Here’s how Washington’s new voice for student achievement wants to dramatically boost education levels

Michael Meotti, the new director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, is in charge of a state agency that’s trying to dramatically increase the number of Washington students and adults who earn a college degree or credential.

Nearly five years ago, the Washington Legislature created a Cabinet-level state agency that aims to get more students to complete higher levels of education.

But the agency, the Washington Student Achievement Council, is still not well-known outside of Olympia.

What does the council hope to achieve?

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

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For answers, we talked to Michael Meotti, recently chosen as the council’s new executive director. Meotti has worked on higher-education issues for most of his career, including serving as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Higher Education.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q:The goal of the Achievement Council is for all Washington adults ages 25-44 to have a high-school diploma, and for at least 70 percent to earn a postsecondary credential, by 2023. Is that goal too ambitious?

A: It’s a meaningful, aspirational goal. I don’t think there’s any desire to relent from trying to achieve it. I draw a comparison to the high-school movement, 100 years ago, when people started to push for every student to go to high school. We went from a world in which very few 16-year-olds were in formal schooling to, after World War II, when high school was pretty universal. The reality is, with each passing year, everybody is going to need something after high school if they want to join this much more complex labor market. Postsecondary education is not just…

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