Despite recently announced incremental gains by state students on national tests, 1 million kids will fail to graduate from high school on time this year.
The urgency of this fact — and what to do about it — were the subject of a talk given by Leonard Pitts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, to educational policymakers at a GradNation Summit in Bellevue earlier this week.
Pitts said he understood paralysis in the face of enormous need — such as the fact that only 42 percent of America’s fourth graders are proficient in math, and only 35 percent read at grade level.
“Incredibly, these numbers, as disheartening as they are, actually represent incremental progress,” Pitts told the audience of educators and policymakers.
Carol Cleveland, who runs a high-school completion program out of a strip mall in Kent, was sitting there, too. Hers is exactly the kind of response Pitts is urging: Do something. Try anything. Don’t simply read and study and discuss the problem.
Speeches, committees and studies are all useless, he said, unless they lead to “a moment of decision.”
The answers to America’s education problems are not mysterious, Pitts added: “We do indeed know what works to save our children, what works to improve test scores, what works to improve graduation rates.”
Among the solutions he cited: Longer school days, longer school years, more after-school activities, giving principals hiring power, rewarding teachers who produce results and parental involvement.