Raising the bar for academic achievement in Arizona is key to ensuring young people can compete for the best jobs once they graduate high school and college. Recently, the legislature passed and the Governor signed HB 2731, a measure that will allow students who show readiness to graduate high school as early as their sophomore year.

“Move on When Ready” will give students a much-needed option to finish their studies once they’ve mastered core subjects and head to community college or university when they are academically prepared. “Move On” lets them opt for a Grand Canyon diploma, which features a more rigorous curriculum and provides students the opportunity to progress to the next high school grade level once they can show they’ve learned the required material. Students must pass comprehensive board examinations to move ahead to ensure they are indeed ready to tackle the next grade level.

The “move on” concept focuses on preparing high school students for a successful postsecondary education, one of the key factors in improving education statewide. Research finds that more than half of Arizona’s graduates are academically ill prepared for college, thus emphasizing the need to provide pathways that will help them attend, excel in and graduate college.

Today’s students will face a much tougher job market than their predecessors. As industries – even mining – become more high-tech and knowledge-based, the level of education required is rising. Employers will need a more qualified workforce with a “21st Century” skill set that enables them to compete with other worldwide companies. That means prospective employees will have to vie for jobs on a global scale, rather than just locally or nationally.

A better education system with higher standards is essential to our future workforce’s success as individuals, and in turn, improves the odds that Arizona can attract companies that provide stable, well-paying jobs for our citizens. Raising expectations for academic achievement will give our state that edge, enabling a higher quality of life for everyone who lives here.

“An investment in education is an investment in the future of our state, which is what Arizonans tell us they want, for their children and everyone’s children,” said Sybil Francis, Executive Director of The Center for the Future of Arizona. “It is important that we look at ways to encourage academic success, through changes in policy and through citizen involvement to prompt action.”