Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 6, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Move on When Ready


  • State lawmakers passed a bill that allows high school students to advance academically and move on to college or career and technical study when they prove they’re capable of doing so. Learn more about “Move on When Ready” with program advocate Sybil Francis, executive director of the Center for the Future of Arizona.
Guests:
  • Sybil Francis - Executive Director, Center for the Future of Arizona
Category: Education   |   Keywords: academics, Move on When Ready, Center for the Future of Arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The backlash continues in response to the new immigration law. Today, a half dozen labor groups and civil rights announced their intention to boycott the state. The union says it will not hold major conventions or special events in Arizona. And in addition to their own boycott, the groups are calling for major league to strip the all-star game from Arizona. And the department of public safety informed Redflex traffic systems the state will not renew its contract. It operates almost 80 fixed and mobile camera units throughout Arizona. They will be shut down by July. A bill on the governor's desk will change the game for Arizona high school students. House bill 2731 is an attempt to get students ready for college and careers and provides a new way to measure student achievement and there's a new diploma they can use as early as their sophomore year. Here to explain is Sybil Francis, executive director of the center for the future of Arizona. Thanks for joining us.

Sybil Francis:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Let's start with the overall purpose. This is called "Move On When Ready." What's it about?

Sybil Francis:
Let me start with the big picture. I think it's fair to say this is the most significant education reform initiative in Arizona in at least a generation and puts Arizona in the -- in a very leadership position nationally in terms of education reform. It sets the stage for rethinking high school as you suggested by your opening comments and just like other institution; high school needs to evolve with the times. And the high school model in place today really is not well suited to our times. It's based on a model where a high school diploma is enough to have a good life and to have a good job and that's really not the case anymore. So we're really in the big sense rethinking high school and the purpose of high school.

Ted Simons:
The students will move on when ready, based on what?

Sybil Francis:
Well, as you mentioned, we are basically the legislation states that students in order to succeed are going to need to be college-ready and career-ready. So high school needs designed in such a way that prepares them for that. So we're offering curriculum and support to teachers and students that will prepare them to a college-ready level. And there's an incentive, if you can demonstrate you're ready, you can graduate early and we'll give you something called the Grand Canyon diploma.

Ted Simons:
We're talking a complete instructional system here?

Sybil Francis:
Yes, so there's a high-quality curriculums that associated with this program. And also includes the syllabus for each of the courses that students take. Interventions for struggling students, teacher professional development and, yes, high-quality assessments.

Ted Simons:
Does it coincide with regular coursework? Does it replace regular coursework?

Sybil Francis:
It's going to be a totally different package of courses and an alternative pathway for students, so students can remain on a traditional pathway. It is a completely voluntarily system been the schools who offer this will have a defined package of courses determined in the coming planning year because there's still work to be done. That says if you take this package of courses at this high-level of academic rigor, you'll qualify to receive the high school diploma.

Ted Simons:
Any additional training for teachers?

Sybil Francis:
It's part of this, the teacher development.

Ted Simons:
And the student goes ahead and takes this class, this system, and at the end. Sophomore year -- is that the first major test?

Sybil Francis:
It depends on which system, because there are a number to choose from that are very high quality. We're not saying there's only one. There's a number of different ways this could happen. You can take assessments at the end of each course or at the end of each year or a comprehensive set of tests at the end of your sophomore year. It depends on which system you're involved in.

Ted Simons:
Let's say the end of his sophomore year doesn't pass or fails to achieve, what happens?

Sybil Francis:
The system is designed to support all students to succeed; it's not a system that penalizes students. the student cannot reach that level after the end of sophomore year, they can keep trying. And we're not expecting to have droves the students graduating. We think there's going to be some work to do to get them to that level of achievement.

Ted Simons:
There's an interstate consortium. Explain how that works and how Arizona fits in.

Sybil Francis:
We're excited to be part of that consortium. Working with the national center on education, the economy, laying the groundwork for this work and these are a selection of state, there's nine right now. I'm pleased to say that Superintendent Tom Horne just signed the agreement to make us the -- make us officially the ninth state. We're working with the consortium to lay the groundwork for this program. So these are other states also interested in this model. Arizona has the only -- Arizona is the only state that passed legislation and we have Representative Crandall to thank.

Ted Simons:
Is the program modeled on any one thing in particular?

Sybil Francis:
The organization we're working with, the national center on education and economy has been doing research into the most successful educational models around the world and developed this design based on that. These are well-developed programs. It's not a very friendly name, but called board examination systems and these are utilized in countries around the world that are very successful. Every student in Singapore, no matter their socioeconomic status, demographic, every student is -- participates in something called the Cambridge university system there. These are well established systems but we're blending them with a new model, that we've developed, this "Move On When Ready" concept.

Ted Simons:
I don't want to get too far afield, but I know America provided prides itself on entrepreneurship and creativity in and out of the classroom. Very good at X's and O's, but maybe doesn't have that creativity instilled as well. Does this address that?

Sybil Francis:
I think this goes beyond where we are in Arizona in terms of what we off. These courses emphasize things like analytical capability, solving problems. The assessments are what we call constructed response, so these really emphasize exactly the things you're talking about.

Ted Simons:
And you mentioned earlier there could be, for those who pass and those who get past the achievement, a Grand Canyon diploma. How does that differ from the good old high school diploma?

Sybil Francis:
It's just a distinguishing name to say the student who achieves this Grand Canyon diploma is qualified to -- as college-ready. That's just -- that's not what our present high school diploma necessarily qualifies a student for.

Ted Simons:
Is there concern that you've got kind of a twin track here as far as some in high school, some going this way and some that way by way of a diploma.

Sybil Francis:
There are already various types of diplomas offered in Arizona. But since you mentioned the notion of tracking, I want that address that head on. That's something we've been asked about and people are concerned about. And that's not at all the intention of this. The philosophy behind this program is that all students can succeed. All students can rise to high levels. To make sure this is encouraged to every single student, not just some and not others.

Ted Simons:
It doesn't necessarily say that the good old high school diploma is any less than it already is?

Sybil Francis:
It's just different. It's going it be a different pathway. We've got -- we will be seeking the approval of the state board of education to approve what this high school diploma contains, so it will be a different pathway for students and one of the key features, rather than say to students, to earn your high school diploma in Arizona, you need to pass what has come to be recognized as a 10th grade level test, the AIMS test. And then pass courses. Some refer to that as seat time requirements. This is very different. If you can show you've achieved this rigorous level of academic achievement, you can graduate when you're ready. It's a different pathway. It will not replace others, but it is a different pathway.

Ted Simons:
Let's say the kid is acing everything at the end of sophomore years, they can't go directly to ASU or U of A, but can go to a community college.

Sybil Francis:
One of the pathways is to move on to community college and when we say a student is college-ready; we mean they're qualified to enter community college without being required to take remedial coursework. Up to 70% of students today with high school diplomas require remedial work in math and English. We think raisings the students to that level is a big achievement. So they can go to community college, the community college campus or we also have a provision that the community college could have a satellite, let's say on the high school college campus. And they can go to a technical school leading to a certificate and they can remain in high school and take the additional necessary coursework that would allow them to enter the university directly, possibly at an advanced level.

Ted Simons:
How does this coincide with AIMS?

Sybil Francis:
It's a different route to high school diploma, what we will be saying to students is we will determine what level that you need to pass these new assessments at that would be the equivalent the AIMS. We're expecting that to be at a lower level than with the Grand Canyon -- than what the Grand Canyon diploma required. But should it happens that the student doesn't want to pursue the Grand Canyon, they can qualify for high school graduation by passing the equivalent of it.

Ted Simons:
How much does this cost?

Sybil Francis:
Well, the financial model is a self-sustaining model over time. So what we're saying, in fact, the legislation did not request an additional funding. What we're saying is that over time, this model supports itself. So imagine, if you will, students are graduating after 10th grade, the law says assuming when the governor says it, that the funds that the school would normally have been awarded the junior and senior year for that student, now that that student is a community college student, the high school can keep those funds and reinvest it in the program to support the program. We want to reward the schools as well. If you can get the students to the college-ready level, you can keep the funds. We recognize in the beginning we're going to need startup funds to help the schools get started. We're committed to pursue that.

Ted Simons:
As far as training teachers and getting them up to speed.

Sybil Francis:
That's part of the cost, yeah.

Ted Simons:
Starts -- you mentioned earlier that this is not necessarily required of schools. It's voluntary. Any idea how many schools are interested?

Sybil Francis:
Well, we have probably 30 superintendents and 30 -- in 30 districts who have expressed interest. Next Tuesday we'll be submitting a federal grant application for eight schools who want to get started on this. So we have a lot of interest. Tomorrow we're having a kickoff. A summit at fiesta in Tempe. K 12, community college, university, and others who are very interested in learning more. We have a lot of interest. Part is getting the word out.

Ted Simons:
You've got until the 2012 school year?

Sybil Francis:
We have one year of planning. So fall 2011 is when we could start putting this in. I could say that there are two schools that already love the board exams so much that they're racing to get them in the schools this fall. Charter schools, as well as central high school in Phoenix union district is putting it in for freshmen and sophomores starting this fall.

Ted Simons:
Last question before we let you go. You've got state board of education, school boards and school districts and a lot of folks out there with a lot of responsibility and oversight. Where do they fit in all of this?

Sybil Francis:
Well, they fit in the sense they will be the participants in project. The state board of education has a tremendous role in terms of approving what the actual Grand Canyon diploma will look like. We have set the bar for the Grand Canyon diploma. Set it -- it needs to be a college-ready diploma but the details are going to be approved by the state board of education in conjunction with the national organization and these other states. We want to be able to say that Arizona is pursuing nationally benchmarked curriculum so we want to be on par with the other states we're working with.

Ted Simons:
Sounds like quite a change. It's very exciting.

Sybil Francis:
Great. Thank you. Thank you very much. My pleasure.

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