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Archive for 2009

Question of the Week

Currently, teacher salaries are determined through negotiations between the local union and the school district.  One implication is that salaries can differ dramatically from district-to-district–even neighboring ones.  This makes it difficult for poor districts to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

Should the state take over the responsibility of negotiating teacher salaries or leave it to the districts?

Leave a comment below to join the discussion with other parents, educators and advocates.

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Technology Alliance: Stick with math & science requirements

(This is a guest blog post by Susannah Malarkey, executive director of Technology Alliance, a statewide, not-for-profit organization of leaders from Washington’s diverse technology and related businesses and research institutions.)

If “innovation is in our nature,” then sticking with the math and science graduation requirements should be the natural decision for state policy leaders to make.

On behalf of the Technology Alliance, I feel compelled to add my voice to the growing chorus of indignation at Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s proposal to delay math and science graduation requirements. Washington’s innovation community is deeply concerned that this proposal signals a retreat from a commitment to ensure all students possess the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and 21st century careers.

Sticking to the task of preparing our students to be informed, engaged citizens and to compete for family-wage jobs is not only a matter of economic competitiveness; it is a matter of basic fairness. Our state has a diverse technology sector that creates high-wage, high-impact jobs. Unfortunately, we are not preparing the vast majority of Washington students to benefit directly from the opportunities our economy is creating.

We continually tout our highly-educated and innovative workforce (we rank 4th in the nation for intensity of scientists and engineers), but we ignore how we got there (we also rank 4th for net-migration of college degree-holders).

For years, we have made do with minimum high school graduation requirements that don’t align with the level of preparation students need to be successful in college-level work (around half of Washington graduates entering community colleges must take non-credit bearing coursework on content they should have learned in high school), or even be eligible to apply for admission to our public 4-year institutions.

And now, when we have an opportunity to make significant strides in bringing our education system into the 21st century through the basic education reform work currently underway and federal investments aimed at spurring innovation and accountability within our K-12 system, Washington’s education leader proposes yet another delay in math and science graduation requirements.

How can it be that one of the most innovative states in the nation is still having a debate over whether students should demonstrate proficiency in math and science before exiting high school?

As state education strategies go, it does not inspire confidence. Instead of repeated delays and watering down of expectations, we should be pursuing reforms that would help our students to meet those expectations:

– Implementation of CORE 24 to align minimum course-taking requirements with the expectations of college and the workplace;
– A concerted focus on improving teacher quality and our teacher evaluation system; and
– Data and accountability systems that will empower teachers, school leaders, parents and policymakers to take the steps necessary to ensure our K-12 system is serving the best interests of our students.

Our state leaders need to maintain their commitment to providing a meaningful high school diploma to all Washington students. Anything less is unfair to our kids and unsustainable for our state economy.

Susannah Malarkey is the executive director of Technology Alliance.


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Weekly roundup of education news from LEV

Education advocates and newspapers quickly weighed in on Superintendent Dorn’s proposal to delay math and science high school graduation requirements last week. LEV has begun to post in-depth analysis on the final Race to the Top guidelines on our blog.  We’re also introducing a Question of the Week to encourage discussion on thought-provoking questions about education and public policy.

Question of the Week

In Portland Public Schools, budget cuts could hit home to students and parents. Up to five classroom days could be cut from the school calendar because of furlough days. Recent polling shows that 60 percent of Washington residents don’t believe our state is facing a budget crisis even though higher education and K-12 have been cut by 12 percent.

Should policymakers consider eliminating all-day kindergarten or cutting school days to help balance the budget?

Join the discussion with other parents, educators and advocates:

News from LEV

Superintendent Randy Dorn’s speech to the state school directors
TVW filmed Superintendent Dorn’s speech to the Washington State School Directors’ Association on delaying math and science graduation requirements.

Wrong move, wrong time
In case you missed it, here’s LEV’s reaction to Superintendent Dorn’s proposal to delay high school graduation requirements for math and science.

What’s at risk in the state budget?
Our friends at the Washington State Budget and Policy Center have put together this excellent narrated slide show about the very real impacts of the projected $2.7 billion state budget shortfall.

What are Washington’s chances of winning Race to the Top dollars?
LEV reviews the eligibility requirements for Race to the Top and how Washington stacks up.

Final Race to the Top guidelines released
Each Race to the Top application will be evaluated based on a 500-point scale. Here’s the breakdown for how points will be awarded.

News from the Media

Editorial: State schools chief Randy Dorn blinks on math and science requirements
The Seattle Times is concerned that Dorn’s proposal will harm low-income and minority students the most.

Editorial: Don’t delay reckoning on science, math norms
The Spokesman-Review believes students will rise to the challenge to meet math and science requirements similar to how they responded to reading and writing.

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