Nonprofit Sends Jim Collins (‘Good to Great’) to the Principal’s Office in...

Nonprofit Sends Jim Collins (‘Good to Great’) to the Principal’s Office in Effort to Increase Low-Income, Latino Students’ Workforce Preparedness


Phoenix, AZ–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–November 15, 2007–Amid growing concerns about the preparedness of the state’s future workforce, an Arizona nonprofit organization has launched an initiative in 27 metro Phoenix-area K-12 public schools in an effort to “beat the odds” and increase student achievement. Approximately 80 percent of the participating schools have predominantly low-income, minority student populations.

The Beat the Odds initiative brings to life the findings of the 2006 research report, “Why Some Schools with Latino Children Beat the Odds … and Others Don’t.” Jim Collins, author of the New York Times bestseller “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t,” actively collaborated in the research.

Using Collins’ matched pair methodology, the joint study of the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University found six keys to success within schools’ control that, when implemented together, lead to better than expected student achievement among all students.

The study strongly suggests that demography is not destiny and that Arizona’s large and growing Latino student population is a valuable resource that through proper intervention can achieve academic success.

University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America, has pledged the lead gift to implement the Beat the Odds School Partners program. The contribution will total $500,000 over three years, which will include $100,000 in the first year; $150,000 in year two; and $250,000 in year three and will include grants from the university’s new foundation, University of Phoenix Foundation.

A Wake Up Call for Arizona

Many consider Arizona’s high school graduation rate and its student achievement scores to be low, across the board. Latinos, who are rapidly becoming the majority student population in Arizona K-12 schools, tend to have especially low student achievement scores and high dropout rates. Approximately half of all Arizona Latino students do not graduate high school.

Dr. Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the Phoenix-based Center for the Future of Arizona, says it is time for a wake up call. According to the former Arizona State University President, “Improving Latino students’ academic performance is crucial to our state’s future economic vitality and the quality of life of its citizens.”

Coor notes that this generation of students will enter the workforce as the baby boom generation is leaving it. The boomers represent a significant portion of the current middle class, which is at its earning and tax-paying peak.

Without an intervention, Coor says, Arizona’s future labor force will be ill-prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century workplace. In addition, the state’s economic future is at stake.

The center estimates the cost to society of a single high school dropout to be between $311,130 and $496,785 (in 2007 dollars) with 20 percent to 50 percent of this figure attributed to factors other than lost earnings potential. This estimate rises to between $2.2 to $3.0 million if the dropout is a career criminal and drug user.

Among the clouds, Coor sees a silver lining. “Arizona’s large minority student population is a valuable resource that we must cultivate,” he said. “Demography is not destiny. The Beat the Odds initiative is the means by which we can begin to tap into this resource and develop its potential.”

The Beat the Odds Initiative

Throughout the 2007-08 academic year, the Center for the Future of Arizona’s staff, mentors and researchers will conduct preliminary and follow-up school evaluations, provide one-on-one professional mentoring, present training sessions to the school principals, assist with resource development, facilitate peer mentoring, aid in the development and implementation of individual school action plans, and track student achievement at the 27 schools. The Center for the Future of Arizona will certify schools that meet their goals to be “Beat the Odds schools.”

“Dr. Coor’s vision and courage in mining the benefits of diversity are refreshing,” commented Arizona business and community leader José Cárdenas, partner and chairman of Lewis and Roca LLP. “Through the center’s Beat the Odds initiative, Dr. Coor and his colleagues at the center are doing something about one of the most critical issues facing Arizona today … the Latino education dilemma.”

Jim Collins also lauded the evolution of the “Beat the Odds” research report into an action-oriented, collaborative school-based initiative.

“Great cities and great states require more than just great companies,” Collins said. “They require great schools, great social service providers, great arts groups. Through the use of the ‘Beat the Odds’ research, the Center for the Future of Arizona and its partners are taking a very significant step toward building the great schools we need for a vibrant and successful future.”

For more information about Beat the Odds visit


The Center for the Future of Arizona is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to creating a state in which opportunities and quality of life exist for all citizens.

A self-described “do tank,” the center’s activities include research, community collaboration, center initiatives, and defining and shaping public policy. The center’s first major achievement following its inception in 2002 was the creation of a dynamic, nonpartisan statewide agenda called The Vision for the Future of Arizona. The state vision has been endorsed by more than 70 Arizona public and private organizations. Arizona is reputedly the only state in the nation with a unified vision for its future, and an organization working to guide it towards the fulfillment of that vision.

The Phoenix-based nonprofit was founded in 2002 by Arizona State University President Emeritus Dr. Lattie Coor and public policy expert Dr. Sybil Francis, who are the center’s chairman/CEO and executive director, respectively. It is governed by a distinguished board of directors and funded by donations from individuals, foundations, trusts, corporations and community organizations. More information:

(Editor’s Note: For a fact sheet on Beat the Odds or quotes from business and education leaders on Beat the Odds, please contact Janelle Brannock at 602-462-2232)

Nonprofit Sends Jim Collins (‘Good to Great’) to the Principal’s Office in Effort to Increase Low-Income, Latino Students’ Workforce Preparedness