Achieve60AZ releases first State of Attainment report

Achieve60AZ, a grassroots alliance with the goal of getting more adults to obtain either a degree, license or certificate, released its first State of Attainment report.

“Achieve60AZ is here to hold the postsecondary attainment goal as the North Star for what is necessary for education and for the economic success for our state,” said Achieve60AZ’s Executive Director Rachel Yanof.

The organization’s goal is to get 60 percent of Arizona’s adults to have a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030.

In teaching language, we call this a big hairy audacious goal,” Yanof said. “This is our state’s big hairy audacious goal. When you set a crazy [goal] and you tell a student who can’t read in eighth grade that they will be reading that comic book by the end of the year, they do it. So, I believe as a state if we set a crazy [goal], which has been set, and we all put our direction and our eyes toward it we can do it. We’re going to do this work and it’s going to be big.”

The organization does this by increasing public support of postsecondary options; boosting awareness of best practices and supporting the ones that are working; providing informed reporting and data pushing forward the goal and educating and empowering decision makers.

Here are the findings:

Information provided by Achieve60

Achieve60AZ started releasing issue briefs in late 2018, outlining their four pillars of attainment.

Their pillars of attainment and their current state of attainment are:

Early Childhood through High School:

This goal strives to create conditions that increase high school graduation rates.

According to Achieve60AZ, Arizona’s four-year high school graduation rate is low and dropout rate is high when compared to the national average.

20 percent of Arizona high schoolers do not graduate in four years.

“This is a pipeline issue, anything from early childhood to post-secondary if we have poor performance at any point along the way we lose students. If there is anything we should think about as much as all this work, we have to do is what happens to Arizona kids if we fail?” Ron Shoopman, Arizona Board of Regents chair, said.

Achieve60AZ set the actions to achieve 60 percent in this pillar; they are:

  1. Increase the number of career counselors in schools.
  2. Research what is working at high schools with high graduation and high enrollment in postsecondary institutions.
  3. Streamline systems of enrollment from high school to postsecondary.
  4. Increase access to college-level and college-equivalent coursework, including dual and concurrent enrollment.
  5. Expand access to CTE programs.
  6. Ensure all students take college placement tests in high school.

Postsecondary Access and Success:

“Students with family, work, and financial obligations are twice as likely to drop out, and these students take twice as long to complete their programs,” reports Achieve60AZ.

According to Achieve60AZ, 17.2 percent of Arizona’s ninth graders will graduate a four-year college by 2028; nearly half of Arizonans do not enter two- or four-year colleges after high school graduation; and Arizona is 49th in the number of students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“A well-educated and diverse workforce is vital to the future of our state and only by investing in education at every level can we meet the goals of Achieve60AZ. Arizona’s future truly does start in our schools,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

The actions for this pillar are:

  1. Create financial-aid programs that support the real cost of attendance.
  2. Design policies and incentives to increase FAFSA completion to 75 percent or higher.
  3. Expand enrollment policies that take into account multiple measures for college admissions across the state.
  4. Ensure affordable pathways for in-state tuition so that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students can go to school.
  5. Continue to build on transfer programs across K-12, community and tribal colleges and universities.
  6. Support K-12 and postsecondary alignment efforts, including technical and private schools.

Workforce and Business Development:

According to the report, about one million adults in Arizona have some college but no degree.

However, to help adults receive more education, businesses can offer annual tax-free tuition benefits of up to $5,250 per employee and Achieve60AZ reports 71 percent of companies nationwide offer some sort of tuition assistance program and those programs positively affect the workplace.

“We know that higher education can transform lives and not enough Arizonans benefit from the opportunities at their front door. As leaders of higher education, we are aligned with the goals of Achieve60AZ and know that education can impact the economy of Arizona in a very positive way,” Rita Cheng, Northern Arizona University president said.

The actions for this pillar are:

  1. Promote Arizona as a great state to live, work, and play.
  2. Attract companies to Arizona who value developing skills in employees.
  3. Leverage employer tuition assistance and reimbursement programs.
  4. Create partnerships for apprenticeships and work-based study.
  5. Align workforce development and education initiatives.

System and Structures:

“Systems and Structures [is] an overarching title acknowledging that to be as effective and efficient as possible we need to look at our systems, look at our structures, look at data,” Rachel Yanof, Executive Director of Achieve60AZ, told CBN in January. “The biggest take away that I’m hoping people get from the issue brief is that setting a goal based around data is an incredible tool to galvanize action.”  

The actions for this pillar are:

  1. Join Achieve60AZ and the over 100 organizations currently working together to increase attainment.
  2. Use the most promising data sources to guide decision making.
  3. Establish a long-term data system that links pre-kindergarten through workforce and effectively informs decision making.
  4. Use tools, such as the Arizona Education Progress Meter, locally to focus support on your community’s needs.
  5. Align educational providers and public benefits systems to support student health, food, and housing needs.

“This was, and still is, a testament to the opportunity, optimism, and maverick spirit of Arizona, showing that we know we are able to set bold goals and meet them. Achieve60AZ gave Arizona a defined metric of success for what we believe education ultimately is — the key to economic freedom and choice,” Yanof said.

Achieve60AZ will continue to publish issue briefs, an annual state of attainment report, and “keep the goal as the North Star” for Arizona.

To see the full report, click here.

Emily Richardson

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