Public Education

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Children growing up in the region require world class educational opportunities to compete in a global labor market for jobs in their own communities. However, students in Washington are falling behind on basic education and graduate high school at lower rates than the national average. Students of color face disproportionate challenges to educational success. Within the region’s population, there are variations in graduation rates based upon racial, ethnic, and income characteristics. Similar to median income levels, white and Asian American students graduate at higher rates than the regional average. Students from all other racial and ethnic groups graduate at lower rates, with American Indian/Alaskan Native students graduating at a rate more than 20 points lower than the regional average.

Prioritizing early learning is a key to the region’s economic success. Despite this, only half of all kindergarteners in Washington are prepared for learning. Of kindergarten students entering school in the fall of 2019, 52% showed readiness across all the six skill levels measured. In addition, not all groups of students demonstrated readiness equally. Incoming Black/African American kindergarteners had readiness rates of 44%, and American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students had readiness rates at 35% or less.

Challenges and Opportunities

The region has identified the following key issues, opportunities, and challenges in sustaining the region’s economy:

Half of all kindergarten students are not prepared for learning

Many of the region’s incoming kindergarten students are entering school without the desired skill levels. Students of color showed lower readiness.

The region is trailing the nation on basic education

Washington is behind the national average in student achievement in math and high school graduation rate. The impact of COVID-19 may exacerbate these gaps.

Overall graduation rates mask the needs of minority students to meet their peers

Students of color and low-income students face lower educational and economic prospects than white students.

(New/Expanded) Virtual learning may exacerbate inequities in the education system

More than a year of virtual learning will likely expand the disparity in outcomes for students.

Strategic Response

The region has identified the following strategic focus areas for addressing identified challenges and opportunities:

Provide adequate support for pre-K through 12 education systems that serve all students

The region should improve the system of basic education to improve school readiness, boost student achievement and graduation rates, and prepare students for post-secondary education and careers, with a focus on addressing the performance of disadvantaged communities and addressing historical inequities.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Ensure the Washington Roundtable’s Pathways to Great Jobs in Washington State key cradle to career steps are implemented.
  • Continue to support the Road Map Project and draw best practices from that program to support other parts of the region, connecting a full range of social services to help kids succeed.
  • Encourage state leaders to make policy decisions to improve educational outcomes.
  • Promote investments in public schools to bring funding up to nationally competitive standards.
  • Understand the connection between pre-K, K-12, and economic opportunity, furthering efforts by local school systems to prepare kids to compete in a global labor market.
  • Invest in schools and early learning programs as an asset to local and regional economies and encourage city and county leaders to continue to make investments in schools and early learning programs as part of an investment in economic opportunity.

Children growing up in the region require world class educational opportunities to compete in a global labor market for jobs in their own communities. However, students in Washington are falling behind on basic education and graduate high school at lower rates than the national average. Students of color face disproportionate challenges to educational success. Within the region’s population, there are variations in graduation rates based upon racial, ethnic, and income characteristics. Similar to median income levels, white and Asian American students graduate at higher rates than the regional average. Students from all other racial and ethnic groups graduate at lower rates, with American Indian/Alaskan Native students graduating at a rate more than 20 points lower than the regional average.

Prioritizing early learning is a key to the region’s economic success. Despite this, only half of all kindergarteners in Washington are prepared for learning. Of kindergarten students entering school in the fall of 2019, 52% showed readiness across all the six skill levels measured. In addition, not all groups of students demonstrated readiness equally. Incoming Black/African American kindergarteners had readiness rates of 44%, and American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students had readiness rates at 35% or less.

Challenges and Opportunities

The region has identified the following key issues, opportunities, and challenges in sustaining the region’s economy:

Half of all kindergarten students are not prepared for learning

Many of the region’s incoming kindergarten students are entering school without the desired skill levels. Students of color showed lower readiness.

The region is trailing the nation on basic education

Washington is behind the national average in student achievement in math and high school graduation rate. The impact of COVID-19 may exacerbate these gaps.

Overall graduation rates mask the needs of minority students to meet their peers

Students of color and low-income students face lower educational and economic prospects than white students.

(New/Expanded) Virtual learning may exacerbate inequities in the education system

More than a year of virtual learning will likely expand the disparity in outcomes for students.

Strategic Response

The region has identified the following strategic focus areas for addressing identified challenges and opportunities:

Provide adequate support for pre-K through 12 education systems that serve all students

The region should improve the system of basic education to improve school readiness, boost student achievement and graduation rates, and prepare students for post-secondary education and careers, with a focus on addressing the performance of disadvantaged communities and addressing historical inequities.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Ensure the Washington Roundtable’s Pathways to Great Jobs in Washington State key cradle to career steps are implemented.
  • Continue to support the Road Map Project and draw best practices from that program to support other parts of the region, connecting a full range of social services to help kids succeed.
  • Encourage state leaders to make policy decisions to improve educational outcomes.
  • Promote investments in public schools to bring funding up to nationally competitive standards.
  • Understand the connection between pre-K, K-12, and economic opportunity, furthering efforts by local school systems to prepare kids to compete in a global labor market.
  • Invest in schools and early learning programs as an asset to local and regional economies and encourage city and county leaders to continue to make investments in schools and early learning programs as part of an investment in economic opportunity.