Ariz. State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, along with leading educators from the Tucson region, spoke during a special breakfast hosted by the Marana Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 8.
During the annual breakfast, Huppenthal said the new legislative session is under way, and there are two major issues that he is asking lawmakers to address.
The first issue is improving a database that will provide teachers with more information faster.
Calling the current format a “nightmare”, Huppenthal said teachers should be able to immediately access a new student’s history through a state-kept database.
“Our accounting system has to be rewritten so we can adequately support teachers,” he said. “When 200,000 students move from school to school, teachers should all the information about these students right away.”
Huppenthal estimated it would cost about $6.5 million to fix the current database.
The second issue Huppenthal brought up centers around foreign language programs in Arizona.
“Students should not just learn the language, but instead, learn something in that foreign language,” he said.
Huppenthal also talked about the increased number of students who are attending school districts outside their attendance boundaries thanks to the open-enrollment policy in Arizona.
The state official applauded the program, stating it improves culture and allows students the opportunity to find the right school for them.
When it comes to improving k-12 education in Arizona, Huppenthal said he will begin modeling after programs used in Massachusetts. By adopting the same policies, standards and tests as Massachusetts, Huppenthal said he is confident Arizona’s education system can go toe-to-toe in national competition.
Speaking on a local level, Lee Lambert the new chancellor of Pima Community College talked about his plans to change the mindset and culture in Tucson.
Lambert came to Tucson from Seattle.
Lambert said Pima College has to take some of the responsibility for the fact that Tucson ranks sixth on the national list for being the one of the poorest large cities.
The new chancellor said the high-skill level jobs are filled and the low-level jobs are often filled, however, the middle-skill jobs are often left vacant because of the lack of post-secondary training offered to the local population.
“We are to a point where everyone needs some kind of post-secondary education and I don’t mean only college,” Lambert said. “Pima must be working with others such as high schools and programs.”
Lambert stressed that improving Tucson means Pima must start working directly with the business community.
Pima is going to be looking at creating better pathways for students, starting in high school. Many of those programs will focus in the areas of manufacturing and machinery, Lambert said.
“We have to face reality that our students aren’t ready for college or career,” Lambert said. “We’ve built a system to cause that. A lot of jobs are filled at the middle-class level, and that’s where Pima is going to go.”
Lambert said he estimates its going to take between three and five years to really turn around the mindset and programs at Pima College.