NAU President John Haeger discussed education reform in Arizona with the philanthropic Social Venture Partners Arizona on Sept. 6 in Phoenix.

“Our greatest challenge as a state, both educationally and economically, is to graduate more students from high school and ensure more students attend and graduate from college,” Haeger said later.

Both Haeger, chair of the Governor’s Committee for Teacher Quality and Support, and Rufus Glasper, chancellor of Maricopa County Community College District, were invited to address education issues and innovation in Arizona.

Social Venture Partners Arizona works to seek and develop philanthropy and volunteerism to achieve positive social change in the Phoenix area. The group gives time, money and expertise to create partnerships with non-profit organizations, and is currently preparing to award grant money to non-profit education groups.

Haeger said in order to graduate more students, we need to support more teachers.

“Investment in teachers’ professional development can have the greatest impact on student learning,” he said. “Every drop of research will tell you that educational attainment starts and ends with the teacher.”

He said supporting teachers means paying them more and providing better working conditions.

“If we want the best and brightest teachers in the nation to work here, we need to recruit the best students into teaching and do everything possible to retain these teachers through local and state support,” Haeger said. “And we need to be able to offer better teacher salaries.”

Haeger said Arizona also needs to identify opportunities and obstacles in teacher-preparation programs to recruit motivated students. He said more financial aid opportunities need to be made available to students seeking teaching careers.

He also mentioned NAU’s 2007-08 state budget request, which includes proposed funding to increase the number of math and science teachers in Arizona.

Haeger noted the historical role of NAU’s College of Education in teacher preparation. The college supports teacher preparation by bringing educational opportunities to rural Arizona communities, creating alternative certification opportunities for place-bound adult learners and on-line programs to enhance professional skills and knowledge. The university has a long-standing commitment to Native American students and ranks fifth in the nation for graduating Native Americans with bachelor’s degrees, according to the June 2006 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine.

Over the past seven years, Social Venture Partners Arizona has granted more than $2.5 million to Maricopa County non-profits