July 22, 2008

Evergreen District to Host State Board of Education Meetings

By Howard Buck, The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

Jul. 22--State education officials plan to put Washington's Class of 2013 on the path of a world-class math education when they meet this week at the Evergreen school district's administrative center.

The Washington State Board of Education will meet Wednesday and Thursday to discuss several upgrades in high school graduation requirements. They include raising the number of required credits from 19 to 24, as well as a third math credit at the level of Algebra II or higher.

"It will be the biggest and most-happening state board meeting in two years," said Edie Harding, the board's executive director.

While the overall boost in required credits -- dubbed the Core 24 -- probably will have to wait for more state money, the board of education is expected to approve the third year of math during Thursday's session.

It's an issue that can't wait, according to the board's Web site: "Improving math achievement is one of the most critical issues we face. Today, many of our students are leaving high school unprepared. In 2006, 45 percent of Washington's students who went directly from high school to community or technical colleges were required to take remedial math classes."

Washington's students are near the back of the pack when measured against their counterparts.

"Thirty-nine other states either now or shortly will require three math credits," said Harding.

The state already has implemented a math upgrade at the elementary level, she said.

The other high-priority topic -- the 24 required credits -- "is a really big deal," Harding said. It sets the framework for "what kids need to be successful in the 21st century."

However, Harding emphasized two aspects of Core 24 that puts it down the road: "Nothing happens without money, and there will be a six-year implementation phase."

Districts already are digging into their own pockets when they offer more than the 20 credits financed by the state. A high school student who has a six-period day and passes all the courses earns six credits a year. Evergreen requires 221/2 credits to graduate and Vancouver Public Schools requires 23.

Districts use levy money provided by their taxpayers to fund the remaining credits.

"All the districts in Clark County have sent the state board a letter saying we're not opposed" to Core 24, said Evergreen school board member Holly Williams. "But it is an unfunded mandate."

The education upgrades aren't just an academic issue. They matter to Washington's children and families, as well as the state's businesses.

"We're pretty lathered up about kids not having opportunities because the system fails them," said Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of the League of Education Voters.

The statewide citizens' advocacy group plans to have at least 50 representatives at this week's board meeting.

"We can't fill our good jobs" with the state's graduates, Macfarlane said. "We think a Washington state education should be good enough for a Washington college, and a Washington job."

Tom Vogt can be reached at 360-735-4558 or [email protected]


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