Seattle Group Gives Washington State Mixed Grades for Education
Washington school districts have gotten steadily better in the past decade, but there’s still room for improvement, according to a new report from the Seattle-based League for Education Voters.
The report, released this week, concludes that fewer than half of kindergartners enter school ready to learn and many leave high school not ready for college or the work force.
“A great education is the key to the state’s future and prosperity,” said Mark Usdane, executive director of the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit that filed the failed penny-for-education initiative last year. “We’re making good progress, but we’re not there yet.”
Washington’s early learning programs serve only half of eligible low-income children, leaving more than 14,000 not served each year. The result, the league said, is that fewer than half of incoming kindergartners are prepared for school, according to their teachers. The report also found a need for more training and better pay for early childhood educators.
Washington ranked 18th in average teacher salaries in 2002 at $29,118, versus the national average of $45,771. Average annual pay for early childhood educators in Washington ranged from $20,925 to $24,757.
For school-age children, the league was pleased with progress on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, particularly in the area of reading. The report noted, however, that some minority groups are not keeping up with their peers.
The report noted that more than 70 percent of Washington high school students are graduating on time, but would like to see that number increase to 90 percent.
Just over half — 55 percent — of the class of 2003 enrolled in college the year after high school. Of students attending community and technical colleges that year, 49 percent required remedial math courses.
The state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board said 68 percent of employers reported difficulty hiring workers with a bachelor’s degree. “Our students are passed over in favor of better-educated kids from other states and countries,” the report said.
Earl Hale, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, said that while the state faces a substantial shortfall of skilled tradespeople and health care workers, some programs that train those workers have waiting lists.
Washington’s public colleges and universities will need to accommodate about 26,000 new full-time students by 2010 just to maintain current attendance rates. The 2004 Legislature paid for 7,900 new slots at state colleges and universities.
— Associated Press
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