Christine Thompson: Excited by Arizona’s education policy

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Christine Thompson (Photo by Rachel Leingang / Arizona Capitol Times)

Christine Thompson is perhaps best known for the drama that unfolded very publicly when Superintendent of Public Education Diane Douglas attempted to fire her from her position as executive director of the State Board of Education in 2015.

But over the past four years, she’s also experienced a different kind of “whirlwind” as the rising CEO of Expect More Arizona, a world-class education advocacy group, and she’s raising high standards. twins.

The experience gave her a new perspective on a world she has played a role in since she was an intern with the State House Education Committee. It was her introduction to state politics, and she’s been hooked ever since.

Questions and answers on cap hoursHow has your involvement in education influenced your approach to educating your own children?

It definitely gives me a different perspective, and I have a different appreciation now that I have kids as consumers of the system. I have told several friends about the choice of school and how wonderful it is to have the choice of school. But at the same time, making that choice, for those of us who have the luxury of being able to do so, is difficult because there is rarely a perfect choice for your child. I hope this will make me a little less of a “helicopter parent” because I am deeply aware of the professionals who are the educators, and I want them to be the leaders.

What’s the plan for your boys to move on? Stick to district schools or take a different path?

We live in a very strong neighborhood, so I think we’ll stick with the neighborhood. But it will depend on their needs. I’ll let their needs dictate where we end up.

So you are transitioning to Expect More Arizona. But you were right at Achieve 60 AZ where the focus is on the college pass rate. Why is this so important to Arizona right now?

We’re late. The whole nation is really behind where we need to be. The higher a person’s post-secondary education level, the less likely they are to be unemployed, the higher their income, the less likely they are to be involved in criminal activity or to need legal services. social protection. We really see the increase in post-secondary achievement as a mechanism to increase the economic success not only of individuals but also of the state.

Expect more, on the other hand, has several goals that the state must achieve. Did someone mark you?

In the years that I have been involved in education at different levels, there has always been K-12 – talking about K-12 issues. Early ed, pre-K talks about their issues. Higher education is in their own space. And it is a relatively recent phenomenon that they pollinate more. And I think the Progress Meter (Arizona Education) is the perfect example of intertwining all of these sections. You can’t expect to have better results if you fail on the lower end of the goals. If you have low participation in quality preschool programs or if reading in third grade is low and math in eighth grade is low. . . all of these things are building blocks for achieving that goal of achievement.

Why do you think Arizona’s education system is where it is now?

We have a number of challenges, and some of them are not unique to Arizona. Educators in general find it difficult to be seen as the professionals they are in part because everyone has had a classroom experience. Funding has been very difficult over the years. Our resources are dwindling and our population is increasing. We’ve also had an environment where we’ve been pushing innovation, which is a good thing, but at the same time we’ve done it at a pace where we maybe don’t understand how far things are set. artwork. It was about the change of week.

What was that feud with Diane Douglas like to you?

It was a challenge. I think the superintendent and her staff were doing what they thought was in their best political interest, and that’s what I was doing for the board – making sure the constitutional body had its proper representation. It was an interesting political time to get involved in, and it will probably always be associated with my name, which I’m not sure how I feel. It’s like that. It has happened, and I think it’s good for the state to have it resolved. But it will always be part of a cocktail conversation wherever I am. People told me my name was familiar, and I thought, “Yeah, you might have seen me on TV. “

You and your assistant at the time, Sabrina Vasquez, actually returned to the office after being “fired”. How embarrassing was that?

We knew we had a job to do and we continued to do it. It was a difficult time. And that was awkward because the state council offices at that time were on the fourth floor, like the superintendent’s office, and uh, there’s only one female room on that floor.

Were you happy with the way it ended?

I’m just glad it was resolved, frankly. I think it is healthy that there is now a clear separation in the budget and in the law between the state council and the superintendent.

What do you think of Douglas now? Is she the right person for the job?

She does a good job as a superintendent, but I think there is more to do. There are times when state councils work closely with superintendents. There are times when state councils and superintendents don’t get along. And it really is a cycle. This happens more often than you might think in the press. In this last round, there was a lot more tension between the elements. There is a lot of work to be done to restore these coalitions to where they were before, and I don’t know if the Superintendent has managed to do it yet.


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