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Archive for March, 2012

Why I like A+ Washington: A teacher's perspective

This opinion piece was written by Kristin Bailey-Fogarty and originally published in Publicola. She is a Seattle teacher, a LEV board member and a member of Teacher’s United. To learn more about the A+ Washington plan, you can visit their website.

This summer, I met with other educators from across the state to offer feedback on a beast of a document. We spent hours discussing and critiquing what is now the A+ Washington plan while facilitators recorded our comments.

The plan was crafted by the Excellent Schools Now Coalition—the League of Education Voters, Partnership for Learning, Stand for Children, and Teachers United, as well as parents, teachers, students, community members and business leaders who volunteered to provide feedback as the document was drafted and revised.

Everyone involved believes that providing all students the opportunity to succeed in work and life requires new ideas and practices that promote flexibility in our education system. A+ Washington is available on the coalition’s Website.

I don’t like every single thing in the plan, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to agree with every part of something in order for it to be the right direction for education in our state. When I read it, I read it as a classroom teacher (one with lots of seniority who teaches a tested subject), as someone who wants my daughters to have a great public education and as someone who wants the children of complete strangers to have a great education. I also read it as a taxpayer, one who is willing to pay more taxes if
that money is efficiently spent.

Read all she has to say about the plan here.

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Governor signs bill establishing new Student Achievement Council

Governor Gregoire signed HB 2483 today which will create a new cabinet level agency, the Student Achievement Council.

Passed by a bi-partisan effort, responsibilities for the Council will include developing policy and strategies to raise the percentage of Washingtonians with post-secondary education as well as administering state financial aid programs.

According to the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s blog, the new law (which becomes effective July 1st will have several goals:

a) To propose to the governor and the Legislature goals for increasing educational attainment in Washington, recommend the resources necessary to achieve the goals, and monitor progress toward meeting the goals;

b) To propose to the governor, the Legislature, and the state’s educational institutions, improvements and innovations needed to continually adapt the state’s educational institutions to evolving educational attainment needs; and

c) To advocate for higher education through various means, with the goal of educating the general public on the economic, social and civic benefits of post- secondary education, and the consequent need for increased financial support and civic commitment in the state.

More information about the new law can be found here.

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Presenting Katie and Megan’s Schools That Work Contest entry!

schools that work rocket schoolhouseAll across our state schools are doing innovative and amazing things to help our students reach their highest potential, and we want to hear about yours! That’s why we’re holding our Schools That Work Contest for students. We want to know what you think makes your school successful. Is it an innovative program? A beloved principal? A creative teacher? A popular project? You tell us!

This entry is from Katie and Megan, who attend Helen B. Stafford Elementary. For taking the time to tell us about their school, Katie and Megan are in the running to win big. The winner of the contest, selected by a panel of LEV judges, will get a pizza party worth up to $150 from your local pizza joint. Plus, their entry–and their school–will be announced at LEV’s Second Annual Schools That Work Breakfast and will be featured as the winner on LEV’s blog. Check out their entry:

Katie and Megan with their schools that work submission poster

Schools That Work poster submission

Schools That Work poster submission

We’re accepting submissions through April 8 at 9 p.m. Send us your entry today!

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Report finds that extended learning time successful when coupled with other changes

Education Sector updated its brief on extended learning time, with similar conclusions — extra time on its own doesn’t necessarily increase student achievement, but when paired with other strategies can increase student learning.

The report, titled Off the Clock: What More Time Can (and Can’t) Do for School Turnarounds, points to examples like Massachusetts, where many schools have seen positive change.

One such example is Matthew J. Kuss Middle School in Fall River. Once designated as “chronically under-performing,” the school is now a success story.

“Since adopting an added-time schedule in 2006, Kuss gives all its students 30 percent more time in school (including on Saturdays) and provides additional development time for teachers, almost all of whom have increased their work hours: instructors now have nine individual planning periods, a grade-level meeting, and at least one curriculum meeting each week.”

The report also finds that the majority of ELT schools are charter schools:

“A look at schools currently using ELT bears this out. Roughly 1,000 public schools in the nation are now operating with extended schedules, according to the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL), meaning that they have added at least 30 minutes to their schedules each day. Although they include a number of traditional public schools, more than 60 percent of them are charter schools. Most serve high percentages of poor and minority students and English-language learners. And many reflect the best of what ELT can be: their vision is not limited to time, and they have the capacity and support to make that vision work.”

You can read the full report here.

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Opinion: We need great principals in all of our schools

Former policy director for Terry Surguine Governor Mike Lowry, the governor of Washington from 1993 to 1997 wrote a guest commentary in the Everett Herald espousing the importance of principals.

In the opinion piece, Surguine writes,

“In all our efforts to improve public education, we’ve overlooked the people who arguably have the greatest impact on student learning: principals.

Effective organizations have skilled leaders focused on results. In education, student learning is the bottom line, but we’ve paid scant attention to providing effective school leadership even though we have the tools to do so. I believe we need to use those tools more effectively.

Since the Washington Education Reform Act was passed in 1993, we’ve debated certain issues endlessly: Teach to the standards or teach to the test; WASL or no WASL (soon it will be the national Common Core Standards and new testing); hold teachers accountable; hold the Legislature accountable for funding basic education for all children; and charter schools, defeated at the polls three times, but here they come again. Yet we’ve talked very little about the need for excellent school leadership.”

Read the whole thing here.

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Seattle Times: Keep superintendent search as open as possible

magnifying glassThis editorial originally appeared in the Seattle Times on March 27. Read more about the Seattle superintendent search in this post.

Community engagement on Seattle’s biggest hire — the next superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools — is critical. The School Board should modify a search plan to include more interaction between finalists and the public.

A group of 25 community leaders and school parents has been selected by the board to interview candidates. A news conference with the finalists is good, for journalists.

But the public has a stake in this and rightly wants to be heard.

Read the full editorial here.

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Presenting Michaela’s Schools That Work Contest entry!

schools that work rocket schoolhouseAll across our state schools are doing innovative and amazing things to help our students reach their highest potential, and we want to hear about yours! That’s why we’re holding our Schools That Work Contest for students. We want to know what you think makes your school successful. Is it an innovative program? A beloved principal? A creative teacher? A popular project? You tell us!

Our first entry is from Michaela, who attends Washington Virtual Academy. For taking the time to tell us about her school, Michaela is in the running to win big. The winner of the contest, selected by a panel of LEV judges, will get a pizza party worth up to $150 from your local pizza joint. Plus, their entry–and their school–will be announced at LEV’s Second Annual Schools That Work Breakfast and will be featured as the winner on LEV’s blog.

We’re accepting submissions through April 8 at 9 p.m. Send us your entry today!

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Tele-Town Hall: Supporting teachers and leaders in transforming our schools

Hot off the heels of the last tele-town hall (over 5,000 Washingtonians participated), we’re excited for you to join us in the next conversation.

Educators in Washington state are working under tough conditions. Cuts to funding are straining already depleted resources, and teachers and leaders in our state’s schools are not getting all the opportunities and options they need to help all students succeed. It’s now more important than ever to give teachers and school leaders the support they need to transform K-12 education.

Join us and our A+ Washington coalition partners for our next discussion on Tuesday, March 27th from 12-1pm with the following speakers:

Robin Lake, Director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education

Jana Carlisle, Executive Director Partnership for Learning

Dave Powell, Policy Director Stand for Children Washington

Conference call details:
When: Tuesday, March 27
Time: 12-1pm

Phone number: (888) 886-6603, Extension: 18493#

It’s within our reach to make sure every student is prepared for success in work and life. It will take all of us – parents, families, educators, business and community leaders working together to help every student reach his or her full potential.

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Seattle School Board votes to keep Teach for America

In a vote of 4-3, the Seattle School Board voted to continue the Teach for America program in Seattle schools.

Regarding the controversy, Lindsay Hill, the Executive Director of Teach for America – Puget Sound said, “I think there is some misinformation out there. But on the whole those folks who have interacted with our teachers, the folks who have seen the great work that they’re doing in the classrooms and the folks who want more diversity in their hiring pools and want folks who are particularly trained to teach in diverse and low income schools are incredibly supportive.”

Currently, there are six TFA educators working in four low performing schools in Seattle. The program is in its first year of a three year contract.

Read more here.

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Balancing Tacoma schools' budget

Following the success of our State Budget Calculator, we decided to bring the impact of proposed budget cuts even closer to home. We partnered with the school district in Tacoma to bring you the Tacoma Public Schools Budget Calculator.

Tacoma Public Schools are facing an estimated $12 million shortfall over the next four to five years, depending on state funding. District leaders and the Tacoma Board of Directors are working to figure out how to bridge that gap right now. You can join them by using the calculator to consider the options available. The services and programs you decide to cut or keep will impact the entire Tacoma community.

In order to balance the budget, you can choose to cut positions like special education teachers or guidance counselors, eliminate professional development for teachers and principals, or even close entire schools. You can also choose to raise revenue by increasing tuition fees where allowed, selling advertising and naming rights at school athletics facilities, or asking to voters to approve a new $5 million levy.

Do your best to solve the budget deficit, then share how you did it.

Are you up to the challenge?

Try the Tacoma Public Schools Budget Calculator today.

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