Archive for May, 2009

Beating the odds

Vote Yes for Yakima KidsIt’s a tough economic climate—especially to achieve the supermajority vote needed to pass a school bond. And yet, that’s exactly what happened last week thanks to the tenacity and hard work of students, schools, and volunteers in Yakima.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, voters in the Yakima School District approved a $114 million school bond to build a new high school and modernize seven other schools.

The critical factor for this success story was the kids!

Two student coordinators from each high school worked together to organize their peers and community members to build support for the school bond. One of the culminating events was the BondFest rally, where students from each school marched from their campus to the park to hear speakers and performances. More than 1,000 students and community supporters attended the event.

In an election with nearly 12,000 votes cast, students and volunteers delivered a powerful message that reached more than 10,000 voters via door-to-door knocking, phone calls, and rallies.

These students truly gave their heart and soul. Their work will mean future high school classes will learn and walk the halls of modern and safer buildings.

Special thanks should go to Central Washington Progress and The Washington Bus for providing technical help and know-how around elections and organizing.

If you’re starting up a levy and/or bond campaign in November or next year—you’re not alone! Yakima is a success story that can work in any community in the state.

At LEV, I’m one of two field organizers who will travel anywhere in Washington State to help you setup and develop a solid plan to win a school levy or bond. We can also put you in touch with other resources that can provide voter analysis and assistance with K-12 finance and organizing. And, there’s LEV’s Levy Library for online access to collective knowledge from dozens of past levy and bond campaigns. 

Contact me or Frank Ordway, our NW WA Regional Director, about getting involved in or running a levy or bond campaign at

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WA receives $672 million in stabilization funds

The U.S. Department of Education released Washington’s first wave of state fiscal stabilization fund dollars, to the order of $672 million.

In our application, we asked for $820 million:
Restore the level of state support for K-12 in FY2009:           $362 million
Restore the level of state support for colleges in FY2009:     $0
Restore the level of state support for K-12 in FY2010:            $357.3 million
Restore the level of state support for colleges in FY2010:      $100.7 million

Nothing in the U.S. Dept. of Ed. press release indicates why we received less than we applied for. However, the feds do note that we are eligible to apply for an additional $331 million in SFSF monies this fall. And prior to the SFSF payout, Washington received $194 million in stimulus funds (for Title I, IDEA, vocational rehabilitation and independent living grants).

Much of our 23-page application contains assurances Gov. Gregoire had to sign off on. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn only needed to sign one page, and even then it was optional, go figure. (Most likely because most school chiefs are appointed, rather than elected). Attachment A of the application provides a summary of Washington policies and procedures that “address the assurances” and “illustrate means by which Washington will address them” (page 15-16 of the PDF).

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Wonky words: Report on education equity

The Schott Foundation for Public Education just released Lost Opportunity: A 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America. In this report, the states are ranked on the opportunity to learn provided to all students. What I find really interesting is where the report calls out the economic consequences of each state’s education system.

 This report puts Washington’s annual economic burden to taxpayers because of inequity at $507 million. Yep, that’s $507 million each year, or $1.1 billion each biennium. To give some perspective, the annual economic burden in Virginia is $1.5 billion, in Massachusetts, $852 million, and in Oregon, $16 million.

 Here are some more numbers for Washington:

Potential Return on School Improvement Investment:           250%
(Differences attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)

State Annual Total Lifetime Health Loss                                          $100 million

State Annual Crime-Related Loss                                                        $65 million

State Tax Losses (Lifetime)                                                                    $342 million

Annual Lost Lifetime Earnings                                                             $704 million
(Difference attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)

Net Annual Potential Revenue Increase from Equity                 $313 million
(After deducting estimated cost of improving schools)

Just some food for thought for the holiday weekend.

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A poignant reminder from the First Five Years Fund

How would the lives of at-risk children be different if we invested in high-quality early learning programs, starting at birth?

Watch the First Five Years Fund’s new video and see—through the voices of the children themselves—just how powerful the change can be.

A poignant reminder that we have much work to do in Washington to provide quality early learning for every child, especially children who are at-risk.  Join the movement…

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Innovative Practices Showcase: Western Washington University — Stephanie Salzman, George “Pinky” Nelson

Spotlight on some of the great things WWU does to prepare teachers. Mr. Nelson encouraged the PESB to raise the passing score on the WEST-E. Ms. Salzman said WWU is excited about the ProCert assessment and plan to use it to help teacher candidates. Mr. Nelson added that they are grateful to OSPI for providing the data for the students in the classrooms of pre-service teachers. Ms. Salzman and Mr. Nelson also spoke to the importance of moving away from teacher preparation programs as “puppy mills,” and really increase quality [Ms. Salzman’s words, not mine].

>>Some questions from PESB members about the high number of elementary education teachers WWU graduates. Ms. Salzman said they analyze data and talk to the state about anticipated need in all areas.<<


Results and Recommendations from the Professional Certificate Portfolio of Evidence Assessment Evaluation Committee — Esther Baker

ETS was the only company to respond to the RFP. The ETS proposal will cost $5.5 million for five years.

>>Representative from Gonzaga University voiced concerns about the assessment, namely it being a high stakes test for teachers, questions about teachers on special assignment and in other duties, and teachers already having a lot on their plates.

>>Some PESB members are concerned about the assessment, and the cost. Jennifer Wallace reminded the board that they have been working on this for some time, and have brought down the cost significantly. And with the new legislative mandate (HB 2261), the board needs to propose an assessment, so if not this, then what? Shannon Lawson said teachers she has worked with have responded positively to the ProCert pilot, and keeping the cost under $500 seems reasonable (some districts offer stipends). Grant Pelesky was the only member to vote against the item.

ETS consultants said they hear the board’s concerns, and plan to work with educators as they develop the assessment.<<

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PESB/Washington State Letter of Intent for Participation in Cross-State Pilot of California’s Teacher Performance Assessment — Jennifer Wallace, Raymond Pecheone

-Partnership between ACTE, CCSSO, Stanford University

-In California, have 6,000 candidates annually, so scale is not much of an issue

-Portfolio scoring takes 2 hours or less

-Designed as a bridge to induction

-Washington’s timeline is a bit faster than the project’s, but not a big deal


Public Comment

Lucinda Young, WEA — Budget cut $1.5 billion from education, need to make up losses to pension and compensation, resources may not be available for things PESB wants to do; 16 days of the school year will be paid for with federal stimulus funds; higher education is also cut; teachers who might normally volunteer to help grade assessments might be too stretched at their schools; WEA members feel HB 2261 says institutions of higher education and the licensure system are unable to provide quality teachers; some WEA members are angry about ProCert, but younger teachers who recently went through ProCert have good things to say; WEA members trust PESB; please continue to reach out to educators, WEA will be glad to help; despite cuts, it’s important we keep quality licensure system

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Parents, kids, and education advocates joined lawmakers and Gov. Gregoire for the signing of ESHB 2261 into law.

Parents, kids, and education advocates joined lawmakers and Gov. Gregoire for the signing of ESHB 2261 into law.

It’s been a busy week!  Education advocates heard Kati Haycock talk about strategies to close the achievement gap on Monday and attended the basic education reform bill signing in Olympia Tuesday.

Check out the photos from these events:

Kati Haycock Town Hall – May 18, 2009

Basic Education Reform bill signing – May 19, 2009

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Legislative Session Outcome — Jennifer Wallace

-HB 2261

*By January 2010, PESB must

*Have new knowledge, skill and performance standards calibrated at each level of certification

*Adopt a new definition of “master teacher”

*Proposal for a uniform, statewide, valid and reliable classroom-based means of evaluating teacher effectiveness at pre-service level

*Update on implementation of uniform and external assessment for teacher professional certification

*Have a recommendation on the length of time a residency certification is valid

*Beginning no earlier than September 2011, professional certification shall be based on a minimum of two years of successful teaching experience and may not require candidates enroll in a professional certification program

*Beginning July 2011, residency teacher preparation programs must demonstrate how program produces effective teachers

>>Questions from members about the impact of this on colleges of education. Ms. Wallace shared that some colleges have indicated they will not continue to offer ProCert programs. PESB members from institutions of higher education indicated some would and others would not continue to offer ProCert programs.<<

*Three workgroups will have a PESB member on them

-HB 2003: changes in PESB responsibilities and composition

*Shrinking to 12 members and the Superintendent of Public Instruction

*Removes current PESB responsibility of hearing certification appeals

-SB 5973 and HB 2261: cultural competencies

-HB 1675

-HB 1156

-Final budget


Recommendations for the Conceptual Model of the Evidence-Based Pedagogy Assessment — Larry Lashway, Esther Baker, Cap Peck, Colleen Fairchild

-Recommendations for pre-service level EBPA:

*Would be external (conducted by non-supervisor)

*Should include video clips

*Should have scoring system that provides fast, timely feedback to candidates and programs

*Assessment should include university faculty and supervisors in the scoring process

*The standards and criteria for the Teaching Cycle should be aligned with standards and criteria for the Professional Certificate assessment

*The formal “external” assessment of core teaching skills should be supplemented by a program-implemented assessment (the “Longitudinal Record”) during student teaching

-Unresolved issues

*Content specificity




*Legal concerns (namely around video clips)

>>Back and forth exchange on scale and timely feedback. Some concern from Board members on cost to candidates, worried it will act as a deterrent. Some members also concerned about the time needed to grade exams (2-3 hours to grade, for 2,000+ candidates).<<

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Surprise veto and bitter disappointment

Today was supposed to be a happy day for me, the LEV team, and all of us who fought so hard on behalf of kids this session.

At LEV, George, Lisa, Chris and I have been working on including early learning in the revised definition of basic education for two years now. It started as a bit of a dream. An idea that had more research behind it than many current programs in the definition of basic education – but that seemed too difficult to pull off. We worried about political will, legality, funding, etc. etc. By some miracle, including early learning in the revised definition of basic education made it in the final recommendations of the Basic Education Finance Task Force AND through the legislature. How? Team work.

I’ll be honest, in the beginning the advocates were pretty silo’d. There were early learning folks and K-12 folks. But, something happened to change that and I believe it was this legislation. Suddenly legislative chairs at PTA Focus Day were prioritizing early learning in their letters to the editor and speeches, and early learning advocates were speaking to the importance of a robust definition of basic education. All advocates became P-16 advocates. This legislation forced all of us to understand the solid case for early learning. It became common sense – the program to invest in especially during a recession.

Today the Governor ended this work with a surprise veto that resulted in bitter disappointment.  As I mentioned, I arrived to the Capitol this morning ready to celebrate promise and possibility. And, there is much to celebrate. She did sign most of the bill, which is a historic step forward.  However, we also had some bad news in the form of a surprise announcement. Right before the signing we learned that the early learning component of the bill was going to be vetoed by the Governor.   As people slowly figured out what was happening, you could hear people gasp in the hall and wonder what occurred.  No one knew beforehand including key legislators or staff. We don’t really know what happened to cause this.  I personally believe it had little to do with kids.  Adults have a terrible way of getting in the way of progress for kids.

There is something I do know though. We won’t give up. Including early learning was a key component of the legislation. There is solid research and much of it that demonstrates that children who are at-risk, who receive early learning intervention, will do better in school and life. In short, high-quality early learning could prevent the achievement gap before it starts.   As more children enter kindergarten ready to succeed, the pace of the entire class can pick up.  The bar is raised for every child, which is what every child needs.

Including early learning for at risk children was a cornerstone of a “kid” focused bill. I am more than disappointed in Gov. Gregoire’s action today. I’m shocked, heartbroken, and ready to take action.

Stay tuned …

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Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders, which includes the League of Education Voters, issued the following news release after the bill signing.


News Release: May 19, 2009

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Parents, school advocates applaud beginning of movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education”

OLYMPIA – More than 100 parents and education advocates joined Gov. Chris Gregoire as she signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

“Today is a historic day for Washington’s children in the midst of challenging times,” said Laura Bay, president of the Washington State PTA.  “Parents and school advocates are deeply concerned about the impact of state budget cuts to schools.  We’re grateful, however, that lawmakers took bold action to protect education funding from devastating cuts in the future by expanding ‘basic education’ to include the tools our children need to succeed in life.”

“The signing of this education reform bill is important to our economy,” said Terry Byington, executive director of TechAmerica Washington.  “The future of our state and nation depends on every child receiving a high-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“The signing of the education reform bill is, in large part, a testament to the hard work of parent and citizen advocates who worked to achieve positive changes for children and public schools,” said Jen Boutell, parent and Tacoma Stand for Children leader.

At the last minute, the governor vetoed the section on early learning.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to veto the section that would have provided early learning for at-risk children,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.  “We take the governor at her word that she’ll prioritize early learning next session.  This is a top priority of ours and the children of our state.”

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261.  The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

“Our state is now committed to reforms that will prepare every child for college, work and life,” said Cheryl Jones of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.  “But, the work has just begun.  It’s up to all of us—parents, educators and students—to work closely with our lawmakers to implement these reforms.  Our education system depends on it, and all of our children deserve nothing less.”

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