Education Leaders Find Red-Hot Success in the Valley of the Sun



One hundred years ago, Phoenix, Arizona was a sleepy little desert city of 29,000 residents. But not anymore. Now America’s fasting growing city and our fifth largest, Phoenix is anything but sleepy. It’s an attractive place to live, with new residents heralding its 300 days of sunshine, rich culture and low cost of living. But perhaps the most under-reported reason for the Phoenix area’s success is its incredible education systems.

At a recent Learning Counsel Digital Discussion event in Phoenix, the Top Leadership Panel made up of phoenix area education leaders illustrated the point. Arizona education is progressive and digitally rich, with technology well-entrenched and leveraging real learning gains across the board. It’s an interesting study in the best uses of technology, and you’re sure to hear ideas you can use when you watch the video.

When asked to comment on how education was transforming into an experienced-based learning environment, Eric Godfrey, Superintendent at Buckeye Union High School District said, “I think we have to get better at what we do. I think we've at least experienced now and understand where the limitations are, where the successes are, where the challenges are, and we're much more informed consumers. We can really ask those questions now to say, how do we do this? What can we do to do this better? Is it this type of artificial intelligence or VR that we need to go to next? And we are curious to see what's next. And so to be able to have this many people involved in this type of event, to be able to bring a lot of great minds together to bring those ideas and then say what about and why not instead of why? And then be able to build upon those. And like I said, again, get better because when we define our why about having that great experience for kids, that's why we're here. And that's a great place to be as far as what we do as a profession.”

Chris Knutsen, Superintendent at Florence Unified School District spoke about the effect technology’s formative assessments have had on his students’ achievement. According to Knutsen, “Just being able to ability-group our kids, test them every week, regroup them the following Monday, teach them in their groups, and continue this process over a whole year and over a whole five years, talk about moving the needle.  Our reading scores went from a 68 to a 91 percent pass rate. Our math scores went from a 58 to an 84. I was talking about our goal of trying to raise those test scores by 10 percent and was told, ‘well that doesn't happen. Usually you can get 3 percent.’ We increased our math scores by 19 percent in one year. That's the results that we got. And using the technology as a tool is what got us there.

Matt Federoff, Chief Information Officer, Vail Unified School District, said, “We hear constantly about technology initiatives and one of the first caveats they say is, ‘Oh, but it's not really about the technology.’ It's absolutely about the technology because as Chris pointed out, we can now feed this rich data stream back to the instructor, back to the teacher, back to the leadership about where kids are at in a way that we never could do before. And using that instantly and using that rich data stream to inform and guide instruction. Even if it's not quite there, the model that you're advocating that then we just never had that level of seeing into where a particular kid was at. And so that's absolutely about the technology and that's very much something that we could only do now.”

Watch the video

Talk about a video full of strategies that every school district can use, this Top Educator’s Panel Discussion views like a how-to for success in the digital transition. And at less than 17 minutes in length, it may have more ideas per minute than the law allows. So be sure and watch. You’ll find great stuff that you can implement immediately in your own school or district to help raise the level of success for your learners.


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