Every child is different, even from year to year. When it comes to a child’s education, parents should have as many options as possible. Lately, Washingtonians have been enjoying more flexibility in students’ choices. We need to protect this freedom, but we also still have areas for improvement.  One persistent problem is the amount of time, money, and energy spent on annual testing. We should return to a simpler, shorter, much less expensive annual test like the Iowa Test, and free up more classroom time for teaching and learning. In addition, lawmakers and bureaucrats should not be micromanaging what goes on in the classroom or at home; neither should they push unfunded mandates upon the school districts.

Math and reading scores over the past 45 years show little lasting improvement. The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test is given to a sampling of public and private school students nationwide. In 1971, the average Reading score of a 17-year-old was 285; in 2012, it was 287, out of a possible 500 points

So in 45 years, we saw an increase of only two points in Reading, after trillions of dollars spent on GOALS 2000, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, etc. [1] Math scores of 17-year-olds show similar results: an average of 304 points in 1973, and 306 points in 2012. In fact, NAEP puts it succinctly at the top of the page: “ Average reading and mathematics achievement for 17-year-olds did not change significantly between the early 1970s and 2012 or between 2008 and 2012.” Ouch!

It’s important to note that these are the scores of the kids who stayed in school. In Washington State, one out of five students who enter high school won’t graduate in four years. According to our State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 79.1 percent graduate in four years; if we adjust it to include those who graduate in five years, it’s 81.9%, so still roughly one out of five students fails to graduate high school.[2]  Let’s give the teachers more time to teach, and stop wasting so much time and money on Common Core tests. Let’s give our students more classroom time instead of sending them to the school library for much of spring quarter to do Common Core tests on computers. Put the focus on learning, not testing.

With a Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, I spent ten years teaching college students and immigrants at universities and community colleges in Seattle, Edmonds, Kirkland, Bothell, Illinois, China, and the United Arab Emirates, sometimes with as many as a dozen languages represented in one classroom.  I’ve taught gifted students and learning disabled students; I’ve tutored immigrants and international students as an independent consultant. I’ve taught every age from 2 to 72 in a classroom setting and have spent 16 years homeschooling my children. In the Washington State Legislature, I’ve served on the Higher Education Committee and was Assistant Ranking Minority Member on the Early Learning and Human Services Committee, where I fought for the goals outlined above: protect and keep open as many options as possible, decrease the testing time and bureaucracy, avoid unfunded mandates.

A good education opens doors and increases liberty. Perhaps this is why our State Constitution says it is of “paramount” importance. It would be an honor to continue advocating for common-sense solutions to the problems in our education system.