Legislature considers proven strategies to close achievement and opportunity gaps in education

Closing the achievement gaps in education has been a policy priority in our state and across the nation for years. Last September, we wrote of the 2017 test results released by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The report identified the need to do more to close the gaps.

“State tests are a good dipstick,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “They let us see a point in time, and they show us where things are going well and where improvement is needed. Most important, this year’s results are showing us that large gaps exist in subject areas, in race and ethnicity, and in poverty and mobility. And those gaps are telling us that we have a lot of work to do.”

So we were encouraged to read an excellent op-ed in the Seattle Times by Rep. Eric Pettigrew and Libuse Binder, the executive director of Stand for Children promoting policies designed to address the challenge. After briefly citing Washington’s low graduation rate and high level of absenteeism (we’ve noted the problem here), they propose a better way. 

Our flagging ability to keep kids in class and graduating is not specific to one group of children or one neighborhood, nor will it be resolved by one magic formula or the next education trend du jour. While others debate funding needed or a program acronym best-suited to sell the latest plan, we urge support for and implementation of common-sense programs that are proven to be effective in addressing the myriad root causes that lead to disparate outcomes among students.

The state Senate is considering legislation that specifically addresses opportunity and achievement gaps by adopting statewide programs based on what is already working at the district level. House Bill 2868 (and its Senate companion, 6209) creates an early warning system to help identify students who need support and are at risk of not finishing high school.

It’s a short piece. We recommend you read the whole thing. The legislation is based on a proven success.

The statewide program that would be created by passage of HB 2868/SB 6209 is modeled after success in the Spokane school district, which has seen a steady growth in graduation rates since its program’s implementation in 2012, reaching 86 percent in 2017 and surpassing both the state and national averages.

This legislation, using funding created by last year’s budget, would also automatically enroll every qualified high school student into advanced courses.

A commendable effort, worthy of legislative support.