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A Road Map to Student Success

By Lisa Macfarlane, DFER WA State Director

I fought back tears Monday as I walked up to my neighborhood Title I school to volunteer and saw an occupied police car parked on the sidewalk about 6 feet from the front door. I didn’t get centered until I was nestled on the classroom sofa with a struggling 4th grade African girl who read to me about slavery. At a time when most of us are still reeling from the Newtown school massacre and processing that unthinkable horror, it is good to remember that across this state and country, educators are heroes - day in and day out.

Last week’s news that the Road Map Project Consortium had won a coveted $40 million Race to Top District grant capped a year of education reform victories in Washington that no one could have predicted twelve months ago.

The Road Map Consortium, which includes seven school districts in South King County, WA, developed an impressive three-pronged plan to dramatically accelerate student achievement for low-income and minority kids:

  • Start Strong - because early learning is critical to students’ future success. The districts’ plan calls for establishing summer reading plans for each student at high-need schools and creating individualized education plans to support PreK-3.
  • STEM Strong - because the students living within the consortium are in a region where STEM-intensive skills are in high demand and short supply. The Race to the Top award will enable the winning districts to expand the use of digital STEM tools to personalize instruction, both in and out of school.
  • Stay Strong - because students must graduate ready for college and a career and must be put on a clear path to do so well before they reach high school. The focus of the districts’ plan will be on student engagement, assessment and counseling by investing in an integrated system of middle and high school counseling and advising, including a High School and Beyond Plan beginning in 8th grade for every student.

With wind in its sails and new federal dollars to support the necessary work, Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, South Seattle and Tukwila, now have the opportunity to be a reform engine for groundbreaking change that will personalize education from Pre-Kindergarten through college.

It is exciting to think about the Road Map work radiating across districts and accelerating the pace of our region’s school improvement efforts. Heart felt congratulations to the team of community leaders and educators in the seven King County districts and the Puget Sound Educational Service District who are determined to do better by their students.

Lisa Macfarlane is the Washington State Director for Democrats for Education Reform, a co-founder of the League of Education Voters, a past President of Schools First (Seattle's levy and bond committee), the sponsor of two statewide education funding initiatives, and a PCO in the 46th District.