Archive for June, 2012

What's the best temperature for bottling honey?: Getting interactive with the NAEP

The Nations’ Report Card has created an feature that enables users to use the same interactive computer tasks probes that 4th graders, 8th graders, and 12th graders used for the 2009 NAEP. Each grade level has one 40 minute task and two 20 minute tasks where the topics range from students determining how much sunlight and nutrients are needed for plants to grow to the ocean conditions needed to support phytoplankton growth.

After completing the online tasks, you are able to see compare your answers to the actual students. For example, 54 percent of 8th graders were able to complete the honey experiment and explain themselves.

Click on the image below and try if for yourself!

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The College Completion Crisis

The Public Agenda has released a new infographic highlighting the problem of college completion in the U.S. According to data, only four in 10 people are able to finish college by the time they are 35. Students cited needing to work and make more money, not having enough time for family, and finding some of the classes to be too difficult. However, students also offer up some solutions to the college completion crisis, like allowing part time students to qualify for financial aid, offer more evening and/or summer courses, and provide child care for students who need it.





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Introducing our two Rainier Scholars interns: Brenda & Dawit

Brenda and Dawit are joining LEV from the Rainier Scholars program as summer interns. Here’s what they had they say about choosing to intern with LEV, what they like to do in their spare time, and much more.

Brenda Mancilla-Martinez: I graduated last month from University Prep, a 6-12 private school. I will be attending the University of Washington this fall. GO DAWGS!

Dawit Workie: I go to St. Michael’s University School, a boarding school in Victoria, B.C.

1.Why did you choose LEV for an internship?

Brenda: Throughout my high school career I have participated in several law and business summer programs like the Just the Beginning Foundation (University of Washington) and the Future of the Law Institute and Albers Summer Business School (Seattle University). After participating in these programs, I realized that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I do not know what specific field I want to take yet. Earlier in May, I filled out an application for an internship through Rainier Scholars. One of my interests has always been education given that Rainier Scholars is a program that targets students who are the most underrepresented in college campuses.

I’ve had my own share of problems with the education system that we have. When I was in Head Start as a pre-schooler, English was my second language, and I didn’t know it well. I went through Kindergarten and 1st grade barely understanding what I was being taught; I got in trouble a lot with my teachers because I wasn’t following directions but they failed to realize that I just didn’t understand them. It wasn’t until I got in trouble multiple times that my school realized that I needed to be in the ESL program. I was in ESL until 3rd grade when I asked to be put in the normal class because I felt that I no longer needed to be helped with my English skills.

In 5th grade I joined Rainier Scholars, who helped me get into the Spectrum program at Washington Middle School and ended up going to University Prep for high school. I chose LEV because I can relate to the many kids in Washington State that feel that they are not being paid enough attention in school and that feel that they won’t make it past high school because I always thought school was really hard. I want to learn what organizations such as LEV do to advocate for education and how the government plays a key role in the decisions that are made.

Dawit: I chose LEV for a summer internship because helping raise awareness and advocate for public school education in my opinion is a very important topic. Education is what decides ones future; it can have such a significant impact on an individual. Everyone can have a successful and have a happy future if they are educated. Education also decides the future of our nation, how well we educate the future generation is what essentially decides the fate of our country. I have been to both public and private schools so I understand the differences, and in what ways public school education can improve.

2. What do you like to do in your free time?

Brenda: I watch all the Christian Bale Batman movies at least one a week (I’m a huge fan), I hang out with my friends, spend time with my family, search for the latest information about my favorite band, One Direction (British boy band), text, listen to music, and volunteer as a Spanish translator at Rainier Scholars.

Dawit: In my free time I like to be active, which includes going to the gym, playing basketball, or going for a run. I also like to spend time with the family and hang out with friends.

3. Favorite high school moment?

Brenda: We turned the lunchroom into a club as our senior prank.

Dawit: My favorite high school moment was when I was on a rugby tour in Argentina. We traveled to Iguazu falls, on the border of Brazil, which was an unforgettable experience. My favorite moment was when I was leaning on a bridge watching the waterfall with my friends as the water sprayed back at us. It was an amazing moment that I could have never experienced living in Seattle.

4. What do you hope to do when you’re older?

Brenda: I hope to work for the UN as an international human rights lawyer; I’d love to be stationed in different cities around the world. That may change though as I do not know what specific field I want to work in as a lawyer.

Dawit: When I’m older I hope to go into sports medicine. I’ve played many sports throughout my life and have a huge passion for them. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in biology and medicine. So one I day I hope to combine my two interests and go into the field of sports medicine.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish this summer?

Brenda: To ride Seattle’s “Great Wheel” when it opens to the public on June 29th!

Dawit: One thing I hope to accomplish this summer is to spend a lot of quality time with my family. I go to a boarding school so I don’t get to see them much throughout the year. So this summer whenever I have free time I hope to spend it with all my family and make up for the lost time.

Here’s what Brenda and Dawit had to say about Rainier Scholars.

Rainier Scholars is an 11-year academic journey that requires a great deal of commitment, patience, and hard work. The program is devoted to helping underrepresented young people push themselves to reach their full potentials and ultimately graduate from university. Students apply for Rainier Scholars in the fifth-grade. If you are chosen, six weeks of your summer are spent in a classroom, and during your school year you have extra accelerated school every Saturday and Wednesday. That’s all topped off by another six weeks of summer school! During all that hard work, we learn the three pillars of Rainier Scholars: Perseverance, Integrity, and Courage.
So is all that work worth it? After graduation you are provided with numerous opportunities, and countless new friends. Simply, it was definitely worth it. In the end, we are breaking down barriers by attending colleges around the country and proving that students of color can not only attend a four-year university but graduate as well. Cohort 1 will be seniors in college this year and will be the first to finish the 11-year program.

Go here for more information about Rainier Scholars program.


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Commentary: Charter Schools and the Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education

This piece appeared in Education Week on Monday, June 25th and was written by Michael Lomax, the president and chief executive officer of UNCF, formerly the United Negro College Fund.

In May, we celebrated the 58th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision declaring state-sponsored school segregation unconstitutional. Calling education “perhaps the most important function of state and local governments,” the court unanimously declared that education was a “right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

Brown, and rulings that followed, finally put an end to legally segregated schools. But after more than a half-century, education—a good education—is still not a right made equally available. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the national black-white achievement gap has narrowed in the past 20 years, but it’s not enough. Sadly, many of the children and grandchildren of the intended beneficiaries of Brown continue to get an education that prepares them neither for career nor college.

Over the past several years, initiated by cities such as New York, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and New Orleans, a wave of education reform has begun to spread across the country. Reformers like Joel I. Klein and Dennis Walcott, the former and current New York City schools chancellors, respectively; StudentsFirst founder and former District of Columbia schools chief Michelle Rhee; and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have become household names. In time, what they and many others have started will remake public education.

But it will not happen tomorrow, and it may not happen in the time it takes for children to go from prekindergarten through high school. The Supreme Court ordered segregation to be abolished “with all deliberate speed.” That took decades.

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Watch "Resilient: The School Discipline Revolution in Walla Walla"

A bold new approach to discipline at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla has revolutionized the lives of its students.

We were so impressed with results that we traveled to Walla Walla to meet the staff and document the remarkable changes that have taken place. The result of that visit is our short film called Resilient: The School Discipline Revolution in Walla Walla, WA.

The film tells the story of how Lincoln High School, a small alternative school in Walla Walla, was able to reduce its suspension rates by 85 percent, almost entirely eliminate expulsions, and increase graduation rates. Follow Principal Jim Sporleder as he explains how learning about the brain science of trauma made him reevaluate the way he approached discipline in his school. “I had to look in the mirror and say, ‘Jim, you are wrong, and you need to change,’” he said.

His reflection helped him start a major cultural shift in the school with buy-in from the school’s entire staff. The school’s new approach to discipline means teachers and staff help students process their emotions instead of only punishing them when they act out. The staff holds students accountable for mistakes with compassion and welcomes them with open arms. Each staff member models forgiveness for the students at Lincoln, many of whom see little of it elsewhere in their lives.

“When I came here, I started doing my work more,” said one student, who said before coming to Lincoln he had always planned to drop out of school, just like the rest of his family. “Here the teachers help you more, so I started concentrating more and passing all of my classes,” he said, “I started getting all A’s.”

In addition to feeling more motivated, students say the new approach makes them feel cared for and like the school feels safe. Staff say they see major benefits too, from fewer outbursts in class, to increased attendance and participation.

“You can see the pride start to come out in kids,” said Brooke Bouchey, an intervention specialist at the school. “So many of our kids come here with damaged emotions about education and not feeling as though they’ve been validated or that they’re smart. It’s just such a cool experience to see these guys come through it and go ‘I can do this.’”

Watch the film and learn more about Lincoln High School’s approach to discipline at

More data on Lincoln High School:

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Walla Walla: A compassionate approach to discipline

This blog post was written by Jim Sporleder, principal of Walla Walla’s Lincoln High School, and originally ran on the Aces Too High website.

Sporleder has led his staff at the district’s alternative high school to take a compassionate approach to student discipline. Even though the results — an 85% drop in suspensions — have proven themselves, some people still think a bigger bat is the solution to behavior problems. In this essay, Sporleder compares the punitive approach, which he used for years, with the compassionate approach to student discipline.  Tell us your story about student discipline in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Before I learned about how toxic stress impaired a student to problem-solve or to take in new knowledge, I disciplined students in what I thought was a respectful approach. I took time to listen, I shared with the student why his or her behavior was inappropriate, and then I gave what I thought was a consequence that matched the infraction.

When a student came to my office that had just blown up at a teacher, I shared with that student that in the work place, if he did that with a boss, he could lose his job and be out of work. I used to have a saying: “Discipline teaches; punitive discipline hurts.” I’ve had a history of being a relationship guy, and I have always interacted with students fairly and built positive relationships.

Two years ago I was introduced to the ACE Study and how toxic stress blocks the brain’s ability to process information. The student is in a fight or flight mode. This is when I took a hard look at my discipline philosophy and accountability and realized that I had been working with students who had toxic stress in a way that just didn’t work. Yes, I had to look in the mirror and say, “Jim, you are wrong, and you need to change.”

I’ll give you an example of what that change looked like. A 16-year-old student was sent to my office for flicking a lighter in class and refusing to give it to the teacher. When he was sent to the office I simply asked for the lighter. The student refused to give it to me. I asked him to keep it simple, give me the lighter and return to class. He refused again to give me the lighter. In a calm voice, I said that he really didn’t have a choice. I showed him the other lighters that were in my top drawer, and I explained that I was not asking him to do anything different than I have asked other students that have brought lighters to school.

The young man blew up and said that he was not going to give me his lighter and yelled: “F— you”.  I have a large window that looks out to the front of the office and the young man stormed out, stopped outside of the office and flipped me off through the window and repeated “F— you, Sporleder.”

Keeping a distance as to not escalate him further, I followed the boy to make sure that he was walking off campus and not back to the classroom. Before getting to the gate, he turned and yelled at me again, “F— you, Sporleder.” On my way back to my office, a teacher stopped me. She told me that the boy’s mother just left town and did not tell him or his sister that she was leaving. The boy lived with his father and went to his mom’s house every day after school until his dad picked him up after he got off work. Wow! His mom leaves town and abandons an already fragile boy.

Two years ago, I would have let the boy know that he was not going to talk to me or any other staff member in that way, and given him a five-day out-of-school suspension. However, as a result of learning about adverse childhood experiences and the toll they take on kids, I took a different approach.

I called the father, told him what had happened and asked him and his son to come back to school the following morning. I explained that his son would do in-school suspension (ISS). In-school suspension means the student returns to school, but he is assigned to the ISS room where he is isolated from peers for the day and his school work is brought to him.

The next morning I was pleasantly surprised when the boy and his father appeared in my office — I knew how much the boy hated ISS and that he would rather have had out-of-school suspension. I told the teen that I really appreciated having him come back to school and that I did not take anything that he said personally. It was important for me to let the boy know that I knew he was under a lot of stress and that I really felt for him. I told him that at Lincoln, we love our students unconditionally, which means that even though he blew up at me, I still loved him. For infractions such as this, it is important to hold students accountable and have them receive a fair consequence, which he would carry out at school. I placed him in ISS for two days.

While in the ISS room he told the ISS teacher that he had “really lost his sh—“. He also told her about his mother leaving town, and that he was really concerned about her safety. Later, he came to my office and apologized for blowing up at me.

What does a compassionate approach have to offer that’s more useful than my old method of discipline? We looked for the cause of the behavior. We identified what it was. We showed compassion for what the student was going through. And we acknowledged his stress.

Those who may stop reading at this point will miss the complete process: The boy was still held accountable for his behavior – he spent two days in ISS, doing his homework and talking with a caring teacher.

Compare that with the old way: I tell him that he or any other student cannot speak to me in the manner in which he exploded. I give him a five-day out-of-school suspension, with no supervision. So, he gets five free days to do what he wants to do, with the result that there is little to no consequence, he misses school and homework, and he learns nothing about how to behave differently.

The story does not stop here. The student and I talked about triggers and how to identify when that emotion was ready to explode. We talked about the options that he had before allowing himself to get into the red zone, where he physiologically cannot problem-solve, his brain is flooded with cortisol and blocks his ability to make good decisions.

Too many times in education, we think that the bigger the bat, the more it hurts, the more the student learns. We have to get out of this mindset that somehow the punishment needs to hurt. The truth of the matter is that it does hurt kids, but in a way that hurts us, too. They walk away, labeled by the system, and end up costing us much more in tax dollars on the other side — in police, courts, jails, emergency services, welfare, unemployment…you get the idea.

Howard Behar, the retired president of Starbucks, wanted to come and see what Lincoln was all about. He had read about our new approach and asked for some time to sit down and visit. I had shared with him the story of the student who blew up at me, and how we handled the incident. I pulled three students in from summer school to let him talk to them freely. Two students did not have any discipline history, but were failing at their previous school and since coming to Lincoln, both shared that they feel a part of a family and they know that the Lincoln staff cares for them and their education.

The third student shared how he has learned to handle his anger in a more productive way.  He told Howard that when he goes into the red zone, it blocks him from making the best choices for that situation. He then went on to share how he uses this strategy at home.

“I know now that I can either stoke the fire and make things worse, or I can allow the fire to die down and go out,” he said. That student was the same boy who blew up at me over a lighter. He still has to deal with anger, but his outbursts are getting further and further apart. If there is an outburst, he knows how to process through it and he holds himself accountable.

I could not have written this essay if the consequence was five days of out-of-school suspension. We would have lost the opportunity to teach the student about toxic stress, how it impacts the brain, and strategies to self-regulate when he feels his trigger is getting close to going off. And yes, he understands accountability and consequences.

A compassionate approach or a punitive approach: Which one do you think has the greater impact on students? Which one encourages self-value, empowerment, and a confidence that they can work through their problems?

We want to hear from you! Tell us your story about student discipline in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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YES on 1240 – Sign the petition for public charter schools

As you may have heard, a broad and growing statewide coalition including LEV have come together to bring I-1240, the Washington Public Charter Schools Initiative to the ballot this fall. You can add your support by signing the petition for Initiative 1240. Look for signature gatherers in your neighborhood. Your signature will help us put this initiative on the ballot so that Washington voters can decide for themselves whether parents and students in our state should have the option of public charter schools, just like parents and students do in 41 other states.

Charter schools are independently managed public schools that are authorized and overseen by a state charter school commission or local school board and managed by qualified non-profit organizations.  Initiative 1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools in Washington state over a five-year period and hold them accountable for improving student outcomes. These schools will be able to serve students who are not currently succeeding in our traditional public schools and serve students who need help the most.

Initiative 1240 is supported by a bipartisan coalition of education advocates, teachers, parents, community leaders, and organizations across our state, and support is growing every day. Add your voice to support YES on 1240 by signing the petition today!

Learn more about the initiative, sign the petition, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

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Podcast: The act of apology in student discipline

Editor’s note: Please scroll to the bottom of the post to listen to the podcast.

As we delve deeper into the issue of student discipline in schools, one thing has become increasingly clear — students succeed when they come from a learning environment that’s safe. Much of the conversation around discipline focuses on how we treat the person who has done something wrong. What if we flipped the script and rooted our practices from the perspective of the person harmed? One solution looks at the act of apology in student discipline. Restorative Justice encourages us to create space for students to learn from their mistakes.

This is not just a method of dispensing discipline; it is an overhaul to the process of addressing conflict. Through engaging in conflict in a real and tactical way, Restorative Justice aims to build relationship and accountability in ways that traditional methods of discipline can’t. When a student makes a mistake, often they are removed from the school through suspension or expulsion at the expense of their own academic gain. But how do we know suspension works? Without a process for healing and growth, we’re often setting students up for a repeat offense.

In this podcast, LEV sits down with Nicholas Bradford, an advocate for reforming school culture around discipline issue, to learn about Restorative Justice.

If you like the podcast, be sure to sign up below. Next week, we’ll be highlighting another success story out of Walla Walla, Washington, with Principal Jim Sporleder of Lincoln High School.

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The Daily Ed: June 15, 2012

Washington Education Association objects to ballot title on proposed charter school Initiative 1240 (Tacoma News Tribune)
WEA challenges the language proposed for Initiative 1240 and counters with its own. Get a preview of the proposed changes before this morning’s court hearing in Thurston County.

Startup guru Janis Machala named dean of Bellevue College (Geekwire)
Bellevue College taps the startup consultant and tech entrepreneur to run its programs, and she’s confident she can make a difference.

Free private school education coming to low income kids (KING 5)
A new Catholic school opening in Central Seattle will offer a free, STEM-focused, extended day and year education to 60 students starting this fall.

Opinion: Education is the ‘Great Equalizer’ (Edmonds Beacon)
The president of the Association of Washington Businesses makes the case for a strong education system in Washington, and points out why businesses should, and do, care.

Study: Early spatial learning promotes math competency (Education Week)
A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago found that students with strong spatial skills at the beginning of first grade had much stronger math skills by the end of second grade, suggesting that strengthening spatial skills early can lead to more successful math students.

Education trumps immigration among top-tier issues for Latino voters (Huffington Post)
Eighty-eight percent of Latino voters said improving K-12 education should be a priority to states and local governments.

Opinion: STEM education is the key to U.S.’s economic future (U.S. News)
“Too many students and adults are training for jobs in which labor surpluses exist and demand is low, while high-demand jobs, particularly those in STEM fields, go unfilled.”

Super Sunny Friday Bonus
Conan writes Chicago Blues songs with school kids
Life can be tough, even when you’re in first grade. Sometimes you just have to sing about it.

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Budget cuts hit Adult Basic Ed programs

The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges is predicting that its member schools will serve 10,000 fewer Adult Basic Education (ABE) students this year than in the previous year. This is because, while the 2012 legislative session left Washington’s community and technical colleges with about the same levels of funding as the year before, previous years’ cuts are finally making their impact. After several years of absorbing growing enrollments despite significant financial disincentives to do so, community and technical colleges are making cuts they feel they can no longer avoid to ABE programs.

ABE students tend to be low-skilled and low-income. Many of them speak English as a second language, and many are people of color. People of these demographics make up the fastest growing segment of the population in Washington, and are a vital part of Washington’s future workforce.

Funding for ABE programs has decreased an average of $1,200 per student this year, a real hardship considering that ABE students do not qualify for federal financial aid and only five percent of ABE students are employed at a living wage. Colleges have significantly reduced ABE classes, primarily because they generate little revenue.

For more in this topic, complete with graphs, see the latest Seattle Jobs Initiative Beyond the Headlines here

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