Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 13, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona's Megapolitan


Guests:
  • Tom Horne - State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Dr. Karen Nicodemus - President of Cochise College and Chair of the Education Alignment and Assessment Committee for the Governor’s P-20 Council
  • John Wright - President , Arizona Education Association
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," could the end of aims be near? We'll discuss the future of Arizona's test to measure student progress. Find out what a growing city like Prescott is doing to maintain its charm.

Ted Simons:
And now an ASU report shows that Prescott, Phoenix, and Tucson are growing no a single megapolitan area. That's next on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons:
Tonight's headlines, Arizona's governor Janet Napolitano will speak august 26th at the democratic convention in Denver. According to the D.N.C., she'll talk about jobs and economic growth. There had been some expectation she could be named as Barack Obama's running mate, however, the governor says Obama's campaign has not requested any information from her to suggest that she's in the running.

Ted Simons:
Since 1999, Arizona's AIMS test has been used to measure student achievement. It's a high-stakes exam which means students have to pass it to earn their diplomas. In 2006 state lawmakers allowed students to augment their scores with bonus points for passing grades in their classes. This year in the closing hours of the legislative session, state lawmakers authorized a task force to consider revising or replacing AIMS with another exam. Joining me to talk about the future of the AIMS test is state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Horne, Dr. Karen Nicodemus, president of Cochise College and Chair of the Education Alignment and Assessment Committee for the Governor's P-20 Council, and John Wright, President of the Arizona Education Association, the state's largest teacher organization. Good to have you on "Horizon." thanks for joining us. Tom, we'll start with you. I know how you're going to answer -- AIMS test. The way it stands now with the way it's been messed with for so long, should it stay or should it go?

Tom Horne:
It should definitely stay. We engage in continuous improvement of the AIMS test, but you don't want to dump what you have and start something new every few years. That's what they used to do. Some people remember when Carolyn Warner was Superintendent, they had CUES, and Diane Bishop wanted her own thing, so she dumped CUES and added ASAP. Then Lisa came in, I want my own thing, and dumped ASAP and started AIMS. And I was the first modest person to be elected, I said, no, we're going to keep the same thing we've been doing for 12 years and engage in continuous improvement, and actually I have fought and won three statewide elections on two -- on the issue of aims is because the public wants accountability. And AIMS is what gives us accountability. We hold our schools and teachers accountable, and we hold our students accountable.

Tom Horne:
so everyone in the system is motivated to do their best.

Ted Simons:
Karen, stay or go?

Karen Nicodemus:
I think Tom makes valid points, but in that course of that 12 years, we've seen changes in our educational system. And having been through the process of looking at our standards, specifically math in the last year, and looking at the need to increase, and place more emphasis on college readiness, I think it's time to take a look. As to whether superintendent points I think they're all well taken, and whether they'll hold during the discussion, I think that's part of having the discussion. I think we need to continually look to improve and look at what are we trying to accomplish with AIMS and are we being able to do that, and is it making a difference in learning something.

Ted Simons:
Do we keep changing AIMS or let it go?

John Wright:
I think in your introduction and in Tom's comments you've heard one of the problems with AIMS. That is, it's politicized. You spoke about Arizona sticking to a test that measures student progress. We haven't heard anything about student progress so far in this discussion. If you are running and winning elections on an assessment, and if legislators are working at 2:00 in the morning to decide they have something to say about how students are taught and tested, we've made an education instrument a political instrument. And that's ultimately the problem. So we need to look at what we want AIMS or a test to do, design a test that will do that, and that is, assess student learning based on standards and modify and adjust instruction to ensure success. It's not about politics or the legislature, it's not about elections.

Ted Simons:
It's about, though, in many cases, trying to get students to study harder and achieve more. Does having a high stakes exam do that?

John Wright:
I think having a high-stakes exam ensures compliance. It does not ensure motivation, it does not take a child to study hall, it does not help a parent sit down over dinner with homework. That means compliance. And we will motivate, we want to get students to understand the value of their education, not the importance of a test.

Tom Horne:
I'd like to comment on that. It doesn't do the whole job. Hopefully students are motivated and by great teachers. But I've spoken to a lot of teachers with all due deference to John, who say it is an important component in motivating students. If you don't hold them accountable, it's not fair to hold the schools and teachers accountable. Because the teacher says, please do your best on the test and the student says, why? So the student has leverage over the teacher. And I have lots of stories about kids working much harder than they did before. Parents more involved that weren't involved with younger siblings because they know the kid has to pass the AIMS test. A teacher who I quoted in an article who said when she got to school at 7:00 in the morning the kids were waiting because they needed coaching in writing. In prior years, she would beg them to take it seriously with limited success. So it does play an important role in student motivation, and student motivation is a big part of the picture along with quality teachers, and a high level of standards, motivation of students is very important.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned it may be time to take a look. What needs to be looked at?

Karen Nicodemus:
I think again, looking at what the purpose of the test and how is it impacting student learning. And understanding that there is a need to motivate students, but there's various ways in which we can motivate students. We really want students to understand the importance of being prepared for the 21st century workplace. And that includes being college and career ready, and it goes beyond a sophomore level test. Motivation of students is critically important. I think we can learn from other states, I think we can learn from one another through the discussion, and I think it is timely to have the discussion given the agenda that we have for education in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Do you think that school work should supplement AIMS scores?

Karen Nicodemus:
I think the accountability system requires that you have to be going back and testing and looking at how well are we teaching to the standards. But I don't think testing implies that students are learning. I think -- when we say the words that we're teaching to the test, I disagree with that. I don't think that should be our focus. I think the focus should be are we preparing students and how are we've saying that, and what are we doing to intervene when they're not prepared? What role will AIMS play that also meets accountability issues.

John Wright:
I can answer that as a teacher. I recognize Tom has not had the opportunity to instruct students and gauge their progress. What we need is a series of multiple measures to gain -- gauge student progress. How they do in their course work and portfolios, how they do in project work. Which is what the career world is like. And put in some standards based test scores to supplement that. It should be part of a package. No teacher passes or fails a student based on one test. We pass or fail students based on the entirety of their work and a good picture of that work. That's what the state and our schools should be doing with our students as well.

Tom Horne:
Let me respond to that, because the AIMS doesn't say you can't do those things. What the aims does, we have an objective measure. We've had a problem with social promotion, with great inflation, some teachers are very strict in their grading and others are much too easy. And the public noticed that kids were graduating from high school without the knowledge and skills that we expect of a high school graduate. And that was what gave rise to the aims test. The public rising up and saying, we're tired of having kids graduate from high school, and have a diploma who can barely read their own diploma. We want an objective measure, and it's not a single test because they get five chances.

Ted Simons:
What with a two-tiered diploma system?

Tom Horne:
If you do that, you lose the motivation. The kids that historically have done well will be motivated, the kids who historically have done badly will be satisfied with the lower diploma. Until today's world we need all kids to be educated to a certain standard.

Ted Simons:
A catastrophe, though, if you're look at a certification, certificate of completion? Just something that says you went to school, you tried, maybe you didn't pass one part of one test, even though you took it five times, maybe you didn't pass it, but you tried, you were there, you were ready for at least some part of the outside. Would that make sense at all?

Karen Nicodemus:
I have difficulty with that. It feels like what we're saying is we don't have high expectations for all of our students. And I think what we need to look at and what the research would show is that students and teachers tend to respond to high expectations when there's high support. And my point would be that coupled in there is motivation. You can look at other states that have used programs with the governor has suggested with the centennial scholars program. What's the incentive for a student? The academic scholars program, the program tom created where you match aims with also meeting the criteria? I think there are other ways to motivate students, and we need high aspirations for all our students, because why would we want any student to close a door to opportunity while there's still -- while they're still in high school?

Ted Simons:
Does two-tiered system make sense to you?

John Wright:
I think a system that sets a level of expectations, and provides all support necessary for students to meet those expectations and establishes those expectations based on data and educators' best input, not political interest or legislators or elections. If that means these students have met the expectations that Arizona has set for its students, and these students are ready to go right to a university, there's something to be said for that. The issue is, the expectations out of school. And the number of times that teachers educators, and policymakers hear the words "my kid doesn't need to know that."

Ted Simons:
That's a great point. The aims test is not necessarily to prepare a child for college. Correct?

Tom Horne:
That's correct. It's a lower standard than that because it has to be a sophomore level test so we can give them five chances to pass. I've been very active at setting other incentives to exceed standards. If they exceed on all three aims, they get a scholarship. I fought very hard for two years at the board of regents to get that. We have incentives for the schools, and we've pushed very hard, for example, we doubled the number of kids from poverty homes taking the advanced placement test. So we do work at those higher levels. We need a minimal level. Let me give you one example. The TIMS test, the international test of science. The United States was 6th out of 24 countries at fourth grade and dead last in high school. It's not because of bad schools, or we wouldn't have done as well in fourth grade. It's that in our country as kids get older they learn they can blow off school and get away with. And the countries we're competing with, they can't. India, china, Germany, Japan, they can't do that. So we need a standard, and we make sure our kids are motivated, and if they do blow off school, we need to say, you have to study harder and past the test the next time. If you don't, you're not going to get a diploma. If we say you goal one regardless, we perpetuate the problem and will not be able to compete internationally.

Ted Simons:
There's a thought of using A.C.T. Or S.A.T. Scores as opposed to aims.

Karen Nicodemus:
I think again, from my perspective and working with the governor's p-20 council, we need to look at the full array of what's available and appropriate. Again, you have A.C.T., a limited number of students taking it currently within Arizona. I think it's an appropriate to look at that, but I'm looking forward to a broader discussion. I think the task force that's been created hopefully as john has suggested, that the priority and the -- where they'll focus is on students. What does that mean, and they'll come to the table and look at all kinds of -- look at aims as well as A.C.T., S.A.T., and anything in the middle that might help move education forward.

Ted Simons:
And does it need to be, or should it not be a high-stakes exam?

John Wright:
A single exam for purposes of high school graduation, I believe is a misuse of that exam. That's not why we test. And applying that test data for that very narrow purpose, I think it corrupts instruction and leads to misuse of data. We need to remember to use our tests for the reasons they were designed.

Ted Simons:
Less than a minute.

Tom Horne:
very important difference between us. Yes, we use the toast inform instruction, but we also use tests to make sure the kids are learning what they need to learn, because the public feels that we need to be sure that we graduate kids that have the skills and the knowledge that we expect of a high school graduate, especially today, when the economy is a knowledge-based economy and we have to compete internationally. We have to have requirements that we show the kids have the knowledge and skills, and if he or she doesn't, they need to get remediation and pass it next time. They get five chances. We let them take it as many times as they want, and when they pass they get the did I plutonium a but we require them to get the knowledge and the skills that the public expects of a high school graduate.

Ted Simons:
We have to stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Ted Simons:
As Arizona's one hitch time territorial capital, Prescott is a city with a lot of history. Tonight we continue our series small town challenges by taking a look at growth in Prescott. It too faces problems with water short a little and traffic jams, but as David Majure and videographer Richard Torruellas shows us, one big issue is holding on to its small town appeal.

David Majure:
They call it everybody's hometown. But with everybody moving here, Prescott's in danger of losing its hometown charm.

Jack Wilson:
If we don't preserve that, we're just like a thousand other towns with the same population across the united states.

David Majure:
The population of Prescott has more than doubled since 1980. Over 43,000 people live here today. That's a far cry from the town of 6,000 that existed in 1940 when Elizabeth Roughner moved here from ohio.

Elizabeth Roughner:
This city and the west started to grow really tremendously after World War II. And there's no way to control that locally. But locally one can see adopted good enough ordinances that the people who choose to live near you don't destroy your own living quality.

David Majure:
The quality of life in Prescott is threatened by more and more people placing a greater demand on city services, water, and land.

Elizabeth Roughner:
We understand the dynamics of growth very well. But we haven't adopted enough of a smart growth pattern to protect us from this rampant growth on our boundaries.

David Majure:
Most of Prescott's growth is on its boundaries. That's because the city is virtually landlocked. It takes a vote of the city council to acquire additional land for development through the process of annexation. That process has been criticized by people like jack wilson.

Jack Wilson:
It's basically giving everybody to the developer, and the city was getting nothing.

David Majure:
Wilson worked to change that in 2005 by serving on the proposition 400 steering committee.

Jack Wilson:
We need balanced, responsible growth, not super sized subdivisions built by Phoenix megadeveloppers. If you don't want more traffic congestion, crime, pollution, and higher taxes, vote yes on proposition 400.

David Majure:
Prop 400 requires a 60-day public comment period for annexations of 250 acres or more. And a super majority, six of seven council members is needed to approve an annexation.

Jack Wilson:
If you want to preserve our quality of life and keep Prescott everybody's home town, vote yes on prop 400.

David Majure:
Proposition 400 passed with 57\% of the vote. Two years later, Wilson was elected mayor. He keeps fighting to preserve Prescott's identity. That special something that brought him here from Chicago near lay decade ago.

Jack Wilson:
I think what we're faced with is this issue of how we grow, because we are going to grow, but how we preserve this. I set up a mayor's committee called Prescott 2050 visioning that's looking at those questions. We have a committee that's looking at how we preserve the ambience, a development committee that's looking at how we do development that's compatible with the way we are, and how we grow, and the method that's profitable to a developer but maintains the look and feel of Prescott.

Matthew Ackerman:
I think we are in danger of losing it.

David Majure:
Architect Matthew Ackerman shares the smart growth committee.

Matthew Ackerman:
People come here, visit here, see the beautiful downtown square and whiskey road behind me and think, Prescott is just an increptible place. How wonderful it would be to live here. And yet what we find is that when people move here, what we're actually building for them, both residentially and commercially, has very little to do request what drew them here to begin with.

David Majure:
Case in point this, Lowe's home store. During construction, it caused quite a stir when the hillside behind it was bull dozed for fill dirt. We need to be able to protect our hilltops. If we lose all these vistas that I came here for and other people came here for, this is no longer the town that we know and love.

David Majure:
Protecting hill tops and open spaces, limiting suburban sprawl. It's a challenge for a growing city like Prescott trying to hold on to its small town appeal.

Matthew Ackerman:
If you try to recreate the charm we have downtown, you'd have to get one zoning variance after another. So what we're hoping to do with the mayor's smart growth committee is adopt a parallel smart code for Prescott which would at least give developers who are wanting to do something better a fighting chance of doing it.

Ted Simons:
Prescott, Phoenix, and Tuscon are merging into one giant megapolitan according to a new report from A.S.U.'s Morrison institute for public policy. The report, entitled "megapolitan: Arizona's sun corridor" takes a look at what that means to our state. Yesterday I spoke to the morrison institute's Grady Gammage Jr., one of the report's principal authors. Thank you for joining us on "horizon."

Grady Gammage Jr.:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about, before we get to smaller towns in Prescott and the idea of how they're incorporated in a megapolitan area, what is a megapolitan area?

Grady Gammage Jr.: You know, it's a good question. I've actually, when I I've talk the about it I've gotten people quarreling with me because they don't like the name. Megapolitan is the term that is sort of "voguish" now for multiple metropolitan areas that combine together. We used to talk about, for example, dallas and fort worth. The megapolitans are the really big emerging areas that merge together two or three or maybe many cities. One of those is the sun corridor, which is basically Phoenix and Tuscon, actually merging together.

Ted Simons: ok.
Phoenix and Tuscon merging together. However, you've got the sun corridor megapolitan area from Sierra Vista to Prescott.

Grady Gammage Jr.:
Yeah, and that's the shock when people hear it. You tell them it's actually chino valley north of Prescott, all the way to sierra vista. There's a particular methodology that's used, and it's called the employment interchange factor. And the way it works, and there is a general bleach that the census will adopt this in the next go-around, is that it recognizes overlapping community patterns. So it's an attempt to define a single functioning economy where there's enough interchange from people working in Glendale, but living in Scottsdale, or working in chino valley, and living in Prescott, or however those patterns overlap, merging together. And if you apply that to Arizona, you come up with this conclusion that from chino valley to sierra vista is merging together as single economic unit.

Ted Simons:
From chino valley to Sierra Vista, are we ready to be a Megapolitan area?

Grady Gammage Jr.:
When I talk about this with members of the public, the overwhelming consensus seems to be, holy cow, I'm not sure I like this. I didn't know this was coming, I'm not sure I'm particularly excited about it. There's a lot of challenges presented by it. We're only barely beginning to get regionalism in sort of a metropolitan Phoenix scale. As opposed to just individual community making. The leap to this scale is a long reach for a lot of people in Arizona to understand, and there are -- their immediate reaction is, it sounds too much like L.A. I don't want to go there.

Ted Simons:
But if we are going to go there, we better go there in the right direction, and we better worry about things like transportation and water, and again, are people looking ahead to these concerns?

Grady Gammage Jr.:
The real lesson that we try to paint in the Megapolitan report on the sun corridor that we did at the Morrison institute is, this is going to happen. It is already happening. We need to start thinking about issues at the Megapolitan scale instead of dealing with them in isolation. Transportation is the biggest single example. One of the results of this redefinition by the census would be, we'd get more federal money to fix the freeway between Phoenix and Tuscon. They would pay for more lanes. That's a very real and tangible benefit to reidentifying the region as single unit.

Ted Simons:
How would a place like Prescott, the smaller towns of Arizona, let's take Prescott in particular, is it a good thing for a town like Prescott with the charm and small town atmosphere, to be included in this?

Grady Gammage Jr.:
I think ultimately it can be a very good thing. Obviously there's lots of challenges, but Prescott is already no longer an isolated economy. There are lots of people up there who spend their day working on the internet and chose to live in property because of the lifestyle. There are lots of people up there coming into Phoenix two and three days a week. What's good about it is, if you think about that whole region, it needs places that are more than just shopping centers and beige houses with red tile roofs. You can't just have a seamless web of the same thing over the region. You need to identify distinct and interesting places, and Prescott is one of those. They can capitalize on that, I think, and retain a special atmosphere even as they become part of this larger economy.

Ted Simons:
Why Prescott Chino Valley? Why not north of flagstaff?

Grady Gammage Jr.:
The dilemma is that you get to flagstaff by going up I-17, not by going through Prescott and chino valley, and over to flagstaff. And there is enough intervening public land, and it's just enough farther to get to flagstaff that when you apply this interchange factor, this community pattern, it doesn't catch flagstaff. And the question is, would it by 2030? And the projections are no, that it will still be too much empty land in between, and too far to drive all the way from flagstaff to the north end of the Phoenix metro area.

Ted Simons:
The overall look of the megapolitan idea, the sun corridor idea, is Arizona -- are we going to create something special here, or are we simply going to hang on for dear life?

Grady Gammage Jr.:
Well, the risk is that there won't be anything particularly special about it. We get criticized a lot already for being the ultimate homogenized American place, like we look like any other suburb. And so I think there is some real risk there that if we don't focus on what's coming our way, and try to figure out how to deal with it from a land use planning perspective, a climate change perspective, a heat island perspective, all of those problems we highlight in the report, the dilemma is, it will look pretty much like things look now, only a lot bigger. That really doesn't seem to excite people. But they put their fingers on how to produce a different result.

Ted Simons:
All right. Grady, thank you so much for joining us.

Grady Gammage Jr.:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
to learn more about Arizona's emerging megapolitan, visit our website at www.azpbs.org/"horizon." go to today's show date for a link to the morrison institute's full report, "megapolitan: Arizona's sun corridor."

Ted Simons:
Arizona's attorney general talks about why the county and state are at odds about housing around Luke Air Force base, and we continue our sear otherwise small town struggles with a look at the rock and roll theme park planned for eloy.

Ted Simons:
That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Have a great evening.

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