1 invested through reduced need for welfare assistance, increased income tax revenue, less burden on the criminal justice system and fewer children needing remedial education services,” says Grunewald. “Children and their families benefit from these investments, but the majority of financial benefits accrue to society and taxpayers.”

According to research cited by First Things First, children exposed to rich experiences in early childhood are 80 percent more likely to graduate high school, 70 percent less likely to commit a violent crime by age 18 and 40 percent less likely to be held back a grade.

That message about broad societal benefits is reverberating in many parts of Arizona. As part of its economic development strategy and in light of the results of the county’s recent community education survey, Coconino County has invested nearly $350,000 in a parent education program focused on the early years. Parenting College, developed and implemented by the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Office as part of its Transformative Learning Center, focuses on nine topics, including brain development, safety, discipline and nurturing pre-academic skills through reading and vocabulary. The classes are delivered to teen parents attending Ponderosa High School, the county’s accommodation school, through a partnership with a high school in the Flagstaff Unified School District, and most recently through community sessions offered on Saturdays.

For these reasons and others, school district leaders increasingly are looking for ways to engage and influence parents and provide foundational learning and socialization experiences to children before kindergarten. “The model many people think of is to begin thinking about children as learners when they start kindergarten, but more and more school districts are taking advantage of opportunities to connect with families of young children before that point,” says Woodhouse. “It’s really important for the leaders on a school board to be familiar with the variety of ways that can be done.”

She emphasizes that meeting needs of children and families in ways that make sense for the local community is essential. One strategy does not fit all.

In addition to offering preschool programs that serve students with developmental delays, which is required by law, many school districts are extending the opportunity to other local children by braiding state and federal funds with grants from organizations like First Things First that provide scholarships to students whose families would not otherwise be able to afford preschool. First Things First currently provides 51 Arizona school districts – from small and rural, to large and urban – with grants for preschool scholarships.

Since opening a preschool four years ago, the small, rural Topock Elementary School District in Mohave County has seen kindergarten readiness jump. The 20-student preschool is offered free to 3- and 4-year-olds through a grant from First Things First. “It has become the great equalizer,” says John Warren, superintendent of the district that serves 140 students overall. “That pipeline of success stemming from the preschool is evident.” (See page 19 for an in-depth look at Topock’s program and the results it is producing.)

The Mesa Unified School District repurposed an elementary school this year as a preschool center. The school board voted last year to convert the campus because of declining enrollment. The Jordan Center for Early Education will house special education preschool, state-sponsored programs and the district’s tuition-based program, along with a “wrap-around care” option for working parents.

The Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson also has a preschool and early education campus, created after the district closed one of its elementary schools two years ago. All its preschool programs, which serve 400 children, are housed there.

Some districts and JTEDs offer fee-based, licensed preschool programs on their campuses that do double duty by providing high school students opportunities to earn career and technical education credits and valuable skills by working in the preschool programs.

The Pima County JTED is one of them. “We’re training the next generation of preschool teachers,” says Greg D’Anna, director of public relations.

West-MEC, a JTED that serves students in Maricopa County, funds early childhood education/education professions programs at 23 high schools in the West Valley. One of those schools, Apollo High School in the Glendale Union High School District, offers COOP – the Child Oriented Occupational Program. The program gives the older students hands-on experience by working one hour a day in the preschool along with an additional hour for classroom instruction and lesson planning. It gives the preschoolers a leg up on kindergarten.

Similarly, the East Valley Institute of Technology offers its early childhood/education professions students the opportunity to learn and work in a childcare center, but it has done so by partnering with a private preschool operating a center on its campus.

Other districts have created family resource centers on school campuses that offer parents of pre-K children access to information and materials to help prepare their children for school success.

Some districts blend a variety of approaches. Co-located on Sunnyside USD’s preschool campus is the district’s award-winning, research-based, free and voluntary Parents as Teachers – or PAT – program. PAT serves expectant parents and parents of children birth to 5 years old residing in the Sunnyside district. It provides them with information on the latest research in neuroscience and child development, support and strategies during the crucial early years to strengthen families and prepare children for lifelong achievement. According to district spokeswoman Mary Veres, PAT has increased children’s school readiness and success. It also improves parenting practices and provides early detection of developmental delays.

And other models exist as well.

“Having varied approaches is important,” notes Woodhouse. “We need to meet parents where they are. Preschool is not for every child or every family, but every child does need rich early childhood experiences, and it’s in the interest of school districts to be a part of that.”

In addition to improved student achievement, ancillary benefits are being experienced by districts engaged in early childhood programs. Preschools and parent programs draw young families to the district.

“The early years are a great time for districts to begin building relationships with the family, to become a great resource, to make them comfortable in the school community and to help them understand what will happen when their child starts kindergarten,” Woodhouse explains.

Pischke agrees and says Peoria has experienced that benefit. An elementary school that opened four preschool programs on its campus one year had 25 variances for kindergarten the following year. “We’re their first exposure to school,” she says. “So if we’re making a good impression, they’re going to want to stay.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 11th, 2013|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, Preschool Education, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Arizona school boards pleased with ruling in school finance case

The Arizona School Boards Association is applauding the unanimous Arizona Supreme Court decision in Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey, which upheld the legal provision in Proposition 301, the referendum passed by Arizona voters in 2000, that requires the Arizona Legislature to fund the K-12 education budget to annually account for inflation.
 
“Today, after four years of lobbying and legal challenges to get the Legislature to do not just what’s right for Arizona, but what’s required by law, we are gratified by the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision,” said Dr. Tim Ogle, executive director of ASBA. “First and foremost, this is a victory for the voters of the state of Arizona, but, by extension, it is also a victory for the children of our state, who have seen their educations de-funded because of disregard of the law. We hope our elected representatives get the message loud and clear: When the voters pass something, you are bound to uphold it.”
 
ASBA, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting locally elected governance of public education and continuous improvement of student success, led the coalition of education organizations in the legal effort to compel the Legislature to fulfill its obligation to fund inflation.
Joetta Sack-Min|September 26th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

Arizona School Boards Association builds fund to help children of fallen firefighters

The Arizona School Boards Association and other state education organizations have launched a long-term, statewide, community-giving effort aimed at providing the financial assistance necessary to meet the full-range of education needs of the children and families of the 19 hotshot crew members who died on June 30 fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

The Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Education Fund will provide the 13 children, three unborn children, and the spouses and fiancées of the crew members all reasonable assistance with education-related expenses throughout the children’s school-age years. The goal is to raise $5 million.

A fund has been established with Wells Fargo and the public is invited to make tax-deductible donations at any Wells Fargo branch using account number 8008516158. In addition, checks to the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Education Fund, with account number 8008516158 noted in the memo line, may also be sent to the fund’s fiscal agent, the Arizona School Boards Association, at 2100 N. Central Ave., Ste, 200, Phoenix, AZ 85004, for deposit into the account.

Assistance to families, which will be provided until the youngest of the children turns 22, could include funds for early childhood education opportunities like preschool, K-12 needs such as school clothes and supplies, activity fees for extracurricular activities, and college admissions testing, and post-secondary needs such as college textbooks and tuition, or vocational training programs.

“This fund was established to provide a way for all Arizonans, and compassionate people everywhere, to honor the brave men who were lost and stand by the families of the Yarnell 19 over time as they lay educational foundations for the future,” said Tim Carter, Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools, who has worked as liaison between the statewide organizations spearheading the effort and Prescott-area groups, including the family services branch of the local firefighters’ union.

The groups pledging their assistance to help build the fund and support the families over time through regional, state and national efforts are the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, Arizona School Administrators, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Association of County School Superintendents and Yavapai College Foundation.

“Nothing can replace what these families have lost, but we can build awareness for their needs, and leverage our state and national networks to support them as they move forward – growing, learning, and pursuing successful and fulfilling futures in the ways education makes possible,” said Dr. Tim Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association.

A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, ASBA’s services as fiscal agent for the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Education Fund will be provided pro bono.

In addition to the comprehensive Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Education Fund, a complementary scholarship endowment fund for the children of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and other fallen firefighters was recently established by the Arizona Community Foundation and the Yavapai County Community Foundation.

Staff|July 9th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Featured, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

School board members need to be aware of ALEC, other anti-public education groups

Once upon a time there was a rather odd North Carolina school board member who proposed that all purchasing orders in his very large district — from pencils, to books, to paper clips, to cleaning supplies — be posted online. It was a move that, not surprisingly, would have required the cash-strapped district to hire several additional central office staff, just to keep up with the paperwork.

If this sounds like a very bad fairy tale, well, it isn’t. The board member in question was no ordinary public servant, but a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultraconservative advocacy group whose main tactic is to introduce literally thousands of bills each year in state legislatures across the country, many aimed at privatizing public education. Three years ago, ALEC called for the abolishment of school boards, so you have some idea where it stands.

“So if you see something that looks, I would say, overly bizarre, ask some questions,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association.

Better yet, go to an ALEC meeting. Really. At least you’ll know what they’re up to – and what kind of legislation could be headed to a statehouse near you.

“Knowing what the conversation is — [that’s] the first step to fighting the legislation,” said Janice Palmer, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association.

Palmer and Winner joined Roberta E. Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, for a Monday morning session at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting called “Molding the K-12 Debate,” which dealt with the outsized influence of ALEC and the slightly-less-radical Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEIE), founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“One thing they have is money,” Stanley said of ALEC, which is backed by the owners of Wal-Mart and other billionaires. “Copious amounts of money.”

Typically, the bills ALEC introduces in state legislatures come from the same template, barely tweaked to fit a particular state. Sometimes lawmakers introduce them virtually verbatim. Arizona has been a target for years.

“ALEC has seen Arizona as an incubator for model legislation, especially in the area of school choice,” Palmer said.

The state has more than 500 charter schools of varying quality, and statewide public school choice – with districts paying the cost of transportation. Arizona’s public schools are the second worst funded in the country. Yet about $60 million that could have gone to public schools has been funneled to private and religious schools via tax credits.

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National School Boards Action Center, Privatization|Tags: , , , , , , |

Arizona school board leader advocates for quality education for all students

BoardBuzz recommends you check out this insightful op-ed in The Arizona Republic by Tim Ogle, Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association, on our need to support our local public schools.

Ogle notes:

Work-arounds and alternatives aren’t the answer to ensuring a strong and secure future for our nation and its citizens; they leave too many children behind. So our imperative must be to not allow underperforming neighborhood schools to languish, because there will be children in them.

“Choice” is a policy strategy that fails an unacceptable number of students. Some parents — those charged with making “the choice” — are simply unable to transport their child to a school outside their neighborhood or community. Other parents, tragically, are indifferent and unengaged in their child’s education.

These are factors education policy can’t change, and they provide powerful reasons why the conversation must be shifted away from choice to expecting a quality school in every neighborhood for every student. That is unity of purpose.

Ogle concludes:

We need quality education for all students and that means a renewed commitment to neighborhood public schools — the schools that the vast majority of American children, including 90 percent of Arizona’s school-age children attend.

Our neighborhood public schools must be the most powerful and essential training ground for our nation’s future scientists, linguists, inventors and business leaders.

To read the full commentary, go to The Arizona Republic‘s website.

There has been lots of  web comments posted on The Arizona Republic‘s website on this. Share your thoughts by going to “Post a comment” following  Ogle’s posting.

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2012|Categories: Charter Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |
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