Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to using effective evaluation and research to help inform our community investment strategies as well as community learnings on key educational issues in both Arizona and Florida. Helios’ research agenda this year included the publication of four Education Briefs that shared primary research and learnings on topics such as financial aid, postsecondary persistence, college and career readiness, and scholarships. The goal of this research is to inform Helios’ investment strategies, as well as contribute to local and national discussions on topics related to student success.
Our legislative engagement in both Arizona and Florida positions Helios to collaborate with state and community leaders to address challenges that may hinder student success. Helios champions, collaborates, and monitors key public policy activity in both Arizona and Florida in order to ensure every child has access to a quality education. Below are two examples of public policy activity that Helios has collaborated on that are providing opportunities for students to succeed.
In Arizona, we have been focusing on college readiness and helping increase access to the ACT so that more students in Arizona can take the college entrance exam. In 2017, the Arizona Legislature authorized the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education to conduct a college readiness pilot program and appropriated $250,000 for Arizona public school juniors to take the ACT or the SAT test in the spring of 2018. In addition to these state funds and Helios Education Foundation’s College Knowing and Going Initiative, Governor Ducey provided funds to increase the number of juniors taking the tests. By combining the results of all of these separately funded test groups, Helios was able to do a comprehensive analysis of how the students performed on the college entrance exams. The results of the analysis informed policymakers in their consideration of a statewide administration of a college readiness exam. Overall, 44,000 students took the ACT or SAT in 2018.
Based on recommendations from Florida’s Committee for Early Grade Success, Helios along with the Florida Children’s Council and members of the early learning community, supported legislation championed by Representative Erin Grall in the Florida House and by Senator Kathleen Passidomo in the Florida Senate. The legislation, enacted during the 2018 legislative session, outlined the framework of an early learning assessment system focused on ensuring appropriate learning gains that lead to kindergarten readiness, addressed quality standards among childcare providers, and outlined a timeframe by which the state will implement a payment differential program based on newly adopted quality measures.