Is There Real Ed Change Happening in Washington State?

Yes, I believe there is.

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.  


Anonymous said…
More Washington State innovation,_Washington),_Washington)

Public School Parent
Anonymous said…
Excellent opinion piece!

Anonymous said…
But the Schools in Seattle suck, doncha know? A realtor competing for a listing in West Seattle just told that to a friend of mine.

Point: For such a literate area, we sure are suckers for gossip and rumors. The Charter-Privatization crowd know this, and are counting on it playing out at the polls.

Unknown said…
WSDWG, you are exactly right.

I was told recently that there are no good public schools in Seattle. To which I said, well, my children went to Seattle public schools and I am proud of it.
Anonymous said…
It all depends on your perspective.... (and which news channel you watch or "newspaper" you read). Just recently I was talking to a new person at the gym who moved here from Idaho early in the summer. She had heard through the grapevine that Seattle schools were terrible, and was very apprehensive about enrolling her 2 kids in elementary school. Lo and behold, she found that the school her children were enrolled in (Whittier, I think? She only mentioned the name once) was much, much better than what she had left behind in Idaho. She was raving about one kid's teacher, about having art again, and the fact that the work was much harder - that her kids were having to play catch up, which she thought was good for them since school had been pretty easy for them in Idaho and they were "bored". So in her perspective now, Seattle Schools are looking pretty darn good.

Anonymous said…
Seattle Schools continue to out-perform the state average (and the positive trend is increasing)--virtually unheard of for an urban school district.

If this were the mantra of the union and others, it would be very helpful in countering ill-will. This factoid speaks volumes about the quality of teachers in this district.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
Sadly, MW, I know I'm exactly right. Until I had kids, and until I started touring schools and asking questions, I thought the same thing.

A lot of my generation grew up in the nearby burbs, which flourished with ex-urbanites in the 60s through the early 80s. Even though many have returned to plant roots in the city, the suburban paranoia about urban public schools persists. Ask almost any parent with kids in private schools, and they'll rattle off a list of anecdotes or fanciful urban legends to justify why they went private. But it won't be the most common: Fear, and/or the security that comes with doing whatever your friends do.

dorainseattle said…
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dorainseattle said…
That is excellent to hear that Rainier Beach High School received such a high award.

They deserved it.

Jet City mom said…
I don't understand the slam against Alabama and Louisiana?
Anonymous said…
Got a robocall survery from Stand for Children WA. They had 2 questions: Who are you voting for for governor? and Do you support the Charter school initiative?

Told them Inslee and No on charters.

The best part about still having a landline is being able to answer political surveys.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, Rainier Scholars are NOT "at-risk" students!

Rainier Scholars are highly motivated, low-income students!

The math curriculum Mercer used is not "new" -- Saxon Math is OLD and has been used successfully at other SPS (North Beach) for many years!
Unknown said…
Under the initiative, low-income students ARE at-risk students and that's why I used that term here.

Yes, I know that all low-income students are NOT at-risk students.

Saxon Math is new to Mercer and that's what I meant but yes, thank you for the clarification.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Public School success

Public School Parent
Jan said…
Anonymous said: "Lincoln Center is fabulous. And guess what it is based on? KIPP. It is truly wonderful that such programs can flourish in our existing school system, and I wish more schools would adopt this approach, but I'm still guessing most Lincoln Center teachers are voting yes on 1240."

Wow! Now there is an interesting question. I wonder if a majority of LC's teachers -- running a public program with KIPP attributes DO support charters -- or whether they would prefer to see these alternatives grow under the current (non-charter) governance structure. And I wonder what factors would influence their answers?

Jan, I will try to find out. I suspect that the Anonymous commenter is wrong. Why would they change a system that does allow them to try new things and protects their rights as workers?

The "slam" against Alabama and Louisiana is that they are consistently in the bottom of education standings in the US and Louisiana is the poster child for all that is wrong in public education.

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