Advancing Education Reform in Washington State

Posted by Pamela Passman 
Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

All too often, being a legislator is a thankless job. So when lawmakers come together and make meaningful progress on a critical issue, we should pause and say thank you.

While somewhat overshadowed by the need for a special session to resolve budget and taxation issues, the steps the Washington state legislature made in K-12 education are significant. In particular, the passage of a bill designed to make our state more competitive for a federal “Race to the Top” grant promises to benefit students for generations to come.

The bill – Senate bill 6696, signed today by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire - takes critical steps to improve the ability of Washington schools to prepare our young people for the complex world they will face. Perhaps the most significant is establishment of a statewide school accountability index and new authority for state intervention to turn around the persistently lowest performing schools – a critically important improvement that has been 17 years in the making. Other key elements of the legislation include provisional adoption of common core standards developed in conjunction with other states; a new, four-tiered teacher and principal evaluation system; extension of the teacher probationary period from two to three years; and provisions for more alternative routes to earning a teaching certificate.

In total, these steps should improve Washington’s ability to put more effective teachers in front of more students – and that is the prime driver of student performance. Governor Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, the State Board of Education, legislative leaders, local superintendents and education advocates involved in the Excellent Schools Now coalition all deserve credit for coming together to make this important new legislation a reality.

 

With federal education policy, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, increasingly focused on preparing students for college and career, this new legislation is clearly a step in the right direction. Whether or not it is enough to secure “Race to the Top” funding in the next grant cycle, our students will benefit from this action.

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