A Conversation with Achieve60AZ
While discussions about educational attainment often focus on preparing students to pursue degrees or certifications after high school, the fact is, there aren’t enough students in the K-12 pipeline alone to enable us to reach our postsecondary attainment goal. We must also focus on adult learners. More than 600,000 Arizonans over age 25 don’t have a high school diploma, and more than 1.2 million have some college and no degree. With many people looking to reskill or upskill due to the pandemic, now is the time to find strategies and overcome challenges to bring these adults back into higher education.
Throughout this blog series, we’ve discussed how the pandemic has brought to light the inequities in education among different segments of the population. Students with disabilities face unique and varying challenges, even in the best of circumstances. With remote instruction, some of these students are losing ground on the progress they’ve made socially, emotionally, and academically, while having to adapt to all-new learning models. Experts serving postsecondary students with disabilities, and in the area of special education discuss how issues of accessibility and the switch to online learning has impacted this population of students.
Important issues like systemic racism and the lack of equity have been put on the back burner for far too long, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought them to the forefront. We spoke with Black/African American education and community leaders about the issues students face and how the pandemic has affected society as a whole. Though there is a long road ahead for all of us, knowing what needs to be changed is the first step in the right direction.
Moving the needle on educational attainment is vital to Arizona businesses. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. Equity in education, school to career pathways, and upskilling and retraining prepare businesses and individuals for future prosperity and success. We asked some Arizona business leaders to share their thoughts on today’s education landscape.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an indelible impact on education. It has forced us to take a hard look at how we deliver education, and highlighted the inequities that exist in terms of access to technology and resources. We spoke with four Latinx education leaders about these challenges, and how we can meet the basic needs of all students so that they are ready and able to learn.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected many students, but one student group that may be affected more dramatically than others is Native Americans. Many of our tribal reservations across the country, and here in Arizona, have been dealing with the digital divide since long before schools closed in March, hindering students’ abilities to complete their coursework. On top of that, many tribes were hit hard by the virus – often due to a lack of resources, like access to grocery stores, or even running water. We spoke to four Native American educators about what their students have been experiencing and the steps we need to take to help Native students and all of Arizona.
Community college is a crucial piece of the education system for learners throughout Arizona, and an important tool to drive Arizona’s economy. As unemployment numbers continue to rise, more people are looking for ways to reskill and upskill. Community colleges become especially important in helping people prepare to enter the post-COVID workforce. We spoke to three community college leaders from across the state to hear what they and their institutions are doing to help students and communities during this time.
Students in every sector of education have been affected by the pandemic – having to transition suddenly to online learning, and many university students having to return home, sometimes with only a few days’ notice. Like many of us, these students are worrying what next semester will look like, and they’re left wondering if this will affect the job market they’ll enter after college. We spoke with three current college students from around Arizona to get some ideas on what they’re thinking about right now and where they are finding hope for Arizona’s future. We believe strongly that student voices need to be heard and valued – so we wanted them to be the first people we spoke to for our Road to Attainment series. We also wanted to ensure we were getting a wide range of voices and opinions, so we spoke with 3 students from different backgrounds including an adult learner– a critical population to reach for the achievement of our 60% educational attainment goal.
Rachel Yanof, Executive Director
There is a lot of talk about “returning to normal” and what that means, post-pandemic.
Over the past few months, in the scramble to move to online and distance learning, the challenges of our education system have been exposed like never before. As a former teacher, principal, school-system leader, and now head of an organization that supports the statewide goal to see 60 percent of Arizonans have a certificate or degree by 2030 – I propose that we can never go back to “normal” in education.