Question: What are the most important subjects or skills you feel our educational system and institutions should be concentrating on to prepare a work force that will sustain our economy?
Andrew F. Morrill
Arizona Education Association
We hear a lot about the importance of STEM academic areas (science, technology, engineering and math) as drivers of an education that will prepare students for the work force. But students need a variety of academic challenges to develop critical thinking skills that will serve them in whatever pursuit they follow.
Research confirms that the skills required for success in college align closely with those necessary for success in the working world. Mathematics and analytical skills are mandatory for success after school. But I taught critical thinking and reasoning as part of every English lesson. I taught students to regard evidence in drawing any conclusion. What about teaching accuracy, brevity and clarity in all forms of writing? Certainly these traits are welcome in the working world.
The role of our schools is not solely to prepare students for work but to prepare students to be their best: to think critically, reason with discipline and study, commit to tasks, live within an ethical framework, and feel passion for excellence. I think employers value these attributes universally.
Andrew F. Morrill is president of the Arizona Education Association, the largest professional association in Arizona, which is committed to “keeping the promise of quality public education” for every Arizona student. The UA graduate (bachelor’s degree in English Literature and master’s degree in Educational Psychology) was nine times named a Marana Unified School District Top 10 Inspirational Teacher, among other professional accolades.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
State of Arizona
As Superintendent of Public Instruction, my commitment to Arizona’s students is to actively prepare them to be college- and career-ready and globally competitive. I am equally committed to creating an expansive school choice environment.
At the Department of Education, we have a number of innovative initiatives underway. We are increasing academic expectations through the roll-out of Arizona’s new Common Core standards, as well as developing a more rigorous assessment instrument tied to these higher standards, through the PARCC consortium of 23 states. We are also increasing accountability with Arizona’s new A-F Letter Grade System, which holds our school districts and schools responsible for the academic growth of every student.
Through our blended learning initiatives, we are working with schools to introduce technology into classrooms that will enable the tailoring of education to the specific needs of every student. Our commitment to career and technical education is critical, as we recognize this essential component to creating student engagement and relevance to the needs of Arizona’s work force.
Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal’s 27 years in public service includes 18 in the state legislature. Either serving on or chairing education committees, he successfully authored and passed more than 200 bills, more than any other legislator in state history. A substantial number of those bills focused on improving education.
Vice President, Community Relations and Public Affairs
The ever-changing technology industry helps improve business productivity, enhances people’s lives around the world and is one that leads our global economy. Because of this, it is vital that our educational system and institutions place more emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Equally important, the private sector has a responsibility to work with educators in shaping curriculum to ensure students receive the skills and knowledge required to be successful upon graduation.
For the past eight years, Avnet has hosted the Avnet Tech Games, a collaborative effort by Arizona educators and technology companies, to help the state’s two- and four-year college students acquire valuable technical and communications skills to further develop their STEM education. This partnership is truly a win-win-win where students test classroom knowledge in real-world situations, schools can better align academic curricula with business realities and the technology industry benefits because graduates are better prepared for the workplace.
With more collaboration between public and private institutions, I certainly believe we will have a work force that will not only sustain our economy but grow it.
Teri Radosevich is vice president of community relations and public affairs for Avnet, Inc., a global technology distributor. She is responsible for the company’s community outreach, government affairs and local community branding. For the Avnet Tech Games, Radosevich works closely with business leaders and educators to determine how to tailor the competition so students can enhance real-world skills in demand by employers.