[nfbwatlk] Gov. Gregoire proposes strategies to create a seamless early learning to career education system, Govern's Press Release, January 5 2011

Nightingale, Noel Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Wed Jan 5 22:04:16 UTC 2011


Gov. Gregoire proposes strategies to create a seamless early learning to career education system
For Immediate Release: January 5, 2011

OLYMPIA - Gov. Chris Gregoire today outlined a series of strategies she's proposing to ensure Washington students receive a seamless, quality education from early learning to career.

"As the first person in my family to go to college, I personally know the value of education," Gregoire said. "I am one of thousands, even millions of stories of a good education making the difference - in life and career. Of all the duties of the state, none is more important than an education."

Gregoire today announced her intention to create a single, cabinet-level Department of Education that will unite the state's multiple education agencies to ensure priorities are aligned, and the focus remains on students. The new department will have full authority to run the entire Washington state education system, and will be led by a secretary who will implement effective evidence-based, student-centered best practices.

"We don't have an education system in our state today," Gregoire said. "We have a collection of agencies that deal with education. And those agencies - from the Department of Early Learning to K-12 programs to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and the Higher Education Coordinating Board - spend much of their time trying to get their policies to line up with one another. Their focus is not always the same. It should be. And they should have only one priority - educating our kids from early learning to career."

Gregoire also announced her proposal to offer more options to high school seniors, recommending the 12th grade become a "launch year" to a student's career - noting that 35 percent of high school seniors carry less than a full class load, and only 25 percent of students capable of taking advanced courses do so.

"We must require our schools to offer more rigorous and relevant courses to seniors - whether they are hands-on classes that bring students closer to a technical certificate, or advanced courses that lead to college credit," Gregoire said. "By making the last year of high school the first year of career training or college, we can give our seniors an advantage in a competitive world. At the same time, we save students and their parents tuition costs - which saves taxpayers, as well."

Gregoire added that getting more students to graduate from college is critical to our state's economic future, given that two-thirds of the jobs created in the next eight years will require college-level education. To meet the demands, Washington state will need 6,000 more bachelor's degree graduates a year.

"As we face the realities of a financial crisis and a historic budget shortfall, we need to keep the doors of our colleges and universities open, make education accessible and increase graduation rates" Gregoire said. "That's why I will be following the recommendation by our Higher Education Funding Task Force, and propose that we link state support for our colleges with tuition flexibility."

Gregoire's proposal would limit tuition increases when state support grows, but if the state is unable to adequately support higher education in tough times, schools will have the ability to raise tuition, ensuring they keep their doors open and continue to offer a quality education. Under this proposal, if state funding is at or above a set baseline, tuition can't exceed the 60th percentile of that university's state peer group.

In addition to tuition flexibility, the task force recommended, and the governor supports:

*       Creating opportunities for more Washington residents to earn bachelor's degrees;
*       Helping low- and middle-income Washington students earn a bachelor's degree by creating the Washington Pledge Scholarship Program; and
*       Increasing accountability and performance in higher education

To increase accountability, Gregoire will introduce legislation that would commit the state to adopting and reporting metrics through the National Governors Association's "Complete to Compete" initiative - Gregoire's initiative as chair of the NGA. Those schools and universities that can show improvements in student outcomes and student progress would be able to apply and compete for funds included in Gregoire's new $5 million Baccalaureate Performance Incentive Program. A similar program, the Student Achievement Initiative, invests another $10 million for our community colleges.

"These are performance-driven funds - colleges and universities will compete for them on the outcomes and results they achieve. They must show they are advancing more students toward graduation - like increasing freshmen retention rates and getting them through college-level math courses," Gregoire said. "We must know what works, so we don't pay for what doesn't. Our ultimate goal is to deliver on the promise of education - a rewarding and successful career."

Additionally, Gregoire announced she will direct the new Department of Education to take the series of studies and reports completed over the last six years, focusing separately on early learning, K-12 and higher education, and combine them into a single set of strategies and measurable outcomes to ensure a seamless education.

"We must create a single Washington education system focused on student learning," Gregoire said. "We must step up and lead to build and maintain the world-class education system Washington deserves."

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