Education in Washington

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What are the benefits of having a strong education system? Education can have a profound effect on health and life outcomes. Do children and adults have a fair and equitable chance to participate in lifelong learning? Are they achieving key milestones that help them succeed in life? When people are able to think critically and engage in the civic life of a community, they not only live longer, but they serve as a critical foundation for democracy and a thriving community.


What percent of students are "proficient" or above in a 4th-grade standardized reading test in Washington?

What this measures: The percentage of 4th graders who can read at grade level. 

Why this matters: 4th grade reading proficiency predicts future academic success. It marks when children switch from learning to read to reading to learn. Adults with poor reading skills are less likely to be employed and experience upward social mobility. They are also less likely to be literate about health. They may find it difficult to understand their health conditions and make informed decisions. 

What this relates to: High school graduation, juvenile incarceration, economy.

Data source: Nation's Report Card.

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What is the chronic absenteeism rate in Washington?

What this measures: The percentage of children with poor school attendance. 

Why this matters: Poor school attendance puts children at risk for poor education and health outcomes. Missing school puts kids at risk of falling behind academically and socially. This strongly impacts test scores and graduation rates. Children who are frequently absent in early education are less likely to read at grade level by 4th grade. Older students who are frequently absent are at greater risk for substance abuse, violence, and delinquency. Poor school attendance can also reflect poor student health, potential mental illness, and/or financial or emotional problems at home. 

What this relates to: 4th grade reading proficiency, high school graduation.

Data source: Civil Rights Data Collection, State and National Estimates.

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What percent of teenagers (16-19) are not enrolled in school and not working in Washington?

What this measures: The percentage of youth who are not in school and not in the labor force. 

Why this matters: Those who are not in school or work are at an increased risk of violent behavior, smoking, and alcohol and marijuana use. They may have poorer emotional and mental skills than their peers. A lack of education and unemployment are linked to poor physical and mental health. 

What this relates to: High school graduation, median income, juvenile incarceration.

Data source: American Community Survey, Table S0902. Due to small sample sizes, data was not reported for many counties.

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How much money is spent per K-12 pupil in Washington?

What this measures: Spending per student per year. 

Why this matters: Public school spending reflects overall investment in education. Higher spending may mean higher teacher pay, better infrastructure, or extra services such as after school programs. 

What this relates to: 4th grade reading, high school graduation.

Data source: National Center for Educational Statistics.

Other Interesting Measures


• Percent of kindergarteners who meet the criteria for readiness. Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

•Percent of 8th graders who are proficient in math. Source: NAEP.

• Percent of children who matriculate into 9th grade. Source: NCES, state/local data.

• Percent and relative disparity in population with Bachelor's Degree+, Index ranges 0-1, with 1 being more disparity, includes white vs. Hispanic & black. Source: Census.

• Percent of adults age 25 and older with a college education beyond high school. Source: Census.

• Percent of people not proficient in English: percent of the population that reports speaking English less than “well” in a given geography (e.g., county, Census Tract). Source: Census.

• Attendance rates (%). Source: NCES, state/local data.


• Continuing education tax credits: percent tax returns claiming adult education tax credits as a share of total filed tax returns. Source: Brookings Institute.

• Average child care costs relative to average or median income. Source: Census.

• Child care availability (in development). Source: To be developed.