Perspectives on Policy


NEWS: Roundtable Encouraged by Smarter Balanced Results; Urges State to Stay the Course

 The Washington Roundtable is encouraged by results released today from the state’s first administration of Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math for grades 3 – 8, 10 and 11. 

“The Smarter Balanced tests are a valuable tool in assessing student growth and ensuring all students are on track to college- and career-readiness. We are encouraged by this first round of results. While Washington still has some way to go, the results demonstrate that we are on the right path toward ensuring all students are prepared for the world that awaits,” said Steve Mullin, Washington Roundtable president.

“We are pleased with the high test participation rates in grades 3 – 8 and grade 10.  The data captured from these results will help educators identify achievement gaps and provide targeted interventions for students,” Mullin said. 

Mullin added, “We are disappointed by the high test refusal rate in 11th grade.  Because so many students refused to take the test, it will be more difficult to identify and help those students who would benefit from additional resources and targeted assistance.”

Mullin concluded, “We are pleased with this baseline year of Smarter Balanced results, which reflect the hard work of Washington’s educators and students. Washington must stay firm in its commitment to using the standards and assessments as a gauge of student achievement and to ensuring students demonstrate achievement of basic reading and writing skills as one requirement for high school graduation.”

The Washington Roundtable is a nonprofit public policy organization comprised of senior executives from the state’s major employers.  


- August 17, 2015

Employers and college faculty report gaps in recent graduates’ preparedness

According to a new national survey by Achieve, 78 percent of college faculty and 62 percent of employers believe that recent public high school graduates are not sufficiently prepared for the expectations they will face in college and in their careers.

Employers and faculty aren’t alone. In a previous Achieve survey of recent high school graduates, nearly half of the graduates themselves reported not feeling fully prepared for their next steps.

Diving into the survey findings, 96 percent of instructors at two-year colleges reported gaps in their students' preparation, and 82 percent of employers reported at least some gaps in graduates' preparation for jobs in their companies.

These gaps are predominantly in students’ critical thinking, comprehension of complicated materials, work habits, written communication, and problem solving skills. For employers (a reported 61 percent), this results in the need for additional education or training to make up for gaps in reading, writing, or math.

These results have real consequences for the graduates and the economy, and are highly relevant to our state. Washington has a persistent gap between the skills that job candidates have and the skills Washington employers need. Preparing Washington students for the great opportunities that exist here depends on a robust K-12 education system that prepares students for postsecondary education and 21st century careers.

Lawmakers made a landmark new investment in public education during the 2015 legislative session. However, money alone will not assure college- and career-readiness.  We must continue to pursue policies that will result in student achievement gains and ensure every student is ready for the opportunities that await.


- July 23, 2015


Roundtable applauds state lawmakers on breakthrough transportation investment

The Washington Roundtable applauds state legislators following today’s passage of the final components of a comprehensive package that will invest $16.1 billion in Washington’s transportation system.

“On behalf of the Washington Roundtable board, I applaud Gov. Jay Inslee and state legislators for working together to pass a transportation package that will benefit our entire state for decades to come,” said Steve Mullin, Washington Roundtable president.

“This package has been in development for several years. It required a great deal of collaboration and tireless commitment. We are grateful to Rep. Judy Clibborn and Senator Curtis King, who worked in a bipartisan manner to develop and deliver an agreement that benefits all of Washington,” Mullin said.

Mullin concluded, “Investments in roads and bridges, ferries, multimodal projects and other improvements will lead to billions in economic growth and support job creation.  It will improve safety and efficiency and help protect quality of life. This is a great package for Washington state.”

– July 10, 2015

Prestigious Chinese university joins forces with the University of Washington to run a graduate institute focused on technology and innovation.

Tsinghua University of Beijing is partnering with the University of Washington to start a graduate institute in Bellevue’s Bel-Red Corridor that could grow to 3,000 students, reports the Seattle Times.

The Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX as it will be known, will start with a few dozen students in fall 2016, next fall, both American and Chinese. It could grow to 3,000 students in a decade. At least two other international universities are expected to join up.

Faculty from both universities will teach in English. Students will have the chance to earn a master’s degree over 15 months. GIX will focus on sustainability, health, inequality, environmental issues, transportation and clean energy, and more.

The program builds on the fields of computer science and electrical engineering but will span many other disciplines. The work will be project-based, with Chinese and American students working together in such fields as cloud computing and the “Internet of things,” the concept of connecting everyday objects to the Internet to make them smarter and capable of doing more.

Microsoft is donating $40 million to support the effort.

This is a great development for our state, where a persistent gap between the skills that job candidates have and the skills that Washington’s employers need, is growing. A 2013 study found 25,000 jobs have gone unfilled in our state because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates.

That number was projected to double by 2017.  Steps to improve education capacity in high demand fields are essential to closing the gap. Having a world-class technology and innovation center in the Puget Sound area has the potential to significantly contribute to closing the gap and bolster Washington’s position as a technology leader.

- June 19, 2015

Increasing in-state talent pool depends on education

The Seattle-based Technology Alliance recently released Benchmarking Washington’s Innovation Economy.  How did Washington do compared to the rest of the country?

While our economy shows signs of vibrancy and technological growth, according to the report Washington’s education system isn’t keeping up with the demand for talent to take advantage of these opportunities.

“Washington is clearly a leader in generating new knowledge and innovative products, and early data around regional investment indicates increasing demand for a talented workforce to bring these products to market. However, for many years the state’s education pipeline has faced challenges in providing the high-quality talent needed to meet that growing demand. Investments in education have failed to fully prepare Washington’s citizens to take advantage of job opportunities in the STEM careers that drive the innovation economy. Fortunately, in the most recent education data we begin to see promising signs at the elementary level that indicate a more robust domestic talent pipeline in future years.”









With even more tech companies and talent heading to our state, the ability to prepare Washingtonians for these opportunities is growing.

What will it take? The tech alliance highlights three goals:

  • A robust public Pre-K-12 education system that prepares students to succeed in higher education and 21st century careers.
  • A higher education system that prepares significantly more students for high impact career opportunities and meets the growing workforce needs of our innovation economy employers.
  • Become the most competitive location for attracting and retaining educated workers, growing young companies, and sustaining mature companies.

Aiming toward these goals, lawmakers can expand opportunities for our students, employers, and our state.

- June 11, 2015

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