Originally published in the Arizona Capitol Times on June 18, 2020.

Great school leaders and teachers who create opportunity for our most vulnerable students today are keys to achieving the more equitable future our children in Arizona deserve. Institutions and systems take time – sometimes unnecessarily long – to reform. And in the context of a child’s education, time is a luxury we simply don’t have.

Equity for students certainly includes an equitable access to resources, but must also mean equal access to achieving their greatest potential. Narrowing racial gaps in academic achievement and expanding access to high-quality schools and classrooms proximate to every child are inseparable. We know with the right skills and training, one child can go on to do extraordinary things that change our community and the world.

Each child in Arizona deserves the opportunity to reach that potential, and our communities deserve to feel their impact. Indeed, our current health crisis reminds us that instruction in foundations, including science, economics, and ethics, is not esoteric. We need these young minds for the health of our nation – in every sense of the word.

In the midst of calcifying public discourse, our students face a sharper inflection point on the issues of race, inclusion, and equal treatment than at any point in their lifetimes and in many of ours. As educators, we must embrace our responsibility for training this next generation of leaders in their histories and in the civil discourse and critical thinking skills necessary to solve systemic social issues our own generations have yet to resolve. We must succeed in encouraging our students to ask tough questions and to listen with that same intensity. They must know how to discover answers to generationally complex issues by studying history and engaging in civics. Great teachers model how we seek and hear another’s points of view even or especially when it conflicts with our own experience.

It is a critical time that cannot be lost in handwringing about whether or not it is possible to teach successfully in this moment. It is. And policymakers can help. Today’s students need the benefit of novel education policies designed around this time and these urgent needs.

We know what these policies should look like and the results they can produce. We know that achieving excellence is a decision driven by the belief that every student has potential and the capacity to excel, even during a global pandemic and in a nation of unrest. Our great state is home to dozens of principals and system leaders from Rio Rico to Congress that relentlessly delivered a high-quality “full day school” experience to their students this spring – and yes, even in largely impoverished neighborhoods and communities.

Read the full piece below.

Read More