2013 Legislative Session
Basic Education Funding (McCleary): After two special sessions, lawmakers reached agreement on a $33.6 billion state budget that includes over $1 billion in additional funding for Basic Education and to support the implementation of key improvements. That brings the full K-12 education budget to about $15 billion total, an 11% increase. The investments in K-12 Basic Education make significant progress towards meeting the Supreme Court's requirements in the McCleary decision. The increases in instructional hours (class time) for high school students and expansion of full-day kindergarten will give more students a solid foundation for higher achievement.
Academic Acceleration: A bill was passed that encourages districts to adopt academic acceleration and provides funding for those who do. Modeled after a successful policy in Federal Way Public Schools, Running Start academic acceleration automatically enrolls students performing on grade level in advanced courses. This eliminates barriers, real or perceived (such as cost or information), that prevent students from taking the advanced courses that can help them earn college credits in high school. Local school districts that choose to adopt an academic acceleration policy will identify students meeting standard on state exams and then automatically enroll those students in an advanced class, such as AP or IB classes. For those districts that do adopt an academic acceleration policy, the state budget provides $2.2 million to support implementation of the policy.
Computer Science: A computer science bill passed that aims to improve and expand access to computer science education (which includes coding), particularly in advanced courses that prepare students for careers in the field. School boards will begin approving Advanced Placement (AP) computer sciences courses as high school math or science credits, allowing students to fulfill their math or science graduation requirements with a computer science course. Students can pursue these classes at traditional high schools or in equivalent career and technical courses offered at Washington State Skills Centers. For computer science to count as a high school math credit, the student must be currently enrolled in or have successfully completed Algebra II.
State Intervention in Struggling Schools: The bill provides state-funded supports for improving schools that are persistently low performing, increases flexibility in selecting intervention models, strengthens the state’s role in collaborating and overseeing improvements, and expands the scope of schools in which interventions may happen. As a result of this legislation and $10.2 million in the state budget, future Required Action Districts will be supported by state funding. This means that the state can intervene in schools that are not Title I schools – expanding the number of low-performing schools that can be improved.
3rd Grade Reading: In the final moments of the session, the legislature passed a comprehensive education bill that makes improvements to our K-12 education system. The bill reflects compromises and conversations on 3rd grade reading, student discipline, and other issues that affect student learning. The section on 3rd grade reading ensures that students struggling with learning to read are getting support based on the most effective interventions. If students are reading at the lowest level on state exams at the end of 3rd grade, the parents, teacher, and principal will work together to identify appropriate interventions, such as summer school and appropriate grade level placement. The key here is that a conversation and a resulting strategy must happen, so that students will move forward with clear and explicit reading support. For a student struggling with reading, the parent/teacher/principal conversation at the end of 3rd grade is to be the culmination of several years of communications and interventions. Districts must begin including a student’s reading level on report cards in Kindergarten through 4th grade, and must detail the interventions being used for students that are below grade level.
Transition to Common Core Exams: Another bill that passed alters the state’s assessment (testing) system in future years—putting in place a transition plan for making the new Common Core exams high school graduation requirements. The plan deepens the state’s commitment to using the Common Core standards, which are higher K-12 academic learning standards that define what every student should know and be able to do at every grade level in math and English language arts.