SEATTLE (AP) - As lawmakers and school reform advocates debate whether Washington state should allow independent public charter schools, state officials are renewing their support for the state's "innovative schools" program.
Education officials announced Thursday the approval of a dozen innovation plans across the state, mostly concentrated in the Tacoma school district.
The project is the result of a measure approved by last year's Legislature, allowing schools and districts to request a waiver from state regulations they believe are standing in the way of special programs that would improve student learning.
The Tacoma district jumped on the program early with the School of the Arts High School and Science and Math Institute receiving praise for their specially focused courses.
The newest innovations in Tacoma include an international baccalaureate program that goes from kindergarten through 12th grade, a second Montessori school and a middle school focused on science and math.
But critics say the innovation program is little more than a new label on existing policies, pointing to a list state officials released in November citing 22 existing school programs already considered innovative before the new law took effect.
Supporters of charter schools say the governor should welcome the independent public schools as the federal government suggests.
But innovation program proponents say the plan is effective in improving education.
"I support teachers and administrators doing what it takes to make kids ready for a career or college," said Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction. "I strongly encourage schools to be bold and creative when finding solutions that work for kids."
Donna Blankinship can be reached at http://twitter.com/dgblankinship
Innovative Schools: http://www.k12.wa.us/InnovativeSchools/DesignatedSchools.aspx
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