Good morning – thank you, Jeannie, for that great introduction! It’s a pleasure to be here this morning – and I want to take a moment to thank Erik Twist and the stellar Great Hearts Academies team … YPO … and all the excellent education leaders here today for the opportunity. I also want to recognize the incredible work Great Hearts is doing to improve educational results, promote excellence, build character, support creativity and innovation, and most importantly, ensure all Arizona students are well-prepared for a strong and successful future. This discussion has never been more important than it is right now.
We all know -- we can’t have a strong economy without strong schools. A skilled workforce supports a thriving local economy – and employers are always looking for the top talent available to be successful and stay competitive in a demanding, and always-innovating, 21st-century economy. This is a challenge many states are facing right now: a disconnect between the students that schools are producing ... and the skilled employees that businesses need. Arizona is not immune to this problem -- but we ARE fortunate to have excellent schools, dedicated teachers, and stellar students who exceed expectations … exemplify excellence – and when they leave school – are equipped for the career they want … with the qualities employers demand.
Having spent A LOT of time in Arizona classrooms – in every corner of the state – I could talk all day about our amazing schools and the great work they’re doing to prepare our kids … mostly because, I don’t think it’s done enough. Look at the success story that is Great Hearts, for example: Starting out as a single entity in a rented space, you’ve expanded to Arizona’s largest not-for-profit charter school network – serving 13,000 students in 29 academies across the Phoenix area and even Texas. And your results speak for themselves: SIX of the Top 20 Charter Schools in Metro Phoenix. SAT scores exceeding the national average by more than 300 points.
98 percent of Great Hearts graduates immediately attend universities and colleges – with 54 percent pursuing a STEM-focused course of study in college. That tells me that you are teaching students how to be more than just good test-takers – you are teaching them to be tomorrow’s innovators and leaders. Equipping them with the skill sets that are becoming exceedingly necessary in today’s economy. There are educators all across our state that are doing remarkable work in that regard – and a few here today that I’d like to acknowledge: Principal John Biera, of Central High School … which is right next door to the new Phoenix Coding Academy and Principal Seth Beute.