Helios seeks to serve as a thought leader, focusing the attention of policymakers and other influencers on solutions that provide the most leverage in getting students on track for college attendance and attainment. This includes illuminating how our investments serve as a proof of concept and a catalyst for systemic policy change, and the strategic use of the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence.
Arizona: Rigorous Coursework — Advanced Placement
Based on research on rigorous coursework, which emphasized Advanced Placement (AP) data, Helios, in collaboration with the College Board, led the development of Arizona Senate Bill 1295. The bill established $1.5 million in one-time monies for the Advanced Placement Course Access, Participation and Success Program for schools that had two or fewer AP courses and at least 40 percent free- and reduced-price lunch students. And, the bill allocated $1.2 million in the Advanced Placement Exam Fee Waiver Program to waive AP test fees for low-income students. The bill passed unanimously through Senate and House committees but ultimately was held up in the House for budget negotiations. The $1.2 million Advanced Placement Fee Waiver was successfully enacted in the budget.
Arizona: Early Literacy
Helios partner Read On Arizona brought together a group of stakeholders for a virtual, three-day intensive meeting to review how Mississippi demonstrated the greatest growth in the nation in fourth-grade reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Meeting participants included staff members from the Arizona Governor's Office, Arizona Department of Education, and State Board of Education, as well as philanthropists, community members, and educators. From that work, a smaller strategic policy working group was created, in which Helios played a key role, to determine policy recommendations. These recommendations became the core of the governor's FY22 proposed budget, Senate Bill 1572, which became part of the final FY22 budget package.
Florida: Grade-level Reading
Helios's support of the Florida Children's Movement and the Florida Grade Level Reading Campaign helped to propel the passage of HB 419 on Early Learning and Early Grade Success into law. This comprehensive package passed through both Chambers with unanimous votes and supportive, bipartisan debate. The package includes: a program assessment for Florida's state-funded PreK program, Voluntary Prekindergarten, effectively shifting the state from strict child outcome measures taken at the beginning of the kindergarten year, to a more timely direct assessment, combined with measures of learning gains and teacher-child interactions; clear standards of quality and measures of accountability that also better inform parents, teachers, and center directors; and alignment with the standards in K-3, creating a bridge for longitudinal data collection that will allow future policymakers to understand the impact of high-quality early learning on reading outcomes.
The legislation also creates a Division of Early Learning to sit alongside Florida's Division of K-12 Public Schools and Division of Florida Colleges. This move elevates early learning as part of the education continuum and offers an opportunity for new leadership to continue to build on this legislation.