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A three-year-old partnership between seven King County school districts already has raised academic achievement. Now the Road Map Project Consortium is a finalist in a competition for up to $40 million in federal Race to the Top money.

Well done.

The consortium’s compelling application was among 372 received by the U.S. Department of Education. From the 61 finalists, between 15-25 applicants are expected to be chosen by the end of this month.

At 320 pages, the Road Map’s grant application is an ambitious vision for education, from cradle to college.

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There are many lessons worth gleaning from this effort by the Auburn, Highline, Renton, Federal Way, Kent, Tukwila and Seattle school districts.

The biggest underscores the galvanizing power of group effort. Public-school improvements are too often waged in isolation, hindering their success or ability to affect more than a few students.

The South King County districts added more power to school-improvement efforts by bringing in the mayors, libraries and even the King County Housing Authority, the latter to help with summer reading plans in low-income neighborhoods.

The Road Map consortium hopes to double the number of students graduating from college or earning a career credential by 2020. It is an ambitious goal but more likely to happen by working as a team.

Another lesson: the beneficial power of superintendents and education union leaders working together, rather than at cross purposes. Improvements in education funding and policies are on the horizon, but gains will take time.

Hats off to the Road Map Project partners for moving ahead. That’s a template worth a federal grant.

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