Bellingham, under the leadership of Superintendent Greg Baker and the school board, decided to put valuable and scarce resources where they would benefit kids the most, into full-day kindergarten. The investment follows the overwhelming evidence that all-day kindergarten is critical to preparing kids to succeed throughout their school-age years. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one and should be a model for how we move forward to improve schools around the state.
When children participate in high-quality early education, it leads to powerful results: they do better in school, they become healthier adults and productive members of society. We need to make sure all students in Washington receive opportunities like this and are prepared for work and life.
Such flexibility is part of the Excellent Schools Now coalition's plan to dramatically improve and support Washington's schools called "A-plus Washington: A Way Forward for All Students." The coalition is a diverse alliance of parents, teachers, education advocates and business leaders. In fact, we're co-hosting a luncheon with the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce and the Bellingham Technology Access Group on June 15 to discuss the A-plus Washington plan.
Lawmakers already approved part of A-plus Washington this year, passing a new law creating an educator performance system that will support quality teachers, provide flexibility in personnel decisions for school leaders and tie student performance to teacher evaluations. Teachers, principals and families need new information and tools to ensure that every student is learning and progressing. But much remains to be done to make the core ideals of A-plus Washington a reality. Those ideals are:
? Quality pre-kindergarten for every child;
? Supporting excellent teachers for all students;
? Preparing all students for work and college;
? Flexibility to transform schools;
? Accurate measurements and data so schools can support their teachers and ensure all kids reach their potential.
The need for A-plus Washington is real and urgent. There are more than 1 million public school students in Washington. Nearly 30 percent of Washington high school students don't graduate on time. Fifty percent of low-income students and students of color don't graduate on time. Even among those earning a diploma, 50 percent of community college students still need remedial courses because high school didn't adequately prepare them.
Meanwhile, we have the largest concentration of high-tech jobs in the nation, and we have employers willing and wanting to fill those positions with homegrown talent. By 2018, nearly 70 percent of the jobs in our state will require education or training after high school. But we're not training our kids to take those jobs.
The goal of A-plus Washington is to get past the divisiveness so that we can all work together for the sake of our students. A-plus Washington supports our teachers. We know a quality teacher in the classroom is the single biggest factor in improving student performance. Teachers have more impact on student achievement than anything else at school. That's why Bellingham's decision to fund all-day kindergarten was such a wise investment.
The ideas in A-plus Washington are overwhelmingly supported by educators and the public, as evidenced by a recent poll of voters and public school teachers. The survey, conducted in January for Excellent Schools Now by the nonpartisan firm DHM Research, found impressive agreement on proposals to improve education for all our kids.
These are numbers that our state lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates should closely examine and act upon.
During the next few months, we will be holding events and tele-townhalls throughout Whatcom County and across the state. To learn more about A-plus Washington and related events, please visit our website, apluswashington.org, "like us on Facebook" and follow us on Twitter.
Todd Hausman of Bellingham is a public school teacher and member of Teachers United.