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Ariz. Chamber’s CEO talks new standards, preparing students for workforce


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  • Lisa Irish/Arizona Education News Service

Glen Hamer

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer said the business community is rallying behind Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards because they better prepare students for the workplace, which is critically important to Arizona’s employers and continued economic growth.

By 2020, two out of every three jobs will require some level of post-secondary education or training, so improving students’ skills now is key, according to  Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce‘s report Career and Technical Education: Five Ways that Pay released Sept. 2012.

Ariz. Chamber's CEO talks new standards, preparing students for workforce glenn-hammer-1000

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer said the business community is rallying behind Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.

A recent survey by Expect More Arizona indicated that while support for Arizona’s new standards is high, nearly 60 percent of Arizonans know little about the standards.

So the group recently launched a new website ArizonaAimsHigher.org to provide information and build support for the standards.

The Arizona Chamber Foundation recently partnered with local chambers of commerce to sponsor briefings across the state on the new standards for business leaders featuring former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and education policy expert Becky Hill.

Recently, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched GraduatePreparedAZ.org, a website demonstrating broad business support for the new, more rigorous standards in math and language arts.

Q: While Arizona’s graduation rate is improving, many businesses say they have trouble finding the qualified employees they need. Why are the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and business leaders around the state rallying behind Arizona’s College and Career Ready standards?

A:  While it’s important that students finish high school, it is just as important that a high school diploma mean something.

Currently, 42 percent of employers report that newly hired high school graduates are deficient in reading, writing and math. Sixty percent of those who enter community colleges require remedial coursework, and 53 percent of Arizona’s high school graduates are not eligible for admission into one of the state’s public universities.

The business community is rallying behind the Arizona College and Career Ready standards because we want students to have the skills to be successful in college or career upon graduating high school.

The set of standards and assessments that we have been using only tell students that they have the skills of a tenth grader. It’s time we raise the bar for what it means to hold a high school diploma in our state.

That is why we have launched www.GraduatePreparedAZ.org, a website demonstrating the broad business support for the new standards, with news articles and materials that illustrate the business case for more rigorous standards.

Q: Arizona Education News Service recently interviewed Carolyn Warner. She talked about your organization’s partnerships with joint technology education districts (JTEDs) and career and technical education (CTE) programs.  What led you to start this initiative? What do you hope to accomplish?

A: Governor Brewer has made increasing the high school graduation rate to 93 percent a cornerstone of her education reform plan for the state. Arizona’s current rate of 74.7 percent is dismal, and puts us dead last in the nation for high school graduation.

In 2012 the statewide Joint Technical Education District (JTED) graduation rate was 97.52 percent. Manufacturers need more skilled workers, and CTE programs are able to seriously move the needle when it comes to high school graduation rates.

Just as importantly, these students graduate ready for the workforce, workforce training and college. The relevance of this curriculum not only motivates students and keeps them engaged, it prepares them for life after high school. It’s a real win-win for students and the economy.

Q: How will the GraduatePreparedAZ initiative help students, educators, businesses and the community?

A: Students deserve an education that will prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century.

Teachers have been diligently implementing these new math and language arts standards in the classroom and deserve recognition and the full support of the business community for these efforts.

Of critical importance to the State’s employers, and ultimately Arizona’s continued economic growth, is a K-12 system that will better prepare students for college and the workplace.

We believe this starts with supporting these efforts to implement Arizona’s College and Career Ready standards.

This is an issue of economic growth and security and it’s important for the education system to know that in the middle of this political storm, we will not waver.