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Originally published January 12, 2012 at 4:42 PM | Page modified February 6, 2012 at 11:39 AM

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One region's cradle-to-college approach

The year-old Community Center for Education Results has galvanized hundreds of key civic players to build a road map toward improving education, cradle to college, in South King County.

Seattle Times Editorial

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DIFFICULT educational challenges exist in South Seattle and South King County schools, but a compelling report matches sobering data with smart solutions.

The report from the small, two year-old organization, the Community Center for Education Results, establishes an important baseline for this region.

Too few young children receive quality early learning; 34 percent of public-school students are still struggling to read by third grade, and just 24 percent of the high-school graduates get a college degree or career credential.

A host of civic and corporate partners are working with the center, including the region's seven school superintendents, eight mayors and the leaders of the six community and technical colleges in the area. Other partners include community groups, social-service agencies, housing authorities and nonprofit foundations critical to funding. Boeing is part of the partnership. The aerospace company knows it will need thousands of skilled employees and values a talented, diverse workforce.

The overall goal is to double the number of students by 2020 who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential. Smaller goals and benchmarks are set at each stage — for example, getting more kids ready for kindergarten, more students reading by third grade and prepared in middle school for the rigors of high school.

Known as the Road Map Region, the area of concern includes the Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton and Tukwila school districts and the southern part of the Seattle school district. The regional emphasis is appropriate. In South King County reside:

• 70 percent of the county's low-income students;

• 58 percent of the students of color;

• 66 percent of the students learning English.

School districts are making strides. For example, the Auburn School District's focus on early literacy boosted third-grade reading proficiency from 68 to 84 percent last year. A value of the Road Map project is to provide a broader platform for such successes and key assistance, such as funding. An initiative in Federal Way enrolls students who test at grade level in advanced courses. Advanced-courses enrollment for students in the 11th and 12th grades rose from 35 percent to 61 percent. Hispanic students doubled their enrollment.

Credit Mary Jean Ryan, a fixture in Seattle and statewide education-advocacy circles, for leading the regional effort to improve educational opportunities all along the continuum.

A nimble approach leads to small successes. For example, Ryan and the center are behind a January push to get students to fill out the federal financial-aid form required by most colleges. Students who apply for financial aid tend to enroll. Educators, business and civic leaders working together have created a road map for academic success.

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