During an exchange on the panel with Pearson CEO John Fallon, Eduardo explains how a low-cost college education has been a "great experience," setting him up for a career he hopes to land in biomedical engineering.
And, Arizona is not the only state where students are struggling with this challenging economic and education reality. Every year, nearly 500,000 students nationwide leave high school before earning a diploma.
Lifting Graduation Rates
To try to turn this tide, America's Promise Alliance and Pearson developed the GradNation State Activation Initiative, a three-year collaboration to increase U.S. high school graduation rates to 90 percent by 2020.
To make this effort a success, Pearson and America’s Promise Alliance went straight to the people at the state level who are working with young people every day.
Together, Pearson and America’s Promise Alliance invested in three organizations from different states—WestEd, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Minnesota Alliance With Youth. All three groups are looking for new ways to keep their community’s students in school.
The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable
WestEd is an organization that specializes in conducting research on high school graduation rates and works with policymakers and practitioners to ensure large-scale improvements and innovative changes to a range of education issues.
In Arizona, WestEd has invested three years of its expertise in the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, also funded by the Helios Education Foundation. The Roundtable is a unique convening of mayors from across the state who not only come together to talk about the education in their communities, but also do something active to make a difference.
What sets apart the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable is the commitment of its members to work in a bipartisan way.
Members hail from different communities, backgrounds and political affiliations, which can cause challenges—but each mayor is willing and open to work across party lines.
A Two-Part Plan
The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable has two main areas of focus in increasing the graduation rates:
Economic Success: A student who finishes his or her education is more likely to land a job, leading to greater economic success—not only for that individual, but the entirety of the state. The lifetime economic loss of the 18,100 students each year who leave high school in Arizona is estimated to be $7.6 billion.
Hispanic/Latino Graduates: Arizona is one of six states that collectively educates more than 70 percent of the nation’s Hispanic/Latino students. This group of students have seen a decrease in graduation rates previously in 2010-2011 and 2012-2013.
Arizona's Step to Success
In February, the Arizona mayors met to talk about their priorities and educational initiatives and discuss what’s working in their communities and what’s not. And while there was playful banter highlighting differing points of view, the mayors were genuinely able to see eye-to-eye.
As an example of this work, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D) of Tucson, Arizona, spoke to his peers about Steps to Success, a local program aimed at bringing students back to school.
Often when a student leaves high school, a counselor or caring adult from the program reaches out with a home visit to try and get them back to classes. Even the mayor himself sometimes makes a house call visit to encourage student attendance.
That’s what Steps to Success is all about. Reaching out in a personal and high-touch way to young people who are struggling—to express empathy and actively encourage them to be bold and finish their education.
“It’s a great program and it started from a very simple concept,” said Mayor Rothschild. “It’s probably been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as mayor.”
Spreading What Works
Mayor Rothschild's next home visits won’t be conducted until the summer when the program makes its outreach efforts.
And many of the other mayors see Steps to Success as a community program for more than just one city.
They all remember what it was like to be a student—and they're equally resolved to help driving change for their communities to grow.
The best part is they are doing it together.
You can read more about the GradNation State Activation Initiative and our grantees here on LearnEd.
This is an opinion piece from the chief executive of Pearson, John Fallon.
The Critical Questions
As I travel the world talking to students and educators, the most urgent questions I hear are variations on the same themes: How do I create a better life for myself and my children? What is the social compact that gets us all there, and who is responsible for creating it?
These questions are fundamental to achieving the American dream—a dream that resonates worldwide.
These critical questions are also at the core of many Americans’ concerns that economic progress is out of reach and that the dream is fleeting now more than ever. These concerns have surfaced more urgently within the context of the Presidential campaign, and have been foundational to candidates’ views on both sides of the aisle.
Do we have a chance to succeed?
To understand the dynamics that underlie these concerns, Pearson conducted a poll with the Atlantic Media as part of their “Next America” series, seeking to examine Americans’ views on these issues. (See some of our findings at the end of this post.)
The results were revealing: More people than ever believe they don’t have a reasonable shot at creating opportunity in this country. Shockingly, and in contrast to the basic tenets core to the United States, fewer than half of all Americans—just 44%—believe that anyone who works hard has a fair chance to succeed.
When you start to break this down along demographic lines, faith in the promise of American opportunity becomes even more strained. Fewer than 40% of African Americans believe that someone who works hard has a fair chance to succeed. The research shows that Asian and Hispanic Americans are still hanging on to the American dream, but are only marginally more confident that they have a real shot at success.
The Promise of Education
While this data is discouraging, there is hope.
The poll results evidenced a shared view in the promise of education and the belief that if people have access to education designed specifically to improve their skills, their views of the opportunity would improve.
Almost three-quarters of Americans –72%– believe they would be able to get a better job or a higher paying job with more education or training. Two-thirds of Americans believe the economy would improve by increasing the number of well-trained workers and people see investment in education as the best way to improve the economy.
It’s clear that people of all backgrounds see education as the gateway to a better life.
Access to Jobs, Better Opportunity
While educators, policymakers and employers are key in helping people prepare for the workforce, companies who are focused on education, like Pearson, have an important role to play.
Building the tools to lead people to better jobs and a better life is fundamental to Pearson’s mission. We’re especially focused on closing the skills gap to give people more access to jobs and better opportunity.
At schools like Texas Southmost College in the Rio Grande Valley, we are providing digital curriculum that prepares graduates for high tech and health care jobs in their local communities.
Across the nation, we are working with colleges and universities to move degree programs online, often putting up the capital to get these programs off the ground.
And, we are supporting adult learners with the GED and our professional testing services.
The Dream Is In Reach
There are urgent educational and economic needs across this country. That is never more evident than when people feel opportunity is out of reach, and the American Dream is out of sight.
Together we can meet these challenges and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to create a better life for themselves.
John Fallon is chief executive of Pearson, the world’s leading learning company.
Some findings from the Pearson poll with the Atlantic Media as part of their “Next America” series:
"I knew something had clicked when the groups just jumped right in," says Lisa Maurer.
Lisa helps run Kids CoLab at Pearson with design centers in Chandler, Arizona and Hoboken, New Jersey. Kids and adults collaborate together each week to field test existing learning tools, learning concepts, and learning research—and brainstorm new ones.
"This time, their ideas started sprouting instantaneously."
Lisa is referring to a recent series of sessions at the two centers when designers were asked to think and dream about the future of assessments.
Today Before Tomorrow
"At first, kids had trouble thinking about the concept of assessments in ways that went beyond school and tests and homework assignments and quizzes,"says Elizabeth Bercovitz, a Usability and Participatory Design Research Associate at Pearson.
"So we started writing out ideas on a big piece of paper," Elizabeth says. "We talked about assessments, what they are, and what they look like."
"We asked, 'How is a piano recital a kind of assessment?' And, 'How do you demonstrate to someone you know how to play basketball in the same way you demonstrate to a teacher you know how to add numbers?'"
Elizabeth and Lisa and the rest of their colleagues used those conversations to understand what kids were thinking about assessments now—before turning to what kids think assessments should be.
'Bags of Stuff'
Once kids at the design centers were primed about assessments in a broad sense, facilitators broke out the 'bags of stuff.'
These were bags full of art supplies like pipe cleaners, beads, paper clips, styrofoam balls, fabric string—everything was without a specific label or function.
The bags also contained recyclable materials like lids from milk containers or old produce containers—any three-dimensional object that could inspire the building process.
"It’s all about the kids and adults working together and we intentionally remove all the regular power dynamics to smooth the process," Lisa says. "They build on each other’s ideas and, in the end, it’s impossible to know who started with the idea in the first place."
"This kind of approach helps the groups generate ideas that break the mold," she says.
Out of the 'bags of stuff,' kids and adults in groups of five or six started to assemble what the CoLab calls 'artifacts,' the make-believe future assessment design concepts they would eventually share with the other groups. (See some of their artifacts lower in this story.)
"As the kids and adults dumped out their bags, that's when the ideas started," Lisa says. "Something in your hand could suddenly be anything. A styrofoam ball isn't a styrofoam ball anymore, it's a mind reader."