Center for the Future of Arizona Launches Partnership with Valley Schools to Increase Student Achievement Among Low-Income, Minority Students
Nonprofit Sends Business Author Jim Collins of “Good to Great” to the Principal’s Office
PHOENIX (October 30, 2007) – Twenty-seven Phoenix-area schools — many with predominantly low-income, minority student populations — are teaming up this academic year with the Center for the Future of Arizona in an effort to “beat the odds” and increase student achievement among all students.
The new Beat the Odds education initiative is part of a wake-up call issued by Dr. Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the Phoenix-based nonprofit. According to the former Arizona State University President, “Improving Latino students’ academic performance is crucial to our state’s future economic vitality and the quality of life of its citizens.”
Many consider Arizona’s high school graduation rate and its student achievement scores to be low, across the board. Latinos, who are rapidly becoming the majority student population in Arizona K-12 schools, tend to have especially low student achievement scores and high dropout rates. Approximately half of all Arizona Latino students do not graduate high school.
Coor notes that this generation of students will enter the workforce as the baby boom generation is leaving it. The boomers represent a significant portion of the current middle class, which is at its earning and tax-paying peak.
Without an intervention, Coor says, Arizona’s future labor force will be ill-prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century workplace. The health of the state’s economy is at stake.
Among the clouds, Coor sees a silver lining. “Arizona’s large minority student population is a valuable resource that we must cultivate,” he said. “Demography is not destiny. The Beat the Odds initiative is the means by which we can begin to tap into this resource and develop its potential.”
The Beat the Odds Initiative
This academic year, twenty-seven K-12 schools in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert and Tolleson are partnering with the Center for the Future of Arizona to implement its Beat the Odds education initiative. Participating schools will work to develop more effective ways to improve individual student achievement by using as a framework the six principles revealed in the research study “Why Some Schools with Latino Children Beat the Odds … and Others Don’t.”
Throughout the academic year, Beat the Odds mentors will work one-on-one with the principals to help them assess and benchmark their school’s current status, develop an action plan based on specific need areas for their school population, and provide resources to help achieve the goals of the action plans.
They also will learn from each other as they share success stories and challenges in regularly scheduled Beat the Odds School Partner meetings and training sessions, and within password-protected areas of the new Beat the Odds Institute website funded by the Arizona Board of Regents (www.beattheoddsinstitute.com).
Center researchers will track the schools’ progress in terms of increased student achievement based on the state-mandated AIMS test and other assessment data provided by the schools, and implementation of the six Beat the Odds concepts school-wide. Those that meet their goals will be certified by the Center for the Future of Arizona as a “Beat the Odds School.”
Demography Is Not Destiny
The Beat the Odds education initiative is an outgrowth of a nationally acclaimed joint study of the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, “Why Some Schools with Latino Children Beat the Odds … and Others Don’t.”
Jim Collins, author of the New York Times bestseller “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t,” actively collaborated in theresearch. In March of 2006, Collins participated in announcing the research findings to a packed Phoenix ballroom of business, community and education leaders.
The research suggests that there is well-founded hope that Arizona students of all backgrounds can achieve at or above grade level. It provided six keys within schools’ control that, when implemented together, lead to better than expected student achievement among all students.
The six Beat the Odds concepts fell into the three basic categories put forth by Collins in his Good to Great findings: disciplined thought, disciplined people and disciplined action.
Mining the Benefits of Diversity
“Dr. Coor's vision and courage in mining the benefits of diversity are refreshing,” commented Valley business and community leader José Cárdenas, partner and chair of Lewis and Roca LLP.
“Dr. Coor has often described the Center for the Future of Arizona as a ‘do’ — and not just a ‘think’ — tank,” he continued. “The center's ‘Beat the Odds’ initiative is proof, as through it Dr. Coor and his colleagues at the center are doing something about one of the most critical issues facing Arizona today. By implementing the findings of the groundbreaking ‘Beat the Odds’ report, the center is taking head on one of the Morrison Institute's ‘Five Shoes Waiting to Drop on Arizona's Future’ — the ‘Latino education dilemma,’" Cárdenas concluded.
Jim Collins also lauded the evolution of the “Beat the Odds” research report into an action-oriented, collaborative school-based initiative.
“Great cities and great states require more than just great companies,” Collins said. “They require great schools, great social service providers, great arts groups. Through the use of the ‘Beat the Odds’ research, the Center for the Future of Arizona and its partners are taking a very significant step toward building the great schools we need for a vibrant and successful future.”