Archive for October, 2012

"Houston, we have a problem."

Last week, LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo gave a “TED Talk” at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Regional Leadership Conference. Below is an excerpt from her talk:

Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention paid to education and how we as a nation are doing compared to others. Some of us have been down right freaked out by the decline in results and the fact that this generation will be the first in our nation’s history to be less educated than our parents. Some have called for  a “sputnik moment”  like when we chased the Russians into space and beat them to the moon. We need to find that uniting mission that kicks us in the pants and gets us moving.

I’d argue that we need an Apollo moment.  Apollo 13 to be precise.

In one of the more intense moments of film Apollo 13, a group of engineers and designers and others in the pocket protector set sit in a room wringing their hands about how to save the men aboard the ship.  The work is focused on figuring out how to restore electricity and stay powered up to get the space capsule back into earth’s orbit. But they discovered something more urgent; the men are literally dying from lack of oxygen.  The engineer need to build a filter that fits a certain size and shape, to remove CO2 from the air, so the men can breathe. The catch? They can only use what’s on board the ship.

So a box of odds and ends is dumped on the table  At first there’s a bit of geek  grousing – we can’t possibly, and how do you expect us to, blah, blah. But they get down to work. They’re focused,  there’s no blame, and the team solves the problem. The crew is saved.

I think of this scene whenever I hear of a school or district that has dumped its box upside down to solve an urgent need. Like in Bridgeport, a rural and mostly low income school district primarily serving Latino students that managed to get 100% of their kids to graduate from high school – and that got all of their graduating seniors  – 100% of them – accepted into college. Or in Federal Way where Advanced Placement is the default for kids who pass their state tests. They don’t opt in – they have to opt out, with their parents. Or the investment in early literacy in Auburn, that has their third graders knocking it out of the park in reading. These school leaders addressed the urgent while simultaneously looking at the bigger system issues.

These districts didn’t wait for Washington Supreme Court decision or a check from a wealthy benefactor. They just got busy working the problem.

We need more of that.

Let’s take the Apollo approach on a different issue; When I moved here in 2007, the state board of education was debating graduation requirements and how to get kids college and career ready. Despite passing new requirements at least twice, we’re still talking about it. In the five years that this conversation has ebbed and flowed, we’ve lost 60,000 kids to dropping out, we’ve seen college remediation climb, and our economy’s demand for more rigorous job preparation spike.   In other words, while we did nothing to address the urgent, the system got worse.

If we had an Apollo moment on this topic, we’d start by taking one urgent step – something done while we’re fixing the ship. How about, making sure all kids get algebra in 8th grade? If kids are proficient in Algebra before they leave in middle school, implementing more rigorous math requirements in high school wouldn’t seem so hard. And then maybe upping the ante for high school graduation wouldn’t seem impossible.

We have the box on the table. And the kids are in the capsule. The question is; What are we going to do about it?

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Dr. Pedro Noguera to discuss a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education

As an urban sociologist and current New York University professor, Dr. Pedro Noguera looks at ways in which the academic performance of students in urban areas is linked to social and economic factors. As a former K-12 teacher, he argues that American public schools are floundering and our current policies focus on the symptoms and not the underlying cause—poverty.

Dr. Noguera recently co-created the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, a national campaign to examine poverty’s impact on student academic achievement.The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education has several tenets, including focusing on wrap-around services that address hunger and health, parental engagement, and supporting teachers through improved instruction.

Dr. Noguera has written several books including The Trouble With Black Boys and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education and Closing the Achievement Gap: From Research to Practice. Some of his recognitions include the Schott Foundation Award for Research on Race and Gender, the AESA Critics Choice Book Award (Trouble With Black Boys), and the Scholastic Corporation Education Hero Award.

Join us on October 18th to hear Dr. Noguera discuss poverty, the achievement gap, and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Register for this free event today!

The Broader, Bolder Approach with Dr. Pedro Noguera
Thursday, October 18th
7:00 p.m.
Highline Community College
Mt. Townsend Room
2400 S 240th St.

Dr. Noguera is also a regular public speaker and contributor to several different publications. Read his thoughts on charter schools here and listen to his opinion of the Chicago Teacher’s Strike here. Watch him address the University of Virginia below:

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Tacoma and Sacramento mayors share inspiring message on public charter schools

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson share a passion for bringing the best educational opportunities available to students in their cities. That’s part of the reason why both support charter schools. As Mayor Strickland wrote in her op-ed for the Bellingham Herald this Sunday, “Everyone knows that public schools work well for most students, but not for all. Roughly 14,000 children a year drop out of school in Washington. That number is unacceptable. We must do better. Public charter schools are one proven way to address this ongoing crisis.”

Mayor Johnson came to a similar conclusion from his own life experiences. Johnson grew up Oak Park, a low-income neighborhood in Sacramento. Thanks to his athletic talent, he was able to leave his neighborhood and travel the world, but he wondered why he was one of the few from his community to have this opportunity.

When he retired from his all-star NBA career, Johnson immediately dedicated his time to making sure children from hometown had the opportunity to excel. He went back to Sacramento and established the St. HOPE Foundation. The foundation focuses on helping kids get to college through community engagement, after-school programs, and quality educational opportunities in St. Hope public charter schools.

Since opening in 2003, the schools have brought students remarkable success. St. Hope’s high school has a 92 percent minority and 75 percent economically disadvantaged student population, and it has closed its achievement gap entirely.

This is the kind of opportunity that Mayor Strickland talks about when she says Washington’s Public Charter School Initiative can “enhance our public school system by adding flexibility to benefit our students and teachers.”

Join us on Thursday, October 4th to hear both mayors share powerful messages of hope for success in school and beyond. Register for this free event today!

Full Court Press – The Second Half with Kevin Johnson
Thursday, October 4
7:00 p.m.
University of Washington Tacoma
William Phillip Hall
1918 Pacific Ave., Tacoma 98402
Pre-Event Music and AV show starts at 6:30 p.m.

You can read all of Mayor Strickland’s op-ed here.

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The Latino Community Fund to hold summit, policy forum on discipline

The Latino Community Fund will be holding a summit on Friday, October 26th at the University of Washington-Tacoma. According to the summit website, “Latino Community Fund Statewide Summit offers an unprecedented opportunity for Latinos and allies from multiple sectors to get engaged in timely and solutions-oriented training and planning that improves the health and well-being of Washington State’s Latino communities.”

The summit will have workshops on a myriad of issues including youth leadership and education. There will also be a forum on school discipline. Hosted by the Latino Community Fund, Latino Progress and the Council on State Governments Justice Center, the forum will discuss the ways in which students and communities of color are negatively affected by disproportionality in school discipline policies and practices.

What: 2012 Latino Community Fund Summit
When: Friday, October 26th. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Where: University of Washington-Tacoma
Cost: $65.00 through today, or $75.00 after 10/1

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Events, School Discipline

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