A new partnership between Arizona State University and Helios Education Foundation will help educators and policy makers make real-time decisions that have the potential to improve K-12 outcomes in Arizona.
The initiative will create the Decision Center for Education Excellence, a computer-generated model that will show how policies, practices and interventions would affect students in Arizona’s pre-K through post-secondary education system as well as how that would impact workforce development.
The model will show “how can we improve and ensure a quality education for all students in Arizona and ensure that we’re able to build the type of system that will enable every student to be positioned for success,” said Paul Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.
It’s a tool to help policymakers and other leaders understand the effects of policy and budget changes on education to hone in on what will have the impact they want, Luna said.
Educational attainment is the single most significant predictor of social mobility, adaptability, and economic competitiveness and success in Arizona, said Dr. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.
Video by Lisa Irish and Brooke Razo/AZEdNews: ASU’s and Helios Education Foundation’s new initiative
Seeking solutions to complex problems
The center will be funded by a three-year, $2.5 million grant from Helios Education Foundation, and will be based out of the Decision Theater in Tempe. The Decision Theater has helped researchers and leaders visualize solutions to more than 50 complex problems using the latest data models and simulations.
Also, a new, much-larger version of ASU’s Decision Theater will be located in Helios’ new facility being built on 32nd Street just south of Camelback, said Vince Roig, founding chairman of Helios Education Foundation.
“We will have an area that we can have approximately 200 people sitting down at one time, and we will be setting up three large screens, so we’ll be able to talk about the kinds of things that they’re concerned about and show them, probably in about 10 seconds – maybe closer to six – the answers to the kinds of questions that we all worry about day in and day out,” Roig said.
For example, over half of Arizona’s third-graders are not proficient at reading and many eighth-graders aren’t proficient in math, yet the state’s high school graduation rate is increasing, Roig asked.
“How does that happen? You can’t read, you can’t do math, but you’re graduating high school. That’s a tough question,” Roig said.
This model will help educators and policymakers understand why those kinds of things are happening and find ways to change it, Roig said.
Slideshow: ASU and Helios announce partnership by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
Scaling up successful methods
The model will also help pinpoint what’s working in some schools that can be adapted to help students statewide, Crow said.
For example, it can help people find ways to take a new adaptive learning technology which lets students learn math skills from an on-demand tutor by computer at any time, test and refine it, then make it available to students and community members statewide, Crow said.
“The scale is just so big. The problem is moving so quickly, we need this kind of tool to help us to be able to make the right decisions,” Crow said.
The goal is to have all Arizonans on the path to lifelong learning so they can be successful and adapt to the new economy, Crow said.
“We can’t do that without real-time data, without real-time metrics, without real-time modeling, without real-time assessment,” Crow said. “Helios has stepped up in a way to enable us to be able to do this with the platforms that we already have.”
A new Decision Theater similar in scale to the one in Tempe will open soon at ASU’s new facility in Washington, D.C. A partnership with Florida International University in Miami, where Helios also does work, will allow the lessons learned in one state to help students in the other, Crow said.
Helios Education Foundation Facebook Video: Panel discussion about the ASU and Helios initiative:
Impact on workforce development
The partnership will let K-12 schools, community colleges and universities make better decisions and alter their behavior to better prepare students to graduate and continue to receive the training they need to succeed in this new economy, Crow said.
“The world that lies ahead will not be a world where you go to school until you’re 18 and then stop. The world that lies ahead is going to be a world where you have to constantly be updating to take advantage of the full transformation society is going through relative to technology,” Crow said.
For example, automation will disrupt about 25 percent of the jobs in Arizona in the next 15 years. This model would help business and education leaders identify those affected, assess their educational attainment, and develop pathways to train them for new careers, Crow said.
“Education changes lives and makes our communities better and that’s what this is really about,” Luna said. “Improving our state, community by community, individual by individual, by taking advantage of the innovative power that we have here will give them the opportunity to succeed.”
Why this now?
Arizonans can’t afford to wait to address the issues in the state’s education system, Luna said.
“There is no reason, none whatsoever, except our own inability to embrace change, our own inability to embrace new tools that Arizona can’t be the highest achieving educational attainment state in the country,” Crow said.