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ASU and Helios Education Foundation debut tools to track education progress and test interventions

June 4, 2019

Two years ago, Arizona State University and Helios Education Foundation began conversations about how the two organizations could work together to provide the state with better information and data on Arizona’s education system.

“We have a lot of data systems that are separate and distinct, but nothing that provides a comprehensive way to look at the education system,” said Vince Yanez, senior vice president of community engagement for Helios Education Foundation. “Early education data doesn’t necessarily talk to the data in K-12, which doesn’t talk to the data in higher education.”

The Decision Center for Educational Excellence, powered by Helios Education Foundation, was launched in 2018 as a means to address this disconnect and provide school administrators, policymakers and elected officials with the tools and information needed to address educational deficiencies in the state and increase student achievement. Joe O’Reilly, one of the state’s leading experts on education research and data, was brought on to direct the center.

“The idea is, if we can bring together all the data we have on the education system in Arizona, apply the resources and knowledge of Helios and ASU and bring stakeholders together to discuss where we’re at and where we’re heading, we will have significantly better student outcomes, and that will result in significantly better community outcomes, family outcomes and state outcomes,” said O’Reilly.

New tool to pinpoint bright spots and test interventions

For the past year, O’Reilly and his team, which includes the Decision Theater and ASU engineering students, have been building a first-of-its-kind, interactive model of Arizona’s K-12 education system. The model offers stakeholders the ability to test the impact of potential policies on education outcomes, pinpoint scalable bright spots in the state’s education system and identify strategies that could improve student performance.

“There are over 220 school districts in the state. There are over 500 charters in the state. Each of those systems and each of those schools are unique,” said Vince Roig, founding chairman of the board of Helios Education Foundation. “One of the powerful things about this work is you’ll be able to look at possible interventions, possible allocations of resources, for all of those different systems in a way that’s not cookie-cutter, that’s not overly prescribed. We’ve never been able to do that before.”

The model draws on 2016 data — the first data publicly available — from a variety of sources, including the Arizona Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the FBI, the Environmental Protection Administration, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and individual Arizona schools.

Tracking progress at the local level

The center, working with Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona, has also made a significant upgrade to the Arizona Education Progress Meter — a tool designed to offer reliable information on where Arizona stands as a state on issues ranging from access to quality early learning to postsecondary attainment. The tool now allows stakeholders to choose specific cities and towns, schools or school districts and track progress toward the goals at the local level.

Collectively, these tools will give Arizona’s education stakeholders the ability to deeply understand the state’s education system, discuss local conditions and implement changes, either at the individual school level or across the board, that will support a high-quality education for all Arizona students.

Unveiling the tools and key takeaways

“How do we significantly improve the outcomes of education in Arizona, so we can improve Arizona?”

This was the question posed by O’Reilly as he unveiled the new tools at a public event this week in the drum of Tempe’s Decision Theater. Arizona’s education administrators, policymakers, business leaders and community members gathered to learn about the new tools created by the Decision Center for Educational Excellence.

Before introducing the tools, O’Reilly shared three key takeaways about the state’s education system that an analysis of the 2016 data revealed:

1. Poverty does not determine graduation rates, but it does impact academic achievement.

Contrary to common belief, no correlation was found between poverty levels and high school graduation rates. “Whether a school has high rates of poverty or low, the graduation rate is, on average, the same,” said O’Reilly.

“However, many high-poverty schools have fewer graduates that are ready for college-level work, and fewer going to college,” said O’Reilly. “But we also find high-poverty schools with higher achievement and college-going rates, so we need to learn more about how they are accomplishing that.”

For example, the data show that 92% of the students attending Phoenix Union’s Franklin Police and Fire High School are low income, yet 97% graduate on time and 70% go to college. Similarly, almost 70% of Nogales High School students are low income, yet 95% graduate on time.

2. FAFSA completion is a leading indicator of college-going.

Controlling for student characteristics, for every 10% increase in FAFSA completion rates there is a 2.2% increase in college-going rates.

“This is not because filling out a form causes a student to go to college,” said O’Reilly. “But it may reflect a school’s college-going culture, and may be one of a number of strategies by the school and parents to encourage students to attend college.”

The model shows that many of the schools with high FAFSA completion rates are also high-income schools, such as Catalina Foothills in Tucson. However, there are also low-income schools, such as San Luis High School on the border south of Yuma, where 64% of students complete the FAFSA and even more — 76% — go to college.

3. There is a lack of rigorous courses available.

More than one-third of the high schools in Arizona do not offer students the opportunity to take rigorous courses such as advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, dual enrollment or even just calculus.

“We assume students have ability, and that range of ability is widely shared, but the opportunity to develop that ability is not everywhere,” said O’Reilly. “And that’s the challenge that we see here.”

Students with the potential to be leading engineers, doctors and scientists can be found in communities throughout Arizona, but without the opportunity to accelerate their learning, they may never be able to compete for top spots in these fields.

“They may have dreams, they may have the innate ability, but that ability needs to be developed,” he said.

Building on the model in Year 2

Over the coming months, O’Reilly plans to share the tools with education stakeholders around the state.

“We are really proud of Joe and the team and the tools they are putting in the hands of policy makers and school administrators,” said Luke Tate, associate vice president and executive director of opportunity initiatives at ASU. “We need more data and evidence to guide our decision-making.”

Data will continue to be added to the system in perpetuity, allowing for the analysis of education trends over time and the development of strategies, locally and statewide, to increase student success.

For example, the tool could identify high schools in a particular county that have large populations of Spanish-speaking students and a high percent of students receiving free or reduced lunches, but also high achievement scores. Schools with a similar demographic profile but with low achievement scores could look to those better-performing schools to identify what interventions could be implemented at their own school to improve student achievement.

As another example, city leaders might be interested in learning how increasing the college-going rate in their city will affect average incomes and the city’s income tax profile. Or, they may want to see how their college-going rate compares with a neighboring city with a similar demographic and economic profile.

“There are so many possible uses of the system — you can’t list them all,” said Roig. “We’ll be able to see what’s working, what’s not and what changes need to be made. When you start talking about modeling the education system and potential interventions and what’s likely to have the most impact for students — the possibilities really are staggering.”

Top image: Joe O’Reilly, director of the Decision Center for Educational Excellence, powered by Helios Education Foundation, presents an interpretation of data on Arizona's K-12 education at the Decision Theater in Tempe on Tuesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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Thunderbird, Dignity Health partner to train global health care leaders

June 5, 2019

We all know the importance of health care services on a personal level. When any of us, or a family member, becomes ill, we need access to the most qualified, well-equipped clinicians, and we need to be able to afford their care. It is also difficult to overstate the importance, scope and magnitude of health care services from a business point of view.

A new partnership between Thunderbird School of Global Management and Dignity Health Global Education is poised to begin educating the leaders necessary to maintain the future health of global health care systems.

Aging and growing populations, greater prevalence of chronic diseases, and innovative — but costly — technologies all contribute to increased health care demand and expenditures. In its 2019 Global Health Care Outlook, Deloitte describes these conditions as an opportunity in which health leaders are uniquely poised to shape the future. But, analysts warn, it will take participation, collaboration and investment by all health care stakeholders — providers, governments, payers and consumers — to turn opportunities into realities. It will also take innovation.

Dignity Health Global Education, a joint venture between CommonSpirit Health and Global University System, is joining forces with Thunderbird to create an innovative approach to training future-ready leaders in global health care. Beginning in spring 2020, the partnership will offer a Master's in Global Management with an emphasis on health care services. A certificate program in health care management will be offered in fall 2019.

Proven track records in health and global education

“This partnership brings together two organizations uniquely positioned to reach future leaders in health care services,” said Tom Hunsaker, Thunderbird’s associate dean of innovation. “DHGEDignity Health Global Education recognizes the need and demand for education and training in health care leadership on an international basis. And Thunderbird has a proven educational platform that focuses on global leaders.”

Gregg Davis, chief administrative officer for Dignity Health International and Dignity Health Global Education board member, said, “We’re attracted to Thunderbird and ASU, because of the quality of their programs and their content, the quality of their educators, and because they already have a global focus.”

“Our intent is to take our best practices, our technology, our successes and deliver those same services on an international basis,” Davis said. “But it’s cumbersome to have people travel from overseas to our hospitals for training. We wanted to reach more people on a larger scale. The answer is through creating an education platform, an online platform.”

That’s where Thunderbird came in. Thunderbird has a global focus, a global educational network and a strong legacy in experiential training. This new partnership is also consistent with Thunderbird’s goal of developing global leaders in an age of rapid innovation and change, spearheaded by the school’s director general and dean, Sanjeev Khagram.

“Thunderbird is a very natural ally for Dignity Health Global Education given ASU and Thunderbird’s focus on innovation, focus on global education and recently focus on workforce development,” said Andrew Malley, CEO of Dignity Health Global Education.

Malley also said Dignity appreciates Thunderbird’s active global network of alumni, which rivals most educational institutions. “Network connections and global mentoring literally mean students have opportunities for lifelong learning,” he said.

The program: Business, health care, culture

This health care concentration will be part of Thunderbird’s specialized Master's in Global Management degrees, which earned the No. 1 Master's in Management ranking in the Times Higher Education/WSJ 2019 Business Schools Report. The course will be composed of 49 academic units covering leadership, health care business, practical/experiential training, global leadership and a wide range of electives.

Hunsaker said students coming to Thunderbird through the Dignity Health Global Education partnership will be able to tap into the transdisciplinary nature of the ASU ecosystem: “We have incredible technical expertise in specific health care offerings.” 

He described the three key aspects to this new program:

  • A strong foundation in business that is set in a global context.

  • Technical expertise as applied to health care services.

  • Multicultural understanding in a business setting, or "global mindset," which is unique to Thunderbird.

“And you bring those three together and layer it within the Dignity system — that’s very powerful,” Hunsaker said.

The Master's in Global Management program will explore the impact of decentralization on delivery of health care services, what the future of health care services looks like, how to adapt to changing needs of stakeholders, the impact and opportunities of technology and a wide range of health care-related business content.  

“Our mission is to deliver high-quality, cost-effective health care services on an international basis," Davis said. "Education needs to be a part of that and an online platform is essential to reach more people on a larger scale. So going into a partnership with ASU/Thunderbird to deliver a management program on an international basis is consistent with those goals and will be really impactful.”

In early 2019, Dignity’s reach expanded when it merged with hospital group Catholic Health Initiatives to create CommonSpirit Health, forming what is now one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the U.S.

Real-life experiential training

Although online education allows Dignity Health Global Education to reach a larger number of people through this partnership, there is still a personal touch and practical real-world experience. 

“One of the most important aspects of this program is that it is not all online,” said Gary Gibbons, clinical associate professor of finance at Thunderbird who specializes in innovation. “There is an element of practical training that is far beyond case studies.”

Gibbons, who has been involved in creating this program from its inception, said health care leaders will receive hands-on training in real-world settings: “They will be working on real business problems.”

“The criticism often of universities is that they are too cerebral,” said Malley, who is an education specialist with over 20 years of experience globally. “What we’re trying to achieve here can be applied to the workforce. The things you learn are the things you can do.”

The students: Health care professionals ready to lead

Gibbons said courses are designed to help prepare students to explore changes in the health care industry worldwide. They will be useful for professionals in a wide variety of health care services or in services supported by the health care industry.

Gibbons said the Master's in Global Management course will attract both clinicians and non-clinicians. As Malley put it, the careers in health care are similar to careers in society at large — it’s not just doctors and nurses. This course would be useful to both a nursing administrator moving up in the ranks and a sales rep from a pharmaceutical company.

“Sure, companies do their own training,” Gibbons said, “but not many have the capability to do their own global business management training.”

“While Dignity is our partner, this degree is open to employees of other companies,” Gibbons said. “This is the master’s degree that will combine multicultural aspects of the world’s economy, business principles including finance and accounting, a good solid foundation in health care, including health care, and health care treatment modalities and technology.”

Global open-door policy

Hunsaker said that the fact that Dignity is open to a major global initiative for education and training that is both internal and external facing is somewhat revolutionary.

Davis explained, “We don’t have to own everything. We said let’s partner with the top-performing highly rated academic institutions. We want to be collaborative and work with entities that share similar goals, similar missions, similar best practices.”

The need for collaboration in health care is unmistakable. In the U.S., health care spending grew 3.9% in 2017, reaching $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per person. As a share of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.9%.

Globally, health spending in 2016 reached $8.0 trillion and made up 8.6% of global GDP. In an April 2019 report on health care financing in The Lancet, researchers predict sustained growth in health spending will continue, with global spending projected to reach $10.6 trillion in 2030 and $15.0 trillion in 2050.

Hunsaker said this course is targeted toward individuals who are not intimidated by that scope, but find it challenging and have an interest in looking to the future for solutions.

“It’s for individuals who can connect the dots across systems, across boundaries," he said. "And it’s for companies that recognize how those skills are going to play an essential role in their future success.”

There are few more important industry sectors out there and few more complex and rife with issues that need to be solved,” Hunsaker said. “A whole new generation of global leaders need to be groomed so they can take this industry to the next level.”

Top photo courtesy of iStock