Arizonans cannot afford to wait for better education. Although Arizona is one of the fastest improving states in education, at the current rate, it would take decades for our students to catch up with those in the number one state in the country, Massachusetts.

Arizona students continue to lag their national and international peers in academic performance, high school graduation rates and degree attainment. With 74 percent of Arizona fourth graders below proficient in reading and 69 percent of our eighth graders below proficient in math, the gap is only widening between the preparedness of our graduates and the skills and knowledge Arizona employers require.

Fortunately, Tucson has many examples of bright spots that show all of us the potential for Arizona education.  Tucson Unified School District’s University High School was recently named a 2011 Higher Performing School by the National Center for Education Achievement; Vail Unified School District is nationally recognized for its use of technology to engage students and raise student achievement; BASIS Charter School, which started in Tucson and has grown to other parts of the state, was named a top high school by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report; and the University of Arizona is ranked among the top public research universities in the nation.  All of them embrace a culture of high expectations and are working to ensure all students graduate ready to compete and succeed in the 21st century global economy.

Arizona needs more of these bright spots, and the public has an important role in making that happen. In addition to its efforts to mobilize students, business leaders and voters, Expect More Arizona, a statewide movement dedicated to making Arizona education the best in the nation, recently launched a parental engagement initiative.  Its goal is to challenge more Arizona parents to create a high expectations culture in their home, ultimately increasing the academic success of our students.

Creating a high expectations culture in the home is one of the most important commitments parents and families can make to their student’s future and it starts with making education a family priority—ahead of sports, entertainment and work. Second, parents need to set completing college or other postsecondary program as the ultimate academic goal for their student. And third, parents must commit to being actively engaged to ensure their child is on the path to succeed in college and career.

As part of its new initiative, Expect More Arizona is providing valuable information, tools and resources to help parents stay engaged in their child’s academic success every step of the way including at-home activities by age and benchmarks by grade.

From a variety of studies and conversations with students we know students with actively engaged parents are more likely to do well academically and go on to college or other postsecondary program. Education starts at home and with your help we can create transformational change that ensures every Arizona student receives the highest quality education – from birth through career.

The above article first ran on on on February 2, 2012.

Pearl Chang Esau is President and CEO of Expect More Arizona.