Steven G. Zylstra Message: Nov. 2014

by Steven G. Zylstra, President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council

Steve Zylstra

Steve Zylstra

As a business leader in Arizona, I’m passionate about making sure our state is building a competitive economy that creates jobs. As a parent, I’ve always tried to instill the value of a good education into my children’s core beliefs. It’s always been easy for me to see how the two issues are intrinsically intertwined.

The world is rapidly changing, and if Arizona is going to create an environment that attracts the kind of high-skill, high-wage business community that we want, we need to stay focused on providing our children with a quality education. Students need to be given the opportunity to develop their talent and capability to compete in a global innovation economy. Today, we fall woefully short of that imperative.

Consider these facts complied by Expect More Arizona, a movement for world-class education:

  • 53 percent of Arizona’s graduates do not qualify to enroll in our state’s public universities (Arizona Board of Regents)
  • 59 percent of Arizona students who attend a community college require remediation (Complete College America)
  • 88 percent of all higher-wage growth occupations in Arizona’s targeted industries will require postsecondary education or extensive work experience (Arizona Commerce Authority) while only 37 percent of Arizona adults have an associate degree or higher (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems Information Center)

These sobering statistics are why I stand behind Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core) in English language arts and mathematics that teachers in public district and charter schools across the state have been implementing since 2011.

It’s also why I support the selection and use of a new test that will replace AIMS, which simply set the bar too low for high school students — at a 10th grade level. New tests aligned with the current standards will assess whether students not only have learned information and facts but whether they can think critically, communicate effectively and apply what they learn. They will also help parents know if their child is on the path to being college and career ready.

We’re all parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts, or have a child in our life whom we want to see succeed. Adopting these standards is about their needs. By making sure students learn the type of skills needed to develop the rewarding careers they deserve, a rising tide lifts all the boats. The economic growth and development that their talent and innovation will create and attract to Arizona will benefit us all.

Michelangelo had it right when he famously said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” It’s important that we all take action to support these higher academic standards. Tell your legislators you’re in favor. Go to Graduate Prepared AZ website and sign its letter of support. If you have doubts or questions, ask your local school administrators. We need everyone’s passion and commitment to make sure Arizona’s students are prepared for success in college, career and life.

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