Making progress in improving education outcomes, but still short of goal

In The News Tribune, Jordan Schrader reports that the state has shown progress in improving high school graduation rates.

State calculations show 77.2 percent of the class of 2014 graduated from high school in four years, an improvement of 1.2 percentage points from the 2013 class.

The state missed a goal set as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s initiative to measure government performance that calls for improving by at least two percentage points a year.

“We are making progress, but we have to do something differently to meet our goals in the state of Washington for graduation rates,” Inslee said Wednesday.

Improving educational outcomes is a key objective of the Opportunity Washington: Priorities for Shared Prosperity effort. We have three guiding priorities : Achieve, Connect, Employ. Achieve focuses on education, from early learning through postsecondary education. We agree with the governor that the state is making progress, but that the progress is coming too slowly. From our research report:
As Partnership for Learning, the Washington Roundtable’s education foundation, notes, “In today’s world, a high school diploma is no longer optional for students who want to attain family-wage jobs, and some form of higher education — a two- or four-year college, technical school, or a certificate program — is increasingly necessary.”
Unfortunately, Washington still falls significantly short of this important goal, both in terms of graduation rate and in the preparation of those receiving their diplomas. Of some 60,000 employers who hired in 2012, one in five had difficulty finding qualified applicants.
In 2012, Washington ranked 32nd among the states for high school graduation rate, with a rate of 77 percent. Washington’s four-year high school graduation rate in 2013 (for students who began ninth grade in 2009-10) was 76.0 percent. The Washington State Board of Education has established a goal of increasing that number to 89 percent by the end of this decade. The state must meet or exceed this objective to become one of the top 10 states for high school graduation.
Further, we note that the graduation rate is just one important metric.
But the challenge doesn’t end with high school graduation. Of students who graduated from public high school in 2009-10 and enrolled in community and technical college in 2010-11, 57 percent enrolled in at least one pre-college (developmental or remedial) course — most often in math. These disappointing numbers must be foremost in policymakers’ minds as they consider important questions of education policy and funding.
We are confident that progress will be made in the 2015 session. And congratulate the educators in the state on the progress made thus far.