By 2020, most jobs in Washington will require education or training beyond high school. But right now, one out of every four high school students won’t graduate on time. For students of color, their chance of graduating from high school is the same as flipping a coin.

In his recent education policy brief, Governor Jay Inslee acknowledged these startling facts and the effect they have on our economy. He also recognized the need to prepare our students for the jobs of the future–jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. Preparing our students for the economy of the future means making systematic improvements to our public schools. 

To make sure our students are ready for the challenges of college and career, we must do a better job of preparing them–and that means making systematic improvements to our schools.

To teach our children skills that will allow them to participate meaningfully in work and life, we don’t just need a more expensive education, we need a better education.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Excellent Schools Now coalition is holding its annual legislative lunch,  where we will present the results of a poll showing where voters and teachers stand on key education reforms.

What we found is that most people, including both voters and teachers, agree that Washington state has the people, resources and innovative spirit to create the best education system in the world. But fewer than half of voters think that we’re currently on the right track to get there.

In order to create a better education system, voters and teachers agree that we must provide clear and consistent data on how money is being spent in schools and how well students are learning.

Clear, easy-to-understand information is the catalyst for accountability. Transparent information helps policy-makers improve both budget choices and student achievement. Accessible information empowers and motivates parents and communities to be more involved in their local schools.

Stronger accountability means shared responsibility, and it means working together to determine how well students are learning and making budget choices based on research and evidence to support specific reforms – like high quality preschool, more rigorous classes, and high standards for graduation – that will better prepare all our students for college, career and life in a globally competitive world.

Voters agree, with 77 percent saying that U.S. education is not where it needs to be to compete globally, and 82 percent asking policy-makers to use clear data to determine how schools are doing and how to help them improve. 

We have solid research on what gets better results for kids; that research is the basis for the widely-endorsed A+ Washington plan that the Excellent Schools Now coalition proposed last year.

In A+ Washington, we focus on what works. High quality preschool is the building block for K-12 academic success. Meaningful feedback helps teachers continuously improve, so they can encourage all children to love learning. The Common Core standards mean more rigorous classes and more useful end-of-course exams. A 24-credit high school diploma and opportunities to take college-credit bearing AP and IB classes put more students on the path to college and career. 

With the McCleary decision requiring both funding and effective education reforms, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect our budget choices to how well our students are learning. We owe it to our kids, our economy and our future to invest in better results.

The Excellent Schools Now (ESN) coalition includes nearly 40 education, business and community organizations in Washington working to achieve meaningful education reform that increases student achievement. The authors serve on the steering committee for the ESN coalition, and are the Executive Directors of the League of Education Voters, the Partnership for Learning, and Stand for Children.

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