Student test results: Treading water
More than 90 percent of state high school seniors passed all of their required assessment tests for graduation. State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn pointed to this performance as a bright spot in an otherwise mixed picture for the state test scores announced today. The annual assessment of kids in grades 3 through 8 showed almost as many dips as gains in terms of the percent of students who met proficiency standards for their age groups. “Students and teachers have worked hard to get here," said Dorn. "At this point, there aren’t any significant changes.” The report also noted that some 88 percent of schools failed to meet the (controversial) federal definition of adequate yearly improvement in student performance. Sigh. — J.C.
New port boss
The Port of Seattle has picked a longtime manufacturing and transportation executive to be its next CEO. Ted J. Fick, a Tacoma native, will take over next month when current CEO Tay Yoshitani retires. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com calls the increasing competition from Canada Fick's biggest challenge. Unlike the U.S., the Canadian government is spending money freely to improve rail connections to the Midwest. Fick brings a strong understanding of the needs there: His most recent position was running a large tank-trailer and components manufacturing firm, Polar Corp., based in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Springfield goes to the wall for "Simpsons"
Breaking: Springfield, Oregon has dedicated a mural to “The Simpsons” television show. Sure, it was Monday but it’s such good and culturally significant news we can’t resist. As to whether Springfield, Oregon, is really the inspiration for show’s Springfield, the jury’s still out. Kind of. The Oregonian cites a 2006 interview in which Matt Groening “admits” that “Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon.” But you should probably read the interview and be your own judge of whether Oregon pride is slanting the interpretation, especially considering the content of the classic chalkboard message in this episode.
Either way, for us it’s an an excuse to insert Simpsons clips! “The Simpsons” will return for its 26th season on Sunday, Sept. 28. — K.H.
Wage theft: It’s real (and complicated)
InvestigateWest takes an in-depth look at the system for reporting and responding to wage theft in Seattle. That system is (surprise!) riddled with problems. To name a few: Enforcement relies upon workers to report abuses, but will they really risk losing their job to report being shorted on a pay check or denied overtime pay? It gets worse: The investigative news site's review of state records shows that in hundreds of cases each year, Washington fails to retrieve workers’ shorted wages.
Of course, the situation is more complicated than businesses-exploiting-workers and government-failing-to-respond (which is why we recommend you read the whole investigative package). It’s worth noting that there is significant disagreement (cited by InvestigateWest) over how “pervasive” a problem wage theft truly is in Seattle. Still, it's an issue that means a great deal to victims of wage theft and underscores the need for new, innovative solutions. “What’s needed,” said Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, “is a coordinated, proactive approach to enforcing all of the city’s labor standards legislation, including the minimum wage, wage theft and paid sick time ordinances.” — K.H.
Slight hike in health insurance rates
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler today said rate increases averaging 1.9 percent will be approved for health insurance plans operating in the state's new health exchange, the Washington HealthPlanFinder. “It hasn’t always been easy," said Kreidler, "but these numbers show that the Affordable Care Act clearly delivered on its promise to bring people better access to affordable, quality health insurance.” He also pointed to the rise in the number of plans offered by health insurance companies as a sign that reform is working. In this state, at any rate. — J.C.
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