Why I Like A+ Washington

By Kristin Bailey-Fogarty March 30, 2012

This summer, I met with other educators from across the state to offer feedback on a beast of a document. We spent hours discussing and critiquing what is now the A+ Washington plan while facilitators recorded our comments.

The plan was crafted by the Excellent Schools Now Coalition—the League of Education Voters, Partnership for Learning, Stand for Children, and Teachers United, as well as parents, teachers, students, community members and business leaders who volunteered to provide feedback as the document was drafted and revised.

Everyone involved believes that providing all students the opportunity to succeed in work and life requires new ideas and practices that promote flexibility in our education system. A+ Washington is available on the coalition’s Website.

I don’t like every single thing in the plan, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to agree with every part of something in order for it to be the right direction for education in our state. When I read it, I read it as a classroom teacher (one with lots of seniority who teaches a tested subject), as someone who wants my daughters to have a great public education and as someone who wants the children of complete strangers to have a great education. I also read it as a taxpayer, one who is willing to pay more taxes if
that money is efficiently spent.

I hear, “Schools are failing. They need to serve every child.” That’s criticism, not a plan. I hear, “Fund education and end poverty.” That’s a demand, not a plan. Lobbing one-liners across the net might be satisfying, but it gets nothing done.[pullquote]Teachers have a hard time closing the achievement gap. Single-handedly, we’re being asked to end poverty and racism at the same time.[/pullquote]

The A+ Washington plan prioritizes strategic actions. It offers us a plan for how to help public education do its job as well as possible, and it assumes that our state will fulfill its paramount duty to fully fund education by 2018. I appreciate that kind of optimism. It honors students, families, teachers, administrators, and the taxpayers who would like an educated population, and is a well-thought out series of recommendations, something voters can use to have a say in the direction of public education
in our state.

I’m really excited about two things in the plan. One, it makes absolutely clear that early education matters. Teachers have a hard time closing the achievement gap. Single-handedly, we’re being asked to end poverty and racism at the same time. It’s not that we don’t want to - we do - but when you have 150 tenth graders and fifteen of them weren’t reading until 3rd grade, and are still reading at the 5th grade level, catching them up is sometimes more than you can do in one year. We don’t need magic. The achievement gap isn’t some mythical Balrog - it’s a consequence of early obstacles instead of early opportunity. One of the best weapons against the achievement gap is that every child enters kindergarten ready for school.

The second thing I’m excited about is the plan’s call to “Increase career and technical education(CTE)." It’s about time. Students need every positive option available to them, options that get students excited about an adulthood that is otherwise a big, scary, question mark. We need to support the different successful futures our students have a right to.

Please read A+ Washington and, if you agree with me that it’s a good plan for our education system, ask the Governor and Legislature to turn it into reality.

Kristin Bailey-Fogarty is a Seattle Public Schools teacher, a board member for the League of Education Voters Foundation, and a member of Teachers United.

[Editors Note: Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna,  has adopted A+ Washington as part of his education platform and the coalition has a May meeting scheduled with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee to discuss the plan. McKenna, you may remember, opted out of the WEA (the teachers' union) endorsement interview late last year, and met with the Excellent Schools Now Coalition that day instead. The WEA, which has not backed the A+ Plan, has endorsed Inslee.]
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