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.

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.”

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)

Protect fair and equitable measures of student success

Implementing new evidence-based methods to measure student performance can be challenging. But when has Washington backed down from a challenge? Certainly not when there’s this much at stake.

All Washington kids deserve a life filled with options and a quality education that will enable them to pursue whatever path they choose. The journey starts with clear expectations and tools for every child that promote the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary for success in the 21st century.

Washington is one of 43 states  that have implemented the Common Core State Standards. These standards provide teachers, students and parents with clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do.

The new Smarter Balanced tests, being used this spring in Washington and 16 other states (including most western states ), align with Common Core and will serve as a valuable tool in helping teachers and families make sure students are on track.

Performance measures make clear when a student needs help or a greater challenge. These tools may be new, and their implementation complex, but they are critical in the effort to ensure better outcomes for all kids. Let’s keep the momentum going.