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Originally published Friday, November 12, 2010 at 3:04 PM

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A Harlem model for Seattle students

An ambitious community-inspired effort to help struggling schools complements Seattle school district efforts.

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For information on the Community Center for Education Results:

NEW report cards on Seattle schools and the district as a whole reveal a mixed bag of improvement and stagnation.

Cheering results include 67 percent of Seattle's high-school students now enroll in college within a year of graduation, up from 59 percent three years ago.

Schools were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, based largely on test scores — not just the percentage of students passing tests but the percentage making gains. Only a dozen schools out of 82 received a 5, meaning they had a high percentage of students passing state reading and math tests and showing strong academic improvement.

But not a single south-end elementary, middle or high school received better than a 3.

The mixed and dismal results ought to sound a clarion call for more robust and targeted efforts.

An impatient public understands educational improvements take time but is right to wonder whether ongoing efforts are enough and targeted in the right places. Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has hinted at stronger action, including replacing principals and staff or closing schools.

Encouraging signs come from new efforts by the Community Center for Education Results, a regional project targeting struggling schools in South Seattle and South King County. The center would be the base for an army of community resources, from early learning to local library reading programs.

The center would ensure needed services follow students throughout their school years.

Many communities are plagued by an unhealthy feeder pattern in which students from low-performing elementary schools move to low-performing middle schools. A cradle-to-college approach for intervention is best at halting the pattern.

Inspiration for the new round of efforts comes from the Harlem Children's Zone, the highly touted antipoverty and education program that has proved for some students that classroom and community efforts must go hand in hand.

Harlem Zone's leader, Geoffrey Canada, spoke to a crowded ballroom in Seattle recently to argue for educational efforts that go beyond good teachers and curriculum to encompass medical needs and social services.

As Canada reminds us: We would not force our own children to learn with a painful cavity or poor eyesight. Time to give every child the help they need to succeed.

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