Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
December 4, 2001
Thank you, Bob, for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to be here and to see so many familiar faces. Each of us is here today because we care about education. In particular, each one of us wants to see a system where all children and adults succeed at achieving high standards at every level, pre-school through post-secondary school.
What is P-16 and why is a P-16 system needed?
You already have heard a lot today about P-16 and the importance of a P-16 system. I want to talk about why I believe this issue is so important.
Over the past several decades, the United States has seen a huge expansion of educational opportunity for American citizens.
During the 19th century, our nation's education system consisted primarily of basic instruction in the three Rs. For the most part, this system was limited to white children.
At the beginning of the 20th century, in response to succeeding waves of social and economic changes, education opportunities grew, adding junior and senior high schools, community colleges and research universities until the gaps were filled.
Now, in the 21st century, we face a new wave of social and economic changes. We have moved into an information economy and we must be prepared for it.
This underlying shift to the information economy, combined with major demographic shifts, drives the need to reexamine how we provide education to our citizens.
- In 1950, 86% of America's school age population was white. Fourteen percent were children of color and/or English language learners.
- In 2000, 65% of America's school age population was white. And, 35% were children of color and/or English language learners.
- In 2040, 48% of America's school age population will be white. And, 52% will be children of color and/or English language learners -- the definition of "minority" will change.
- In 1959, 20% of workers needed some postsecondary education and/or training.
- Today, that number has risen to 56%.
- And, within the next decade, that number is expected to grow to 80%.
- Forty percent of all new jobs will require at least an associate's degree.
- Yesterday's luxury of an education beyond high school has become today's necessity.
- While more than seven in 10 recent U.S. high school graduates enroll in post-secondary education, unfortunately, nearly half of all college students take at least one remedial course.
- And more than one-quarter of freshmen at four-year colleges and nearly half of those at two-year colleges do not even make it to the sophomore year.
The face of post-secondary education has changed.
Less than one-fifth of today's college students meet the stereotype of an 18-to-22-year-old living on campus and attending college full time.
Today's new breed of student is interested in four dimensions of post-secondary education: convenience, service, and quality, all at a reasonable cost.
The goal of P-16
The data show post-secondary education is necessary for workers to succeed in the new information economy.
We must create a system in which every child enters school ready to learn, in which all third-graders read at or above grade level, where all students have taken algebra by the end of the eighth grade, where high school exit exams are aligned with college admissions requirements, where all young people graduate from high school prepared for college or work and where every student who enters is able to finish college in a timely manner. And, academic credits taken at the community college level are fully recognized at the four-year level.
A seamless P-16 system is the logical next step in the standards-based reform movement.
Of course, it is important to recognize that our schools do not merely serve economic ends, particularly in light of September 11. Our schools also serve social and democratic purposes as well.
But, if our democracy is to continue to thrive, all Americans must leave high school prepared for college, work and civic contribution.
The reality of P-16
What is the reality of a seamless and supportive P-16 system in Washington state?
With respect to pre-school, we have multiple, disconnected providers offering uneven services for young children. For the most part, these providers have little to no connection with the public K-12 school system.
With respect to K-12, we have a 100-year-old elementary and secondary structure that was designed to teach some -- not all -- kids well. It has proven that -- for many reasons--- it is having difficulty responding to changing social and economic conditions. The K-12 system is isolated from both pre-K and higher ed.
With respect to higher education, we have a multi-layered system of public and private, nonprofit and for-profit, general and special-purpose, open access and selective, traditional campus-based and virtual, two-year and four-year. These schools have difficulty working together and are largely disconnected from the K-12 system.
Clearly, today's education system lacks coherence and a sense of connectedness among its component parts.
What does this mean?
It means that students find themselves poorly prepared for post-secondary education and work. Communication gaps between the systems contribute to inadequately prepared teachers and to unacceptably large numbers of college dropouts.
And if some post-secondary education is a necessity, the current reality of (1) remediation upon entering college and (2) non-recognized credits from the community college system (non-alignment) means a poor education, wasted time and resources and lost opportunities.
What does this have to do with the Achievement Gap?
I'm supposed to be talking about "Closing the Achievement Gap." You're asking, "What does this conference have to do with closing the achievement gap?"
Well, at every level of American education -- elementary, secondary and postsecondary -- children of color and low-income children perform below their more advantaged peers.
These students enter school behind other students and the gaps that separate them grow as they progress through the grades. By the end of high school, African American, Latino and poor white students have skills about the same as those of more advantaged students at the end of middle school.
Not surprisingly, fewer of these students enter college, more require expensive and time-consuming remediation and disproportionately few graduate from college.
Since a seamless and supportive P-16 system has as its goal that all learners will master challenging material and achieve high standards, it creates an environment that expects success from everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, geography, gender and disability.
Critics may say that there are plenty of examples of students who have successfully made it through the higher education system.
But, too many have not; too many have taken longer than they should have at no fault of their own.
If the education system were better aligned and supportive, we could expect success for all students.
The strengths of a P-16 system
I strongly believe this for the following reasons.
An aligned and supportive P-16 System is inclusive. Since a P-16 system has as its goal that all students will achieve high standards, it creates an environment that expects success from everyone.
We must change the culture of our secondary schools and higher education from sorting to success for all.
We must have college-bound expectations for all students and eliminate low expectation tracks!
An aligned and supportive P-16 System is aligned at all levels and supports a logical progression. Currently, K-12 and post-secondary institutions uphold different sets of standards regarding what students should know and be able to do.
We need to provide to students and their families, early and specific information about: (1) how best to prepare for college, and (2) higher education options. GEAR-UP is an excellent example of this work.
An aligned and supportive P-16 System supports standards and assessments. A P-16 system that is aligned at every critical transition point builds on the standards currently in place.
The involvement of higher education could lend new legitimacy to high school standards and tests and increase students' motivation to do well on them.
An aligned and supportive P-16 System is performance-based and reduces the need for remediation. Clear expectations, aligned curricula and strong support services lead to better academic performance and reduce the need for remediation at all levels.
High schools must personalize instruction in small learning communities and provide more time and attention for struggling students!
An aligned and supportive P-16 System removes artificial barriers. High school students face a confusing mix of high school exit examinations and requirements, college entrance examinations and requirements and college-placement assessments. This situation is particularly difficult for disadvantaged students who may not have families who can help them navigate this complex system.
An aligned and supportive P-16 System improves teacher preparation. It is reasonable to expect that K-12 student standards ultimately will drive or determine the content of teacher education programs on college campuses. They certainly should!
How can we create a P-16 system in Washington state?
I know that you all are here today to talk about how we can move forward in our state to create an aligned and supportive P-16 system. Here are a few of my suggestions.
- One, we should encourage communities to coordinate early learning efforts. For example, the Early Learning Foundation is encouraging this kind of activity around the state. Yakima's Success By Six is an excellent example.
- We must implement an accountability system for K-12 and higher education. We must hold schools accountable for student success and put an end to low performing schools. We must also hold higher ed institutions accountable for decreasing their dropout rates.
- We must eliminate the "general track" in our high schools. Every student should take college prep courses and the academic component of vocational education must be strengthened.
- We should create a P-16 Council and charge it with increasing student access to, and success in, postsecondary education. Other states are making progress in this area. This council should look at other state's efforts so that we do not reinvent the wheel.
- We should develop data systems that include preschool, K-12, and higher ed, to track students across systems and serve as a basis for measuring progress and if necessary, interventions.
- We must create more accelerated and articulated degree completion opportunities available to all students who pass the Certificate of Mastery, such as Running Start and Advance Placement Courses without the current disincentives that prevent their maximum utilization.
And last but not least,
- Our legislative committees should work more closely together. Legislators can lead by example by conducting more joint meetings of the early childhood, K-12 and higher ed committees.
Clearly, we all have a lot of work ahead of us. I look forward to working with all of you to ensure that all students achieve high standards at every level.