Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: K-12


More dollars, more graduates

Does more money spent on public schools translate into better performance by students?

People have been arguing over that question for decades. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy – which does non-partisan research for state government – just published what looks like a thorough “meta study” of other research, including some from other countries.

It did conclude that more money can make a difference, though mostly when it’s targeted toward lower grades. Spend 10 percent more, and WSIPP estimates the high school graduation rate could be raised from 76.6 percent to 79.5 percent. That’s not a huge gain

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A global reality check on American public education

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Statewide third-grade reading: down 4.1 percent.

Statewide fifth-grade science: up 10.4 percent.

Statewide 10th-grade writing: down 1.1 percent.

These are among the multiplicity of student test numbers released Wednesday by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Don’t be overly impressed.

The scores are important. Tacomans need to know, for example, that their third-graders slipped in reading between 2011 and 2012 while their eighth-graders held their own. Sumner parents should know that their district’s third-graders improved by 6 points in math while fourth-graders fell by 9.

One year’s third-graders are the next year’s fourth-graders, and the tests change by grade level, so the scores can’t always tell you much in a given year. But over time, they can provide a sense of which direction a district or school is headed.

What’s missing, though, is the most important context. Not just how kids, or schools, or the state are doing from year to year, compared to themselves, but how public education in Washington and the nation as a whole is doing compared to the rest of the world.

The K-12 system excels at patting itself on the back and promising big things just around the corner. Sometimes, in some school districts, it even delivers. But an important new book, “Trapped in Mediocrity,” splashes ice water on claims that American public education is on the right track.
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School reform can’t wait for a booming economy

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The middle of an economic crisis is not the time to stop fixing public education. On the contrary.

A legislative push for new school reforms – including charter schools and greater teacher accountability – met with instant resistance this week from the usual suspects.

Singling out the bill to authorize a handful of charters – which are oddly easy to demonize in this state – the Washington Education Association issued a statement describing the measure as a “distraction from the real debate.” The real debate, naturally, is about pumping billions of dollars the state doesn’t have into a K-12 system that doesn’t work well enough.

Charter public schools are hardly the most important reform out there, but they do serve as a barometer of a state’s willingness to give every possible option to parents and children.
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