Seattle Times highlights successes of Running Start, praises state’s education “report card”

Washington’s Running Start program receives a well-deserved profile in the Seattle Times. 

…Running Start — a program that allows high-school students to earn college and high-school credit at the same time, knocking thousands of dollars off skyrocketing tuition costs.

In 25 years, this dual-credit program has grown into a powerful, nationally recognized force with double-digit enrollment growth. It is so successful, in fact, that some think the state should do more to champion Running Start and bring in greater numbers of low-income and minority students who could benefit the most from such a program.

We’ve written often of the importance of post-secondary education – a credential or some college – to securing employment in today’s economy. In our 2017 foundation report update, we pointed out,

Increasingly, the majority of jobs in Washington will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential (such as a technical or industry certificate, apprenticeship, or degree). Today, just 31 percent of Washington high school students go on to attain such a credential by the age of 26. The mismatch between workforce readiness and job openings hampers our collective ability to take advantage of the potential economic growth that lies ahead.

Running Start provides qualified students an efficient path to earning that important credential.

Overall, Running Start has a good track record. About 76 percent of Running Start students who graduated from high school in 2014-15 enrolled in a two- or four-year college after high school, compared to only about 55 percent of students who did not take Running Start courses, the state’s Education Research & Data Center says.

The Seattle Times report is a good read and we recommend it, along with this story about Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA), a unique public high school participating in the Running Start program.

As the Running Start profile points out, there are other ways for Washington students to earn college credits. 

It’s not the only dual-credit program for high-school students — and with an enrollment of 27,000 this year, it’s not even the largest. More students take Advanced Placement classes, and nearly as many take College in the High School — college-level courses taught by teachers in high-school classrooms.

But Running Start is the only program that’s practically free, nearly unlimited and takes place on a college campus, allowing students to escape the high-school social scene. Students can take any course offered at a community college and some participating four-year universities, as long as they meet the prerequisites.

Despite that,

If there’s any ding on the program, it’s this: Running Start mostly helps middle-class students who were already planning to go to college. It may be providing a kind of financial aid to a group that needs it less.

In 2016-17, fewer than 5 percent of Running Start students were low-income, compared with nearly 13 percent of Advanced Placement students.

And Running Start’s demographics don’t match the state high-school profile; they are disproportionately white and Asian. Hispanic students, in particular, participate at low rates.

The lack of diversity and participation by low-income students is a concern, said Jan Yoshiwara, the executive director of the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

The state is trying to address the concern. We wish them success. 

Another aspect of improving the performance of the education system is maintaining accountability in the public schools. As the Seattle Times editorial board writes, a new tool for doing so is now available. 

Washington parents have a great new tool for tracking how their public schools are succeeding — or failing — to close achievement gaps, graduate students and make other improvements…The Washington School Improvement Framework focuses on data, showing every single school’s strengths and where it can improve — not just those at the bottom.

The report card impressive and comprehensive.

The new dashboard’s data collected by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction goes well beyond tests scores and graduation rates. High schools also are rated based on whether ninth graders are on track to graduate within four years and whether students have access to dual-credit programs like Running Start and Advanced Placement, which are known to prepare them well for college. All schools also are rated according to how many students are chronically absent, a significant dropout warning sign. All the data is combined into an overall score for each school and each ethnic group within that building.

Try it out here. We did and found it easy to use and understand. 

Good things are happening. It’s nice to be able to celebrate them.