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Superintendent Randy Dorn’s Second-Term Priorities

When he took office in January 2009, State Superintendent Randy Dorn created a set of priorities that would guide his tenure. After his reelection in November 2012, he updated his priorities for his second term in office.

Retain basic education funding.
Our Constitution plainly states that it is the state’s “paramount duty” to amply fund basic education. In January 2012, the state Supreme Court upheld that concept in its McCleary v. Washington decision. I plan to hold the Governor and the Legislature to their responsibility to fully fund basic education by 2018.

The Quality Education Council recommends a three-phase plan to achieve full funding:

  • Phase I: Full state funding for transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; and full-day kindergarten. Also, funding to lower class sizes (17 students per teacher maximum) in grades K-3.
  • Phase II: Full state funding of the salaries of current educational staff.
  • Phase III: State funding for enhanced levels of educational staff and enhanced salaries.

I support the QEC’s plan and request that Phase I and Phase II be implemented during the 2013-15 biennium and Phase III in the 2015-17 biennium.

Improve academic achievement for all students and reduce dropout rates.
In 2011, Washington’s extended graduation rate — which includes those students who take longer than four years to graduate — topped 80 percent for the first time. Our schools and our educators should be applauded for their efforts in this area.

How do we make that number climb? By targeting the students who drop out every year. My focus will include providing additional supports to those students who most need it. It will also include reducing the achievement gap.

Work has already begun in these areas, with programs such as Navigation 101, Building Bridges, Jobs for America’s Graduates and the College Success Foundation.

Improve our statewide assessment system.
To reduce the costs of our assessment system, all schools will eventually need to be online. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the state will begin using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is an online testing system that will assess the Common Core State Standards in math and English-language arts. Moving online not only saves costs, it increases efficiencies within the testing system.

I’m also concerned about the number of tests high school students are required to pass as well as to take. Students in the Class of 2015 and beyond are required to pass five tests; students in the Class of 2016 and beyond also will be required to take the Smarter Balanced tests. That’s seven tests total, and that’s too many. I want to streamline that process, without taking away the rigor that all Washington citizens have come to expect for their graduates.

Expand career and technical education and STEM opportunities.
Expanding career and technical education programs and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities give students a chance at applied learning. And certification pathways, such as the Microsoft IT Academy, and aerospace pathways designed in conjunction with Boeing Corp. and other partners can help students see what those careers will look like earlier in their education. Students need to know math concepts but also how to use those concepts in their daily lives. They also need those opportunities in elementary school, not just at middle and high school. I also favor getting teachers and faculty members more involved in public/private partnerships. One way this can happen is through internships. For example, giving teachers the opportunity to intern at a company for a summer would not only help that teacher’s professional growth, it would easily filter to the teacher’s students.

Promote early learning opportunities.
I am particularly proud about the progress made in early learning. Early learning is a dropout retrieval program. It is also a high school graduation program. Investment in early learning pays off throughout a student’s education: a student entering kindergarten with the required skills for that age will tend to stay in school and eventually graduate. Accomplishments in our state include the expansion of schools offering all-day kindergarten and the development of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), which gives teachers an understanding about where students are, socially emotionally and cognitively when entering kindergarten.

Contact: Nathan Olson, (360) 725-6015

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