Archive for 2009

Question of the Week

Currently, teacher salaries are determined through negotiations between the local union and the school district.  One implication is that salaries can differ dramatically from district-to-district–even neighboring ones.  This makes it difficult for poor districts to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

Should the state take over the responsibility of negotiating teacher salaries or leave it to the districts?

Leave a comment below to join the discussion with other parents, educators and advocates.

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Technology Alliance: Stick with math & science requirements

(This is a guest blog post by Susannah Malarkey, executive director of Technology Alliance, a statewide, not-for-profit organization of leaders from Washington’s diverse technology and related businesses and research institutions.)

If “innovation is in our nature,” then sticking with the math and science graduation requirements should be the natural decision for state policy leaders to make.

On behalf of the Technology Alliance, I feel compelled to add my voice to the growing chorus of indignation at Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s proposal to delay math and science graduation requirements. Washington’s innovation community is deeply concerned that this proposal signals a retreat from a commitment to ensure all students possess the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and 21st century careers.

Sticking to the task of preparing our students to be informed, engaged citizens and to compete for family-wage jobs is not only a matter of economic competitiveness; it is a matter of basic fairness. Our state has a diverse technology sector that creates high-wage, high-impact jobs. Unfortunately, we are not preparing the vast majority of Washington students to benefit directly from the opportunities our economy is creating.

We continually tout our highly-educated and innovative workforce (we rank 4th in the nation for intensity of scientists and engineers), but we ignore how we got there (we also rank 4th for net-migration of college degree-holders).

For years, we have made do with minimum high school graduation requirements that don’t align with the level of preparation students need to be successful in college-level work (around half of Washington graduates entering community colleges must take non-credit bearing coursework on content they should have learned in high school), or even be eligible to apply for admission to our public 4-year institutions.

And now, when we have an opportunity to make significant strides in bringing our education system into the 21st century through the basic education reform work currently underway and federal investments aimed at spurring innovation and accountability within our K-12 system, Washington’s education leader proposes yet another delay in math and science graduation requirements.

How can it be that one of the most innovative states in the nation is still having a debate over whether students should demonstrate proficiency in math and science before exiting high school?

As state education strategies go, it does not inspire confidence. Instead of repeated delays and watering down of expectations, we should be pursuing reforms that would help our students to meet those expectations:

– Implementation of CORE 24 to align minimum course-taking requirements with the expectations of college and the workplace;
– A concerted focus on improving teacher quality and our teacher evaluation system; and
– Data and accountability systems that will empower teachers, school leaders, parents and policymakers to take the steps necessary to ensure our K-12 system is serving the best interests of our students.

Our state leaders need to maintain their commitment to providing a meaningful high school diploma to all Washington students. Anything less is unfair to our kids and unsustainable for our state economy.

Susannah Malarkey is the executive director of Technology Alliance.

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Weekly roundup of education news from LEV

Education advocates and newspapers quickly weighed in on Superintendent Dorn’s proposal to delay math and science high school graduation requirements last week. LEV has begun to post in-depth analysis on the final Race to the Top guidelines on our blog.  We’re also introducing a Question of the Week to encourage discussion on thought-provoking questions about education and public policy.

Question of the Week

In Portland Public Schools, budget cuts could hit home to students and parents. Up to five classroom days could be cut from the school calendar because of furlough days. Recent polling shows that 60 percent of Washington residents don’t believe our state is facing a budget crisis even though higher education and K-12 have been cut by 12 percent.

Should policymakers consider eliminating all-day kindergarten or cutting school days to help balance the budget?

Join the discussion with other parents, educators and advocates:

News from LEV

Superintendent Randy Dorn’s speech to the state school directors
TVW filmed Superintendent Dorn’s speech to the Washington State School Directors’ Association on delaying math and science graduation requirements.

Wrong move, wrong time
In case you missed it, here’s LEV’s reaction to Superintendent Dorn’s proposal to delay high school graduation requirements for math and science.

What’s at risk in the state budget?
Our friends at the Washington State Budget and Policy Center have put together this excellent narrated slide show about the very real impacts of the projected $2.7 billion state budget shortfall.

What are Washington’s chances of winning Race to the Top dollars?
LEV reviews the eligibility requirements for Race to the Top and how Washington stacks up.

Final Race to the Top guidelines released
Each Race to the Top application will be evaluated based on a 500-point scale. Here’s the breakdown for how points will be awarded.

News from the Media

Editorial: State schools chief Randy Dorn blinks on math and science requirements
The Seattle Times is concerned that Dorn’s proposal will harm low-income and minority students the most.

Editorial: Don’t delay reckoning on science, math norms
The Spokesman-Review believes students will rise to the challenge to meet math and science requirements similar to how they responded to reading and writing.

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Question of the Week

In Portland Public Schools, budget cuts could hit home to students and parents. Up to five classroom days could be cut from the school calendar because of furlough days. Recent polling shows that 60 percent of Washington residents don’t believe our state is facing a budget crisis even though higher education and K-12 have been cut by 12 percent.

Should policymakers consider eliminating all-day kindergarten or cutting school days to help balance the budget?

Leave a comment below to join the discussion with other parents, educators and advocates.

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What our early learning town hall meetings accomplished

In the past two weeks hundreds of parents in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Kirkland met with Bette Hyde, Director of the Department of Early Learning, Nina Auerbach, President of Thrive by Five Washington, and Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn to talk about the challenges they face as they care for and educate their young children. You may have heard about the early learning town halls as a member of LEV or  MomsRising or the other great groups who made these meetings happen (Foundation for Early Learning, local PTAs, Children’s Alliance, CCR&R, and Washington Head Start/ECEAP Association).

So, why did parents brave the rain and cold?

Their feedback will help shape early learning recommendations for the 2010 Legislative Session and a ten-year early learning plan to be delivered to Governor Gregoire next month. These parents wanted to make sure that Washington’s Early Learning Plan will help their children succeed in school and life.

Did our input make a difference?

Access and affordability. We heard you loud and clear – but will the Early Learning Plan reflect that? Our discussion made a big difference on many levels, but we’re far from finished. While the 2010 recommendations are not final, the Department of Early Learning released preliminary recommendations to Gov. Gregoire and much of the feedback has been incorporated in these thoughts. The full document is available on the Department of Early Learning’s website, and here is a short summary:

  1. Birth through 3 Continuum. Build and fund an aligned, integrated continuum of supports, services and programs for all children birth to age 3, and their families. Ensuring that infants and toddlers have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success throughout their lives. Because this is also a critical period for meaningful intervention for children at‐risk, and with special needs, a first focus will be on early invention programs and services, such as: developmental screening; home visitation; programs consistent with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C; Family, Friend and Neighbors support; and Early Head Start.
  2. Voluntary Universal Prekindergarten for 4‐year olds implemented in mixed‐delivery system. Prekindergarten programs for 4‐year olds aim to promote the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are associated with success in elementary school. “Universal” means that the program is universally available (or nearly so) but that parents are free to enroll their children or not as they see fit.  Create voluntary universal preschool program for 4‐year‐olds as part of basic education; phase in to serve highest poverty communities first. Integrate and coordinate phase‐in of all‐day K with phase‐in of universal preschool for 4‐year‐olds.
  3. State‐Funded Full‐Day Kindergarten Enhancing Equity, Continuity and Quality Based on research, the Legislature prioritized full‐day kindergarten funding for schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty (as measured by the number of students eligible for free and reduced‐price lunch). Full‐day kindergarten gives young children, particularly those living in poverty, the time to learn the foundational skills and knowledge that is so important to future school success.
  4. Early Literacy. Promote early literacy and reading success in school for children birth through 3rd grade in the context of whole child development.
  5. Early Learning Educator/Provider Supports. Continue to implement and expand a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) so that early learning and school‐age providers have the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of their programs and environments and so that families have the necessary consumer education to choose high quality programs for their children. Ensure that licensing is the foundation of QRIS, and that all licensed early learning programs participate. As QRIS is implemented, ensure that it is: tied to child care subsidy (e.g. tiered reimbursement); and integrated within the Professional Development Consortium’s recommendations for a comprehensive professional development system that focuses on achieving high‐quality, and that promotes a qualified and well compensated early learning workforce.
  6. Enhance/Strengthen the Early Learning System Infrastructure. Continue to develop, strengthen and resource infrastructure elements needed to support the early learning system so that it functions effectively and with quality.
  7. Strengthen Partnerships with Families and Communities. Promote and support parenting education and information. Engage parents, families, caregivers, and communities in shaping policies and systems.
  8. Health Insurance and Medical Home. All children have health insurance and a medical home.

We are far from finished.

If you weren’t able to attend a meeting or if you did and have concerns about the list of priorities, there is still time to weigh in! The Drafting Team will be completing their recommendations in the next week and delivering them to Gov. Gregoire on December 1st. Please continue to weigh in on the Department of Early Learning survey or email me at

For more information on the 2010 Legislative Recommendations and the Early Learning Plan, you can visit the Department of Early Learning website.

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What's at stake for kids this election day?

A lot.

First: 1033 would lock us into a recession budget that is bad for kids.

Washington’s revenues were severely impacted by the worst recession in memory. State revenue for the biennium dropped by $9 billion and the Legislature was forced to cut K-12 by $1.8 billion, and higher education by $618 million and make even deeper cuts to health care and public services. Eyman’s 1033 would reset the base for the state budget, locking us in to these drastically reduced budget levels.

By locking us into today’s low revenues, and restricting revenue growth thereafter to inflation plus population, this measure would effectively prevent the state from making new investments in education required by basic education reform legislation (HB 2261) passed this session.

Beyond basic education reform, Washington would not be able to progress in early learning or higher education. For example, I represent LEV at the Department of Early Learning’s Early Learning Plan creation (draft to be released on December 1st). Over 120 stakeholders have taken part in this, adding their best ideas to create an implementation plan for early learning over the next ten years. If 1033 passes, this plan will not materialize. What does that mean for kids? Over half of Washington children will continue to arrive to kindergarten unprepared and one quarter of these children will not be reading by grade 3.

Finally, some costs borne by government increase faster than general population, like the number of students, and faster than inflation, like health care for teachers and fuel costs for school buses. This measure would force further budget cuts just to meet current obligations.

Put simply, 1033 won’t allow us to pay for what we currently do and won’t allow us to change our schools to give kids the skills we know they need.

Second: R-71 would affirm the domestic partnership legislation that gives individuals and families the legal protections they need.

Despite the depressing budget situation last session, the Legislature and Governor took a bold step in the right direction by extending the legal protections afforded to married couples to families headed by same-sex partners or seniors who form stable households and register with the state.

This legislation is not just another law. This law supports a family with young children, protects a young gay student currently bullied at school, and ensures an older couple can take care of one another in their final years. This law is about Washington families and children and it needs to stay.

We believe all families need the same basic legal protections:

  • Labor and employment protections;
  • Access to school and medical records;
  • Family leave to care for sick family members;
  • Insurance and medical rights; and
  • Access to pensions and benefits in the event of disability or death of a parent or spouse.

No purpose is served by excluding domestic partners, or the children of gay and lesbian parents, from these protections, responsibilities and benefits, designed to promote family stability.

Additionally, an estimated 3 to 5 percent of students identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or struggle with their sexual identity. In spite of growing levels of acceptance, sexual minority youths are overrepresented in the numbers of young people who are reported with mental health and substance abuse issues, who are victims of bullying, and who commit suicide. Removing discrimination based on sexual orientation from the law sends a profound message of hope and acceptance to those youths.

R-71 will ensure that all families and individuals have protection, a critical step towards changing our world and changing our schools.

Third: Rep. Laura Grant needs to go back to Olympia to continue working hard on behalf of Washington’s children.

Laura Grant knows what is happening in schools today. How? She’s a teacher. In fact, she’s the only current teacher in the Washington State Legislature.  Laura is also a mother of three and a former school board member.

When it comes to schools, we can count on Laura to vote for the best interests of students.   Last session, Laura voted for ground-breaking reform of our basic education laws that will boost support for schools and classrooms over the next decade.

Let’s send this education champ back to Olympia!

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pre[k]now recognizes Washington’s forward momentum on early learning in basic education.

pre[k]now just released a new report:Vote Count – Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2010.

The report recognizes the Legislature’s work in the 2009 Legislative Session to include a program of early learning for at-risk children in the new definition of basic education. They briefly describe the work of the December 1st Drafting Team, the group of government agencies and early education advocates (including LEV) to develop recommendations to Gov. Gregoire for next session, including adding voluntary, universal preschool for all four-year-olds in basic education.

Want to learn more about how Preschool for All in basic education would ensure all children are ready for school and ready for life?

  • Want to tell early learning leaders that you agree with [pre]know? Go to a local town hall near you in the next two weeks.
  • Click here to show how this program would serve all at-risk three-year-olds by expanding ECEAP, all four-year-olds with universal preschool, and all kindergartners with full-day kindergarten.

Cutos to Sen. Oemig and McAuliffe for their great quote and support. Here is the full text from pre[k]now’s report:

In Washington, the high-quality Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which served 6 percent of the state’s four year olds in 2008,12 will suffer a funding cut of nearly 3 percent for FY10, reducing enrollment by about 170 children. Despite the cut, lawmakers attempted to preserve some momentum in the state by bringing pre-k into the state’s definition of basic education. Though the bill did not include funding provisions, the new language stated that early learning for at-risk children should be included in publicly funded education, just like kindergarten or first grade, and seemed to signal a real intent on the part of state legislators to provide high-quality pre-k for more children.

In a last-minute move that caught early childhood advocates and lawmakers entirely by surprise, the governor vetoed the legislation, citing a concern that the change did not define pre-k as a basic educational requirement for all children. Though the veto was disappointing, the governor did follow up by asking state education agency leaders to develop a proposal for the 2010 legislative session to ensure that all children have the benefit of early learning. Lawmakers and the governor will need to communicate and collaborate effectively to bring that plan to fruition, but should they do so, Washington could be on the path to offering pre-k for all four year olds – a smart strategy for the state’s economic future.

Washington State Senators Rosemary McAuliffe (D) and Eric Omeg (D), chair and vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee: “Our students, educators and teachers deserve better, and we can’t give that to them without changing the way we invest in our schools… We must include early learning as a cornerstone of our school system.

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The House passes the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act!


Thanks to your hard work, the House of Representatives has passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by a vote of 253-171!

Struggling to come up with the cash for college? House leadership, with the Obama administration’s support, wants to cut out the middle man from federal student loan programs and give students the chance to borrow directly from the federal government. Middlemen are ex$pensive – so the bill creates $92 BILLION in cost savings! Part of the savings would be spent on an Early Learning Challenge Fund to make sure all children have a quality education from the very start!

College student? Here’s how the SAFRA will help you:

For the past 35 years, the federal government has subsidized loans made by private banks to students through the Federal Family Education Loan program, guaranteeing loans up to 97 percent and allowing lenders to reap the profits. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act – touted as the largest investment in higher education ever – shuts down that program, replacing it with a direct loan program run by the Education Department. The income-based payment plan eases the strain for graduates paying off loans.

Smartypants early learner (who can already read)? Here is how the SAFRA will help you:

Ensure young children enter kindergarten ready to succeed by creating an Early Learning Challenge Fund to provide states with $8 billion in competitive grants over 8 years. This investment would improve outcomes for all children and especially at-risk children-resulting in higher graduation rates, higher rates of college attendance, and higher earnings at work.

Everyone else?

This bill creates $92 billion in cost savings that will be spent on programs we know will save money and promote economic growth.  That’s a big hooray for everyone.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today after the House voted 253 to 171 this afternoon to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act:

“Education is the best investment individuals can make in themselves, it is the best investment parents can make in their children, and it is the best investment a nation can make in their citizens. With that in mind, today the House passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, the single largest investment in making college more affordable in the history of our nation.

“This legislation means that more students will enter college; that they will graduate with less debt; that the federal loan initiatives that they and their families depend upon are strengthened for decades to come; and that taxpayers will save money. It is fiscally responsible, following the strict standards of pay-as-you-go spending.

“This legislation seizes the opportunity to strengthen our nation by making a historic commitment to our students and a landmark investment in our future.”


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