00215 AZ Republic Ed Vision — Imperatives & How Tos

Arizona Republic’s 2020 Vision For Arizona

Over the past four Sunday’s, and on into the next two Sunday’s, the Arizona Republic has dedicated 4 to 5 pages to addressing Arizona’s future. The five weekly issues selected are elements of the vision: economic strategy, government reform, improving education, the state budget and rethinking the boarder.

Their focus is on creating a Vision for 2020 and then recommending practical steps to change our current ways to reach the vision. Craig Barrett, former Intel Chairman and CEO set the stage with 10 steps to building a smarter Arizona with Smart People, Smart Ideas and Right Environment. The 10 are: K12-benchmarked curriculum and testing, K12 good teachers, K12 dropout prevention, funding for universities, college completion, fund Science Foundation Arizona and university research, focus on alternative energy R&D, state policies to promote investment in innovation, grow economy with high paying jobs and compare Arizona with global competitors, not neighboring states.

Economy: After addressing housing woes and leadership challenges, the baton was passed, on the following Sunday, to a sustained job-growth and economic strategy with three recommendations. Florida is cited as a model for creating a strategic plan for economic development. Arizona pioneered this statewide process in 1989-1992 with 3000 participants, $500,000 and SRI International. Florida modeled their Enterprise Florida process after ours and then did something differently. They followed, funded and updated the plan yearly. We let ours die on the vine.

Base industries concept, adopted by Florida and many other states, was also invented and modeled for Arizona’s use during our 1989-1992 planning process as industry clusters. Several clusters flourished since the early 1990’s including the Optics cluster in Tucson and the statewide Biotech cluster. The software cluster organization integrated several other clusters and renamed itself the Arizona Technology Council. The cluster organization superstructure from the Arizona Department of Commerce was disbanded about 6 years ago. Compared to other states, the ADC and other Arizona economic development organizations have few tools to attract and growth base companies.

Enterprise zones for companies to open in, or move into, empty commercial real estate will not only increase the quality of these facilities and provide employment but stop bleeding of high tech, hi paying jobs to other places.

Government: I could not find quality education => quality workforce => quality jobs => globally competitive economy in the Sunday sections. Let’s see how K12 fares in the Sunday focused on government. Right off, our 46th place in education is mentioned. The polls show that a high majority of Arizona folks want better education and only 10% polled felt their elected officials served them well. Other states such as Utah have a high level of collaboration and public meetings to shape public policy. Arizona’s population is highly involved in civic entrepreneurship compared to many states but the endgame of legislation and governance fails to implement their advocacy. The three changes recommended are: “abolish term limits and restore wisdom and experience to the statehouse (like Oregon), tune up the initiative process so it is not easily abused (like Utah), and give the governor authority over the largest part of state government” – education (like Florida).

Education: All three government fixes would greatly benefit the transformation of K-12 education. This Sunday’s paper started with Massachusetts is the model where the great need for research, academia, technology and medicine drove their K12 in the #1 performing state in the country. Arizona’s needs for construction, retail, sales and trades is much less demanding and allows us to coast at 43rd with low paying jobs, and not enough tax base to afford the Massachusetts funding for education. What to do??? The plan is to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Parents (2 million), schools (2000) and policy makers (200) are admonished to change their ways: motivate their kids, transform their teaching, and create a new education system.

We have some assets for the job. Innovation delivers leadership in charter schools and every school can now be a virtual school. Teacher education: ASU has the largest education college in the nation and is transforming from legacy education to more current and future focused learning and technology. Improved graduation rates and student scores are slowly rising. Advocate organizations are many, highly capable, inclusive and working together. The Arizona Education Association advocates transitioning from compliance to professionalism so teachers can create the future leaders. Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) is working on transforming school finance to bring financial decisions from the state level to the local level and reward leaders and teachers for performance. Florida grades their school from A to F and failure is not acceptable. “Beat the Odds” research specifies what principals need to know and do to become effective school leaders and use continuous student academic performance assessments to manage their schools.

Next two Sundays: Lets see what transpires in Budget and the Board.

Observations: So far I am very disappointed. This work of 2020 Vision has not produced a vision for 2020. For the Phoenix Futures Forum (PFF) circa 1990, Francine Hardaway created four clear visions full of imagery. They portray what greater Phoenix would look like if we took four different paths to the future. All four had their bright and shining future combined with dark and foreboding aspects from unintended consequences. It was grand graphic illustration of what would happen if the PFF plan resulted from just a sum of the parts proposed by community experts with narrow perspectives. What has been yet to be seen is the overall systems analysis for Vision 2020 that is required for any strategic plan that generates an implementation plan.

What I see is a general and specific flaw in this report. The general flaw is the mishmash of situation assessments, imperatives, and ideas supported by historical best practices instead of a systems approach. The specific flaw is the use of a blind eye that refuses to see the dramatic changes underway in a number of ecosystems including education. Just doing more, fixing the obvious, and rearranging the deck chairs may keep Arizona from falling behind. But to move up, in the state and global competitive arenas, will require a full understanding of the disruptive innovations underway and exploiting them. One is eLearning which is never mentioned except for a couple of passing comments of online learning.  Go figure.

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