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Originally published Friday, May 4, 2012 at 3:55 PM

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A+ Washington keeps education reform moving forward

A+ Washington is a bold, comprehensive education agenda that keeps the momentum of reform going.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE state Legislature made a notable commitment to protect public-education funding and act on key reforms in the face of daunting budget cuts in the just-concluded session.

The challenge to keep the momentum going is met with a bold and comprehensive strategy that aligns education reform from pre-K to college or career training. A diverse coalition of local and statewide education groups banded together under the umbrella Excellent Schools Now and created a broad strategy for moving forward on education reform.

The result is A+ Washington, a powerful and sequential road map worth consideration by the public and lawmakers.

Expanding access to prekindergarten classes is a practical beginning. A Washington state study of incoming kindergartners found a third were starting out behind.

Boosting high-school graduation requirements better aligns them with college entry requirements. Nearly two-thirds of college students have to take remedial courses during their first two years, consuming time and money.

Other goals, lowering the dropout rate and raising the high-school graduation rate, will not be solved overnight but through focused policies and public investment.

Education budgets are tight, but there is power in A+ Washington and the plan's strong potential to keep the reform conversation going. Moreover, the priorities are backed by a majority of voters and public school teachers in a statewide survey taken earlier this year.

The hefty list is not intractable. These are important goals and strategies that ought to be tested and, if necessary, improved upon. But the key is to keep the conversation going.

Many of the education reforms passed by the Legislature are aligned with the A+ Washington agenda, including stronger teacher and principal evaluations and replacing seniority with performance in school hiring and firing decisions.

The Legislature must continue to protect education funding and push for more reforms. In the gubernatorial race, candidates Rob McKenna, a Republican, and Jay Inslee, a Democrat, support the plan. But their positions on specific strategies differ, something that ought to be highlighted on the campaign trail.

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