Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. NBC, Education Nation, is a traveling event that brings together community leaders to look at education issues. It stops in Phoenix this week. Paul Luna joins us now, president and CEO of the Helios Foundation, Education Foundation I should say, which helped bring Education Nation to town.
Paul Luna: Great to be here.
Ted Simons: Give me a better definition of Education Nation.
Paul Luna: we're talking about shining a spotlight in Arizona on the issues of education through the lens of a national partner in NBC news, who has been doing this on a national basis but is now active in bringing this discussion and focus on issues of education to a community and to a state. The key I think is starting to focus also on the really positive things happening in education. Arizona has many activities to celebrate as well.
Ted Simons: That that what you mean by “a solutions focused discussion”?
Paul Luna: It's about bringing the voices of community leaders, students, teachers to the forefront to talk about how can we improve education in the system in our state? How do we make sure we're focusing our students to be college and career educated and ready in our current economy? We have some collaborative partnerships but there are challenges as well. We want to make sure we're addressing those issues.
Ted Simons: Recent stops in Detroit, New Orleans, now if Phoenix. How did Phoenix go ahead NBC education nation to stop here?
Paul Luna: Helios works in Arizona and Florida with a goal to help residents in both states be more successful in college and career. We had a chance to participate with Education Nation when it was in Miami last year. We began conversations and were able to become the lead sponsor to bring Education Nation to Phoenix to get this discussion going in Arizona.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about what the discussion will emphasize. What are the most pressing challenges and the most pressing opportunities if you will?
Paul Luna: I think what we would say is what's most important to understand is the need to ensure that our students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. We're losing too many students as they come through the education system. When we think or they think that they have graduated from high school and are capable to move on to postsecondary education success they are not reaching those education goals. This is the attainment level of success the students need. The certificates, licensing, two and four year degrees. Those are what students need to be successful in career and in life.
Ted Simons: Is there a shift, though? I remember when I went to college I still -- this feeling that I went to college for a well-rounded education and to learn how to be an adult in many ways but also to be exposed to many things and take my life in the direction and to be like a lifelong -- these sorts of things seems like it's very much focused on career these days.
Paul Luna: I think education is still that lifelong learning. It begins in the earliest stages, with early care and education. We describe the education continuum from birth through career and beyond. I think that's important to understand. But it's also about making sure we're preparing students for the type of work force and careers and skill sets they are going to need to be successful in those careers. So it's also about learning but also about how do they do in a team environment? How collaborative are they? How are they thinking and problem solving, about making sure we're teaching the students the type of skills they need to be successful. There's an academic focus to that as well. The importance of STEM education plays into this, making sure they understand the concepts for the types of jobs we want in our state.
Ted Simons: Where does Arizona stand on academic excellence?
Paul Luna: There's a number of ways to position that. We like to say we want to create a world class education system in Arizona. To do that we have some improvements to make. Everyone needs to play a part. That's why it's so important to get the student voice and teacher voice into this dialogue. It's not about necessarily measuring our system and our students compared to other states. This is a global economy. Our students will be competing with students from around the world. The key is how do we create that type of education system that's going to prepare them for that 21st century environment.
Ted Simons: You mentioned students and teachers. How do you get parents involved? How best to engage Arizonans in general on education?
Paul Luna: That's exactly the point of education nation, to engage all Arizonans around the important topics of education. Parents are clearly an important voice and have an important role in supporting their students through this education continuum. Part of it is educating Arizonans to understand what a world class education system looks like. What's important? Why is it important for students to have high expectations, to want to pursue high academic achievement and to find the right type of career path. Not every career path is the same for every student. We need to make sure we have those multiple pathways as well.
Ted Simons: In terms of leadership and government agencies what are we seeing in Arizona?
Paul Luna: From our viewpoint and in terms of especially Helios perspective we believe to truly improve our education? It only happens through collaboration. We need the business community, governmental entities, Department of Education and others, philanthropic communities focused on what we need to do to improve education in our state. That's the only way we'll create the type of systemic change we need.
Ted Simons: Helios Education Foundation. Give us a definition.
Paul Luna: We're an education foundation that serves Arizona and Florida with the primary goal to help students be successful in postsecondary education.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here.
Paul Luna: Thank you very much.