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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Kelly Munn: State putting new focus on gaps, support for students

Kelly Munn

Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced the new Washington School Improvement Framework. The WSIF comes out of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan and the recommendations of the Accountability work group, of which League of Education Voters was a part. The new WSIF will provide schools and communities with new, rich data on school performance, with a focus on historically and systemically underserved students.

The WSIF also focuses on the “now what” – labeling schools by the level of support they will receive from the state. League of Education Voters applauds the strategy of providing transparency and focusing on supports for schools with the most challenges. We look forward to learning more about the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s plans for providing supports to schools.

League of Education Voters is hopeful that with this new focus from OSPI, and new investments from the state – over $8 billion – we should be able to see improvements over the next 10 years in high school graduation rates, test scores, and entrance to certificate, apprenticeship, and two-year or four-year programs. We believe that if we invest first in students who have more challenges, it will benefit most, if not all, students. We also realize that every student has different needs, and some need more of one kind of support over another.

The strategies we learn to use in the schools to support students of color, students with special needs, or students who live in poverty, will help every student. This is known as Targeted Universalism. A common example of this surrounds how sidewalks were altered as a result of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), to allow use by individuals in wheelchairs. When curbs were cut to make sidewalks wheelchair accessible, those changes may have appeared to some as expensive and unnecessary. It was necessary for the wheelchairs, but it turns out, that it was necessary for many others: caretakers with strollers, kids on bikes, seniors with rolling grocery baskets, etc. The change was made for one group, but supported many other groups.

This can happen in education also. If we focus on the needs of some students, others will gain. Where better to start, than by allocating resources and supports to those kids who need more services?

Thank you to Superintendent Reykdal for leading the charge in focusing on particular students and particular schools. The challenge now is to do the same, district by district. School districts rarely can make these decisions alone. Let them know that you want the students who need more support to get more support. Your child, and your community, will benefit.

Kelly Munn is the League of Education Voters state field director.