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Ensuring Latino Student Success Through Strategic Policy Engagement

Author: Janice Palmer, Vice President and Director of Policy

June 26, 2018

One of Helios Education Foundation’s key beliefs is that education changes lives and strengthens communities. That’s why we seek to increase the number of young adults – especially students in underserved, minority communities – who graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, career and life.

In Arizona, our focus is on Latino Student Success.  Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in Arizona and make up the largest proportion of students in Arizona public schools.  The educational attainment of Latino students will determine our state’s economic future. Simply put, Latino Student Success is Arizona’s future success. 

Helios has created the Arizona Latino Student Success initiative to create laser-like focus on closing the achievement gap and increasing the preparedness of Latino students.  In addition to our strategic programmatic and investment activity, we also have a focused policy agenda that works to strengthen state educational policies to support the success of all students – but especially Latino students – from early education through postsecondary.

This year’s Arizona policy activity included supporting the following:

College and Career Readiness (multi-year SB 1449 -- Chapter 262, 2018 Laws) - Helios’ College Knowing & Going Initiative helps students throughout Arizona to take the necessary steps to pursue postsecondary education after high school. Through this initiative, 40 percent of juniors in Arizona take the ACT during the school day, at no cost to the student.  During the 2017 legislative session, the legislature built upon the success of College Knowing & Going by expanding access to the ACT and other college entrance exams through a state-funded pilot program.  The Governor’s Office augmented those pilot program funds with federal grant monies resulting in approximately two-thirds of Arizona’s juniors taking the ACT.  With this year’s passage of SB 1449, by 2020, all Arizona students in grades 9-12 will have access to a state-funded, state-procured college readiness assessment.  This ACT access helps to create a college-going culture across the state and provides valuable information about the college readiness of students.

Eighth Grade Math (HB 2477 -- Chapter 96. 2018 Laws) – Middle school math is important preparation for high school math and success in high school math is an indicator of college readiness.  HB 2477 requires that schools notify parents if their sixth, seventh, or eighth grade student is not on track to be proficient in math by the end of eighth grade.  This legislation will help ensure more students are on track for success in middle school and high school math and provide those struggling students with notification of the interventions available.  The ultimate goal is to help ensure more Arizona students are on track to be college and career ready.

Prop 301 (SB1390 – Chapter 74, 2018 Law) - In 2000, Arizona voters passed Proposition 301, which dedicated over $600 million in resources to support our K-12 teachers, community colleges for workforce development, and university research among other items. This year, the Legislature passed and Governor Ducey signed an extension through June 30, 2041. In addition, $64.1 million was reallocated from bond payments to teacher salaries. This funding is critical for education in our state across the continuum.

Early Literacy (HB 2520 – Chapter 309, 2018 Laws) – Building upon last year’s legislation that strengthened early literacy policy by adopting recommendations from the State Board of Education’s K-3 Literacy Task Force, HB 2520 incorporated recommendations from a key public/private partnership between the Education Commission of the States, the Governor’s Office, and Helios Education Foundation to create a K-3 strategic plan.  This plan including allowing schools to use literacy grant funding for the Kindergarten Developmental Inventory and the strengthening of teacher certification requirements in reading instruction.

Helios Education Foundation continues to build its policy influence through executive, legislative, regulatory, and state and national organization partnerships. As we begin to craft our 2018-19 Policy Agenda, we will work to build upon the above successes, always guided by our vision that every individual in Arizona and Florida has the opportunity to attend and is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. 

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