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Report Outlines Plan to Re-tool Education in Washington

For Immediate Release: November 13, 2006

Governor Gregoire and Bill Gates address a gathering that marks the end of an 18-month comprehensive study of the education system

SEATTLE – Governor Chris Gregoire and the members of the Washington Learns Committee today released “Washington Learns: World-Class, Learner Focused, Seamless Education,” the final report of an 18-month comprehensive study of education in Washington.

“We must recognize that children are diverse and will succeed if we believe in them and give them the tools they need to be successful,” said Governor Gregoire, chair of the Washington Learns Steering Committee. “It is time to make some real changes to Washington’s education system. This is a bold plan to redesign and re-invest in education over the next decade. It offers a new way of thinking about the purpose and function of public education”

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CEO of Microsoft, today spoke to the attendees, commending them for laying out a comprehensive plan for improving education and issuing a challenge to the state to make the bold changes necessary to make Washington a world leader in education and economic growth for the 21st century.

“We need to ensure that all our kids are ready for school, ready for college, and ready for work,” said Gates. “That should be our vision. To achieve it, we need to be honest about where we are, ambitious about where we want to go, and determined to embrace new approaches and track our progress.”

The report focuses on five major initiatives as basic strategies to reform the education system in Washington.

  1. Investing in early learning so that children start off as lifelong learners;
  2. Improving math and science teaching so that our citizens have a competitive edge;
  3. Personalizing learning so that every student has the opportunity to succeed;
  4. Offering college and workforce training for everyone; and
  5. Holding the system accountable for results.

The Washington Learns Committee began with the idea that the economic future of Washington depends on an internationally competitive, world-class education system, but our current system was designed for jobs of the past and our students are falling behind international standards. As the world changes, students must be prepared to compete in the new, global economy. This requires bold steps, from early learning through graduate school and skills training to create a world-class, learner-focused and seamless system.

The primary mission of the recommendations in the report is to educate more people to achieve at higher levels. Washington students must be held to educational standards that are at least as high as those in “global challenge” states and countries.

Currently in Washington, less than 50 percent of children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, 26 percent of ninth graders do not graduate high school on time, one-third of the adult population has a high school diploma or less and educated workers from other states and nation are being imported to fill good-paying jobs.

Washington Learns was created in 2005 by the Legislature to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s entire education system, from early learning through K-12 and on to post-secondary education. An interim report was issued in November 2005, providing recommendations which were nearly all adopted by the 2006 Legislature.

A Draft Report for Public Comment was issued in September and over 2,500 citizens submitted comments through oral testimony and written comments. In addition, statewide workshops and a phone survey was used to provide feedback on the priorities to improve public education.

The Washington Learns report was released at a gathering of the Steering Committee, legislators, administrators, parents and others today at Bell Harbor International Conference Center. It is also available on-line.