Friday, June 29, 2012

The 'state' of all too many of our Washington students? They're falling through the cracks

Rep. John McCoy
'Twas the season. Speechifying season, that is -- as in, another fine season's collection of May-June "Listen up, you futures of America" graduation homilies and commencement colloquies just recently tucked into the pages of history.
Call them academic ukases, these thousands of scholarly addresses that sent millions of young folk off to their post-secondary careers in college, trade school, or what have you. So yes, what better time than right now, what better place than right here to discuss another sort of education-related "address" defining all too well the state of all too many of their younger peers still plugging away in the K-12 scene: 1234 Falling Through the Cracks Blvd., Anytown, USA
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos
An unacceptably large ratio of these falling, and failing, students comprise demographic groups who show up in other unfortunate measures. These students tend to be disproportionately disciplined, for one thing, and they are more likely than other kids to be enrolled in special-education classes and underperforming schools, to receive poor grades, and to drop out of school. They’re less likely either to take advanced-placement, honors and college-preparatory classes, or to go on to college even if they do finish high school. And they constitute what's called the "achievement gap" -- that dismal crevasse between the beautiful promise of American public education and the beastly reality for too many American students.
Which is exactly why it's such good and timely news that the House Education Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee is working hard to make sure that "No child is left behind" isn’t just another cute bumper sticker. State law (RCW 28A.300.136) calls on this relatively recently assembled committee to "… provide ongoing advice to education agencies and report annually to the (L)egislature and the governor." State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos chairs the Opportunity Gap Committee, and she also chairs the House Education Committee.   State Rep. John McCoy, who is an active member of Santos' Education Committee, was also lately appointed to her Opportunity Gap Committee.
In emphasizing his excitement at joining the new education panel, McCoy cited its statutory responsibility for "… closing the achievement gap (and affirming) the state's constitutional obligation to provide opportunities to learn for all students without distinction or preference on account of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender." He further noted that the statute also speaks to the fact that "(a) consistent and powerful theme throughout the achievement gap studies was the need for cultural competency in instruction, curriculum, assessment, and professional development. Cultural competency forms a foundation for efforts to address the achievement gap, and more work is needed to embed it into the public school system."

McCoy and several other legislators on the Opportunity Gap Committee are working with additional public officials and private citizens toward writing strategies for closing Washington's education chasm.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.