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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 22, 2009 at 4:22 PM

WASL retirement

Increasing graduation rates will take a bite out of crime

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn wants to shift the focus of education reform away from testing to improved high-school graduation rates [“WASL wanes, with new focus on dropout rate,” page one, June 19]. As a police chief, I believe this shift in focus will not only improve educational outcomes for kids but make our communities safer.

Being a high-school dropout dramatically increases the likelihood that a person will end up in jail or prison. Nationwide, nearly 70 percent of state-prison inmates have not earned a high-school diploma.

A report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids shows that raising graduation rates by 10 percentage points results in a 20 percent decrease in murder and aggravated assault.

In Washington state, this means that 38 murders and 2,600 aggravated assaults could potentially be prevented every year. Significantly, the report also shows that high-quality, early-childhood learning is the most effective strategy to increase later graduation rates.

Very few dropout-prevention programs have been more rigorously tested than early learning. Research proves that early-childhood education helps kids start school ready to learn and cuts crime dramatically in the long run.

Let’s keep our eye on the big picture. I urge Dorn and the state Board of Education to include quality early learning when developing their plans to increase graduation rates. Not only will we see more students graduating, we’ll see a reduction in crime.

— Steve Strachan, Chief of Police, Kent

Comments | More in Washington Assessment of Student Learning

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