One of the biggest education stories you may not be hearing about is happening in Seattle’s backyard, and one of its main plotlines revolves around early education.
In South Seattle and its neighboring suburbs, the Road Map Project is creating a comprehensive, and ambitious, plan to double college and career-ready rates by 2020 among students — more than half of whom live in poverty. And this map starts in early learning by supporting a range of Prek-3rd systems-building in participating school districts.
But, if you are looking for in-depth coverage of one of the most important education laboratories in Washington state — and what should be considered a key project in the national debate over education reform — you won’t find much.
This is a big problem. Throughout modern media there are plenty of stories about the latest education reform ideas, proposals or bills. But, real solutions to the nation’s education challenges lie in the type of comprehensive, collaborative, and not always glamorous work that the Road Map Project is doing.
These solutions also start with early education, something Road Map’s leaders understand.
“The project takes a ‘cradle-to-college-and-career’ approach, with a big piece of the work focusing on high-quality early learning. Effective early learning opportunities provide a critical foundation upon which students build their education to reach graduation and ultimately their career path,” Road Map spokesperson Kristin Johnson-Waggoner told me.
Journalists, analysts and researchers need to explore what’s happening in the South Seattle project through broad and in-depth stories and reports about its successes, failures and lessons. More important, they need to add this work to the national dialogue (and periodic fights) about how to fix the U.S. education system.
The good news is that researchers at the University of Washington are already doing this. On Tuesday, they released a report that looks at parental engagement in the Road Map Project. Not surprisingly, they “found that students were most successful when schools and communities found creative and culturally responsive ways of engaging parents.”
This finding echoes what Thrive by Five Washington has been doing for a long time. One of Thrive’s signature efforts, “Love. Talk. Play.”, is an engagement campaign based on the understanding that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. Collaboration among parents and teachers — from the early years to 12th grade — is key.
Check out the Road Map Project and spread the word.