State Superintendent visits Walla Walla schools

State Superintendent Randy Dorn visited Walla Walla schools on Thursday, and the school district released a Q & A interview with Dorn while he was there. Below is what the school district released.

Q: What are you trying to accomplish during your tour of Walla Walla schools?
A: It is an opportunity to gather information. The State Board of Education (SBE) has to make a decision on our new accountability system. The new accountability system is based on student growth, not just on test scores. We want to determine if kids are growing academically. We all know students start from different places academically. For example, a score of 60% on the test is good for one group of kids. But, if a student started at 25% and is now at 40%, he has grown 15 points and that is dramatic growth. We want to have a better picture of where kids start and how they are moving through the system so we know how it is working.

Q: Why is it important for SBE members to visit school districts outside of their hometown?
A: There are a wide range of schools and a wide range of challenges in schools throughout our state. School districts like Mercer Island in the Seattle area have high income parents and many advantages in the home. We also have students who come from poverty from all areas of the state , whether it be Seattle or it be Walla Walla, and they have challenges. The schools have to address issues and move forward. We cannot simply say they are a poverty student, they cant learn. These students can learn, but we have to find different ways to educate and continue working with parents in the home.

Q: What are you goals moving forward?
A: We must fully fund basic education. That is number one. Adequate funding helps every kid. It helps every district. Special levies are not to pay for to and from transportation or for heating and cooling and copy machines. However, this is how schools today are forced to use their levy funds. I also want to make the state assessment system more understandable, shorter and more useable. We need to do a lot more with early childhood education if we are going to get all kids to 3rd grade reading. We need more early learning opportunities and all day kindergarten. I also want to see more Career and Technical Education opportunities to help our students obstain the skills necessary for good paying jobs.