Support for Common Core, STEM education and assuring great teachers in every classroom

Evidence of the importance of making real progress in education performance and finance this session continues to accumulate. We also see more indicators of the complexity involved in getting the policy right. 

For example, we face a significant teacher shortage. The Spokesman-Review account paints a stark picture.

A teacher shortage is looming across Washington.

The addition of full-day kindergarten along with smaller class sizes through the third grade will require more teachers next school year.

Factors driving up the need for more teachers in other grades include new graduation requirements that add more science, world languages and social studies courses starting this fall in high school; and Common Core, the national curriculum implemented this year.

A strengthening economy and retirements are creating slots, too.

Pay, professionalism, opportunity all factor into the decision to join and remain in the profession. With respect to pay, Melissa Santos reports on the complicated interplay between state compensation policy and the budgets of local school districts.

Paying for cost-of-living raises for teachers is a key piece of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal, but school district officials are worried that his plan will hurt their bottom line.

Many school district leaders are saying the proposed school employee raises would increase salary and benefit costs for local districts, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars.

It’s likely that when voters approved Initiation 732 in 2000, they had little understanding of the fiscal implications. (One reason this has become a popular legislative proposal.) Compensation is important, but it’s just one element of assuring that there’s a great teacher in every classroom.

In the Opportunity Washington research report we wrote, 

This last reform is especially significant, as research and anecdotal evidence tell us that teacher quality is the critical classroom factor impacting student achievement. As a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study recently found, “Effective teaching can be measured.” And, as the Rand Corporation and Partnership for Learning have noted, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other factor.

Washington must take steps to ensure that the very best teachers are in every classroom, every day. The state can meet that challenge by continuing to assess teacher performance, providing opportunities for current teachers to enhance their skills, making assessment of student outcomes a factor in personnel evaluation, and ensuring principals have authority to hire the best teachers.

Such reforms have a proven track record. The implications for the next generation of Washingtonians are profound. In particular, research shows that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills open wide the doors of opportunity.

For lawmakers casting an eye to popular opinion, there’s strong evidence that the public wants to see improved STEM education. (More survey information here.)

Finally, another piece of encouraging popular support for reaching our ACHIEVE objective: Washington is not joining the revolt against Common Core.