Archive for July, 2008

Katarina's trip to Vancouver

Boarding a bus at seven in the morning to attend a State Board of Education meeting was not at the top of my summer to-do list. Honestly, I would have never guessed that attending a State Board of Education meeting would ever be on my calendar.

With my eyes a little puffy and my stomach empty, my excitement meter was running on the low side as I headed to the office two hours earlier than normal. As I slowly dragged my body out of my dad’s car, I was instantly greeted with smiles and eager faces ready to show the State Board what we’re all about.

As the bus arrived at the meeting, our show-stopping swag captured the eyes of many in the room. Our message was even stronger than our fierce red shirts – every student should have the opportunity to succeed. We all brought our own stories, each one as powerful and unique as the next.

It was not until this summer that I realized how fortunate I was. Hearing some of the testimonies really helped me see how difficult it may be without the guidance, mentoring and encouragement I received through family, school and Rainier Scholars. Every student is not offered a chance to know success but I believe everyone should be able to know what it feels like to succeed. Through Core 24, every student will have the opportunity to make decisions that will directly affect their future. It offers a solid academic foundation with flexibility to alter courses in order to accommodate post high school graduation plans.

I can now say I have attended a State Board of Education meeting, learned a lot and had fun at the same time. Not only did we show everyone at the meeting how Core 24 would be beneficial to all students, but we also showed them how important student voices really are. We are the future and the time for change is now.

Katarina is our summer intern and also a Rainier Scholar.

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Congratulations, we did it!

The Washington State Board of Education approved the CORE 24 framework (contingent upon funding) in Vancouver moments ago.Together, we changed our schools for our kids. Students, parents, educators, and business leaders spoke with one loud voice: We want our high school graduates to be ready for college and careers.

Thank you to:



  • Over 500 supporters who signed our postcards and online petition;
  • Over 50 activists who boarded the Did You Know Campaign bus to the State Board meeting in Vancouver yesterday;
  • Dozens of students who gave great testimony about how CORE 24 will help prepare ALL our kids for success; and
  • Members of the State Board of Education for raising the bar.
Send an email to the State Board of Education and thank them for strengthening Washington’s high school diploma.The CORE 24 framework will replace our state’s outdated high school graduation requirements and increase the number of credits needed to graduate from 19 to 24. Students will choose between three graduation pathways based on their plans after high school. In addition, the State Board set a high standard for math and voted to adopt Algebra II as the default third credit of math.

Click here for more information about CORE 24.

We’re not done

The State Board’s approval of CORE 24 is just the first step.

CORE 24 will be phased-in over six years, but nothing will happen unless the State Legislature implements CORE 24 and approves the funding schools need to hire more teachers and extend the school day to six periods.

Stay tuned for the next opportunity to take action. Please thank the members of the State Board of Education for raising the bar.


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Simran's testimony, Western Washington Student

Just shy of spending two weeks as an intern here, I attended the State Board of Education meeting in Vancouver yesterday to testify in support of CORE 24. As I watched the number of miles decrease on the exit signs, my thoughts were about how the Board would react to the proposal, if much of the public would attend, if they would be in support of CORE 24, and if the students’ testimonies would be enough to sway the Board.

Upon arriving, I was ushered into a crowded room. I was intimidated by the formality of the meeting, yet comforted by the red shirts scattered throughout the sea of people. As I began listening to one woman testifying against CORE 24, I was taken aback by her opinion of students struggles in education. I can’t get over how people use technical issues like finances as an excuse for not supporting issues like CORE 24 and how easily people forget why Washington State made a board that makes decisions on public education. For the students, of course!

When my turn came, I hope to channel the importance of this decision, and how the Board is responsible for an uncharted number of children who would go through our state’s school system. I wanted to convey how we could set the students up for failure if we weren’t decisive. As another testifier said, “…..not making this decision would be criminal”. I was pleased that the Board seemed eager to listen to the students, and that my words proved to be meaningful.

It was a tangible experience and I found it empowering that people can make a difference despite the obstacles. My goal is to help other students realize that it isn’t difficult to speak out, but it takes having someone to listen that makes it count.

Here is an excerpt from my testimony:


My name is Simran and I’m a public school graduate heading into my third year at Western Washington University. I was fortunate to have parents and an older brother who were familiar with high school four-year plans, and knew how to prepare for success in enrollment in college. By taking AP courses and being highly involved in my high school, I had gained enough experience to ensure my position at a four-year university. I was lucky. We need to make sure that every student is just as lucky . . .

Despite the obvious technical issues that lie ahead with Core 24, it is important for you as a member of the State Board of Education to understand the fundamental theme behind this proposal. This is for the betterment of all students and will give them an opportunity to excel. They are the future of society and I believe that all of you have their best interests in mind. Thank you for continuing to do what you do for all students.

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Sea of Red

Posted by Heather

The State Board of Education are meeting today and tomorrow in Vancouver to vote on the proposed Algebra II requirement and have further discussion on CORE 24 (proposed new high school graduation requirements).

To show support for CORE 24, a busload of 50 students, parents and advocates rode down with us to the meeting. Wearing red “Change our world, change our schools” t-shirts, we were literally a sea of red in the room. Even more amazing than our visual presence was the student perspective offered by 10 members of our group.

Public testimony on CORE 24 was heard for more than an hour, and our group took up about a third of that time. After hearing from some of the usual suspects — most of whom support CORE 24 despite their concerns over funding and implementation — our speakers offered some perspective a bit closer to the ground.

Student speakers Roxana, DeAngela, Sebastian and Simran gave great testimony about how CORE 24 will help prepare ALL of our kids for success after high school. They all spoke to how raising expectations will benefit students, not hurt them, and creating a post-secondary plan will help students visualize their futures. All four asked the SBE to not wait to raise graduation requirements for fear of leaving more of their peers behind.

Let’s hope their testimony leaves SBE members seeing red over our current low expectations for students and voting to continue with CORE 24 as a framework.

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Sign Our Online Petition!

To: Washington State Board of Education

We’re parents, educators, business leaders, kids and others in the community working together to do all we can to improve education in our state.

We believe that a Washington State high school diploma should mean students graduate ready for college, job training and the workforce.

Washington’s high school graduation requirements are outdated and our kids are paying the price:

  • Only 41% of high school graduates meet college entrance requirements in Washington.
  • More than half of firms surveyed reported difficulty finding qualified job applicants in Washington.
  • Our students compete with students from thirty-seven states that have stronger graduation requirements than Washington.

We want the Washington State Board of Education to vote to update our state’s high school diploma at their July 23-24 meeting in Vancouver, WA.

The time is now. Our future depends on all of us.


Click here to sign our petition

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Performance Pay on NPR

Posted by Bonnie.

This morning there was an interesting story on NPR on the national debate on performance pay for teachers. The story reviews Obama and McCain’s education platform and looks closely at performance pay, specifically how it has played out in Colorado. Pro-Comp is one of the newer performance pay programs and they are working hard locally to cultivate teacher buy-in, an essential ingredient to a successful performance pay program. Click here to listen to the story.

Until recently many teacher unions have adamantly opposed pay for performance. Among other things they fear teachers will be evaluated unfairly. But many of the new pay for performance programs tend to be less rigid and more inclusive. Some teacher’s unions have embraced this new breed and believe they will encourage good teachers and better support struggling teachers. Although these programs are new, several models exist.

Our recent proposal to the Basic Education Task Force titled A Way Forward advocates adopting a modified pay for performance system that would include a new salary schedule based on three levels of responsibility and skills (Entry, Professional, and Lead), school-based bonuses, and additional funding for hard-to-staff positions as well as National Board Certified Teachers.

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Join us on the Did You Know Campaign Bus!

Join students, parents and community leaders on the Did You Know Campaign Bus. Washington’s students are counting on YOU to make your voice heard at the State Board of Education meeting in Vancouver, WA, on July 23rd. We’re going to let State Board members know that we expect our kids to be ready for college and careers when they earn a high school diploma in Washington State.

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Posted by Katie

It’s wonderful to join the LEV staff, and I look forward to being a part of the movement to improve public education in Washington’s schools. My name is Katie, and I am the new office manager at LEV.

As a former student in the Edmonds School District and as a tutor and mentor for high school students in Seattle, I am very familiar with the challenges that today’s students face. Furthermore, I spent the past ten months as a corps member with City Year Seattle/King County, an AmeriCorps program that serves youth throughout Puget Sound. This experience has opened my eyes to the realities and implications of school funding (or lack thereof), graduation requirements (including the WASL, of course) and the beauties and intricacies of working within a diverse community.

The issues about which I feel most passionate parallel those of LEV, educators and citizens in Washington and across the country. Additionally, I would like to see an increase in student voice in policy and standards discussions. It seems ironic to me that students’ voices are rarely heard while important decisions are made on their behalf. I realize that school boards and lawmakers have their plates full of daunting responsibilities already, but with the well-being of Washington’s youth being the heart of why they serve, I believe that conversing with students should be a top priority.

As I enter this new chapter with LEV and begin applying for my Masters in Teaching, it is a personal and professional goal of mine to see that Washington students have a voice in decision-making. I believe that we (teachers, administrators, lawmakers and community members) need not only to encourage our youth to speak out but empower them to exercise their voices and challenge ourselves to listen.

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Our exciting new addition: Katarina, A Rainier Scholar

Posted by Katarina.

Hi, I’m Katarina. Born here in Seattle, I am an upcoming high school junior. I have attended private school my whole life but I’m very interested and eager to learn more about issues in the public schools. Through Rainier Scholars, I was offered this opportunity to intern at the League of Education Voters office.

I consider Rainier Scholars more than just an academic program but as a family. The positive and continuous encouragement from everyone at RS has led me to truly believe an individual can make a difference in this world. By helping to develop future leaders, Rainier Scholars has helped me and my peers see our potential and have motivated us to step to up and prove that success is for everyone. I have been a part of Rainier Scholars since fifth grade and looking back, I can see the difference they have made in my life.

In two years I will be off to college. At this point, I am still unsure about what school I want to attend or what profession I want to pursue but with the support of school counselors, family and Rainier Scholars, I know I am heading down the right path. As a child I wanted to be everything. Now that I am older I know I can be anything, I just have to believe in my dreams and know my options.

I enjoy playing volleyball and just kicking back in the summer sun with friends. I spend a majority of my time with my two sisters and parents. Art is a large part of my life. I danced ballet for six years and I have recently started to draw and paint more. I played the piano and flute for a little and I listen to music whenever I can. I am also an active member of my church and youth group. Summer is my favorite season and I’m always up for an adventure.

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