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    Business support for education: Just big talk?

    Washington state business groups' positions run strongly in favor of better education. But to move Olympia forward, it will take more than good intentions and wishes for schools' success.

    (Page 2 of 4)

    A plethora of associations speak for business on education and other state policy matters and their positions are available for public review. They often join in coalitions to promote the need for public policies favorable to business.

    The following review is based on a search conducted last month through policy statements posted on websites and in op-eds which looked for specific mention of the McCleary decision and education funding. (Note: There may be other organizations and also education funding activity that is not posted and easily found. If so, please comment below.)

    The Association of Washington Business: The venerable AWB is Washington’s is the state’s largest business association with more than 7,900 members representing 700,000 employees. Its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, as well as many medium-size and small firms. The AWB considers itself the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturing and technology association. Its stated mission is to “advance an economic climate that enables our members, employees, and all citizens to prosper.”

    The AWB annually holds a policy summit. This year’s summit focused on national issues: the future of aerospace; health care reform; trade; debt; and new jobs. It has an education and training committee, but no positions on McCleary and education funding could be found. It also publishes a quarterly magazine. The most recent issue carried an article by Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters, opposing I-1185, the Eyman measure to re-impose the supermajority voting requirement, which the AWB had earlier endorsed. (Voters just passed the Eyman measure resoundingly.)

    Washington Roundtable: Founded in 1983, the Roundtable is comprised of senior executives from major private sector employers throughout the state who work to “create positive change on critical policy issues that foster economic growth, generate jobs and improve quality of life for Washingtonians”. Its education committee “engages on issues relevant to improving K-12 and higher education in Washington and ensuring every student is prepared for work, college and life.” And it supports two education initiatives, the Partnership for Learning and Excellent Schools Now.

    The Partnership “communicates about Washington’s school improvement efforts and the need to better prepare… high school graduates for the demands of today’s global society.” Excellent Schools is a coalition of education, business and community-based organizations “working to achieve meaningful education reform that increases student achievement, closes the achievement gap and prepares students to be college and career-ready”. It is promoting a K-12 education reform effort called A+ Washington.

    The Roundtable’s education policy agenda includes a commitment to standards, accountability and innovation in K-12 education, increased baccalaureate degree production, and support for research at our universities. No references to the McCleary decision were found in the Roundtable’s website or those of its partnering organizations.

    Washington Research Council: The Council supports the state’s businesses with public policy analysis. It focuses on issues of importance to state and local government, and provides the results of its analysis to government leaders, the media, and the public. Education is an issue area that the Council covers, and it has published policy briefs on both K-12 and higher education funding. One addresses the McCleary decision’s funding mandate, but it doesn’t indicate how full funding will be accomplished, except to say that money would be saved if I-728, which was passed to reduce class sizes, were repealed. But enhancements now on the table for funding will also reduce class size as would I-728.

    The Washington Policy Center: The WPC bills itself as “an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions”. Its board members include several business principals who are well-known players in the public policy and political arenas, such as Kemper Freeman, Jr. and George R. Nethercutt, Jr. The WPC has a center for education that has issued policy statements on the McCleary decision and an education reform plan.

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    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 6:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thank you for shining a light on the hypocrisy of these institutions.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 8:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    Here is the other thing, what good is it to provide all this STEM eduaction in K-12 if there is no where for these kids to go for a college education in a STEM field? The competition to get into the UW Engineering or Computer Sciences departments is unbelievable. There aren't enough spaces. Very bright kids are going out of state if they can afford it or they are going to community college hoping to get in later. We need more spaces for WA students in these programs.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rhonwyn is right and for there to be more spaces in the Computer Science program there needs to be money to support those students.

    I note, as the chair of one of the No On 1240 campaigns, that nearly every single one of the organizations named also support charter schools as a way to better academic outcomes.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 9:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    Rhonwyn is right and for there to be more spaces in the Computer Science program there needs to be money to support those students.

    I note, as the chair of one of the No On 1240 campaigns, that nearly every single one of the organizations named also support charter schools as a way to better academic outcomes.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    The business community talks big about STEM without talking about the M which is a big barrier to STEM. The M in STEM is, of course, math. You can't make much progress with STEM without fixing the foundational problems with math. They'd do well to understand what's actually preventing math success in our schools. Fixing math is affordable and compared to not fixing it, it's cheap, so this should be a good match to their unwillingness to buck up.

    In Seattle (and WA), 50% of the kids in high school cannot score above level 1 which is far below basic. That means that half of the kids cannot do basic arithmetic - add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They don't really come to school with a big math deficit. We actually create it once they get there.

    For one, we have elementary teachers who mostly trained in language arts stumbling through math instruction and leaving the kids high and dry when it comes to helping them acquire numeracy. Combine that with the accompanying problem of adopting the worst K-12 textbooks possible - the antithesis of the kind of textbook the NMAP panel recommended in their 2008 report - some of which don't really have much math in them. Scores of math coaches - many of whom also cannot do math - go out trying to "teach" teachers how to instruct this non-math math curriculum. Yikes. We then socially promote the completely confused students without effective remedial interventions right through K-5 and middle school and then freshman year in high school we insist they all take algebra, ready or not. Of course a full half of all students are not ready. Never much talk about going back to the root of the problem and fixing things there. Then half of those who weren't ready for algebra in high school drop out of school after sleeping in the back of the classroom for about 2 years. Once they realize that 1. they can't graduate without the math requirements and 2. the only thing SPS offers is on-line credit retrieval - which is completely inappropriate for remedial students - they're gone. Of course they're not really gone. They just move on to increasingly difficult lives often including the problems that typically accompany undereducation - poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, crime, and incarceration.

    Putting one foot in front of the other to fix the math problem is completely do-able. Science, technology, and engineering all require a solid math foundation. Moreover, a reasonable life requires the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

    We need to stop acting like uttering the uber trendy STEM acronym will somehow fix the systemic problems preventing progress.

    Businesses could do the following to be part of the solution:
    1. Insist on textbooks with solid math concepts. Help purchase the new textbooks and workbooks and technology that will all help us dig our way out.
    2. Advocate for math specialist teachers in preK-5. For goodness sakes we have gym teachers, why not math teachers?
    3. Advocate for an assistant teacher service residency program of math majors to reduce the ratio of teacher to student in K-5 math classrooms.
    4. Instead of math coaches, which is a disaster right now, cultivate a career ladder where the best math specialists become the trainers and mentors of the incoming math specialists.
    4. Match the student to the remedial or accelerated help they need.
    5. Advocate for the use of nationally normed tests to see how we're really doing with college readiness.
    6. Help us get out from under the shackles, low standards, and excessive costs and testing coming at us with the Federal centralization of curricula deceivingly called Common Core STATE Standards which are about to dumb it all down at very high costs and take our nation down the toilet even further educationally.

    Posted Tue, Nov 20, 4:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well said.

    Re: your last point. The Feds should leave Education entirely to the states and take over Medicaid entirely from the states. Not likely to happen unless the state of the economy makes mega reduction in bureaucracies inescapable. Sigh.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    I wish you had won Kate.


    Posted Mon, Nov 19, 7:39 p.m. Inappropriate

    Nice job Dick. You've shown that there are so many business groups talking about this that they make government look good. How about some consolidation of effort, less talk, and more walk.


    Posted Wed, Nov 21, 11:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    These business groups, like many others who share their political perspective, seem to clamor for high quality services from the government but don't want to pay for them. Perhaps the truth is that they are more honest with their money than their mouths. Perhaps they don't really want the services, they just want to complain about them to provide a rationale for refusing to pay for them.


    Posted Sun, Nov 25, 5:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Speaking of nonsense ... clearly the business groups do not have a monopoly on nonsense.
    Consider the SPS report cards on 8th graders ready for high school math.

    SPS school report card:
    Reports Aki Kurose that 90% of 8th graders are leaving Aki ready for high school math.
    (WOW what official authored that STAT?)

    The SPS report on Aki Kurose is here=>

    Now here is what is happening in Math at SPS middle Schools

    Note: at Aki 29.5% of 8th graders passed the 8th grade MSP math test in 2012
    and 51.2% of students tested at level 1 (well below standard)

    SO HOW can 90% be ready for High School Math when over 50% are well below standard on the MSP 8th grade math test?

    Hey it does not need to make sense ... it is an SPS Math announcement.

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