Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Partners of Spokane Conference
October 28, 1999
Thank you, Lori Sheffler, Principal of Horizon Middle School, for that kind introduction and thank you Paullette Fink, Administrator of the Central Valley School District. And a very special thanks to Becky Heacox and to Diane Anderson, Fourth Grade Teacher from Hamblen Elementary.
I’d also like to thank Dimitri Bianco for that presentation—I can see why you got elected as class spokesperson! The other officers of Diane Anderson’s class are also here with us today. Secretary Lauren Hoell, Historian Champ Ensminger, Attorney Desirae Allen, and President Kelly Rose. And it’s great to see Michelle Heacox again.
Thank you all for coming and bringing me this lovely quilt, and thanks to the entire 4th grade class at Hamblen Elementary School for all of their hard work and fine craftsmanship. I will cherish this quilt. First, because it is absolutely beautiful. And secondly, because of what it signifies.
For those of you who don’t know, let me tell you the story of this quilt. This is a true PARTNERs success story. Washington Mutual Bank went to Dimitri’s 4th grade class at Hamblen Elementary and told the class about their TEAM philosophy, which is: Together Everyone Accomplishes More. And that’s when the children decided to work together to make this quilt. Each child was given a square of the quilt to design. So one student got the state bird, one got the state tree. . .and each student went to the library and researched their square. One student learned everything about the Willow Goldfinch, our state bird. Another student learned everything about the rhododendron, another about the Western Hemlock. And then each student designed a square to represent his or her topic as they saw fit. Then, after many “sloppy copies,” as the kids call them, the children transferred their designs onto the cloth.
This was a perfect project because our state’s 4th grade curriculum is “Washington, the state.” So the students used their social studies skills to determine what should go in the various squares, they used their artistic skills to render the designs, and they used their math skills to figure out how many inches and feet and yards of fabric they’d need.
Rosauers Grocery Store “partners” with Hamblen Elementary and hung the quilt in their store for everyone to see. To top it off, each of the children applied for a job at Rosauers and spent a day working as a baker or a cashier or a shelf-stocker or a melon tester.
This quilt represents the brains and the imaginations of our children. It also represents what we can accomplish when we—businesses, schools and community members—work together at the exciting task of educating our children.
Just before this address, I was walking around and looking at some of the displays in the booths out front. I’m impressed. Every time I see businesses and schools working together, my dream of Washington State having the best school system in the country comes sharper into focus. Just last week, Bank of America donated $25,000 to our Reading Corps program. But they didn’t stop there. Bank of America is also giving every full time employee in every branch across our state two hours a week of paid time to volunteer in our schools. Talk about an interest rate! 5,000 employees at 2 hours a week. . . folks, that’s 2.6 million hours of tutoring in our schools a year. That’s the kind of positive impact businesses can have on our schools. And that’s the kind of impact I’m seeing here in the PARTNERs organization.
Thank you all for partnering. PARTNERs of Spokane is a shining example of the types of activities I want to see throughout Washington State. I’ve been traveling around our state these past few months talking to our citizens about what we can do maintain prosperity from the Palouse to the Puget Sound. And it always circles back to education. Educating our children is the most important thing we can do to maintain our current prosperity and quality of life. We cannot let down our pressure towards education reform until we have the best school systems in the nation. Over and over again, I tell people that our success rests on government, businesses, schools and community members working together. Groups like PARTNERs set an example for the rest of our communities. And that’s great.
There are two programs my administration has worked on in order to build the bridge between businesses and school. If we are going to be successful in the high-tech, global economy of the 21st century, we cannot afford to isolate our schools from our businesses. There must be interaction, symbiosis, communication.
1. In our Workforce Training Program, businesses and community and technical colleges work together to define what specific skills businesses need workers to have. Colleges then create curricula to fit those needs. Right here at Spokane Community College, 55 locked-out Kaiser workers are in retraining programs. With input from businesses, the state community college system has created skill standards for 47 specific occupations in 18 industries—from software to food processing.
2. Our Washington Reading Corps program is also geared towards community members, businesses and schools working together to teach our children how to read. Because reading is the foundation for all other academic success.
Both of these programs are more successful than we even dared to anticipate because of the businesses that are willing to get involved in education and reap the benefits thereof.
And it truly warms my heart to see the things we are trying to accomplish happening in our individual communities all across the state. I firmly believe that it takes participation by the community—it takes all of us—to get our young people properly educated and trained. How is a child supposed to decide what she wants to be when she grows up if she doesn’t know what the options are? What do the words “data processor” mean to a 4th grader? Flight attendant? Engineer? Architect? Thanks to your job-shadowing program, our children are gaining a first hand, interactive understanding of what it’s like in the “real world.” And so are our teachers!
Many teachers go through our school system, go to college, graduate and re-enter the public school system without ever becoming involved in the business world. Thanks to your internship programs teachers are now entering businesses and getting a sense of what it’s like to work at a paper mill or a computer company or a bank. And more importantly, an understanding of what students must know to succeed in the real world. It’s our children who will reap the benefits of these internships.
The potential of what you have started here is limitless, and I commend your efforts. In Olympia we are working like crazy to make our education system the best in the nation—and the work PARTNERs is doing really compliments our efforts. Our children are our future. We’ve got to insist on excellence in education now. When it comes to education, it’s pay now or pay an awfully lot more later. Or worse, crash later.
I’ve always said education is society’s great equalizer. Well, education is also the economy’s great energizer.
And as we barrel into the 21st century, we can’t leave anyone behind. We have to be impatient, not complacent! We can’t lull ourselves into believing that just because we’ve put higher academic standards in place that we can just sit back and wait for the harvest. We’ve done great work by putting the standards in place, but frankly, folks, the hard work has just begun. We need to be able to reward those students who meet the standards, and intervene when schools aren’t performing well.
This last two weeks I’ve been around our state hand-delivering some of the 2,300 Washington Promise Scholarships to the top high school graduates of 1999—who are in their first weeks of classes as college freshman. These scholarships are available for low-income and middle-income students. We are trying to make the American dream of a college education affordable and obtainable for working, middle-class families. 80% of these recipients did not financially qualify for any other state financial aid.
It was great to see the parents, the grandparents, entire families attending these ceremonies; kids who represented the first in their families ever to attend college.
These students earned scholarships by scoring in the top ten percent of their senior classes.
In fact, almost 50 of those Promise Scholarships were awarded to first-year students right here at Spokane and Spokane Falls Community Colleges, and several hundred more went to students at Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga, and Whitworth.
These scholarship recipients graduated in the top ten percent of their class. But what about the rest of the high-achieving high school graduates? I want every child who achieves in high school to have the opportunity to pursue a college education. So I hope the Legislature will make Promise Scholarships permanent and expand it as we proposed to all students who pass the new 10th grade tests. Because if we don’t reward our children for excelling, they will have little incentive to do so.
I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t already moved heaven and earth to reform our education system. Because we have. But we can’t stop now. If we stop now, we’ll lose our momentum and roll back down the hill to where we were two years ago when only 47% of our fourth graders met the tough new standards in reading. We’re up to 60% now, but what incentive do our children have to meet those standards if they can’t afford to go to college once they pass the test? And what incentive do teachers have to get our children there?
We’ve raised teachers’ salaries to ensure that we attract and retain the brightest teachers. And that’s great. And we’ve instituted salary bonuses for teachers who go the extra mile and obtain national board certification. And that’s great, too, but we also need to impose standards and tests for teachers to ensure competence, just as we have for students. And we need to reward the teachers and schools that improve student achievement and intervene if they don’t.
We also need to reduce our class sizes to increase the amount of individualized contact between students and their teachers. We’ve learned a lot from our Washington Reading Corps program. When those initial test stores came back a couple of years ago, and only 47% of our fourth graders were reading at the standards, we knew we had to do something. So we created the Reading Corps, which is a one-on-one tutoring program. Last year more than 11,000 volunteers stepped up to the plate and tutored more than 22,000 struggling readers in our schools. And guess what? The reading ability of those 22,000 students jumped dramatically. And the test scores for the entire schools with Reading Corps programs improved at almost twice the rate of schools that didn’t have Reading Corps Programs. There are nine Reading Corps schools in Spokane.
Imagine the benefits we could reap from reducing class sizes to allow more individualized instruction.
This is a crucial time. If we don’t continue to push forward with education reform, all of the work we have done so far will be pointless. At the 1999 National Education Summit in New York last week, IBM chief Lou Gerstner said, “We’ve got to have the guts and the political will to press forward with the commitments we’ve made to one another, to our nation, and most importantly to our kids and their future.”
I will remain committed to creating the strongest education system in the nation. I will not slow down until every child meets our tough, new education standards and is rewarded for doing so. I will not slow down until every teacher is testing for competence and is rewarded for excellence. I will not slow down until the bridge between the community and education is so strong that no blast will shake it.
H.G. Wells said that history is a race between education and catastrophe. Well, the race is on and the future is here. Education is freedom, and it is our responsibility as the leaders of society to sustain the land of the free—to make Washington State a State of Learning.
Thank you—all of you involved in PARTNERS for the commitment you have made to our children. Thank you for working together, as businesses and schools and community members. But let’s commit to even stronger two-way partnerships between businesses, schools, and community members. Let’s follow the lead of Seafirst/Bank of America and allow employees release time to volunteer in the schools.
So you see this quilt? This beautiful quilt? This is what we can accomplish if we all work together—businesses, schools and community members—to create a quilt of education that will spread over all of our children across the state.
Thank you for helping to make Washington State a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
Thank you very much.