Over the last couple of weeks, the Arizona Department of Education, led by Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has announced several exciting and positive developments that will move the educational experience for the states children, teachers, and staff forward into the Twenty-First Century.
These developments include:
- Hiring Erica Maxwell to be the first Associate Superintendent for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
This new position, according to Education Department Communication Director Richie Taylor who explained it to the writers of the Yellow Sheet Report (August 19, 2019 issue), will:
“Monitor data on achievement gaps among groups of students and bring together ADE staff and other stakeholders to develop strategies and solutions, among other responsibilities. The gig also includes providing ADE staff with professional development and resources focused on cultural competence and biases and leading ADE’s internal efforts to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. And she will be tasked with working with the department’s government relations team to lobby the Legislature. The position will also focus on improving outcomes for students of color and low-income students who fall behind their wealthy counterparts.”
A 25 year certified educator, Ms. Maxwell has served as a faculty member and administrator in traditional public and charter schools. She has also taught at Arizona State University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Commenting on the appointment in a statement released by the Department of Education, Superintendent Hoffman said that:
“Erica’s experience and commitment to educational equity made her a stand-out candidate for this position. Her career in education is impressive and laudatory, especially her work supporting at-risk youth and diverse student populations. I’m excited to work together to advance our vision of a public education system that delivers the best possible outcome for every student in Arizona.”
Ms. Maxwell, in thanking Superintendent Hoffman for the opportunity in the same Department released statement, stated that
“This work embodies the alignment of my life’s passion and purpose at the highest level through community engagement and advocacy for educational equity in Arizona. I’m honored to be selected for this role by Superintendent Hoffman, and I can’t wait to get to start on this important work.”
- Launched further initiatives to increase recruitment and retention of instructors.
Appearing on KTAR’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Radio Show, Superintendent Hoffman relayed that she had “been doing a lot of work in that area.”
She then announced two new positions solely focused on recruitment and retention of instructors.
According to Communications Director Taylor, these new positions will focus on:
“Working with internal and external stakeholders to develop strategies to address Arizona’s teacher’s shortage crisis.”
Furthermore, while acknowledging that “other states are facing shortages, especially in Math, Science and Special Needs,” Hoffman says that underfunding is an issue but does cite that funding has been on the rise.
She also said that teachers (and students) morale (and retention) would improve if they heard more positive news about how they are doing rather than predominantly poor coverage.
- Partnership with DES
During the same radio show, Superintendent Hoffman also mentioned her efforts at forging a partnership with the Department of Economic Security on “workforce development.” She said that she has already connected them with a couple of districts in the hopes of filling openings such as “bus drivers, paraprofessionals, teacher aides, and cafeteria workers.”
Commenting further, Mr. Taylor said:
“The DES partnership is more about ADE connecting some dots. DES runs workforce development centers across the state to help employers of all types fill open positions. However, they have not previously worked closely with school districts. We decided to start with a few districts at first and if successful, we’ll work on a more robust partnership to connect school districts with qualified job seekers to fill needed positions.
- Organizing a Grades Five to Twelve Student Advisory Council
Perhaps the most exciting development to come out of the Department of Education these last couple of weeks is the wise and forward-looking decision to set up a Grades Five to Twelve Student Advisory Council.
This, like the naming of a new Associate Superintendent for Equity, would be a first at the Department of Education.
It would be a step to expose students to meaningful public service in shaping education policy.
Hoping for “diverse representation” that will get students from “all around the state,” Superintendent Hoffman commented to KTAR that she was very excited to start this, commenting that “this will be a prestigious role for students,” saying “it is essential to get their input on things like curriculum, testing, school facilities, their education, and technology.”
This Advisory Council, according to the Superintendent would meet “three times a year”
Recognizing it is important to get the perspective of students. Hoffman cited the utilization of You Tube as an example in the need to get the input of students to move education forward to consider areas like S.T.E.M. and the jobs of the future.
Communication Director Taylor went a little further, writing that:
“The student advisory council’s purpose is to help elevate the voices of students so they can share their concerns and ideas to help inform and shape education policy. We feel it is critically important to hear from students, as they are directly impacted by state education policy.”
The Department has already sent a quick video and application guidelines (being a full-time student with a 2.50 G.P.A. are the qualifications) out to the school communities to enlist enthusiastic applicants.
Congratulations to Superintendent Hoffman and her team for taking these steps in moving Arizona’s education firmly into the Twenty-First Century.
These are positive steps Arizona’s children, their families, and the rest of the state’s communities sorely needs.