New initiative seeks to improve state education through individual student analysis

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With a $2.5 million grant from Helios, the ASU-Helios Education Partnership is working on improvements to Arizona’s education system by understanding how each and every student operates.

“It helps across the whole education continuum,” says Paul Luna, president of Helios. “When you look at education and the performance of a student it starts as early as helping to make sure students are getting the right type of early childhood education… We’re able to model exactly how students are doing, and then interject the types of solutions in real time that we think will help students.”

The project will include creating a computational model of Arizona’s education system, providing real-time feedback and identifying bright spots. Arizona State University President Michael Crow describes the system as a decision-making tool that will help make better decisions.

“One of the things we are trying to do is tighten the argument and focus everyone’s attention on one thing which is the success of the student,” says Crow. “It’s not just about money. It’s not just about teachers. It’s not just about family circumstances. It’s about all of these things.”

According to Crow, with research conducted by the university, the key to success in education is to have “great teachers with great principles as leaders with students who want to learn.” From there, the ASU-Helios project will work with districts and individual schools to make adjustments that will help the curriculum reach each and every student.

However, the project isn’t trying to take over how education is dealt with or start declaring new ways to doing things. Luna emphasizes that this is intended to be a collaborative partnership that’s inclusive of all voices because everyone will have a different perspective on how to improve.

When it comes to funding, Luna says he is interested in having real, honest conversations with districts and schools about where the impact of investments into education will be going, what happens when an investment is made and where the most important areas to investment in are.

TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," WE'LL HEAR ABOUT A NEW PLAN TO TRANSFORM ARIZONA EDUCATION. AND WE'LL VISIT WITH THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF THE PBS SHOW, FRONTLINE. THOSE STORIES AND MORE, NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

"ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. ROUGH DAY ON WALL STREET AS INFLATION CONCERNS SENT STOCKS INTO AN ABSOLUTE FREE-FALL. THE DOW JONES DROPPED BY 1,175 POINTS, THAT'S THE BIGGEST POINT DECLINE IN HISTORY, THOUGH IN PERCENTAGE TERMS TODAY'S MORE THA FOUR-AND-A-HALF PERCENT DECLINE IS WELL OFF THE WORST DROPS DURING THE FINANCIAL CRISIS. TODAY'S CLOSE DID ERASE GAINS FOR THE YEAR SO FAR AND IN JUST THE PAST WEEK, THE MARKET HAS LOST OVER 8-PERCENT OF ITS VALUE.
TED SIMONS: AND ARIZONA SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN IS PUSHING A BIPARTISAN IMMIGRATION PLAN THAT WOULD PROVIDE A PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP FOR DREAMERS, ALONG WITH BORDER-SECURITY MEASURES. THE PLAN DOES "NOT" CALL MONEY TO BUILD A WALL ON THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER, NOR WOULD IT END FAMILY-BASED IMMIGRATION. IN A STATEMENT, MCCAIN SAYS, QUOTE, "OUR LEGISLATION WOULD ADDRESS THE MOST URGENT PRIORITIES OF PROTECTING DREAMERS, STRENGTHENING BORDER SECURITY, ALLIEVIATING THE BACKLOG IN IMMIGRATION COURTS AND ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION." MCCAIN IS SPONSORING THE PROPOSED BILL WITH DEMOCRATIC SENATOR CHRIS COONS OF DELAWARE. THE PLAN IS A COMPANION BILL TO A HOUSE BILL, WHICH ALREADY HAS 54-SPONSORS, 27-FROM EACH PARTY. PRESIDENT TRUMP IS UNIMPRESSED BY THIS NEW PLAN, THE PRESIDENT TWEETED, QUOTE, "ANY DEAL ON DACA THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE STRONG BORDER SECURITY AND THE DESPERATELY NEEDED WALL IS A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME. MARCH 5TH IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING AND THE DEMS SEEM NOT TO CARE ABOUT DACA. MAKE A DEAL!"
TED SIMONS: ASU AND THE HELIOS EDUCATION FOUNDATION RECENTLY ANNOUNCED A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND PARTNERSHIP TO IMPROVE THE STATE'S PRE-K THROUGH POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION SYSTEM. HERE WITH MORE ON THAT PLAN IS ASU PRESIDENT MICHAEL CROW AND HELIOS PRESIDENT AND CEO PAUL LUNA. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

TED SIMONS: THANK YOU. THIS IS A DECISION CENTER FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

MICHAEL CROW: BASICALLY WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IS TAKING A TOOL CALLED THE DECISION THEATER AND ANALYTICS THAT WE HAVE DEVELOPED TO HELP US UNDERSTAND HOW EACH AND EVERY INDIVIDUAL STUDENT IS PERFORMING AND DEVISING A SYSTEM WHICH CAN HELP ARIZONA’S IMPROVING SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SCHOOLS THEMSELVES, INDIVIDUAL SCHOOLS, TO MAKE BETTER DECISIONS ABOUT INDIVIDUAL STUDENT SUCCESS AND THEIR OVERALL SCHOOL SUCCESS. SO IT’S A DECISION MAKING TOOL THAT HELPS MAKE BETTER DECISIONS.

TED SIMONS: THIS HELPS WITH DISTRICTS, THIS HELPS WITH COMMUNITY COLLEGES, THIS HELPS WITH UNIVERSITIES?

PAUL LUNA: I THINK THE IDEA IS THAT IT HELPS ACROSS THE EDUCATION CONTINUUM. SO WHEN YOU LOOK AT EDUCATION AND THE PERFORMANCE OF THE STUDENT, IT STARTS EARLY AS HELPING TO MAKE SURE STUDENTS GET THE TYPE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, THEY ARE READING BY THIRD GRADE, THEY’RE DOING THE RIGHT LEVEL OF ACADEMIC PREPAREDNESS THROUGH MIDDLE SCHOOL, HIGH SCHOOL AND BEYOND. WHAT WE ARE ABLE TO DO IS MODEL EXACTLY HOW STUDENTS ARE PERFORMING ALONG THAT PATHWAY, AND THEN INTERJECT THE TYPE OF SOLUTIONS IN REAL TIME THAT WE THINK WILL HELP IMPROVE THE OVERALL ATTAINMENT TO STUDENT PERFORMANCE ACROSS THE STATES.

TED SIMONS: I THINK WE HAVE A GRAPHIC HERE THAT SHOWS SOME OF THE IDEAS BEHIND THAT DECISION CENTER. PAUL REAL QUICKLY YOU JUST MENTIONED THE COMPUTATIONAL MODEL OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM WITH REAL TIME FEEDBACK, IDENTIFYING BRIGHT SPOTS IN EDUCATION. HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY ARE BRIGHT SPOTS?

PAUL LUNA: I THINK THIS GIVES US THE OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW WHAT TO REALLY FOCUS ON. IT FOCUSES ON THE POWER WITH THIS PARTNERSHIP, WITH REAL ARIZONA DATA, WE KNOW WHERE STUDENTS ARE PERFORMING, WHERE STUDENTS ARE PERFORMING BETTER COMPARED WITH ELEMENTS WITHIN THE STATE OR ACROSS DIFFERENT DISTRICTS. YOU LEARN, WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN THAT DISTRICT? WHAT IS WORKING? WHAT IS IMPACTING THE STUDENT'S SUCCESS? HOW DO WE THEN TRANSLATE THAT TO OTHER PLACES TO INCREASE THAT PERFORMANCE OF ALL STUDENTS? HOW CAN WE MODEL THIS TO SEE WHAT THE IMPACT OF POLICY DECISIONS MIGHT BE BEFORE YOU IMPLEMENT IT.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO SAY, WE’RE TALKING EVERYTHING HERE FROM BUDGETS TO CLASSROOMS AND ALL POINTS IN BETWEEN.

MICHAEL CROW: ONE OF THE THINGS WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS TIGHTEN THE ARGUMENT AND FOCUS EVERYONE’S ATTENTION ON ONE THING WHICH IS THE SUCCESS OF THE STUDENT. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT TEACHERS IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT FAMILY CIRCUMSTANCES. IT'S ABOUT ALL OF THESE THINGS. WHAT WE KNOW FROM OUR OWN RESEARCH AT THE UNIVERSITY AND ELSEWHERE, IT'S GREAT TEACHERS WITH GREAT PRINCIPLES AS LEADERS WITH STUDENTS WHO WANT TO LEARN AND IT’S NEARLY EVERY KID THAT WANTS TO LEARN DESPERATELY AND KNOWING EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT EACH OF THOSE STUDENTS ANALYTICALLY SO THAT WE CAN MAKE A ADJUSTMENTS ON AN ONGOING BASIS TO HELP EVERY STUDENT TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

TED SIMONS: I WORK AT A DISTRICT, I’M DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT OR TEACHER OR PRINCIPAL, SOMEONE INVOLVED IN EDUCATION. I HEAR ABOUT THIS. WHAT DO I GET? HOW DO I ACCESS IT, WHAT DO I LEARN?

MICHAEL CROW: YOU’LL BE LINKED UP WITH THE CENTER AS IT EVOLVES. THE PRACTICAL THING IS THAT THESE TEN SCHOOLS TRIED THIS AND THEY SAW THIS IMPROVEMENT IN STUDENT SUCCESS. YOU CAN MODEL THEN THAT AND SIMULATE THAT WITHIN YOUR STUDENT BODY TO SEE HOW THAT MAY HELP YOUR STUDENTS IN YOUR DISTRICT TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

TED SIMONS: AND THAT’S NOT NECESSARILY A ONE SIZE FITS ALL SCENARIO. CORRECT? YOU GOT TO MAKE SURE THAT IF A WORKS FOR A OVER THERE YOU GOT TO BE KIND OF CLOSE TO A OVER HERE.

PAUL LUNA: ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT. THAT'S WHERE THE POWER OF THIS TOOL AS DOCTOR CROW DESCRIBES BECOMES IMPORTANT. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN RURAL ARIZONA, MIAMI, ARIZONA, A COPPER MINING TOWN. AND THE NEEDS OF OUR STUDENTS AND OUR SCHOOL DISTRICTS MAY BE DIFFERENT FROM AN INNER CITY URBAN SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT. BUT SOME OF THESE PRINCIPLES ARE THE SAME. WHAT DO THE STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW FOR THE TYPES OF JOBS AND CAREERS THEY’RE GOING TO WANT IN THE FUTURE? WHAT’S WORKING IN THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT CAN BE TRANSLATED TO ANOTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT. WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS? HOW CAN WE IMPLEMENT THE STUDENT PERFORMANCE WE ARE LOOKING FOR.

TED SIMONS: AND AS FAR AS IMPLEMENTING THAT SOLUTIONS THAT’S UP TO YOU. THE DECISION CENTER GIVES YOU THE IDEA. YOU TAKE IT FROM THERE.

PAUL LUNA: WITHOUT A DOUBT, IT'S INTENDED TO BE A COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIP THAT IS INCLUSIVE OF ALL VOICES. I THINK THAT’S A REALLY IMPORTANT THING TO UNDERSTAND. IF ANYTHING, THIS LETS US GET AT WHAT THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES ARE TO IMPROVE EDUCATION BY USING REAL DATA AND EVERYBODY’S VIEWPOINT. WE ALL COME AT IT FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES. THIS ALLOWS US TO TEST THAT OUT. IF YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR POINT OF VIEW THAT SAYS THIS IS WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO ACHIEVE THIS TYPE OF OUTCOME FROM A STUDENT PERSPECTIVE, WE CAN TEST THAT, MODEL THAT AND WE CAN ALL LEARN TOGETHER. AND IF WE SEE THAT THAT’S IN FACT WHATS WORKING, THEN WE WORK TOGETHER TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

MICHAEL CROW: SO EVERYONE LEARNING PHONETICS BASED READING COMPARED TO LEARNING SOME OTHER METHOD AND COMPARING AND CONTRASTING THROUGHOUT THEIR ENTIRE SCHOOL CAREER. WE’VE GOT NEW PROGRAMS THAT ALLOW INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING OF MATH. IF WE APPLY THAT IN SCHOOL DISTRICT A, HOW DOES IT WORK BEST IN SCHOOL DISTRICT B, OR IN SCHOOL A OR IN SCHOOL B? WE NOW HAVE A TOOL THAT WOULD ALLOW EVERYONE TO COME TOGETHER AND SEE HOW THAT WORKS.

TED SIMONS: DOES EVERYONE SEE ANALYTICS AS WORKING AS FAR AS EDUCATION? WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION YOU HAVE A LOT OF FOLKS WHO ARE RELUCTANT TO CHANGE IN SOME DIRECTION. ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THAT?

MICHAEL CROW: CHANGE IS ALWAYS DIFFICULT AND ALWAYS CHALLENGING, BUT THE PROOF IS ALWAYS IN THE PUDDING. SO WHEN YOU SEE KIDS THAT ARE READING AT OR ABOVE GRADE LEVEL, WHEN YOU SEE KIDS MOVING ON TO A COMMUNITY COLLEGE, OR A SUCCESSFUL MILITARY CAREER OR A SUCCESSFUL UNIVERSITY PLACEMENT, THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO SEE HAPPEN. SO WHAT WE NEED IS, WE NEED MORE THAN 90% OF OUR STUDENTS GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL, CLOSE TO 100% AS POSSIBLE, PICKING UP ALL OF THE OTHERS AT MAYBE AGE 12 OR AGE 20. WE NEED EVERYONE ELIGIBLE AND CAPABLE FOR POST SECONDARY EDUCATION, TECHNICAL SCHOOL, VOCATIONAL SCHOOL, MILITARY SERVICE, UNIVERSITY, EVERYONE. RIGHT NOW, HERE’S A SHOCKING THING- ONLY 25% OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES -- 25% OF 18-YEAR-OLDS ARE ELIGIBLE TO ENTER THE MILITARY AS A PRIVATE. THAT’S A BIG PROBLEM. WE NEED TO UP ALL OF THESE PATHWAYS FOR EVERYONE.

TED SIMONS: AGAIN, ANALYTICS THOUGH AND EDUCATION. YOU KNOW HOW SOME EDUCATION FOLKS CAN BE. THEY ARE STUCK IN THEIR MINDSET AND DON'T WANT TO CHANGE. OBVIOUSLY CHANGE IS NECESSARY BUT IT CAN BE DIFFICULT. HOW DO YOU CONVINCE THEM THAT THIS CAN WORK?

PAUL LUNA: I THINK IT'S BACK TO THE APPROACH THIS IS. THIS IS NOT ASU AND HELIOS EDUCATION FOUNDATION TRYING TO DICTATE WHAT CHANGE IN EDUCATION IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE. IT'S INTENDED TO BE A COLLABORATIVE MODEL. IT’S INTENDED TO USE THE DISTRICTS INFORMATION, THOSE EDUCATORS YOU ARE SPEAKING TO, TO GET THEM ENGAGED IN THE PROCESS SO THEY ARE PART OF DEVELOPING THE SOLUTION, ONE THEY CAN EMBRACE, NOT ONE IMPLEMENTED ON THEM. THE OTHER IMPORTANT ELEMENT, IT'S NOT JUST EDUCATION FOR EDUCATION SAKE. AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS ENSURE THAT THE STUDENTS OF ARIZONA ARE MOVING TO A LEVEL OF SUCCESS THROUGH EDUCATION THAT POSITIONS THEM FOR THE TYPE OF WORKFORCE WE WANT TO HAVE IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA. THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS AS INVOLVED AND INTEGRATED INTO THIS WORK AS EDUCATION LEADERS. WE WANT TO BRING WHAT THE NEEDS OF THE BUSINESSES OF THE FUTURE WILL REQUIRE FOR OUR STUDENTS AND INTEGRATE THAT INTO THE WORK.

TED SIMONS: WE SAW ON THE PANEL, $2.5 MILLION GRANT, THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HELIOS FOUNDATION GRANT, IT WILL BE RUN OUT OF THE DECISION CENTER. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

MICHAEL CROW: DECISION THEATER. SO ASU HAS A DECISION THEATER SUPER COMPUTER TYPE OF ANALYTICAL TOOL. AND AS PAUL WAS SAYING ANY ONE CAN PUT IN YOUR IDEAS, YOUR MODELS, YOUR WAY OF DOING THINGS, NOT OURS NECESSARILY. IT ALLOWS YOU TO HAVE A VISUAL INTERACTION WITH WHATEVER HAPPENS WITH YOUR MODEL WORKING. WE HAVE ONE OF THESE IN ARIZONA. ONE IN WASHINGTON D.C. THESE ARE GOING TO BE WORKING TOGETHER WITH LOCAL TEACHERS AND POLICYMAKERS AND NATIONAL POLICYMAKERS. SO WHAT IT DOES IS, INSTEAD OF HAVING BIG STACKS OF BIG REPORTS OF NUMBERS, IT TAKES EVERYTHING AND REDUCES IT DOWN TO PICTURES OR INTERACTIONS TO VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS. IT ALLOWS ANYONE, ANY VOICE TO SAY, I DON’T THINK THAT WILL WORK IN OUR DISTRICT LET’S TRY B. AND THEN YOU RUN B AND SEE WHAT THE OUTCOME WILL BE.

TED SIMONS: FIRST OF ITS KIND? IT SEEMS LIKE IT MAKES A LOT OF SENSE. ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THAT?
MICHAEL CROW: NOTHING SURPRISED ME.

TED SIMONS: THIS SOUNDS TO ME, FROM A DISTANCE, THE BEST PRACTICE MODEL.

PAUL LUNA: I THINK IT IS. IT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BRING TOGETHER TRUE SPIRIT OF INNOVATION. ASU IS RECOGNIZED, WORLD RENOWNED FOR ITS INNOVATIVE SPIRIT. AND I THINK FROM AN EDUCATION FOUNDATION PERSPECTIVE, WE TRY TO LOOK FOR INNOVATIVE IDEAS, THOSE INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS. I THINK THIS WILL GET AS REAL, AS OUR BOARD WILL SAY, WHEN THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS, THIS IS HOW WE GET A GAME CHANGING EDUCATION MOVEMENT. IT'S TO COME UP WITH WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN COME UP WITH THE SOLUTIONS TO FIND TO BEST SERVE ALL STUDENTS IN ARIZONA AND LEAD TO THE TYPE OF ECONOMY THAT WE WANT IN OUR STATE.

TED SIMONS: WE MENTION IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY, BUT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT MONEY TO A CERTAIN DEGREE. IF I’M AT A DISTRICT AND I GO TO THE DECISION THEATER AND DO THE INPUT AND GET THE RESULTS. THIS IS FANTASTIC. I LOOK BACK AND MY DISTRICT SAYS YOU CAN'T EVEN BEGIN TO AFFORD THIS. WHAT DO YOU DO?

PAUL LUNA: IT ENABLES US TO HAVE A REAL HONEST CONVERSATION ABOUT WHERE THE IMPACT OF INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION IS REALLY GOING TO MOVE THE NEEDLE FORWARD. IT GIVES US THE ABILITY TO STATE THE CASE. WE CAN NARROW THE CASE SAYING THIS IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF WE MAKE THIS TYPE OF INVESTMENT INTO EDUCATION INTO THE STATE. AND HERE ARE THE AREAS TO INVEST TO GIVE US THE BIGGEST RETURN.
MICHAEL CROW: AT ASU, WE HAVE IMPROVED OUR FOUR YEAR GRADUATION RATE BY 90% BY CHANGING MANY OF THE THINGS THAT WE DO AND HOW WE DO THEM. AT OUR CHARTER SCHOOLS THAT WE’RE RUNNING AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, WE ARE GRADUATING 100% OF OUR STUDENTS AT OUR K THROUGH 12 CHARTER SCHOOLS REGARDLESS OF THEIR FAMILY INCOME, AS WELL AS MANY OTHER SCHOOLS. SOME COST MONEY. SO WHAT WE CAN DO IS TAKE THE IDEAS THAT WE HAVE, WHICH COST MONEY. SOME COST MONEY SOME DON’T. YOU CAN LEARN BACK AND FORTH FROM EACH OTHER. TURNS OUT LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER IS AS IMPORTANT AS RESOURCES. IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT WE DON’T NEED MORE RESOURCES, WE DO, BUT IT DOES MEAN THAT WE CAN DO MORE WITH THE RESOURCES WE HAVE.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, ASU PRESIDENT MICHAEL CROW, PAUL LUNA, HELIOS FOUNDATION. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. COMING UP ON ARIZONA HORIZON, A CONVERSATION WITH THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FRONTLINE.

Michael Crow: President, Arizona State University
Paul Luna: President and CEO, Helios

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