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WASHINGTON state’s graduating Class of 2012 did not include the 10,646 high-school students who dropped out between their freshman and senior years.

Progress has been made — that number is less than half the number of students who dropped out a decade before. Still, losing 13.6 percent of last year’s high-school class is unacceptable.

Dropouts are a brain drain our state cannot afford, neither morally nor financially.

Awareness of the issue spurred smart proposals in the Legislature. The problem is lawmakers have not passed them into law.

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Action on education-reform policies is urgent and consistent with the state Supreme Court’s mandate for lawmakers to improve public education by investing
and targeting the money where it can do the most good.

Legislation with a laserlike focus on students at risk of dropping out deserves support. Among them:

• Senate Bill 5244 by Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, would limit school suspensions and expulsions. Kick students out of school for two weeks or more and they fall too far behind in their schoolwork to ever catch up. School discipline is necessary so other students can learn, but effective discipline manages to keep all students on track to graduate.

• Senate Bill 5330 by Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove targets the state’s Learning Assistance Program toward students struggling academically. They are the ones more likely to grow discouraged and quit school.

• Senate Bill 5237 would help struggling students early. The bill would require schools to offer academic support, for example tutoring or summer school, to students not reading proficiently by third grade.

Statewide dropout-prevention programs such as Building Bridges and Navigation 101 deserve credit for helping lower the dropout rates in many districts. But Washington needs to make bigger gains to end the brain drain. That will take an aggressive combination of local efforts and state policies.

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