During a recent interview, and election candidate said said when it comes to education voters shouldn’t always be looking at the top. Instead, he made a very good point, stating, “Government that is best, is government that is closest to the people.”

By this, the election candidate meant residents should be looking closely at who they elect to local school boards, who is running our universities and who is managing our schools at the local level.

While I agree 100 percent with the statement, I also believe a lot of emphasis in the upcoming election needs to be put on education at not only the local level, but also the state and federal levels.

Students may be receiving high school diplomas in this state, but they are far from ready for the real world, or even college. That’s not just a problem locally, that’s a structural problem that goes well beyond state lawmakers and all the way to the federal government.

We give programs flashy names such  as “No Child Left Behind”, talk a lot of nonsense during luncheons and community gatherings, but at the end of the day – we as a society are failing our young people by not giving them the tools they need to succeed. In that regard, we are failing society because the working middle class population is dwindling, lower-skilled jobs are scarce and the high-paying jobs lack qualified candidates.

Open enrollment is not the answer either. You don’t fix major problems like what’s happened over the years with Tucson Unified School District by giving a free pass for local students to go somewhere else. That small population of students may get a better education, but the structural problem still exists in districts like TUSD and students who are still going there must be considered in educational planning.

Accountability is also a key to our success. Parents – we must be held accountable. If students aren’t performing well, dumbing down a test isn’t the answer to get the results we want. Instead, we must encourage trying and working harder to achieve success. Teachers – blaming state funding, and others is also not acceptable. Those gifted in your class are going to succeed, they aren’t the ones in need of extra attention. That attention needs to be given to the average students, and to the struggling students.

Then, there’s high school. Teachers and administrators should not be looking at simply the fact that a high percentage of students in their district passed AIMS (Arizona Instrument for Measuring Standards). Instead, they should be asking if students have the skills to succeed.

My teenager recently graduated from a very good high school. However, in assessment testing, I wouldn’t say her scores reflected the high school diploma the Arizona Department of Education said she earned. Not to take away from her accomplishments, but her first year of college has been a lot of catch up work.

Lawmakers, parents, administrators and teachers must stop focusing on a test score and start focusing on achieving actual success by getting back to basics and teaching our students math and reading skills.

On another note, the governor in Tennessee should be praised for his new approach to education. That approach being to give the students a chance to succeed and improve the workforce and economy in his state.

Gov. Bill Haslam is calling for Tennessee lawmakers to approve a bill, making tuition free for two years of community college and technical school. This is the kind of thinking I would love to see Arizona candidates and lawmakers consider. Consider the return on investment when smart, well educated students enter the workforce.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

Good points overall. I hear many people blame the education "system" and teachers for student failure, but I place much of the responsibility on the students themselves for having a lazy, "teach me" approach to their education, in other words, they receive education passively. Students in Japan and China, as well as other countries, seem to be self motivated, working much harder on math and science, and mastering their skills. They take this interest on their own, knowing that only hard work will help them pass entrance exams to colleges and access to better jobs. American youth need to work harder....however....we have a socialist president who is radicalizing the idea of achievement inequality....and perhaps some students feel today that the state will care for them, the Democrats will coddle them, Hollywood will entertain them, and the government will supply their every need on the backs of those who do work.

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