Education Briefs

Through our Education Briefs, we highlight key findings and expand on the work of our various initiatives. We hope that you find the education briefs informative and valuable. Please click the links below to read each brief in more detail.

Beyond Traditional Scholarships

This policy brief examines creative scholarship models that meet the needs of underserved students, often by moving beyond monetary aid in the direction of wrap-around student supports. While continuing to provide financial relief for income-qualified students, a number of these programs couple academic supports along with financial assistance in order to address non-monetary needs that often impede completion.

What Influences College-Going Pathways for Latino High School Students?

This policy brief summarizes Arizona Latino high school students’ perspectives on factors that have influenced their college aspirations and future plans to attend a postsecondary institution. It provides the unique opportunity to hear directly from students - in their own words -about the factors that support or impede their entry into college. In the brief, we also identify seven recommendations based on the students’ feedback to help boost college-going rates and success among future Latino students. We hope our research will inform and inspire you to join us as we work to expand educational opportunities for Latino students. Arizona’s economic development as well as our individual quality of life depend on it.

Using Dual Language Strategies in the Early Grades

Recognizing the challenge of an increasingly multilingual population, this education brief explores the implementation of dual language learning within preschool classrooms in three school districts, two in Arizona and one in Florida. Orange County Public Schools in Florida have joined Helios' partners, the Osborn and Creighton School districts in Arizona, to engage students aged three to five with two-way English/Spanish language immersion. The goal is to increase each child’s early language and literacy development by embracing his or her multilingual abilities, ultimately ensuring that each child is more than simply bilingual, but also bi-literate and bicultural. 

Early Childhood Assessment Policies and Practice in the Age of Accountability

This policy brief looks at the role of early childhood assessments as part of states’ broader efforts to ensure that young children are arriving at school ready for success and proficient in reading by the end of 3rd grade. Based on two convenings on building assessment systems for early learners, this brief is designed to cover the key decision points educators and state officials make when developing a comprehensive early childhood accountability system.

Examining College Readiness, Aspirations, and Matriculation in 14 Arizona School Districts

This policy brief is to examine college readiness, aspirations, and matriculation of students in 14 Arizona school districts. As a whole, Arizona students have high postsecondary aspirations. Yet, despite these aspirations only about half attend a postsecondary institution the first year after graduation. This brief makes the case that in order for Arizona to successfully compete in a growing global economy, its policy leaders must take action to improve postsecondary attainment.

Move On When Reading: Implementation of a Third Grade Retention Policy in Arizona

This brief, authored by several WestEd evaluators, focuses on the first year of the implementation of Arizona’s third-grade reading retention policy – Move On When Reading. The research focuses on the types and quality of interventions that the schools are using to support students who are retained at the end of third grade. In addition, the brief explores how effectively the schools were implementing the policy, what challenges they faced in implementation and ultimately, whether the policy has any impact on student achievement.

The Case for Accelerating Latino Student Success in Arizona

This brief examines the need for accelerating Latino student success in the state of Arizona. As a whole, the Latino population is the fastest-growing population in Arizona; however, at the same time Latinos are underrepresented in postsecondary attainment. In order to stay economically competitive both here in the United States as well as globally, Arizona must take giant steps to improve the academic achievement of Arizona’s Latino students. Helios Education Foundation aims to improve access, equity, and achievement for all students across the birth-postsecondary education continuum, but with the state’s shifting demographics, we are focused on ensuring more Arizona Latino students complete two- and four-year degrees and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to obtain high-demand, high-paying jobs.

Early Childhood Assessments: Focus on the Child

In laying the foundation for success in school and beyond, birth through age 8 are the most critical years in a child’s development. Ensuring young children have access to high-quality early learning environments, regardless of race, income, or geography, provides many proven individual and societal benefits. Helios Education Foundation is committed to strengthening early childhood systems to promote language acquisition and emergent literacy for children, birth through age 8, to help ensure more children in Arizona and Florida enter kindergarten prepared to succeed, which we believe lays the foundation for them to read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Preparing Students for College and Careers: Early Findings from the Implementation of Ready Now Yuma

With the increasing demands on the 21st-century workforce, all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and career success. However, improving the skills students need is a major challenge across the country and Arizona is no exception. To address these challenges, Helios Education Foundation began to take steps to identify a new comprehensive, high-school reform initiative focused on preparing students for success in college and career. Through this work, a partnership with Yuma Union High School District was formed and an initiative called Ready Now Yuma was developed. This initiative provides students with a rigorous, high expectations curriculum within a college-going environment. The end goal is to increase the number of students entering and succeeding in postsecondary education.

Building a College-Going Culture by Increasing Access to the ACT

Through this initiative, the ACT exam is offered to all juniors across partner high school districts in Arizona. Helios’ investment in the ACT initiative is part of our broader effort to ensure that more high school graduates are prepared to enter the workforce or take credit-bearing courses without remediation. Helios sees our investment in projects like this as just one mechanism in a comprehensive strategy of creating a college-going culture that leads to opportunities for students to succeed in college and career. This brief discusses qualitative research from the first seven years of the ACT initiative.

Lessons From Florida's Third Grade Reading Retention Policy and Implications for Arizona

It is generally accepted that third grade is a critical pivot point for reading proficiency. More than a decade ago, Florida led the nation in implementing a policy that required that struggling readers be retained in the third grade and provided intensive remediation. The policy also included provisions obligating school districts to provide retained students with extra reading supports such as 90 minutes daily of reading instruction and assignment to a “high-performing teacher” in the retention year. Many states, including Arizona, took Florida’s example and implemented third grade retention policies.

As a Foundation engaged in both Arizona and Florida, Helios looked at Florida’s policy in light of Arizona’s adoption of the Move On When Reading legislation. In this brief, we provide an overview of the two policies, take a look at relevant data on student reading proficiency and identify the lessons learned from Florida that could inform the effectiveness of the Arizona policy.

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