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New push to help South King County students succeed

Renton High School students working on a recent edition of the student newspaper Arrow. South King County and south Seattle schools are being targeted for improvements to in student achievement.
Gary Davis/KPLU
Renton High School students working on a recent edition of the student newspaper Arrow. South King County and south Seattle schools are being targeted for improvements to in student achievement.

A major effort launches today to help low-income students in South King County and South Seattle.  It’s a new approach to a decades-old problem – how to help disadvantaged kids succeed in school and beyond. 

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kplu/local-kplu-939155.mp3

The new project sets ambitious goals.  It aims to close achievement gaps for children of color and double the number of low-income kids who’re on track to graduate college.  Things the smartest government, education and community leaders across the state have been unable to pull off...at least, on their own. 

“Right now, education is too siloed, says Mary Jean Ryan, organizer of the project and Executive Director of Community Center for Education Results. “You might have a great program somewhere and then right next door, in a district next door, they might have the same problem. But we don’t have good mechanisms for transferring what works and doing that rapidly.”

That’s where the Road Map for Education Results comes in.  The project is a team approach that looks at education from cradle to college…an idea based on New York’s Harlem Children’s Zone

It brings together city leaders, school districts and community groups to establish common goals.  And ways to compare programs.  Ryan says a lot of the solutions to helping kids succeed are already out there.

“It’s not a case of needing to invent something that we’re not sure if it is possible to achieve," Ryan says. "We know it is possible. Because it’s happening on the ground, everyday. It’s just at too small of a scale.”

 The Road Map project itself is still scaling up.  It has a startup grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but still has to develop benchmarks and baseline data to measure progress.  Today’s launch is the beginning of a 10-year process to accomplish its goals.  

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.