Archive for April, 2008

Inspired. Maddened. Informed.


For those of you unable to attend Monday’s presentation by Kati Haycock, let me tell you – you missed something incredible. It was inspirational, maddening, informative – and I hope, viral.

  • Did you know that students who have two ineffective teachers in a row never recover?
  • Or that we can’t catch kids up by slowing them down?

Would you have known the answer? Now that you do, you also know that the time for bold solutions is now.

Of all the lessons that Kati Haycock imparted this past week, for me, the takeaway was her six characteristics of successful schools. They seemed to me as straightforward as they are honest.

  1. They focus on what they CAN do, rather than what they can’t.
  2. They don’t leave anything about teaching and learning to chance.
  3. They set their goals high.
  4. Higher performing secondary schools put ALL kids – not just some – in a demanding high school core curriculum.
  5. Students who enter behind get extra instruction.
  6. Good schools know how much teachers matter and they act on that knowledge.

While she was here, Kati met with some folks at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Today’s editorial page reflects part of that conversation. As she said Monday night, Kati was shocked to learn that the state only funds a five period day. If we want to achieve the goal of getting all kids college and career ready, we’ve set ourselves up for failure, especially kids who need extra instruction.

The last thing Kati said Monday may have been the truest. Basically, it comes down to us to make the current system change. Without strong advocacy for a system that serves all kids, we likely won’t see one. For every one of us who was in the Library Monday night, there are dozens, maybe hundreds more that each of us know SHOULD have been there.

Help build momentum today by telling your friends about your takeaway lesson from Kati. If everyone connected just five more people, we’d have a network of 1,000 educated citizens ready to change the world by changing our schools.

Aside from pestering your friends, there’s more you can do on your own. Monday night, State Board Member and event host, Eric Liu asked, “Did you know that the State Board of Education is getting ready to change the high school graduation requirements” – removing the barriers and the guesswork from preparing for post-secondary education. Please call or email the State Board of Education and let them know what you know about higher standards, preparing all children for college and careers, and making our high school diploma meaningful. The SBE can be reached at 360-725-6025 or by email at

Thank you for your steadfast commitment to all our kids’ success. We are inextricably linked whether all of us act like it or not; they are our future, and we are theirs.

Posted in: Blog, LEV News, Media Clips

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Higher standards for success

There is a whole lot of moving, shaking and contemplating going on in Washington’s K-12 community. In addition to the Basic Education Finance Task Force looking at our K-12 finance system, the State Board of Education is tackling math and science standards (along with OSPI), accountability and high school graduation requirements.

The Meaningful High School Diploma was the focus of a SBE work group meeting Tuesday. The SBE is considering increasing the minimum high school graduation requirements from 19 to 24 credits. Our current graduation requirements do not match entrance requirements to Washington’s four-year colleges and universities.

The proposed change to graduation requirements, called Core 24, ups credit requirements for core classes and certain electives.

Subject Current

19 credits
Core 24 HECB Min.
15 Credits
English 3.0 4.0 4.0
Math 2.0 3.0
(1 in senior year)
(Algebra II, 1 in senior year beginning 2012)
Science 2.0
(1 lab)
(2 lab)
(1 lab, 2 lab beginning 2012)
Social Studies 2.5 3.0 3.0
Fitness 2.0 1.5 0

.5 0
Arts 1.0  


(HECB allows subs, UW/WWU require .5)
Occupational Education (changes to Career & Technical Education) 1.0  

(includes Culminating Project)

World Language 0 2.0 2.0
Electives 5.5 2.0 0
Culminating Project/High School & Beyond Plan 0  



Within Core 24, the SBE wants to allow some flexibility for students with post-secondary plans not best served by Core 24’s default requirements. Some elective requirements can be met in middle/junior high school or through CTE courses.

Raising high school graduation requirements should help to better prepare students for post-secondary life, regardless of what their plans are. Too many (52 percent) of Washington’s recent high school graduates take remedial courses at community and technical colleges. Even those students who pursue options other than a two- or four-year college need the same skills as those who do, according to employers. Research shows that when the bar is set higher students actually perform better, regardless of their achievement level.

This is an exciting time for education in Washington. We have many decisions ahead of us, and the time for bold solutions is now. This is one of the reasons the League of Education Voters has invited Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, to a town hall meeting to discuss some of these issues and solutions. Please join us in a conversation about the future of education in Washington.

Monday, April 28
7 – 8:30 p.m.
Seattle Public Library, Microsoft Auditorium
1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma

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Seeds of Compassion

The Dalai Lama is in Seattle for a 5-day gathering to cultivate compassion.  The focus throughout the event has been on nurturing kindness and compassion throughout the world starting with children and those who touch their lives.

This special focus on young children and early learning was what drew me to attend the Compassion Forum on Sunday afternoon.  The forum brought together a diverse group of more than 500 citizens, policy makers, teachers, parents, youth, community leaders, philanthropists and children’s advocates to discuss action steps to sustain the goals of Seeds of Compassion.

I spent the day engaged in conversations with a special-needs pre-school teacher, a care-center owner, an employee of the Department of Early Learning and a conflict-resolution counselor.  It was really incredible having so many people gathered and focused on one thing – improving the lives of young children!

There were lots of bold ideas being discussed on how we can all contribute to promoting successful and healthy young people.  The keystone to all of the ideas, discussion and brainstorming was that we, as children advocates, need to build an awareness campaign that increases public understanding of the importance of the healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development of children.  Unfortunately, many policymakers, community leaders, parents and the general public are just unaware how critical this time is in a child’s life.  Increasing awareness and understanding is necessary so decision-makers can take better-informed, more effective action!

The forum yesterday was meant to collect the thoughts and ideas from those who are deeply engaged in the early learning and education fields.  The recommendations that were gathered will be used to create a set of priorities by the forum leadership which will be translated into action in the coming year.

“Compassion is not just being sentimental and feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation.  If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action.”         

                                                ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning

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The Time for Bold Solutions is NOW!

Telling truths and dispelling myths about education is what Kati Haycock, from The Education Trust, does extremely well. Kati makes a very persuasive case for why we need to raise standards higher for all kids of all races.

Chances are that if you hear Kati speak, you will be moved to action.  And that is what is needed if we want to really give our kids-all of our kids-as many opportunities as possible to succeed in life.


Our state’s education system is currently at an important crossroads. Not everyone realizes that right now we are in the process of deciding whether or not we should update (and yes, raise) high school graduation requirements to better align with the expectations of post-secondary education.

Sounds like a no-brainer given the new realities of the changing work force and the knowledge economy that surrounds us. Not to mention the fact that every young adult should have the choice of going to community college or university. But, change is not easy.

While we have made real progress in the last decade, there is no getting around the fact that too many kids are still struggling and losing out on key opportunities.

We need more parents and concerned citizens engaged, demanding change, and communicating with policy makers.  That is why the League of Education Voters Foundation is bringing Kati out to Seattle.  We could not think of a better person to come rally the troops than Kati or a better time to do it than now.

You won’t want to miss this important conversation with one of the nation’s leading education reform advocates.  Eric Liu, one of our State Board of Education members, will moderate and help put Kati’s recommendations in the context of things we can do right here, right now to create more opportunities for all of Washington’s kids.

Join us and together we will discuss bold solutions to ensure that every student will have the opportunity to build the future they desire.

Kati Haycock and Eric Liu
Monday, April 28 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Seattle Public Library, Microsoft Auditorium
The event is free and open to the public.
Please RSVP by Friday, April 25th.

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Media Clips

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Helping Kids in the Critical Years

Last week, Gov. Gregoire signed the 2008 supplemental operating and capital budgets.  One of the major highlights of the capital budget was the significant investment to support one of Washington’s early leaning initiatives – the Thrive by Five communities.  White Center and Yakima County are the two communities that were selected more than a year ago to design comprehensive early learning networks for children ages birth to 5.

The White Center Early Learning Initiative is the first private-public model for early learning in Washington.  It has brought local stakeholder groups and businesses together to develop plans to make positive early learning opportunities-whether at home or in child care centers-available to families in the White Center community.

One of the most exciting parts of the capital budget was the $2 million allocated to the construction of the Greenbridge Early Learning Center in White Center in addition to the $7 million provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The center will serve as a headquarters for education and outreach services in the community.

In addition, funding, both private and public, will be used to support a range of programs targeted at children from birth to 5, their parents, and caregivers, including:

  • Outreach services to pregnant women and recent mothers through the Community Doula program, which pairs new mothers with trained women who provide emotional support and guidance;
  • Nurse home visitation for expectant families through their children’s first years;
  • Play and learn groups for toddlers; and
  • Literacy resources for parents.

Existing Head Start centers in the community will receive grants to improve teacher qualifications and program quality. In addition, grant funds will enhance the learning environments of licensed child care centers, preschools, and family child care homes through professional development for staff and a quality rating and improvement system that will make better information available to parents.

Plans to get the Yakima program started are underway and should be unveiled soon – just watch the blog for the latest news.

These two projects, once fully implemented, will not only greatly improve these communities, but they will most importantly improve the overall early learning infrastructure in Washington.  The lessons learned and the insights gained by these projects will be leveraged to improve the programs and interventions available for families and children throughout our state so they will be successful in school and life.

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Funding

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Better than bad does not equal good

Two interesting reports were released this week: One on high school graduation rates for urban districts (including Seattle) and the other on state writing exam scores.

Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation, published by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, ranks Seattle seventh in graduation rates among the 50 largest cities with a graduation rate of 67.6 percent (the 50-city average is 51.8 percent). It should be noted this graduation rate does not represent a specific class’ graduation rate, or the graduation rate of districts over a specific time frame. Instead, it is an estimation based on the continuation rates of high school students between the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years. This probably explains why the report’s graduation rate is higher than the graduation rate Seattle Public Schools reported to the state. Here are the graduation rates for Seattle Public Schools, as reported through the Washington State Report Card, for the last five years available:


Academic Year

On-Time Graduation Rate











So what does this mean? The difference between the EPERC report and Washington’s report card highlight a real need for not only a uniform system of calculating graduation rates, but also a more accurate system to track students. Fortunately, all students in Washington’s public schools now have a unique student identifier, allowing the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to accurately track students and calculate graduation and dropout rates. Before, OSPI could not always identify who transferred out of the system and who dropped out, affecting graduation rates. For the Class of 2008, we will hopefully have truly accurate data to show how many of Washington’s (and Seattle’s) students are graduating on time.

In The Nations Report Card: Writing 2007, published by the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington comes out average, again. In an effort to make it sound like we are doing better than we are, references are made to the 88 percent of Washington 8th graders who scored at Basic or above. That’s like patting ourselves on the back for having 88 percent of 8th graders earn D’s or higher. The real proof of how we are doing as a state is the percentage of students who scored Proficient or higher-only 35 percent of 8th graders. Ten states performed better than Washington when comparing Proficient or higher scores, including Connecticut (53 percent), Massachusetts (45 percent) and New Jersey (56 percent). Here, again, we see Washington achieving average results with below average resources. Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey all spend more per pupil than Washington (upwards of $2,500 more), and offer higher average teacher salaries (upwards of $11,000 more).

While Washington’s system fares better than most states (and Seattle’s than other large cities), that doesn’t mean it’s “good.”

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, LEV News

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