Math in High School Matters

This slide came up for discussion today at Governor Inslee’s Results Washington meeting for the education group. We were talking about STEM enrollment in community college programs and talked about one the factors that causes students to not complete a program – lack of math preparation. A huge fraction of community college students need to do remediation in math before they can take classes for credit. Students that do remediation are about half as likely to graduate as students who don’t need it. As part of the 24-Credit graduation requirements adopted a few years ago by the Legislature students are now required to have three high-school level math classes. This chart shows the decline in students needing remediation in community college overlaid with the percentage of high school students meeting the math credit accumulation requirement.

The chart is dramatic (as charts like this go) but you should be careful with it. Typically in economic recoveries we see fewer students applying to community colleges because they are employed. This is more likely to be students who aren’t intending to transfer, so we may be seeing the effect of a slightly different student pool.

One wants to be really careful assuming causality from a correlation. I’m not really a statistician though, so I’m going to believe that the policy we fought so hard for in the hope of exactly this is actually working.

Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments

Thank  you again for letting me represent you in Olympia. It’s an honor and a privilege, though I feel much less privileged when the session runs into July. We finished our work Friday morning June 10th, passing a transportation spending bill and bills that allow the state to take out bonds based on the revenue. We also passed a small bill changing high school graduation requirements, the centerpiece of a disagreement in the Senate over initiative 1351 (class size reduction.) The graduation bill delays the imposition of the science standards for two years, allowing 2000 kids who met all the graduation requirements other than passing the biology end of course exam to graduate. It does NOT make a number of other changes I took issue with when they came up earlier in session.

In the last week of June we passed the 2015-17 operating budget, my particular responsibility in the Legislature. It’s reasonably straightforward and didn’t need to take us until the end of June to resolve, but the Republican Senate was unwilling to compromise on their all-gimmicks, no revenue strategy until the very end. In the last few days we came to an agreement that is a true compromise – the House conceded to the use of more financial shortcuts than we would have preferred and the Republican Senate agreed to close $350 million of tax loopholes. I didn’t get everything I wanted, and there are some elements of the deal that are distasteful. I think the same is true for the Senate Republicans. Had we gone past June 30th the state would have gone into a partial shutdown, including laying off doctors and nurses, shutting childcare facilities for 50,000 kids (which would cause 30,000 low-income single moms to lose their jobs or depend on sketchy care), and other bad things.

I’m glad to live and work in “this” Washington, a place where we can discuss issues rationally and come to compromises, unlike the “other” Washington where they seem to have great difficulty in doing so. I do wish it took less time. Continue reading “Post-Session Notes, Operating Budget Comments”

Legislature Still has Work to Do

You may have read in the press that the Legislature got a budget done by midnight on June 30th, allowing the state to continue providing unemployment assistance, Medicaid, childcare, public schools, college classes, and all of the other things that we have decided to do collectively. I am frustrated that we were unable to come to an agreement more quickly, but pleased that we got it done. I’ll write more about the budget and what’s in it over the next few weeks.

However, we have work to do before we sign off. The Senate is high-centered on I-1351. I predicted that it would be difficult to come to a 2/3 vote on this issue and was proven correct by Tuesday night’s activities. Melissa Santos has a reasonable summary in the Tacoma News Tribune.

Continue reading “Legislature Still has Work to Do”

Too Much Testing?

[Update: 5/8/15 added link to AP article “New standardized tests bring technical challenges, concern“]

One of the issues that is tangentially budget-related that needs to be addressed during this special session is that of high school graduation requirements and the assessments that we are asking our kids to take. We’ve gone through many changes over the past few years in our efforts to settle on a set of graduation requirements that work. In addition, we’re struggling to deal with one of the leftovers from the Bush administration, the “No Child Left Behind” act, which mandates a certain amount of testing.

Our goal is to ensure that students learn enough material in core subjects to be able to succeed in the 21st century, and to ensure that our schools are both offering a curriculum that leads to this level of accomplishment, but also focused on ensuring that all kids get there.

Graduation RequirementsCurrent graduation requirements can be found here. As you can see from this graphic snippet from the site, there are different requirements for every graduation class. This is because the State Board of Education (SBE) has a goal of not changing the requirements for a class once they start high school.

Continue reading “Too Much Testing?”

Lawmakers pass 24-credit HS diploma; NCLB waiver bill dies

Lawmakers pass 24-credit HS diploma; NCLB waiver bill dies.

Lawmakers pass 24-credit HS diploma; NCLB waiver bill dies

The first in a series of notes on this year’s session. I can no longer write a summary of what happens during the actual session, particularly in short sessions where the budget negotiations take until the last !@#$%^&* minute. (I will be less testy about this in a week or so.) I have been working on the 24-credit graduation requirement bill for many years. It’s the foundation of our restructuring of school finance in HB 2261 from 2009. I’m super-excited that we got it done. Over the next few years we will add more rigor to our curriculum, including additional lab science classes and enough mathematics that most kids will be set up for success in whatever they do next, be it a four-year college route or a more specialized program in one of our community colleges or trade schools.

I share the concerns of the Partnership for Learning here that schools in Washington will lose control over 20% of their “Title I” money from the federal government. Title I is a program that sends money to schools with a high concentration of kids from low-income families. This is around $40 million a year that won’t be available to districts if we do not get a waiver to the No Child Left Behind act, the modern incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, (ESEA) the federal legislation created in the 60s as part of the war on poverty and the civil rights era. Neither the Senate nor the House had the votes to advance the bill that fixed it. I would have voted yes in the House as I have said many times. Very frustrating.