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December 3, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Program for International Student Assessment

  |   Video
  • The Program for International Student Assessment, otherwise known as PISA, will be released December 3. It will offer results on the 2012 international assessment measuring 15-year-old students' reading, mathematics and science literacy skills. President and CEO of Expect More Arizona Pearl Chang Esau will talk about where Arizona students ranked in the international assessment.
  • Pearl Chang Esau - President and CEO, Expect More Arizona
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, international, literacy,

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Ted Simons: How do Arizona 15-year-olds compare to students around the world in terms of reading, math, and science literary skills? The answer can be found in the program for international student assessment, also known as PISA. The latest PISA report was released today and here to crunch the numbers is Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, which is focused on building a world class education system for Arizona students. Good to have you here.

Pearl Chang Esau: Thank you so much for having me.

Ted Simons: This program for -- this PISA, how do they measure 15-year-olds?

Pearl Chang Esau: Well, there is an assessment that is given to 15-year-olds every three years to measure math, reading, and science. And it's given to about 65 different countries around the world of which 34 give or take are compared to the U.S. as a high wealth nation.

Ted Simons: Is it basically a standardized test?

Pearl Chang Esau: Actually the interesting thing about the PISA is that it measures application of real world knowledge. So what's nice, it doesn't measure any specific standards that a student is learning, rather it measures a student's ability to apply what they know to a real world situation, which is what kids need to do.

Ted Simons: Comprehension isn't just an afterthought.

Pearl Chang Esau: It's critical thinking, how to solve problems with math and reading skills.

Ted Simons: All right. So how does Arizona stand?

Pearl Chang Esau: Well, I think the big picture here is that -- Unfortunately we're still in the same place we have been the last few times we've done this, which is that we're average in math -- We're average in science and reading and we're below average unfortunately still in math. And really I think the big thing to take away is that our individual quality of life in the United States, really by extension, to take it to a even further level, our national security is very much dependent on our economic strengths and increasingly our economic strength is dependent on the quality of our education system. And the main take-away message from this report is that the United States is falling behind.

Ted Simons: So it sounds as though Arizona is not showing a lot of improvement. How are we comparing to other states in any improvement? Any improvement in those comparisons?

Pearl Chang Esau: The PISA measures the United States as a country, and only three states had enough students take the test to come out on their own scores. So that was Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida. But Arizona doesn't have its own set of PISA scores. But from what we can see, Massachusetts is the gold star state. Number one on the NAPE test, Massachusetts does better than the national average, and they do really well when lined up with Singapore and Korea and Finland and those other countries. But it's still two grade levels behind in math when it comes compares to Shanghai, which is the number one country for math or city for math.

Ted Simons: It looked like Shanghai was number one for math and science and for reading as well. Obviously they're doing something right over there. In terms of education. But when we talk about test scores and education, again, how much is creativity involved here, the critical thinking above and beyond -- How much of those factor in? America prides itself in innovation and thinking outside of collective boxes.

Pearl Chang Esau: that's so important. Those are often the soft skills that are difficult to measure. Increasingly we know 85% of high wage, high jobs in Arizona require a post-secondary education, some form of education after high school. And we know some employers and what they tell us, they're looking for students who can be creative, critical thinkers, who can collaborate as needed. And those are the skills we need to focus teaching in schools now. And that's not something you can measure by a test.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, are those the kind of things, Shanghai can beat us in the numbers but we can improve along those areas.

Pearl Chang Esau: The PISA is focused on practical applications. It does get a problem solving. When you read the questions, they're problem solving questions.

Ted Simons: what is Shanghai and some of these other leading nations, what are they doing right that we could look at and say, let's use their example?

Pearl Chang Esau: They look at education as an economic development priority. Education is their number one strategy for economic development. And I think increasingly we need to look at it that way as well, it's not just a social issue, but education has to be our top priority for economy and quality of life. Therefore they're willing to invest in it, they're willing to have the political and public will to support it, and they really focus on the quality of their educators. That's such a big thing. In both Shanghai and Finland and other places where they've risen to the top rapidly over the last decade or so, you're looking at countries that place a huge value in teachers. It's really respectable profession.

Ted Simons: And those are the countries that did very well. Obviously we're not at the bottom, or near the bottom, but Peru didn't do that well. Can you look at a Peru and say, we can learn from how poorly they fared to not even go anywhere near that direction. Can you do that? Can you factor that in?

Pearl Chang Esau: I think we probably prefer to look at -- Look forward in terms of what we can learn from other countries that are doing really well. I think one important thing we're doing is we're raising our academic expectations for students. We're expecting our students are globally competitive when they graduate from high school. And we're doing that by implementing new standards in Arizona schools. Most states across the country are implementing the common core standards, and the study shows that if we're implementing them effectively, they will make a significant impact on improving our PISA results in math the next time around.

Ted Simons: What do officials, what should officials take from this assessment?

Pearl Chang Esau: Officials like our elected officials?

Ted Simons: School officials and elected officials.

Pearl Chang Esau: Well, I think that our -- In terms of educators, they're already working incredibly hard. They very much recognize that our students need to perform in a globally competitive marketplace, and they're going to be competing with their peers. But on the whole, we have to make education a top priority in the state. We have to be willing to set high expectations, implement the new standards successfully, invest in education consistently and make sure our teachers have the professional development they need to succeed with these new standards. We have to implement a new assessment. Our old aims test is a 10th grade bar. That's not going to get us to a globally competitive place. We have to start early. It's the early grades, and everybody has a role to play, our community has to support all of our children reading proficiently by 3rd grade.

Ted Simons: Good information. Let's hope we start improving in some of these categories during whatever the next PISA test rolls around. Good to have you here.

Pearl Chang Esau: Thank you so much.

The Arizona We Want Grant

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  • The Center for the Future of Arizona announced today it has raised $1.375 million to fund implementation of The Arizona We Want 2.0: The Case for Action. The plan calls for improving the lives of Arizonans in eight key areas, including education, job creation, environment, water management and healthcare. The Center for the Future of Arizona Chairman and CEO Dr. Lattie Coor will discuss the implementation of the new funds.
  • Dr. Lattie Coor - CEO, The Center for the Future of Arizona Chairman
Category: Community   |   Keywords: community, grant, arizona, education, job creation, environment, water management, healthcare, funds,

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Ted Simons: The center for the future of Arizona announced it's raised nearly $1.4 million to fund implementation of "The Arizona We Want 20. The Case for Action." Which calls for improving the lives of Arizonans through education, job creation, and other key areas. Joining us now center for the future much Arizona chairman and CEO Dr. Lattie Coor. Good to see you again.

Dr. Lattie Coor: Good to be here.

So we got 1.4 some-odd million for the Arizona we want 2.0. Explain, please.

Dr. Lattie Coor: We did the Gallup Arizona poll 3.5 years ago and learned very fundamental things what citizens want for our future -- Education and health care and infrastructure, and environment, water management, basic issues about the future. We then spent time over the state talking with people about how do we take these very important issues. For example, in education, citizens said they want their students to graduated high school, college and/or career ready, and be measured by national and international standards. How do we turn that into actionable items themselves? Through a series of discussions and meetings, stakeholder groups who came together, we -- And the Arizona we want 2.0 were able to indicate ways in which actual action could take place. What we're doing now is creating an institute within our center that is dedicated to taking these ideas forward and particularly in the period immediately ahead, asking every candidate for state level office in the 2014 election to speak to these issues. To speak to the goals that citizens have identified. To indicate that if they oppose a particular piece of legislation, let's take career and college and career ready goals that are there, or Medicaid restoration and expansion. If they support those, how do they see that connecting with what citizens want? If they oppose those, what solutions do they have? And to make that part of the campaign itself, so voters know what those candidates are going to do once they get in office.

Ted Simons: So the case for action includes going to folks who can make changes and persuading them to change? Are there other avenues for action?

Dr. Lattie Coor: What we're seeking to do is get every organization in the state that has an interest in these categories that I've just mentioned. Education organizations, for example, and have a lead organization that will bring all of the partner organizations together and advance their cause to individual candidates. So in debates, in public appearances, in other ways in which candidates present themselves, candidates for legislature, and candidates for the state level office, governor etc., ask them to speak to those issues in the form they are going to be involved--

Ted Simons: as far as donations, how many corporation, how many foundations are contributing?

We have about 12, between corporation and foundations. And we've asked them to contribute for three years. So we can get the institute up and running, get leadership there that can take it forward, and that's what that 1.4 million you described is all about. But -- And it's about equally divided between foundation and corporations.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, money is coming in now, they're getting things funded and you're trying to get this action plan -- What do people need to know about the Arizona we want 2.0, because for some they'll say, let's just vote for the right people and get it over with.

Dr. Lattie Coor: They need to know that we have been able to determine scientifically, GALLUP poll, what Arizonans want. And we see evidence that too many decisions are being made that don't conform to that. It takes a commitment over the long haul to make it happen. So what we encourage citizens to do is recognize that they have a chance to ask candidates to tell how do they intend to carry their projects forward? And to make their own decisions and voting by that. And to encourage others to get out and vote. We discovered in the Arizona we want that we don't have a very high turnout. We're in the bottom in voting and being an active part of the political process.

Ted Simons: Very good. It's good to have you here. Continued success with the organization. We'll keep tabs on you and invite you back.

Dr. Lattie Coor: It's always a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Uninvestigated Child Abuse Cases

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  • The story of six-thousand child abuse cases not investigated continues to develop, with the Governor forming a “CARE Team” to provide oversight in the investigation of those cases. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, who writes extensively on the issue of child abuse, talks about the latest development.
  • Laurie Roberts - Columnist, Arizona Republic
Category: Law   |   Keywords: law, child abuse, investigation, update,

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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Investigations into child protective services continue as the state tries to learn why the agency dismissed over 6500 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. "Arizona Republic" columnist Laurie Roberts has written extensively on the troubles at CPS. She joins us now. Thank you for being here. We've got now an independent panel aimed at CPS. What's this all about?

Laurie Roberts: Well, the governor on Monday appointed this independent panel of some fairly impressive people, a nine-member panel. They'll have two goals -- One is to watch what CPS is doing on the 6500 cases that were dropped to make sure those cases are checked out, that those children are checked out. Obviously not much trust on the governor's part that CPS can handle this alone. And their other purpose will be to dig into CPS to figure out what is wrong systemically that these problems keep cropping up, year after year.

Ted Simons: I notice the department of juvenile corrections leader is leading this particular panel. Is that a concern, considering -- Are there enough social service folks in there considering you are looking at a service agency?

Laurie Roberts: Sure. It's a corrections agency, but within juvenile corrections, the whole goal is to rehabilitate children. So I think that's OK. I think more of a law enforcement focus frankly is needed in that agency. It's been a mishmash for a long time in terms of its mission. But there are people from a social service perspective, from a legislative perspective, prosecutorial perspective, a wide range of pretty impressive people.

Ted Simons: It sounds like five staffers put on leave. Do we know why?

Laurie Roberts: Well, I think the fact 6500 children's cases weren't investigated, despite a state law --

Ted Simons: more specifically these five staffers, do we know what part they played?

Laurie Roberts: We know they were members of the swat team, the newspaper, "The Arizona Republic" tomorrow will have who they are and what their jobs were. These were five members of that swat called in to streamline services. These are not front line caseworkers. These are not underpaid, underlings. These are program managers and CPS supervisors who apparently made these decisions. I question whether that is enough. Clearly those people did not decide to violate state law on their own, there have to be people above them to knew what was going on and approved it.

Ted Simons: sounds like a starting position, the five, four now and they move on. This investigation, compare this panel with the DPS probe, with the -- Child protective services -- Everyone's probing everything, what are we coming at?

Laurie Roberts: That agency is the most probed agency, you know. I could make a joke but I won't. That agency has been probed and reformed and investigated year after year after decade. And things never change. Children slip through the cracks, processes are analyzed, Band-Aids are put on top of Band-Aids, and nothing seems to get fixed.

Ted Simons: Why? Why does the Band-Aid not work well enough? Why are we constantly at this story and why does it seem like there's no light at the end of this particular tunnel?

Laurie Roberts: You know, I think if we could answer that question we could fix it easily. But I think it's probably a combination of things. You can't look at CPS and not consider the funding situation. It is outrageous. The case loads are unbelievably high. That has to be fixed. But that alone I do not believe will fix it. You've got poor management practices in there, and you've got a situation that when they make these poor decisions, there is no transparency for anyone to see it or catch them at it because they hide under the cloak of anonymity.

Ted Simons: Is secrecy a problem?

Laurie Roberts: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: With the knowledge in mind CPS, secrecy is a key ingredient in what they do and how they do it to get the information and keep the innocent out of the papers.

Laurie Roberts: Right, but I think you can be transparent without ruining children's lives. I don't think anybody has that as their goal. I think they also have a problem in that they have a dual mission that is at times conflicting. Their mission is to protect children and strengthen families. Sometimes protecting children means not strengthening families. Not reunifying families. And I think they've never had a consistent clear focus. And that could be a problem too. Another problem is that they are in this massive state agency that deals with unemployment checks and food stamps, and who knows what all. And so they have a director who can't possibly focus, give the kind of focus you night to this troubled agency.

Ted Simons: Is there a movement afoot to get it out of DES and make it its own stand alone agency?

Laurie Roberts: Would I like to start that movement. I have said so in the paper, I have thought for a long time that needs to happen. We need to go out, figure out who's doing this better than us, figure out who is doing it best, and copy what they're doing. And I suspect that that will mean streamlining it by taking CPS down to its foundation, moving it out of DES, and starting over. Streamlining it in a 21st century way with what we know about children with strong policies and just pick all the laws, take them to zero and rebuild it in an agency that makes sense.

Ted Simons: Is there the political will to do that? Because it seems like if you're not doing something well and someone else is doing a really good job of it, just go ahead and copy them. Why aren't we -- I don't know. From the outside it's exasperating to continue to have these stories and months down the line the legislature will be in session and not a whole heck of a lot will seem to be getting done.

Laurie Roberts: Nothing will get done. That's the frustration. I don't know that it's that we don't want to copy anyone. I don't think we have the political will or the leadership or the vision to go out and do it. How long has it been within DES? Why does it make sense to be there? 10 years ago Rick Romley, when he was county attorney, we had a string of child thefts and he commissioned a report called "in harm's way" which made 27 recommendations. One of their key recommendations was, pull CPS out of DES, create a separate agency and another recommendation was, make the mission protection of the children first. And anything after that, you can do. And neither of those things have happened. I think the legislature was concerned that's growing government, which it's not, it's reorganizing government. And I think that conservatives were concerned about the idea that you're going to protect children that oh, my god you're going to rip them out of people's families so they still have this dual mission. The mission should be to protect children.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, what's next in all of this? What do we look for?

Laurie Roberts: We look for accountability. I don't think allowing five caseworkers, that that's enough. I think we look to make sure -- We force CPS to say, have you checked on those cases? We still -- I shouldn't say children, it's cases. We don't know how much children it is. Two weeks later we don't know how many children it is.

Ted Simons: All right. We'll keep reading your column to find out the best we can. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Laurie Roberts: glad to be here.