A goal of education reformers nationwide is a seamless system that encourages student success by creating easy connections between preschool programs, the K-12 schools and vocational or college options. A recent report comparing the seamlessness of different states (see accompanying story) published in Education Week shows that Washington is rated just above average in that effort.

Seamless sounds sensible, but achieving that goal is not easy, noted Judy Mitchell, dean of the College of Education.

“The report ignores the differences between each system,” Mitchell said. “Here in higher education, we have no control over the other worlds of K-12, vocational-technical programs or preschools. We have separate identities, budgets and governance. It’s difficult to communicate across those boundaries.”

That communication has begun, however, and Mitchell said Washington’s ranking in the report indicates some success toward building a seamless system.

“We are all working hard to build those bridges,” she said. “Gov. Gregoire is really leading the charge for P-16 (preschool-higher education) seamlessness. She has already created a cabinet-level post for early learning. Legislation has already been enacted to implement most of the recommendations in the 2005 interim report of the Washington Learns committee.”

That committee was established in July 2005 and issued its final report, entitled “Washington Learns: World-Class, Learner Focused, Seamless Education,” in November 2006 (ONLINE @ www.washingtonlearns.wa.gov). That report focuses on five major initiatives as basic strategies to reform the education system in Washington:

• Investing in early learning, so children start off as lifelong learners
• Improving math and science teaching, so state citizens have a competitive edge
• Personalizing learning, so every student has the opportunity to succeed
• Offering college and workforce training for everyone
• Holding the system accountable for results

“This is huge,” Mitchell said. “Given the state’s commitment to education that we have seen in this Legislature, I think the next report comparing Washington to the other states will show a marked improvement in the creation of a seamless educational system.”

State is somewhat above average
Last month, Education Week magazine published a report, “From Cradle to Career,” (ONLINE @ www.edweek.org//ew/articles/2007/01/04/17exesum.h26.html?print=1) that compares the educational systems of the states in four major areas:

Change for success: Washington ranked 22nd among the 50 states on 13 indicators of likely student educational success, including family income, enrollment, in preschool programs, high school graduation levels and adult employment.

Education alignment policies: Washington ranked 25th on 15 indicators of established connections or alignment of education from early childhood through vocational options.

K-12 achievement: Washington ranked 4th on 15 indicators of student achievement in public schools.

Assessment policy: Washington ranked 18th on 15 indicators of established educational policies in standards, assessment and accountability.