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Traditional Schools Are Key to Success of Achieve60AZ

Author: Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation joined over 60 organizations in Arizona in launching Achieve60Az, a community-owned initiative focused on boosting our state’s postsecondary education attainment* rate and workforce training. Our statewide goal is to increase the percentage of adults with a professional certificate or college degree to 60 percent by 2030. With this goal in place, Arizona joins a growing number of states who recognize that a focus on education will improve our state’s economic future and broaden opportunities for success and an improved quality of life for Arizonans.

Currently, 43 percent of the state’s population have a certificate or an associate degree or higher, 38 percent have an associate degree or higher and only 29 percent have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. When we look at these rates across racial and ethnic groups, Native Americans have the lowest postsecondary attainment rate (associate degree or higher) at 16 percent. The postsecondary rate for Latinos is 20 percent; for African Americans it’s 32 percent, and it’s at 40 percent for Whites.

Our analysis shows that in the long term, the most effective way to increase the postsecondary attainment rate is to strengthen the K-12 pipeline in Arizona. To carry out this work, Arizona public schools will need the financial resources and tools to ensure our students will be just as competitive as students from across the nation. 

In our review of the data, we found that traditional public schools have over 80 percent of the state’s student enrollment and they also outperform other types of public schools in graduating students who enroll in college. In 2014-15, for example, 29,807 traditional public school students entered college after graduation. This total was more than nine times the number of students entering college from charter schools (3,264) and nearly 44 times the number of students entering from magnet schools.

You can read more of our analysis here.

As Arizona moves forward with Achieve60Az, we should be cognizant of the fact that its success or failure is directly linked to the success or failure of our state’s traditional public schools.

As part of our commitment to helping Arizona achieve its goal, Helios invested in the capacity building of Achieve60Az and named fiduciary directors responsible for expanding community outreach and working with stakeholders to develop a long-term strategic plan. While the Achieve60Az goal is ambitious and getting there won’t be easy, we’re confident that with broad, multi-sector support and community buy-in, Arizona can achieve it.

*Typically “post-high school attainment” or “postsecondary attainment” refers to the highest level of education following high school. This would include apprenticeship or trade certificates or diplomas and college degrees.

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