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May|June 2012
NOTE: The July|August ABEC newsletter will be sent out the last week in August.  ABEC will return to its monthly distribution of its newsletter in September 2012.
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“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can do is take a complete rest.” – Ashleigh Brilliant, author

Dear friend of ABEC,

June is a wonderful month. Our educator friends have wrapped up another school year. The pressures and stress of organizing end of the year activities, getting the grades in the book, cleaning out the classroom are done. Graduation ceremonies are history – and there’s quiet in the hallways. June is a time of welcome relief rest and work of a different type for educators. Summer school, planning, curriculum development, teacher and administrator professional development are all on the plate for school district staff as they anticipate the new direction taken by the Arizona Common Core Standards. But this is a brief time, since summer break is getting shorter and shorter and for some educators, clearly, the old “summer break” doesn’t exist at all!

ABEC hosted a number of convenings these past few months that were great opportunities to learn from one another.  We:

  • Hosted a dialogue for US Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller with business and education members of both ABEC and Greater Phoenix Leadership, where there was an interchange of questions and information about issues with the US Department of Education.
  • Convened school principals of the All Arizona Higher Performing Schools along with principals of schools “on the bubble” of becoming Higher Performers. There was intense conversation and information sharing about best practices in the areas of curriculum, leadership, and teacher recruitment and training.
  • Arranged, with the help of the Casa Grande Elementary School District Superintendent Frank Davidson, a focus group in Casa Grande to gather thoughts about the ABEC School Finance Proposals.
  • Gathered almost 200 leaders in Arizona for the ABEC Annual Conference, resulting in rave reviews.

And now we all take a break, think about our successes, but also those things we wished we’d done. And our next opportunity is right around the corner. Have a safe and restful summer break!


Susan Carlson
ABEC executive director
”Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
– John Lubbock, biologist


Readiness: Higher Standards, Tougher Assessments
Hitting the mark for ALL Arizona children
Monday, June 4, 2012

Approximately 200 Arizona leaders in education, business, policy, and active parents came together to clap to “ABEC”, sung to the tune of “YMCA” - a birthday song sung by Secretary of State Ken Bennett – and celebrate the 10th anniversary with a special video, cake and bubbly cider.  The audience heard national and local speakers talk about implementation of Arizona’s Common Core Standards.  Briefly, we heard that:

  • We must find an effective change model and use strategies to change behaviors and attitudes.
  • This country cannot achieve what we want to achieve unless we pay attention to the educational needs and successes of all children, including poor and students of color.
  • You can go to Achieve’s Future Ready Project to find tools for local community use in messaging and communication about the Common core.
  • Teachers are not yet ready to implement the new Common Core Standards.
  • It will take public will to make the needed changes.
  • Only 8% – 18% of Arizona students are currently college and career ready.
  • Business can get involved with education by acting as mentors, volunteers and tutors, creating community-wide recognitions and incentives and providing job shadows between business and education leaders.
  • A “collective impact” approach might initiated by building such a structure for a region.
  • Educators should think about their city mayors as partners in helping to improve education in their locales.
  • Arizona is really a “baby state” – relatively young and immature and our institutions reflect such immaturity.

Make sure and attend next year. Why? Here’s what we heard from our attendees:

  • “I wanted to let you all know how much I enjoyed yesterday’s conference! It was the best I can remember. I learned so much and appreciate the acknowledgment of the role of CTE in bringing about the AZ Common Core Standards. Thanks for creating this exciting professional development opportunity for us.”
  • “Yesterday was awesome. It is the best education conference I've ever attended. The brutal honesty of the presenters was both hard hitting and refreshing.”
  • “Thank you to the ABEC team for coordinating yesterday’s conference. I have attended several over the past 10 years and found the sessions most interesting, timely and actionable. CONGRATULATIONS!”


Education in Arizona, one of 46 states plus Washington, DC that have adopted the concept of common core standards, is in transition, moving toward college and career readiness for all students. Arizona, led by the best and brightest educators in the state, modified those common core standards to make them reflect Arizona’s interests.  Now, the bar has been raised for student performance.  What once was adequate – meeting expectations on the AIMS test – is simply no longer adequate if high school grads want to be ready for college or career.

So what’s the definition of “college and career ready?” According to Achieve, an independent, bi-partisan, non-profit education reform organization led by governors and business leaders, it means “that a high school graduate has the core, foundational knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for and succeed in entry level, credit bearing coursework be it at a university, community college, technical/vocational program, apprenticeship or on the job without the need for remedial or corrective courses.”  It means that a high school diploma is no longer enough; now, nearly every good job requires some education beyond high school – such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, certificate, license, or completion of an apprenticeship or significant on-the-job training. It means, as described by some, a “sea change” in how we educate our children. It means instruction will look different and assessment will surely look very different.

Arizona’s Common Core Standards have begun to be implemented in kindergarten, and will be implemented in additional grade levels over the next two years. The first assessment of these new standards is anticipated to be in 2014-15, just two years away. It is important for parents, community and business leaders to understand this major transition and be prepared for the results of the first several years of assessment. Arizona is headed in the right direction in preparing students to be college and career ready, but it cannot be accomplished overnight and it cannot be done by educators alone. Go to The Future Ready Project and find facts, research, tools and strategies to help in communicating about Arizona’s Common Core Standards and transition.

REFLECTIONS from the executive director
2012 ABEC Conference Recap
2012 AZ Legislation Adjourns
ABEC Launches New Website!

NEWS & Notes
EDUCATION news, special reports & websites

READ Past Issues of eNews Spotlight

Wish to COMMENT on the ABEC eNewsletter?
Contact Patrick Contrades, ABEC Deputy Director and eNewsletter editor.


ABEC Board of Directors Meeting

Thursday, August 30, 2012
10am -2pm
Desert Willow Conference Center

More info>

5th Annual ABEC Golf Tournament

Wigwam Golf Courses
~ Gold Course ~

451 N. Old Litchfield Road
Litchfield Park, AZ

Friday, September 28th
Shotgun Start - 7:30am

Be paired with a K-12 school administrator, an elected official, or get your own team together!

More info>


Thanks again to this year's conference sponsors - you helped made it a successful event!




Chase Building Team
Core Construction
Maricopa Community Colleges
Orcutt|Winslow Partnership
SCF Arizona


None Submitted


On May 3, 2012, the Arizona State Legislature adjourned the 2012 regular session for the final time. While this session had its share of drama (the aftermath of the recall election of former-Senate President Russell Pearce, two ethics complaints and trials, and a host of resignations), 2012 should be remembered as the celebration of Arizona’s centennial.  This session lasted 116 days, the third shortest session since 2000, and saw 1,395 bills introduced, of which 387 bills were sent to Governor Brewer for her consideration.

Of significance to K-12 education, our elected officials this year began to slowly reverse the past year’s cuts to education, pay down debt, and save for a rainy day.  A few of the education-related bills signed by Governor Brewer include:

  • HB 2810 (school districts; charter school funding) - Establishes the 11-member Joint Legislative Study Committee on Charter School Funding Options for School Districts (Committee).
  • SB 1047 (NOW: tax credits; student tuition organizations) – Establishes a tax credit for contributions to a School Tuition Organization (STO) that exceed the amount for which the existing STO tax credit can be claimed and makes various administrative and qualifying changes to the individual and corporate income tax credit programs.  
  • SB 1253 (Elementary school districts; JTEDs; withdrawal) - An emergency measure that allows an elementary school district to withdraw from a joint technical education district (JTED).
  • SB 1255 (school courses; mastery of competency) - Requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt rules to define competency-based educational pathways for college and career readiness that will be available to eligible students.
  • SB 1458 (schools; achievement profiles) - Requires the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to make a complete transition to the letter grade system for school achievement profiles in the 2012-13 academic school year.

What’s next for many of our elected officials?  Hitting the campaign trail in hopes of being re-elected in November!


In addition to ABEC celebrating its 10th Anniversary this month, we are also happy to announce the launch of our new and improved website!  

Many of you rely on ABEC to be a non-partisan, trusted source of information on policy, news and research that is focused on Arizona’s public K-12 education system. Our new website provides a solid infrastructure and an even more powerful tool for delivering this information to you quickly.  Besides a new look, our new website:

  • Allows ABEC staff to easily and quickly post new content, web pages, forms, surveys, videos, and photos as well as better manage events.
  • Lets you stay current with the ABEC initiatives, education news from across the state, legislation that impacts education, and easily navigate to any research or background material.
  • Lets you register online for any of our events.
  • Allows member organizations to submit details of their own events open to the public for post to the ABEC website.
  • Allows you to search our member directory and learn more about our member organizations.

As with any new tool, the ABEC website is a work in progress as staff continues to customize the site and its features.  Newer and richer content will continually be posted on a regular basis by ABEC staff.  Web features that are still in development and coming soon are:

  • The ABEC member portal – members will be able to log in and manage their member information and profile, if they so choose, as well as access ABEC documents that are “for members-only.”
  • ABEC expanded use of video – while we know you look forward to reading our monthly newsletter, we also acknowledge that it is easier – and more effective – to absorb certain content by “listening and watching” rather than reading.
  • Use of social media – We recognize that social media can support some of our efforts.  Staff will continue to analyze what media is best to support our efforts and how to effectively incorporate it into our communication strategies.

Lastly, we want to hear from you.  Give us your feedback on our new look and let us know how we can continue to improve our website.


… Mark your calendars!  ABEC’s 5th Annual Golf Tournament will be held Friday, September 28th at the Wigwam Golf Courseshotgun start at 7:30am.  This annual event is a unique opportunity for sponsoring businesses to be paired with a K-12 school administrator or an elected official. Sponsorship and registration material will be sent out shortly.  Anyone with questions should send an e-mail or call (602) 261-6701.

… Did you miss this year’s ABEC Conference?  Then you missed the debut of ABEC’s newest video:  ABEC: Celebrating 10 years.  Watch the video now>

… CONGRATULATIONS!  The following individual names were picked to receive a free registration to the 2013 ABEC Conference:

  • Business:  Jeff England, Clear Channel Communications and Children Advisory Council Chair, Valley of the Sun United Way.
  • Education:  Denise Standage, Governing Board Member for the Higley Unified School District.

… ABEC is pleased to announce its 2012-2013 ABEC board of directors and officers (for the complete list, click here) and also welcomes its newest ABEC Members:

  • Arizona GEAR UP
  • Education2020
  • Grand Canyon University, College of Education
  • Stand for Children Arizona
  • Union Elementary School District
  • Winslow + Partners

… Congratulations to Jeff Smith, superintendent of Balsz Elementary School District who will be serving as president of the Arizona School Administrators for the 2012-2013 school year.

… Nominations are now being accepted for the Arizona Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year.  Any pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade public school teacher may self-nominate or be nominated by a student, co-worker, principal, parent, friend, or family member.  Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on August 24, 2012.  For more information, click here.  NOTE:  In addition to the many wonderful benefits of being the 2013 AEF Teacher of the Year, the selected individual also becomes Arizona’s candidate for the title of National Teacher of the Year in addition to serving on the ABEC board of directors for one year.



Paperwork error imperils 1-cent sales-tax measure - Arizona Daily Star, 06/20/12
An error by backers of a permanent 1-cent increase in the state sales tax for education and public-works projects could keep voters from getting a chance to decide the measure in November. Tucsonan Ann-Eve Pedersen, organizer of the measure, acknowledged Tuesday that the paper version of the initiative prefiled with the Secretary of State's Office, as required by law, is different from the one being circulated on the street. Those are the petitions she intends to file next week. But Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said his boss intends to turn her away, effectively killing the initiative. He said his office has no choice. Read more>

Fountain Hills teachers still can be fined if they quit - The Arizona Republic, 06/20/12
Teachers in the Fountain Hills Unified School District, already among the lowest paid in the Valley, could face a $1,500 penalty if they accept another job. The governing board has rejected a request by teachers to set a grace period for waiving the fine. Typically, teachers in the district receive their contracts in April for the following school year and have two weeks to sign them. The teachers say that is too early because most school districts don't post their teacher openings until late May, after the Fountain Hills teachers already have committed. Read more>

Phoenix district, Maricopa County teacher-incentive program will end - The Arizona Republic, 06/20/12
The Phoenix Union High School District and Maricopa County will end their agreement to channel federal funds to reward and train district teachers. The county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to end the agreement by mutual consent of the district. The issue arose at a board meeting two weeks ago after the district sought to end the pact, but Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox then asked to postpone a decision by two weeks, seeking time to salvage the project. The county has $51.8 million in federal Teacher Incentive Fund money to evaluate and reward highly-effective and effective teachers and principals in six Valley school districts and to provide them specialists. Read more>

Kyrene restructures funds to cover facilities costs - The Arizona Republic, 06/20/12
The Kyrene School District will make due with $8.2 million in capital funds next year, although administrators and board members say a long-term solution to facilities issues is needed. After maintaining the tax rate Tuesday, the board voted, 4-1, in a special meeting Thursday to restructure its debt, and at its next meeting will vote on a plan to use other sources for its maintenance and repair needs. Read more>

Grant to help upgrade Arizona data system on schools - The Arizona Republic, 06/18/12
A federal grant, coupled with money from the Arizona Legislature, will help lay the groundwork for replacing the state's data system to give schools more-timely information on test scores and student enrollments. Arizona is one of two dozen states receiving federal grants to improve their data systems. The $5 million grant to Arizona, along with up to $6.6 million in state money for fiscal 2013, will set the stage for a larger and more powerful data system. For more than a decade, the state Department of Education has struggled to track the roughly 1 million students who attend public schools. The giant data system, called the Student Accountability Information System, or SAIS, is outdated and overburdened, and the state is taking steps to replace it. Read more>

Kyrene district adopts school-lunch policy for better nutrition - The Arizona Republic, 06/18/12
Kyrene employees and the school district's food-service provider are spending the summer working through new school-lunch requirements that put a cap on calories and push to get fruit and vegetables on every student's tray. Alan Coker, a registered dietitian and nutritionist for the district, said the biggest change is going from a menu based on nutrient requirements to one based on food groups. With nutrient-based requirements, schools could have almost any type of food on the menu as long as the nutrient requirements for the week were met and the district provided the minimum calories and regulated components like fiber, fat and sodium, Coker said. With food-based nutrition, there must be a fruit, vegetable, grain and meat offering, as well as milk each day. Students must select at least three components, one of which must be a fruit or vegetable, he said. Read more>

Extra $40 mil to go toward Arizona 3rd-graders' reading goal - The Arizona Republic, 06/17/12
Arizona school districts collectively will get an extra $40 million to meet the new "Move on When Reading" mandate for third-graders. The money is the first from the state to meet the high-stakes mandate, which requires third-graders to repeat the year if they are not reading proficiently. It comes as school districts are finalizing their budgets. School officials say the funding will amount to $132 per student for those in kindergarten through third grade. That equates to $2.4 million in Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state with 64,000 students. Read more>

Leaders warned on Arizona's economic development - The Arizona Republic, 06/16/12
Arizona is destined for Third World status without better leadership and education, a group of state business and political leaders was warned last week. William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, struck that ominous note during a Maricopa Association of Governments meeting aimed at boosting Arizona's role in the world economy. The meeting was a renaissance of sorts for the so-called Sun Corridor, a concept that hibernated while the Great Recession gnawed at Arizona's economy. Read more>

Helios Foundation pledges $3.9 million to YUHSD college readiness program -, 06/13/12
Education is evolving at Yuma Union High School District schools to help students become better prepared for their future. The Helios Education Foundation announced a five-year partnership with YUHSD Wednesday in the form of a $3.9 million grant, which the governing board approved at a meeting later that evening. Antonia Franco, with community investment at Helios, said that given the statistic that almost 60 percent of students in Arizona require remediation upon entry into college, which is an increase of 20 percent from the nationwide statistic, their foundation is hoping that YUHSD will be a model for the rest of the state. Read more>

Classroom spending down in Tempe districts - The Arizona Republic, 06/13/12
Per-student spending has decreased in three Tempe-area school districts over the past five years, which administrators attribute to declining enrollment and decreased state funding. In Kyrene, 61.8 percent of spending is in the classroom, according to a report from the Arizona Auditor General's Office. The Tempe Union High School District puts 56.4 percent of its money into the classroom, and the Tempe Elementary School District spends 53.6 percent directly on kids. Read more>

Murphy school district board, parents clash - The Arizona Republic, 06/09/12
Parents and advocates at Murphy Elementary School District are in a power struggle with school-board members to steer the struggling inner-city Phoenix district into a more successful era and leave behind a long history of lagging test scores, high teacher turnover and poor leadership. Both sides said they want to do what's best for the district's 2,200 children, but friction has worsened. Residents and advocates said board members are ignoring parents' pleas for transparency and appear to be trying to circumvent parent involvement in deciding the district's next superintendent by holding meetings without notice and not responding to parents' requests that Murphy launch a statewide search for a new superintendent. Read more>

Arizona education non-profit's spending raises issues - The Arizona Republic, 06/02/12
The Arizona Coalition for Education Excellence poured more than $180,000 into nearly a dozen political-action committees that supported school ballot measures last year, yet voters had no way of knowing the source of money that aimed to influence the elections.  As a "social welfare" non-profit, the coalition's primary aim is to sway school elections by giving large sums of cash to PACs on behalf of its supporters, whose identities and contributions don't have to be divulged. Coalition officials and its website list its biggest contributors as construction companies with a clear stake in voters approving money for school building upgrades. Read more>

Gadsden district battling teacher turnover -, 06/02/12
A salary freeze, the gas-guzzling drive from Yuma to San Luis and other factors are complicating efforts of schools here to retain teachers, school district officials say. Last month, the Gadsden Elementary School District's governing board approved the resignations of 14 employees, mostly teachers. Six of the employees are leaving for jobs in the neighboring Somerton Elementary School District. Read more>

Deer Valley Unified School District graduation bar raised for Class of '13; More math, science added to meet state guidelines The Arizona Republic, 05/11/12
High-school students in Deer Valley Unified and throughout Arizona will see more rigorous graduation requirements in math starting next school year. New state graduation requirements mandate high-school students add an extra year's worth of math and science to their schedules to obtain their diplomas. The Class of 2013 will be the first to be affected by the new rules, which call for three years of science and four years of math, including completion of algebra II. That's up from two science credits and three math credits required of this year's graduates. Read more>

Arizona kids still behind in science; 44% of students lack basic knowledge, test indicatesThe Arizona Republic, 05/10/12
New test scores show that Arizona students remain among the lowest-performing in the country in science – an area that many educators and business leaders regard as critical to boosting the state's economic health. The scores released Thursday in the "Nation's Report Card" indicate Arizona eighth-graders improved only slightly from two years ago, the last time the test was given, and were higher than those in only five states. Forty-four percent of Arizona students lacked basic knowledge of science. The gains were only slight nationally, as well.
Read more>

Kyrene school district will have to do without bond money - Voter-OK'd funds not available for projects, officials sayThe Arizona Republic, 05/09/12
The Kyrene School District and 20 other districts around the state will have to make do next year without touching bond money already approved by voters. House Bill 2405, which would have increased the schools' bonding capacity until 2016, and helped 21 districts spend money that voters already approved, died last week without coming up for a vote in the Legislature. Currently, 21 districts can't sell voter-approved bonds because property values have dropped dramatically over the past few years, putting them below their statutory percentage of total assessed valuation that's required before they can spend the money. Nearly $300 million in bond money from all 21 districts combined is currently inaccessible. Read more>

Avondale Elementary district tries to curb declining rolls; New department created to oversee some key programsThe Arizona Republic, 05/09/2012
The Avondale Elementary School District is launching new efforts to help stave off declining enrollment. The district's governing board recently approved creating a Community Education Department to oversee programs such as preschool, before and after school care, summer-break camps and activities to engage more parents. Since the 2008-09 school year, the district lost 608 students. Between school years 2008-09 and 2010-11, the district lost more than $900,000 due to student enrollment declines. More recently, from 2010-11 to 2011-12, the district lost about $1.1 million in state funding. Read more>


Understanding State School Funding; The first step toward quality reforms - The Education Commission of the States, June 2012
Researchers have long recognized the relationship between quality education reform and the structure of a state’s school funding system. However, many policymakers continue to view their state’s school funding formula not as a tool for reform but as a barrier to change.  Policymakers tend to view the way that their state funds schools as a byzantine system of rules, regulations, and formulas that is only comprehensible to a handful of people. This perception scares many policymakers away from even trying to grasp how their funding formula works. When policymakers don’t understand the basics of their state’s funding system, it is difficult for them to determine what changes are needed to encourage innovation. Download report (pdf)>

Arizona Schools Guide – The Arizona Republic
Want to know more about Arizona public schools? Find data on enrollment and teachers, how schools fare on statewide tests and more. More>

The Condition of Education 2012 - National Center for Education Statistics, May 24, 2012
The 49 indicators presented in The Condition of Education 2012 provide a progress report on education in America and include findings on the demographics of American schools, U.S. resources for schooling, and outcomes associated with education. Report findings include:

• In 2008-09, about three-quarters of the 2004-05 freshman class graduated with a regular diploma from public high schools.

• From 2000 to 2010, undergraduate enrollment in postsecondary institutions increased from 13 million students to 18 million. During this period, undergraduate enrollment in private for-profit institutions quadrupled – from 0.4 million students in 2000 to 1.7 million in 2010.

• Between 1980 and 2011, the percentages of White, Black and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had a bachelor’s degree increased. Yet, during this period, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between Blacks and Whites increased from 13 to 19 percentage points, and the gap between Whites and Hispanics increased from 17 to 26 percentage points.

View the full report>


The Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC) is a 501(c)(3) organization providing a balanced forum for business and education leaders to collaborate and improve K-12 education policy, with linkages to pre-kindergarten and postsecondary education. Guiding principles include: increasing public awareness about the relationship between Arizona’s future workforce and the quality of the K-12 system; actively and effectively influencing education policy; and sharing responsibility for the growth of student achievement in Arizona. For more information, visit

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