I'm glad that Lisa Graham Keegan wasn't selected by President Bush to be the next US Secretary of Education. Not only does she lack the academic qualifications to be the 'top educator' in our country, but she has plenty left to do in Arizona during her remaining two years in office to help improve education in Arizona. Mrs. Keegan helped get Prop. 301 passed in November, but she also has bumbled and fumbled the AIMS test since the very beginning.
Here are some suggestions for her to concentrate on during her remaining two years in office:
1. Change the Superintendent of Public Instruction office from an elected office to an appointed one with the person being an educator who is hired by the newly elected state board of education.
2. Offer a two-tiered AIMS test, one level for those wanting to achieve at a higher level and another level for those not wanting or able to meet the higher requirements.
3. Work with the teachers' unions. Nothing will get done in our classrooms unless teachers have a fair and firm say in the needed changes in our schools. Southwest Airlines works very well with its employees and their unions ... emulate them.
4. Consolidate school districts so we don't have duplication of services and administrators (like in Payson/Pine school districts, Miami/Globe districts Tempe Elementary/Tempe Union districts, etc.) We have too many districts in Arizona that could be consolidated for better efficiency and better student achievement possibilities.
5. Consider paying school board members a small monthly stipend ($200 to $300) to attract and retain competent and well-intentioned community members to serve on our school boards.
6. We have 15 counties in our state and we have 15 county school superintendents. Either eliminate all 15 school superintendents at the county level or, at least, combine them into a workable four county regional cooperative (Maricopa, Pima, Coconino and La Paz).
7. A teacher shortage is looming and the Arizona Department of Education via Lisa Graham Keegan should assist 'out counties' with the recruitment and retention of teachers by offering reduced tuition at state universities for teachers to be who agree to teach for a minimum of three years in places like Ajo, Sanders, Bagdad, Elfrida, Chinle, etc. Perhaps an incentive stipend could be given to these teachers that would encourage them to stay in rural Arizona and raise the level of student achievement in the 13 'out counties.'
8. Identifying underperforming schools is a smart thing to do, but assisting these same schools is what the Arizona Department of Education via Mrs. Keegan should be working on and toward. Mrs. Keegan and her office should be viewed as a friend of education and educators in Arizona and they should lend a helping hand to those schools that are struggling to meet adequate student achievement levels.
By remaining in Arizona to finish her second term as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan could help improve education in Arizona by achieving all or some of the 'blueprint' suggestions above. None of the suggestions above would require a huge expenditure of money, but change and improvement in our Arizona educational system will only come about through leadership at the top and by including the valued teachers in our classrooms in the decision making process.