A Proven Education Leader for School Choice, Local Control and Quality Education
The Riggs Plan
Reading - Writing
Education is the foundation of the American Dream. It’s about cultivating critical, independent thinkers, lifelong learners, and responsible and engaged citizens.
Expanding access to a great education for all children and closing the achievement gap for hard-to-serve segments of the student population - including low-income students, non or limited English-speaking students, students with learning disabilities and special needs, foster children and Native American students - has been my longtime, abiding passion.
My years in law enforcement profoundly influenced me and led me into education. Law enforcement is primarily reactive; education is proactive. While I was a good police officer and am proud of the work I did as a patrolman, investigator and crime prevention specialist, I came to realize that education is essential to ending inter-generational crime and to creating opportunity for all young people to live responsible and productive lives.
"We must inject essential parent power and competition into education while giving educators the professional respect they deserve and the autonomy they crave. Only educational freedom -- through the partnership of parent, teacher and principal working together -- can prepare all students to reach their full potential!"
– Frank Riggs
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”
– Frederick Douglass
1. I will establish and regularly convene statewide Parental Advisory Councils to hear from parents of school-age children across the state regarding their needs, concerns and advice.
I will create the position of Ombudsman in the Office of the Superintendent with a “hotline” that parents may use at any time to communicate directly with me. The Ombudsman will be responsible for reviewing any complaints under Arizona’s Parental Bill of Rights (ARS 1-601 and 1-602) which explicitly protect parental rights to “direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of your children.”
I also strongly support the right of parents to protect sensitive PII (Personally Identifiable Information) about their children. Parents must be informed of why and how PII about their children would be used by any vendors or third parties. State law should uphold the right of parents to protect their children’s privacy by requiring explicit consent of the parent before access to their child’s PII is granted.
The Ombudsman may also be contacted by email (using a simple on-line submission form) and in-person by appointment. I will personally review and follow-up on every communication to ensure a timely response to the parent. We also will explore ways to use text messaging, social media and “tele-town halls” (teleconferencing and on-line) to better communicate with parents and educators throughout the state.
2. We will seek continuous feedback and conduct an annual “consumer survey” of parents, frontline educators and taxpayers to “see how we’re doing.” ADE will follow the example of private sector enterprises that want and welcome feedback from their consumers and customers.
I will regularly visit schools to meet with the governing board members and superintendent or chief administrator, and spend time at the school site and in the classroom with the principal, teachers and education support professionals.
ADE will embrace Innovation and Promote High Expectations for Parents, Students and Teachers Alike! I support the vision and goal of the Achieve60AZ Alliance – Governor Ducey and leaders in the business, education and philanthropic communities - to increase our state’s educational attainment rate to 60% of Arizona adults with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030. Currently, 42% of Arizonans have such credentials.
I will actively participate in the meetings and endeavors of First Things First, the State Board of Education, Arizona Board of Regents, the State Board for Charter Schools and the Arizona Career Technical Education Quality Commission to improve communication and coordination with these important statewide bodies representing the full continuum of early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education.
Under my leadership, ADE will be transparent, responsive and accountable to parents, educators and taxpayers! I intend to make the ADE organizational culture more supportive and partnering to the 15 County Education Agencies, local school districts and charter school organizations, and welcome the help of all concerned Arizonans towards that goal.
“By 2019, 50% of all high school classes will be delivered online.”
– Clayton Christensen, teacher, consultant and author of “Disrupting Class.”
Using Technology in Education Intelligently -
We will establish a portal at ADE to offer “course choice” in Arizona. Through the Course Choice Portal, ADE will be able to “stream” (provide) classes and course content, both live (synchronous) and recorded (asynchronous) - taught by subject matter experts from inside and outside Arizona - to schools anywhere in the state. This will supplement “live” instruction in the classroom and augment the curriculum, and complements Governor Ducey’s proposal to expand broadband and high-speed internet access to rural communities. It’s also a means of promoting best practices in teaching methods and deeper knowledge (“mastery”) of critical academic subjects.
While there is no substitute for a good teacher and actively involved parents, technology is becoming increasing prevalent in secondary education through the use of student laptops, tablets, online projects with virtual collaboration, and online submission of work and tools such as power point presentations. Online textbooks can be easily updated, and information is widely available and accessible on almost any research topic.
ADE will work with local schools to help them utilize the benefits of teaching with technology while addressing parental concerns regarding their right to know the full content of online subject matter; exert control over their children’s Internet access; and protection of student data privacy.
The “First C” – Citizenship and Civic Readiness
Education is more than “college and career readiness;” it’s about creating thinking citizens ready to perform their responsibilities in our self-governing Republic. I want to increase the quality and quantity of civic education in Arizona schools and put civic learning on an equal footing with preparation for higher education and the workforce.
We clearly face a crisis in civic education. Our system of government depends on the consent of the governed and on active, responsible citizenship. Yet the U.S. Department of Education’s own studies show:
The original rationale for creating public schools was to prepare young people for responsible citizenship by teaching our country’s founding ideals, values and documents on which our government is based. Our schools need to devote more instructional time and resources to the First C. Civic literacy, demonstrated by knowledge of American government and history, should be a central instructional focus from middle/junior high school through high school as codified in Arizona’s instructional statutes.
Over the last 33 years of polling by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup, Americans have overwhelmingly agreed with the statement that “educating young people for responsible citizenship” should be the primary goal of our schools. Yet the study of American civics and history has been relegated to a secondary role in curriculum design and the allocation of instructional time and resources.
The unalienable rights and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms that we enjoy as Americans - and which make America exceptional and the model for democratic nations around the world - are the one thing we all have in common and that unite us as a country, despite the vast differences in our diverse society.
It’s those rights and freedoms that our men and women in uniform, through their patriotic service and sacrifice, have defended and protected since our country’s founding.
Arizona was the first state to pass legislation known as the “American Civics Act” requiring high school students to pass a test based on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Civics Test in order to graduate. This is the same test that immigrants must pass to become naturalized citizens. In 2015, I worked hard to get several additional states to adopt similar legislation. I want to restore the civic mission of our schools and integrate social studies (history, government and American civics) back into our curriculum.
Our Founding Fathers foresaw that in the eternal fight to preserve our freedoms, our greatest enemy is ignorance. Thomas Jefferson said, “Freedom is lost gradually from an uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved people.” He believed, “Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” James Madison, "the Father of the Constitution,” put it succinctly: “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”
Developmentally Appropriate Physical Activity
As a former competitive athlete and someone who adheres to a strict fitness regimen, I believe we need to make time in the school day for more physical activity (recess) for elementary school students and physical education for middle/junior high and high school students.
Twenty-eight percent of kids ages 6 and older are physically inactive according to the Physical Activity Council. Nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for three or more hours on an average school day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early childhood educators know that young children learn through active, direct experiences and play and not from teacher-directed, drill-based instruction. Regular physical activity and PE heighten cognition and learning and are important for our K-12 students to develop good health and wellness habits. We should balance seat time with developmentally appropriate physical activities at all grade levels.
Reading – Writing – Literacy
Comprehensive reading ability is fundamental to all learning. Literacy -- the ability to write and speak well -- must be the focus of our curricula. There is no question that reading abilities and literacy are declining as evidenced by the increasing inarticulateness and limited reading capacities of our students. Too many students are unable to tackle advanced texts and articulate themselves in a logical, coherent and grammatical fashion. Hence, our two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions are forced to devote time and resources on remediation for students who failed to learn these essential skills in the course of their K-12 education.
Early literacy must emphasize phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension as required by Arizona’s instructional statutes and Arizona’s “Move On When Reading Law.” In addition, schools, with support from ADE, should offer small group instruction and individual intervention plans to support struggling readers. This is especially important for the "hardest-to-educate" segments of the student population, including low-income students, students with special needs and learning disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and students in Native American schools.
I’m very interested in the research on child development and early childhood education. The New Beginnings Pregnancy and Education Center in Payson, AZ teaches young mothers to start reading to their children from birth. The message is Read, Read, Read…Sing, Sing, Sing; it’s never too soon to begin nurturing your child’s literacy and love of learning. Children will increase their vocabulary very early, begin to connect the written words when spoken, and develop their spelling and grammar skills.
I also believe we can do a better job of infusing writing into the study of the so-called “hard sciences” at every grade level. STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) can be blended with literature and writing exercises. Math, Engineering and Art projects can include a writing component such as a narrative story to go with the project. In another example, writing coaches helped increase the literacy skills of immigrant students at a Washington, D.C., school by having them write and publish a book of family recipes. Each student contributed a recipe from their native country and shared a background story about its significance.
The ability to read and write well is crucial to the future success of all students. Literacy and critical thinking are very important attributes that employers are looking for in job seekers. These skills also are essential to an educated citizenry and to promoting civil public discourse and civic engagement which are vital to our nation’s long-term health.
Electives, Civic Engagement, the Trades
We need more focus on the high school student’s strengths and interests. Students want more choices and electives that give them information and skills to further their interests and connect those interests to future, post-secondary coursework and career opportunities. Students also want early experience with collaboration, communication and civic engagement, the “soft skills” employers are seeking in their workforce. Parents agree: In a 2014 Gallup Poll 87% of public school parents believe that learning skills such as dependability, persistence and teamwork are “very important,” as opposed to 22% who felt doing well on the SAT or ACT was “very important.”
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are 5.6 million unfilled job openings in our economy, and nearly half of America’s skilled workers will retire in the next decade. As Mike Rowe of the TV show “Dirty Jobs” points out, our economy will suffer without a trained and skilled workforce, yet we have a growing skills gap in jobs that pay a good wage and provide a career path:
"Frank Riggs understands the importance of technical education for our students who demonstrate an aptitude for learning vocational and career-related skills. As a national education leader and U.S. Congressman, he helped expand opportunities for students to learn and pursue fulfilling careers through the most relevant technical education and hands-on training."
– James Candland, Member of The East Valley Institute of Technology's Governing Board and former Gilbert Town Councilman
“Unfortunately, the skilled trades are no longer aspirational in these United States. In a society that’s convinced a four-year degree is the best path for the most people, a whole category of good jobs have been relegated to some sort of ‘vocational consolation prize.’ Is it any wonder we have 1.3 trillion dollars in outstanding student loans? Is it really a surprise that vocational education has pretty much evaporated from high schools? Obviously, the number of available jobs and the number of unemployed people are not nearly as correlated as most people assume.”
The largest occupational training institution in American history is the military. But as fewer young men and women serve in our all-volunteer armed services, we need to ensure that all high school students with an interest in pursuing vocational, technical and career-related education have that opportunity through school-based educational courses; work-study internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and dual enrollment courses at our community colleges.