It’s Time for Washington to Commit to a 21st Century Education System for the 21st Century Economy

10/9/09

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show a 10 percentile point difference in math achievement between students in the classroom of a top quartile teacher and a bottom quartile teacher. And, students who have two or three weak teachers in a row may never recover. Sadly, most teachers who are ineffective are not even aware of it because most current evaluations deliver little in the way of useful—or even accurate—information.

• Students in the lowest quartile make noticeable gains in achievement when placed in a challenging college prep curriculum, and have lower failure rates. As Kati Haycock put it, “These kids need to be accelerated, not slowed down.”

My other big takeaway from the retreat was that we need to look long and hard at how we fund and operate higher education in our state. Our public research universities are the foundation upon which our innovation economy is built; they produce our most precious resource: highly skilled, educated and entrepreneurial people. Our universities do well in graduating students once they have them; but we need to build capacity and ensure they have the resources they need to continue to grow in size while maintaining quality. I have said before that you can not starve your way to excellence. We need to continue the conversation with state leaders that began at the retreat about how Washington can invest in and grow high-demand, high-impact programs at our research universities and forge a commitment to transparency, accountability and innovation within our higher education system.

Washington has floated along quite nicely based on our ability to attract talent from other places. We have one of the most highly educated populations and are among the top five states in the nation in the intensity of scientists and engineers in our workforce. Meanwhile, we shortchange our own students year after year—we are among the bottom states in the nation … Next Page »

Susannah Malarkey is the Executive Director of the Technology Alliance, a statewide organization of leaders from technology businesses and research institutions dedicated to Washington's long-term economic success Follow @

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