It's interesting because LEV and Stand for Children and DFER will all tell you Washington State is a backwater. We're "laggards" in education reform. You'd think we were Alabama or Louisiana. We're not.
Let me start by saying - NO one is saying change doesn't need to happen or that we don't need to do better. No one. Moving on.
I know that this admission that I believe change is happening might surprise some. (See Nina Shapiro over at Seattle Weekly and her article about me explaining how I do believe things are moving forward in Washington State.)
How could I be such a big critic and yet say that things are changing? As I told Nina because education has become such a focal point, both statewide and nationally, there is no just viewing public education with blinders on only for our district. Those days are over. As well, in working on the No On 1240 campaign, I heard, "okay, I know what your campaign is against but what else can be done?" That is one of my favorite questions because here's what's happening in Washington State:
- The Legislature passed two Innovation school laws in the last two years. The Yes side is trying to portray these schools as "white and suburban". The last time I looked Sumner, Highline, Marysville and Monroe did not fit that description but please, check out the list. Also, keep in mind this is just the OSPI list; there are many other schools that fit this description.
- A new teacher assessment system is to come online this year. Seattle already has one.
- The Legislature passed a Lighthouse School law to provide more STEM.
- Mercer Middle School, a diverse school, tried a new math curriculum and now has some of the highest math test scores in the city.
- Tacoma’s Lincoln Center is a high school within a high school just for at-risk kids that is showing great progress. These students attend an extended day, from 7:35 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays, attend a summer school program which begins in August, and several days of Saturday school each month. From KCTS' blurb when Lincoln Center won their Golden Apple award - After three years, Lincoln High School beats the district average for GPA across all student backgrounds, has outscored the other schools on the district math assessment, statistically eliminated the achievement gap at Lincoln Center and increased parental involvement compared to the rest of the school.
- The Rainier Scholars program is showing outstanding success and support for at-risk students.
- The Roadmap for Education project for at-risk students in southeast Seattle and south King County is getting tremendous support including the Gates Foundation.
- Seattle schools has been a leader, for over 20 years, of parent-driven alternative schools.
- Talbot Hill Elementary, a Title One school in Renton, was just named by Scholastic Magazine, one of the Coolest Schools for its student government system that works throughout the building and the school day.
- Everett School District started an outreach program to struggling students and has brought its graduation rate up from 53% to over 80%. Ditto on Tukwila.
And, at Rainier Beach High School, a determined PTA has worked hard to bring great change to its school so much so that their PTA president was just at the White House accepting only 1 of 12 Champions of Change awards presented by President Obama. And, over at Publicola, in an op-ed by State Rep Tim Probst (D-17), I learned of yet another initiative:
What if I told you a single education reform could increase graduation and degree attainment by 42% in just four years? The Student Achievement Initiative has done just that. It was created by Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges, and is now considered a model for replication across the nation. I believe we should ask our high schools and universities to implement similar models, as well. It works. Let’s get it done.
He also says this:
We also need to recognize that the foundation of our economy is the work ethic, education, and job skills of our people. Currently, our education debates are polarized between charter school proponents and detractors. But there is a lot more to education reform than charter schools, including much we can all agree on.
Amen, brother. There is a lot that is being done and that can be done and change does not just come at the hands of charter schools and Teach for America. That needs to be recognized and a new dialog started.