Archive for October, 2008

SBE meeting preview

The agenda and support materials for next week’s State Board of Education meeting are up on the Board’s website. The meeting will be held at Highline Community College and is scheduled to run 9am-5pm on Wednesday, Nov. 5th and 9am-3pm on Thursday, Nov. 6th.

Items on the agenda include:
– Proposal to create a CORE 24 Implementation Task Force, whose purpose would be (you guessed it) to look at implementation issues and advise the SBE accordingly. Action Item
– Release of the much-anticipated (by me, anyway) High School Transcript Study.
– Presentation on the Math K-8 Curricular Review and recommendations. Action Item
– Discussion of the draft system performance accountability framework (a meaty item to be sure). Action Item
– Update on the science standards review.

We’ll be there next week, and posting updates as we go.

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Lisa Macfarlane – Majority Owner

Lisa has a new name around this office – Majority Owner. This month Lisa is featured in Seattle Magazine’s 2008 Power List. Honestly, we can’t say we’re surprised – although Lisa is gonna kill me when she sees this blog post. Here’s what Seattle Magazine had to say:

The history-making election may be dominating national headlines and dinner conversations around the country. But we looked at the year’s local headlines—and behind them—to ferret out the people who are changing the landscape and driving conversations in Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region.


Majority Owner
Lisa Macfarlane, director of external affairs, the League of Education Voters

Bio: The 52-year-old New Jersey native got involved with school levy issues in 1995 following the fourth failure of a Seattle school levy and bond campaign, due to a requirement that such measures pass by a 60 percent margin. The following year, when a levy failed with 58 percent of the vote, Macfarlane says, “I was seeing red. I ripped the hose off at the gas station and drove to the [Schools First] campaign office,” she recalls. She took leave from her job to help rerun the levy campaign, and has worked on every levy campaign since. By 2000, she and Nick Hanauer founded the League of Education Voters (LEV).

Why she’s on the list: Macfarlane, along with her LEV colleagues and the powerful state teachers union, helped pass House Joint Resolution 4204, the constitutional amendment that enables school levies to pass with a simple majority. (Bonds still require a 60 percent margin.) After years of lobbying, HJR 4204 squeaked through Olympia with the required two-thirds majority in both chambers. The legislation was ratified by voters last November, but again, just by a hair. It relied on absentee ballots to get it over the top. “We won in overtime,” says Macfarlane.

Biggest influence: Her days in the late 1970s when she was a VISTA volunteer at a maximum-security juvenile correctional facility in South Carolina. “I know what happens to kids when they don’t get opportunities,” she says. Steve Hansen

Click here to read the article.

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What’s your Trick or Vote costume?

The League of Education Voters has partnered with The Washington Bus to host Trick or Vote. It’s the largest non-partisan get-out-the-vote canvass…in costume on Halloween.

Next Friday, October 31, hundreds of volunteers, parents and children, will meet on Capitol Hill to do a quick training and get ready to Trick or Vote in youth-heavy neighborhoods around Seattle. The first wave of Trick or Voters will meet at 3:30 PM, and the second group will meet at 5:30 PM.

Volunteer to Trick or Vote!

Our goal is to knock on 8,000 homes in the Seattle area. We want everyone to VOTE and vote all the way down the ballot. Local races have a huge impact on all our lives and they are determined by only a few hundred votes.

Remember, the 2004 gubernatorial election was decided by just 133 votes and last year’s simple majority for school levies was another close one.

Need help on those charter amendments?

Here’s an easy way to vote on all the races and measures on your ballot.

The Progressive Voters Guide lists the endorsements and positions of eighteen organizations who are working to promote education, social justice, the environment, and health care in our state.  Check it out!

Let’s set another record

Washingtonians set a new state record this year by exceeding 3,515,000 registered voters.

Secretary of State Sam Reed predicts 83 percent of registered voters could participate in this election. But that still doesn’t break the 85 percent turnout record that’s stood for more than 60 years.

You can help Washington break the record by signing up to Trick or Vote!

Thanks for voting in this election,

Bonnie Beukema
Deputy Director

Posted in: LEV News, Media Clips

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PESB Task Force recap

The Professional Educator Standards Board Task Force on Ensuring an Adequate Supply of Well-Qualified Math and Science Teachers met Wednesday morning to continue its work in figuring out how to address Washington’s math and science teacher shortage.

Featured presenters included representatives from Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, school districts and the Center for Teaching Quality.

Ify Offor, vice president of new site development for TFA, presented to the Task Force, followed by Ariela Rozman, CEO of TNTP. This was the only part of the meeting I was able to attend; the presentations were informative along with the following Q-&-A sessions.

The big issues for Task Force members were cost, retention and feasibility. Jennifer Wallace said quite plainly that there are no statutory barriers to TFA coming to Washington. TNTP is hired as a consultant by districts, states and universities, so no barriers exist to its being hired by Washington stakeholders.

Click on the following links to learn more about TFA and TNTP.

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Seattle P-I: No on I-985

Posted by Michael

The Seattle P-I Editorial Board opposes Initiative 985.  Here’s an excerpt:

In this economic era, we can understand how people might be so eager to cut their tax bills that they would even want to trim school levies. But would people want to cut money for education and still pay the same taxes?

That prospect — less for schools with no tax cut in return — is one of the frightening aspects of Initiative 985, the impatient person’s poorly considered scheme for addressing traffic congestion by throwing money from all over the state mainly at the problem in the Puget Sound area, probably not achieving much positive and making congestion worse in places. Initiative 985 would divert an estimated $290 million in the next biennium from the state’s general fund, which pays for public schools, health care, law enforcement, higher education and other services, into a new traffic congestion relief account. Yes, it would come out of that general fund, the one already facing a $3.2 billion shortfall.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.

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SBE System Performance Accountability recap

The State Board of Education’s System Performance Accountability workgroup met Tuesday in Renton. The SBE’s accountability proposal was on the table, and the workgroup attempted to reach a consensus.

Before reviewing the proposals, workgroups members shared the feedback they have received from stakeholders. Reciprocal accountability and funding were two of the most cited concerns, trailing well behind “receivership” — nearly the word of the day. Stakeholders also shared their value of balancing accountability and intervention with recognition of success.

Next, Pete Bylsma recapped his accountability index proposal. This proposal includes the matrix the SBE would use to determine the performance level of schools and districts (exemplary, good, acceptable, struggling, priority). The index would be calculated annually, and there was concern from workgroup members that a fluke year (good or bad) could skew the index score of a district of school. Mr. Bylsma acknowledged that is possible and responded the SBE could elect to modify how the index is calculated.

Mr. Bylsma then moved into the recognition system, which workgroup members seemed to generally support. Questions rose over schools/districts receiving recognition for doing well in one area of the index (ex. Reading WASL scores) while performing poorly in all others. Some thought providing a pat on the back sent the wrong message to schools and districts, while others argued encouragement is necessary to keep up morale. Some workgroups members advocated for recognition of successful schools and districts so they may serve as models to other schools and districts. Other concerns were raised about the weighting of inputs in the index and the cut scores for each tier. Some thought graduation rates and achievement should be weighted more.

Janell Newman of OSPI then gave a brief presentation on OSPI’s Summit program, a voluntary support program for struggling schools.

This was followed by a presentation of Mass Insight’s proposal on school and district turnaround (via the Innovation Zone). Andy Calkins of Mass Insight began by showing how this proposal will mesh with efforts already in place in Washington, and why the state should do both. Academic receivership came up again and certain people in the room began to tense up. Meghan O’Keefe of Mass Insight said this term can be changed.

Some questions were brought up about the need for the Innovation Zone if the state already has the Summit program, which has proven effective. There was then a slightly heated discussion about intervention options related to local school boards (reconstitution, restructuring and takeover), along with possible mayoral takeover of districts.

The idea of “academic watch” surfaced, which would be comparable to the “financial watch” system used by the state. In this sort of system, the state works with districts to make improvements with the understanding that if things don’t change, a leadership change will be made. Workgroup members preferred this model, where accepting assistance is the requirement rather than mandated intervention strategies.

A draft accountability system is supposed to be presented at the full Board meeting in November. We’ll have to wait and see if that remains the case.

Posted in: Blog, LEV News

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Re-elect an Education Champion

Posted by Chris

Our next governor must be committed to building an education system that prepares every student for life after high school, whether it’s college, job training or work.

For education voters, the choice is clear: re-elect Governor Chris Gregoire.

In Governor Gregoire’s first term, she proved to be a hands-on, tenacious advocate for education. She seized every opportunity to make children and education her top priority. Under her leadership, Washington State:

  • Invested in high-quality early learning opportunities and all-day kindergarten to help every child read by third grade;
  • Ensured that 84,000 more children have access to health care;
  • Fully funded voter-approved initiatives to lower class sizes and boost pay for educators; and
  • Added 10,000 new enrollments at our state’s colleges and universities and increased financial aid to open the doors of opportunity for more young people.

Nearly 30 years have gone by since our state updated our K-12 finance system. Under Governor Gregoire’s leadership, we’re finally on track to reform and fully fund Washington’s schools to prepare all students for today’s global economy.

Make Washington schools among the very best in the nation. Re-elect Governor Chris Gregoire!

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Achievement Gap (HB 2722) meeting recap

Last week, the HB 2722 Advisory Committee met in Tacoma to continue discussion of their proposal on closing the African American achievement gap.

The committee’s Best Practices workgroup came up with five goals to be included in the committee’s proposal to the Legislature.

  1. Increase the on-time graduation rates of African American students by 10 percent a year, to achieve 100 percent by 2018.
  2. Reduce the dropout rate of African American students by 10 percent a year, to eliminate dropouts by 2012.
  3. Increase by 50 percent the number of African American students entering higher education or other post-secondary opportunities, without needing remediation, by 2014.
  4. Ensure proportional representation of African American students enrolled in all special programs (including special education and gifted programs) by 2014.
  5. Provide all 3- to 5-year-old African American children with high-quality, academically focused early childhood educational opportunities by 2018.


Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps

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Early Learning Advocates…We Need Your Input!

Posted by Molly

The achievement gap is probably one of the single most alarming issues facing public schools today. Research shows that closing the achievement gap requires closing the school readiness gap. However, we can’t close the preparation gap – and help all children be successful in school – without better understanding the magnitude and nature of the gap which is why a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment is essential.

The good news is that progress is being made! The Legislature directed the Office of Superintendent (OSPI) to work with the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and Thrive by Five Washington (Thrive) to design and pilot a common statewide approach to assessing entering kindergartners’ skills and knowledge upon entering Kindergarten as a strategic way to address the achievement gap epidemic.

As a part of their overall work, The OSPI, DEL and Thrive created a statewide survey about the kindergarten assessment process in Washington State.

This survey allows you – educators, families and early learning stakeholders – to be involved in the process and make your preferences and opinions for a statewide kindergarten assessment process in Washington State known! I encourage everyone to take some time and fill out the survey.

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LIVE BLOGGING: Basic Education Finance Task Force Meeting

Posted by Heather


Washington Learns Update
Judy Hartmann, Governor’s Executive Policy Office

Ms. Hartmann provided a review of the Washington Learns report, including the five principles of change within the report.

The five principles are:

1. Share accountability for continuous improvement
2. Tailor education to fit the needs of individuals
3. Bring creativity into the classroom
4. Engage parents, communities and private partners
5. Commit the necessary human financial resources

Ms. Hartmann ran through the strategies included in the report. She was running through the laundry list of strategies and received a question from Chair Grimm when she got to expanding alternative routes for math and science teachers. Chair Grimm asked for more clarification on the routes, including whether candidates received pedagogical training. Ms. Hartmann gave more information, and candidates in these alternative route programs do receive pedagogical training, typically through an institution of higher education.

We then returned to the laundry list — the good news being that much of this list is in progress, rather than on standby.

Ms. Hartmann said the path forward includes three items:

1. A system of shared accountability that is transparent, incentive-based and built on the principles of shared responsibility and continuous improvement
2. A redefinition of basic education, designing a funding structure to support the new definition, and making a significant down payment toward the goals
3. Design a 10-year implementation strategy

Adjournment at 3:30pm.

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