New report charts course for increasing credential attainment in midst of pandemic; focus on vulnerable populations.

Although the pandemic has interrupted education and disrupted much of life as we knew it, a new report from the Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning restores a much-needed long term focus to education and economic recovery. Path to 70% Credential Attainment: Restarting Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic succinctly reviews the importance of post-secondary credential completion in an increasingly competitive economy, identifies  how far Washington has to go to achieve the 70% goal, and examines the challenges facing vulnerable populations.

From the report, 

The Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning are committed to playing a collaborative and productive role as we move forward, together. We will draw on our experience in state education and economic policy as well as learnings from across the country and around the globe. We will ground our work in research, focused listening, and action for impact. In doing so, we will pursue an agenda that supports diversified and inclusive economic recovery. We will aggressively pursue the policy and system changes necessary to reach our goal that, by the high school class of 2030, 70% of Washington students complete a post-high school credential by age 26. Previous research indicates just 41% of Washington’s high school class of 2017 is expected to meet that benchmark. The estimated credential attainment rate is even lower for Washington’s Black (31%), Hispanic and Latinx (30%), and Native American (18%) students.

In this report we seek to share lessons of the Great Recession; shine a light on those individuals who are most vulnerable in the economic wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (namely, people of color, young workers, and those without a post-high school credential); and begin to examine policy options and opportunities to build a better Washington. We focus specifically on using education as a catapult for those furthest from opportunity and as a driver of economic recovery.

The importance of post-secondary credential to employment is made clear in this chart:

And in those one comparing weekly earnings:

The pandemic has spiked unemployment and lost income for the least educated workers. The report points out,

These data reinforce the economic shift in favor of jobs for credentialed workers, again demonstrating the correlation between education attainment and job security, which has been magnified by the pandemic. The data also shine a bright light on the need to break down barriers to postsecondary education for those furthest from opportunity, namely, Black, Hispanic and Latinx, and Native American students and workers.

The Washington Roundtable and Partnership for Learning remain committed to our goal: By the high school class of 2030, 70% of Washington students will complete a post-high school credential by age 26.

In pursuing this goal, we seek to change two realities:

  • Not enough Washington students are earning credentials. A third of students in the high school class of 2006 completed a credential by age 26; that number increases to an estimated 41% for the high school class of 2017.

  • Black, Hispanic and Latinx, and Native American students are earning credentials at much lower rates than their Asian and White peers.

It’s a short report,  just 7 fact-filled pages, and makes specific recommendations for the restart. We urge you to read it and share it with colleagues, friends and policymakers. The recommendations:


• Diagnose individual student learning loss using high-quality diagnostic tools and target academic and non-academic interventions and instruction.

  • Communicate student learning expectations and current diagnoses to families in culturally relevant ways that meet their needs to support their children.

  • Support students in meeting rigorous grade-level learning standards and expectations.


  • Give schools and districts flexibility to innovate to better serve their students, allowing for adjustments to engrained structures such as the school calendar, master schedule, and teaching and learning practices.
  • Expand partnerships with community-based organizations, especially those supporting communities of color, to better facilitate continuous learning.

  • Conduct asset mapping to assess technology and connectivity needs and pursue solutions that ensure equity in learning.


  • Prioritize and promote college-going behaviors as schools shift to new operating and learning modalities (i.e., in-class vs. remote learning) in response to the pandemic.

  • Streamline postsecondary admissions processes and increase flexibility to maximize students’ ability to enroll and matriculate during the pandemic.

  • Protect postsecondary access by maintaining affordability for low-income students.


  • Preserve student supports, including guidance and wraparound services, particularly for those hit hardest during the pandemic and those furthest from opportunity.

  • Deploy strategies to bring students back to school if they have previous college experience but no credential, especially if they are currently out of work.


  • Increase alignment of postsecondary systems with workforce needs coming out of the recession.

  • Define, quantify, and grow industry-recognized credentials that have potential to get students into family-wage jobs faster.

  • Support career-connected learning and innovate to ensure work-based learning opportunities are accessible during the pandemic.

A timely and valuable contribution.