Perspectives on Policy

Smarter Balanced is a critical academic check-up

This spring, students across Washington are taking the Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English language arts for the first time.  There’s a lot to know about what the tests measure, how they are administered, and what to expect when the results come in.  Ready Washington, a statewide coalition of education agencies, associations and advocacy organizations, has developed some great informational materials to help answer many of these questions.

Take four minutes to check on this video on what Smarter Balanced is and how the results can be used to ensure students are on track to career and college readiness:

Or spend two minutes watching this video to get a run-down on what kind of assessments are included in the Smarter Balanced system:

Will these test be fun?  As Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman wrote recently:

No one loves tests though, of course, life is full of them. But if tests align to what students are learning in the classroom and are smart, they’re incredibly useful.
They can help parents really know whether their children are on track in math and English language arts so parents can partner with teachers to address kids’ challenges when they’re still resolvable and before their kids can’t get into college, struggle in college, or can’t get or keep good jobs.

The tests can also help teachers know where they’re solid and where they might need to improve, and also help the next grade’s teachers know what kind of support incoming students might need.

Finally, they can help administrators know which teachers and schools are exemplary and which need extra attention and support.

In a nutshell, that’s why these tests are so important. They help families, teachers and school administrators gauge progress, course correct when needed, and ensure students are on track to career and college readiness. 

As The Seattle Times recently editorialized:

By no means do tests provide a full picture of a student’s achievements, but they are an important tool for determining what students have learned and their skill levels, where they need to improve and how they rank among their peers — within the same classroom and across the country.

Get more information from these resources:

http://www.readywa.org/smarter-balanced.html
http://www.smarterbalanced.org/
http://www.k12.wa.us/smarter/default.aspx

- April 8, 2015

Help Wanted: Washington #3 in the nation for job opportunities for college grads

A new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce pegs Washington as one of the three states with the most job openings for college graduates.  The study examines the geographic distribution of online job ads (estimating that between 60 to 70 percent of job openings are now advertising online) and finds that:

Across all occupations, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Washington state have the most favorable online college labor markets.

There are great opportunities in Washington and, increasingly, those opportunities are requiring education or training beyond high school.  In fact, by the end of this decade, an estimated 70 percent of jobs in Washington state will require postsecondary training.  But only 50 percent of Washington adults have such a credential today. (Check out the “Achieve” section of the Opportunity Washington roadmap for more detail.)

There is a persistent gap between the skills that job candidates have and the skills that Washington’s employers need. Just two years ago, a Boston Consulting Group study found 25,000 jobs had gone unfilled in our state because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates.  The number is expected to double to 50,000 by 2017.

Our state must do better.  As work on the state budget continues this month, lawmakers should prioritize higher education funding and position the state’s postsecondary system to support economic opportunity through better alignment with workforce needs and increased capacity in high-demand STEM programs.

For more on our take on the issue, check out our 2015 Policy Agenda or this Puget Sound Business Journal column from Roundtable President Steve Mullin.  Skip to the end:

Today’s students need more skills than ever before to compete for great opportunities, here and around the world.  A strong higher education system is the most powerful tool Washington has to ensure students get those much needed skills and to spread opportunity and shared prosperity.

- April 2, 2015

Key investments in Senate's transportation package

Just six weeks into the current legislative session, the state Senate passed a bipartisan transportation investment package early this month.  It’s now up for consideration by the House of Representatives. Some key projects included in the package:

  • Widening I-90 over Snoqualmie pass toimprove safety and provide for smoother movement between eastern and western Washington.
  • Completing the SR-520 west side landing toimprove the link between the region’s economic centers of Bellevue and Seattle. 
  • Extending Highways 509 and 167, which will expedite freight movement in and out of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, both vital economic engines for the entire state.
  • Upgrading Highway 9 through Snohomish County, which will improve safety.
  • Improving I-5 near Joint Base Lewis McChord, which will improve mobility between the South and Central Puget Sound regions.

Each of these investments is important for the families and employers in their local areas.  In total, an investment in transportation represents a commitment to Washington’s future. 

- March 27, 2015

U.S. students drop in math, reading, and science global rankings

29 nations outperformed the U.S. in math by a significant margin. In reading, 19 nations scored higher than U.S. students —a jump from nine in 2009. Overall the PISA report puts the U.S. between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania and two spots behind Russia.

These results are a reminder we need to strive to do better for our kids.

The 2012 PISA results shows the annualized change in performance in average math scores between 2003 and 2012. Source: PISA 

Washington students should be prepared for new and rewarding opportunities in our state and in the broader economy. While we stall, other nations are not only catching up, they’re lapping us.

“We are in a race in the global economy. The problem is not that we're slowing down. The problem is that the other runners are getting faster," Harvard professor Jan Rivkin.

The report also showed spending more didn’t translate to better outcomes.

"While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53,000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115,000 per student."

 

- March 20, 2015

A 21st century workforce depends on high-quality STEM training

The Opportunity Washington roadmap points out that 80% of unfilled jobs in Washington are linked to a shortage of qualified candidates with STEM skills. Add to that, Washington is among the top states for concentration of STEM jobs, yet according to a 2012 Boston Consulting Group study, approximately 80 percent of unfilled job in Washington are in highly skilled STEM fields.

This gap represents lost opportunities for our students and our state. A stronger commitment to STEM education will enable Washington students to seize promising opportunities and launch confidently into the technology-driven 21st century economy.

The payoff on STEM education is considerable. A one percent increase in the number of high school graduates interested in pursuing a computer science or engineering degree would increase the number of qualified employees by 600 a year. (Source: The Boston Consulting Group)

With STEM education as a path to 21st Century success, lawmakers need to make sure students are getting access to a high quality K-12 STEM education.

This session, we applaud House Representatives Drew Hansen and Chad Magendanz for their leadership on HB 1813, a bill currently moving through the Washington State Legislature that will improve computer science education. Specifically, this bill requires adoption of computer science learning standards and development of a computer science endorsement for educators, which is essential in helping to support and train the teachers who are critical to this field.

We're not alone. Washington business executives, educators and nonprofit leaders are urging lawmakers to pass and fund this bill.

Better computer science education is one piece of a larger effort to foster student interest and achievement in the STEM disciplines. Join the 94% of Washington voters who believe every child should have access to high quality STEM K-12 education. Spread the word.

(Source: Washington Voters Know STEM = Opportunity)

- March 6, 2015

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