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Educators Throughout Arizona Meet to Discuss College and Career Readiness of Arizona Students

Author: Rebecca Lindgren, Marketing Communications Director, Helios Education Foundation

On December 9, more than 85 school district professionals from 14 Arizona school districts gathered together to discuss how to help their students on the path toward college and career readiness. These dedicated educators represent school districts that are part of Helios Education Foundation’s ACT District Choice School Test Initiative.

In 2009, Helios began funding the administration of the ACT exam to all juniors in eight Arizona school districts. The ACT was chosen because it is a curriculum-based measure of college readiness defined as the level of achievement a student needs to enroll and succeed in first-year college courses. From 2009-2014, Helios invested nearly $3 million to help school districts underwrite the costs of testing their juniors. During that time, participation grew from eight districts to 14 districts. To date, more than 87,000 students have taken the exam as part of this initiative.
Each year, Helios and ACT convene with the districts for a summit to review district level data on student achievement and college and career readiness rates of students who took the exam. Participants work together to share ideas and best practices on how to increase the number of students who are ready for success in postsecondary education or to enter the workforce.

“In our district, access comes before achievement,” said Toni Badone, Superintendent of the Yuma Union High School District. “The ACT initiative has helped us increase access for our students. We went from 400 students taking the ACT to more than 2,000 taking the ACT. It is expected that all juniors in our district will take the exam.”

The participation rates have also increased in the Phoenix Union High School District. In 2008, 150 students self-selected to take the exam. In 2013, more than 4,500 students took the exam.

“This initiative has been a game-changer for our district,” said Thea Andrade, Supervisor of Testing, Accountability and Student Achievement. “In addition, we have seen increases in dual enrollment, college scholarships and college enrollment.”

The need for increasing the college and career readiness of our students cannot be overstated. Currently in Arizona, 36 percent of working-age adults have an associate’s degree or higher. However, by 2020, more than 65 percent of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education. In addition, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority, the number one thing that prospective companies are looking for when they consider relocating their businesses to Arizona is whether or not there is an available, skilled and competitive workforce. Our students must be prepared for the jobs of the future – individual quality of life and the future economic growth of our state depend on it.

Category: College and Career Readiness

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