I am grateful to live in a community with good schools. Like many of you, when I moved my young family to Washington, I chose Gig Harbor because of the small-town charm and good schools. Three of our schools were recognized with Washington Achievement Awards last week for our students’ hard work. Good schools don’t just happen. They are the result of vision and support from the broader community, not just parents. Our schools have benefited from generous community support in the past and hopefully will continue to benefit from community investment in the future because our students must be prepared to compete in the 21st century global economy. Like every other industry, advances in science and technology have changed public education considerably — not only what students must know but how education is delivered.
As your School Board looks ahead to revising local graduation requirements to be consistent with the new state-mandated 24-credit college and career diploma, the board is working to infuse rigor throughout our K-12 curriculum. Statewide, only four in 10 high school seniors have completed the basic admission requirements to enter a four-year Washington public college or university. We need a rigorous pathway that prepares at least twice that number of students from our district.
We are discussing changes to make the educational experience more enriching and challenging for our students, kindergarten through 12th grade. We recognize that some students need additional support. We intend to provide the necessary framework so each student can find success and pursue their passion. While we want to provide unique opportunities in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — we are mindful not to do so at the expense of our fine, visual and performing arts programs.
The district has been quietly at work for the past couple of years laying the foundations for change with new curriculum, new teacher evaluations and more accountability. During the next few months, you will hear about our initiative on early learning and aligning with our community preschool partners. This initiative will smooth the transition from preschool to kindergarten and lay the foundation for future success.
By the third grade, our students must be reading at or above grade level, if we want to substantially and sustainably increase our graduation rates. The focus of the board right now is on preschool through grade 3. We know that this critical “learning to read” time frame is the benchmark that students must achieve to ultimately increase the number of our students who graduate ready for college and careers.
Fifty years ago, little more than 50 percent of Washington students even made it to the 12th grade, much less beyond. That’s not because the educational system was bad, but because the workforce requirements were different. Weyerhaeuser was actually a timber industry leader, not a real estate investment company. The job opportunities that young adults looked forward to then did not have the rigorous educational requirements that 21st century industries require. Whether our students will work at Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, join the military, or start a small business near home, we strive to prepare them for success.
Although we are volunteers, we are always listening and working hard on behalf of the 9,000 students whose education you have entrusted us with. We encourage you to contact any one of us at psd401.net. We look forward to continuing to partner with our parents, our community and our great teachers as we embrace changes that will prepare our students for success.