Back to school and back to quality

Back to school is a special time. One million students in Washington state will fill their backpacks with new books, nervous energy and optimism and board yellow buses to return to school.

Back to school is a special time. One million students in Washington state will fill their backpacks with new books, nervous energy and optimism and board yellow buses to return to school.

Some are all but guaranteed to end the school year far ahead of where they are now. Too many will be less fortunate, experiencing less opportunity for growth, or worse yet, stagnation.

This school year we citizens have an opportunity to partner with educators, principals, and policymakers to ensure that all of our kids are headed back to school and back to quality. If we all take ownership in working toward three visionary goals for public education, we can help our students make the progress they need to prepare for college, work and life.

First, every child can read by 3rd grade.

Reading is the foundation for success in school and lifelong learning. Today one in five Bellevue third graders is below standard in reading.

One of the most effective ways to put all students on track is to invest in high-quality early learning programs, like Washington Head Start, and professional development for child care providers. As the Basic Education Finance Task Force redefines our state’s responsibility for basic education, early learning must be included as one of the most promising avenues to impact student achievement from the very beginning.

Second, there is an excellent teacher in every classroom.

We need to support measures that treat teachers as the professionals they are. It’s time we used the same tools that help other professions retain and attract the very best – like mentors for new teachers and a compensation and evaluation system that rewards and supports teachers.

Third, every child is prepared for life after high school.

Over half of new community college students in Washington state need remedial classes. To help ensure a high school diploma means college and work ready, the State Board of Education adopted CORE 24 as the new graduation requirement framework.

CORE 24 aligns high school course work with college entrance requirements and workforce expectations. By raising the bar, our students will have meaningful options after high school including two and four-year colleges, apprenticeship programs and careers. But before the Board can implement these new requirements, we need to persuade the Legislature to fund more than just a five-period day.

The time is now to get engaged in these opportunities to improve public education.

The reform efforts mentioned above will be debated and decided during the upcoming 2008-09 school year. In this year of education, it is appropriate to assess not only student achievement, but citizen involvement in our schools. What would a citizens’ report card show?

Join us to change our world by changing our schools. We’re parents and community members who saw a need for a more independent voice and real results for all children. We’re dedicated to the idea that every one of our school children deserves an excellent education and we need you.

Visit www.didyouknowcampaign.com to take action and learn more about what you can do to make a difference for kids. We’re working to change the world.

Chris Korsmo is Executive Director of the League of Education Voters Foundation, a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to engaging ordinary citizens, educators, policymakers, and the media in the effort to provide a quality education for all students in Washington state.

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