Seattle Times: The Achievement Gap is Real and Bridging It Requires Public Charter Schools

The state’s education system should be as healthy, nimble and fully powered as the expectations of the economy and job market. …

K-12: Reforms and money

Washington state is failing too many of its 1 million public-school children. Despite an on-time graduation rate of 76.6 percent for the class of 2011, overall nearly one in four students do not graduate on time. Of those who do, too many are unprepared for college-level work. …

Debate about K-12 education after the McCleary decision focuses too narrowly on money. Figuring out how public schools can serve students more effectively is just as central to the education-reform conversation. …

Another problem is the stubbornly high dropout rate. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) must lead the charge on this, particularly in the 15 high schools known statewide as “dropout factories,” where no more than 60 percent of freshmen graduate. …

Washington has had some success boosting academic performance, but not enough to stem the widening gap between education opportunities for white students and those for minority and low-income students.

The so-called innovation schools, hailed as a version of charter schools, serve largely white, suburban populations, leaving the challenges of struggling students unaddressed. To cure that omission, voters should approve Initiative 1240, creating a pilot program that could authorize 40 charter public schools over five years.

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