Archive for March, 2013

Benefits of Full-Day Kindergarten

Washington is behind the nation in implementing full-day kindergarten (FDK). Nationwide, 65 percent of kindergartners are in full-day programs but in Washington only 47 percent of kindergartners are in FDK. However, only half of those children (22 percent) are in state-funded FDK, despite the requirement that the state provide full-day kindergarten to all kindergartners by 2017-18.[i]

Research finds numerous benefits of full-day kindergarten. Students who attend Full-Day K are more likely to:

  • Read and do math at a higher level than their peers who only attended half-day K. In the Evergreen School District, over 90% of the students that attended Full-Day K are reading at or above grade level as measured by the Individual Reading Inventory. Since students in Full-Day K see such large gains, this also helps close the achievement gap.
  • Not need to repeat grades. A study done in Philadelphia found that students who attended Full-Day K were more than twice as likely as non-kindergarten students and 26% more likely than half-day K students to make it to the third and fourth grades without having to repeat a grade.
  • Be ready and more prepared for the next grade. Students who attend Full-Day K have greater skills when it comes to “independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers, and reflectiveness” than their half-day K peers.

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Full-Day Kindergarten. In Bremerton, teachers participated in a survey and said that Full-Day K enabled them to identify and address potential learning disabilities in their students. Potentially, finding out whether a student has a learning disability early on could prevent them from having to enroll in a special education program in later grades.

In order to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow, Washington must implement and fund Full-Day Kindergarten. Read more about LEV’s advocacy agenda here. For a more detailed look at the benefits of Full-Day K (with citations), read our white paper.



[i]  Foundation for Child Development. PreK-3rd: Putting Full-Day Kindergarten in the Middle.; Conversation with OSPI, Dec. 13, 2012.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (3) →

Supporting Academic Acceleration

This blog post was written by former LEV Board Member and current National Board Certified teacher Kristin Bailey-Fogarty. It was originally published on the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession’s (CSTP) blog.

kb collegeI’m the short one in the photo. That’s my boat at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in 1993, my last year of college at the University of Washington. This picture wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t be a college graduate, if it hadn’t been for someone at my high school who, without being asked by me or my parents to do so, put me in honors classes and on a college track.

SB 5243 does what some mysterious educator did for me in 1984; it requires that schools automatically place a capable student in academically accelerated classes. What a beautiful policy.

After I was expelled from a private school in ninth grade for being a behavior problem and an academic failure, I found myself totally out of my element at my local public school – Mission Bay High School.

Three weeks into my tenth grade year I was handed a new schedule, so I did what most kids do and went to my new classes without asking for an explanation. They were harder. Kids were better behaved. Later I learned I’d been put in honors classes. I do not know by whom, and I do not know why. Certainly not because of my transcript, which was full of Cs and Ds and negative comments about a failure to reach potential. Certainly not by intelligent and enthusiastic participation in class; I was so shellshocked I don’t think I said one word until December.

Now that I’m a teacher, I know that a teacher or counselor said something like, “Kristin should be in honors classes,” and it happened. I got a new schedule. And I, who had been frequently suspended and on chronic academic probation in junior high, ended up graduating with academic distinction and college credit for both American Literature and Political Science courses. I had both the education and the transcript to go to college, and I did, but only because someone put me on the right track without asking for permission.

My parents might have enrolled me in college-prep classes, but they didn’t know much about the San Diego Public Schools and, frankly, they temporarily washed their hands of my education after the tragedy of my junior high years. But I wasn’t totally on my own, a smart 14-year old with a bad record, because someone at Mission Bay was looking out for me. Every child deserves that of our education system. Problem children deserve it especially.

So let me recap what this policy looks like from someone who lived it: I went from being someone who was thrown away because of a failure to reach my potential to someone who was put in college-prep classes because I had potential. Isn’t that the kind of shift in opportunity great policy can create?

Senate Bill 5243 requires that districts “automatically enroll any student who meets the state standard on the high school statewide student assessment or meets a district-approved minimum threshold score on the PSAT in the next most rigorous level of advanced courses offered by the high school.”

It’s not about behavior, personal motivation, engaged parents or the ability to complete homework. It is about academic potential, and it forces schools to acknowledge that many students have it who don’t have academically hyper parents or the ability, confidence or ambition to fight for their own education.

I love this bill. I know it is the right thing to do.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (2) →

The Effectiveness of Pre-K Programs

The Washington state legislature is considering providing more funding for early learning programs. This decision is based on research that shows the positive relationship between high quality early learning and  improved outcomes for children. The Department of Early Learning recently released data showing the positive effects of Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) on the state’s most at risk children.

Even with this data, there are those who still question the effectiveness of early learning investment. Many early learning critics cite the findings from the  2010 National Head Start Impact Study as the reason for their position. However, there are questions about the National Head Start study, including:

        • The control group in the study was not truly a control group.  Well over half of the children who were in the “control group” attended various other early learning programs, which compromised the validity of findings comparing outcomes for these two groups of children.
        • One of the common arguments against early learning investment is that most of the benefits “fadeout” by third grade. However, this is not due to early learning being a short-term benefit as much as it should be contributed to students moving from a high quality early learning program to a low-quality elementary school.
        • Unlike many other studies, which have looked at the long-term social and emotional benefits of Head Start such as higher graduation rates, higher employment rates, and lower incarceration rates,  the Head Start study focused solely on shorter term academics.
        • The study occurred from 2002 to 2006, before Congress began an improvement process for Head Start in 2007.

Early learning is a critical investment with numerous benefits for children and society as whole. Read more about LEV’s position on early learning here.


Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Bringing Dignity to Schools

This blog post was written by LEV Organizer Andaiye Qaasim.

“Our nation’s ‘dropout’ crisis is in reality a ‘pushout’ crisis.” You may already be familiar with this phrase made popular by the Dignity in Schools Campaign. If not, you are most likely familiar with the federal investigation into Seattle Public Schools focusing on the disparate use of discipline against students of color and the 2012 Washington Appleseed Report on the economic and educational costs of exclusionary discipline in Washington state. Disproportionality in school discipline for Washington mirrors many of the larger ills around school climate and discipline nationwide. Across the U.S., over 3 million students receive out-of-school suspensions each year. Students of color, special education students, foster and homeless youth, and LGBTQ youth are targeted the most. Exclusionary discipline practices push youth out of school and put youth in vulnerable positions that can lead to poverty, unemployment, and incarceration. When we take a closer look at low graduation rates across the country it is clear that students are not dropping out on their own accord, but that they are being pushed out of school by harsh and punitive discipline policies.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) sees this as a national crisis and challenges the systemic issues around school pushout. DSC is a coalition of over 60 organizations from 20 states made up of youth, parents, educators, advocates, grassroots groups, policy groups and legal groups working to end school pushout; stop student suspensions and arrests; and implement approaches that keep schools safe and healthy. This inspirational coalition brings equal voice to all of its members, with a high priority given to youth of color and parents.

Recently, DSC held its annual conference from March 1st-March 5th in Washington D.C. This conference was a work intensive weekend of workshops, teambuilding, strategy sessions, and advocacy skill-building which culminated in a youth-led rally/direct action, and a team of DSC representatives lobbying at the Capitol. Below is a list of the legislation that DSC is asking Congress to support:

  • The Restorative Justice in Schools Act (H.R. 415)
  • The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 3165)
  • The Mental Health in Schools Act (S. 195)
  • The Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act (S. 919)
  • Youth PROMISE Act (H.R. 2721)

As we learn from the work of DSC, and are inspired by their youth-led, grassroots advocacy, we can also work on our own home front. We must remember to keep the heat on the bills in the State Senate and House that are moving forward to address disproportionality in school discipline. SB 5244 and HB 1680 are alive and moving forward in the state legislature. Please write your senator or representative to encourage support for these bills. Together, we can all bring dignity back to our schools.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Today is the “last day” of state funding for Washington’s K-12 public schools.

March 18th marks the 2/3 point on the school calendar — a symbolic date to remind us all that the state funds only 2/3 of the cost of running our schools.

The state-funded part of the year may be done, but that doesn’t mean the Legislature has met its responsibility. While the amounts paid by local school districts vary, on average, up to one-third of school funding in Washington is funded almost entirely through local taxpayer-approved levies.

A coalition of parents, teachers, voters, school boards, school administrators, and the League of Education Voters joined forces to mark today as the last day of state funding and call on legislators to fully fund basic education. The coalition took out a full-page ad in today’s Olympian newspaper to remind readers that our state constitution says it is the legislature’s paramount duty is to fund K-12 education fully — not 2/3 — and for all children, not just some.

We cannot expect local communities to continue to should ever-increasing tax burdens for a job the state is required to do. We hope voters will join us in urging lawmakers to step up and fully fund basic education as they debate the state budget in Olympia in the coming weeks. The time is now and the need is urgent.

In January 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The Court stated that even if the state paid for 100 percent of what is currently spent on K-12 education, it would still fail to meet its paramount duty. The court ordered the Legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Climbing Towards Quality in Washington State

This post was written by Alex Medler and was originally posted on the Chartering Quality blog.

It may still be cold and drizzly in Washington this time of year, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped everybody from rolling up their sleeves. That is good, because as people launch a charter sector, there is a great deal of important work to do in the next few months.

I was making the rounds this week to meet with many of the key stakeholders in Washington’s new charter effort. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) works with the entities that grant charters (a.k.a. authorizers). We have established standards of quality charter school authorizing, which we use to help all authorizers that want to implement strong practices. That includes independent charter boards like Washington’s new commission as well as school districts. The standards that NACSA promotes address all the issues that come up during the life-cycle of charter schools. They are designed to ensure that strong charter applications are approved, while weak applicants — that are unlikely to succeed — are denied.

Washington’s law explicitly references NACSA’s national standards for authorizer practices, and it charges the state commission and school districts that want to serve as authorizers with implementing these strong practices. That is a great start in policy, and it looks like people are now gearing up to do just that.

Washington has experienced a long and bitterly-contested political struggle to pass a charter school law. After a fight like that, there can be lingering animosity and distrust. But hopefully people on both sides will get past those feelings and focus on the current challenge, which is to figure out how to do the technical work of creating a rigorous charter school system. Fortunately, there should be common ground when it comes to the next phase. Those who had been opposed to passing the law certainly do not want bad charters to be approved, and those behind the initiative are just as interested in making sure the charter that open are high quality schools. The best option for all parties at this stage, regardless of their previous work, is to no longer treat this as a political exercise.

My conversations with people throughout the system, from all sorts of perspectives, were all appropriately focused on how to do this work. The time-frames of the initiative require people to put systems in place very quickly. There is no time for the initiative’s backers to gloat or its opponents to sulk. The State Board is moving ahead with a host of necessary rules. They are preparing to review district’s applications to serve as authorizers, and establishing parameters for the calendar and funding authorizers’ work. If anyone drags their feet on putting rigorous systems in place, and the state and districts move ahead unprepared when the first charter applications arrive, the most likely outcome is the inappropriate approval of weak applications that will become bad schools.

The Commissioners themselves have been appointed, and they will be meeting in early April to begin their own work. Those interested in helping people who want to pen their own schools are networking nationally to identify the best practices and the most important resources that can help. And to a person, people were focused on how to do this right.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Finding your voice

This post was written by LEV Organizer Brooke Valentine.

For the past six years Washington state has had a unique office of government supporting families with school age children, the Office of the Education Ombudsman. Founded during the 2006 legislative session, their mission is to promote equity in education and support the ability of public school students to fully participate and benefit from public education. This past year in a bold, proactive move, the OEO has decided to take their show on the road, and engage district staff, community organizations, and families in the communities they live and work in. It seems the OEO had a vision of families and schools working together in a stronger partnership in order to support student success. In order to support this vision, they created the Finding your Voice Parent Institute.

Last November I was able to attend the Finding Your Voice training hosted in the Yakima Valley. For two days I studied alongside school district staff and community leaders as we learned about the value of engaged parents and families. We learned how to strengthen families by providing ground level information on topics from discipline to bullying all while creating a basic understanding of Washington’s public school system. The presentations were rooted deeply in creating trusting and respectful relationships, emphasizing solid communication between communities, schools, and home. A huge piece of respecting families is valuing the family culture, their language, and heritage. We have to value, understand, and respect what each family can bring to the table.

The Finding Your Voice training really comes full circle on the third day, the trainer-led parent summit. At the summit, everyone who attended the two day training gets to practice what they have learned. The format and curriculum of the entire three day training is right on target. The OEO creates a space where success means effectively communicating with families and community members. It also gives the presenters the tools to teach families the system, and learn with them how to be better communicators.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Supreme Court ruling: Good for kids

This opinion piece, written by LEV CEO Chris Korsmo and Director of Government Relations Frank Ordway, originally appeared in Crosscut on March 6, 2013.

Finally. A group of Washington leaders have put kids first.

In a 6-3 vote, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 1053, which requires a supermajority — two-thirds — vote in the state Legislature to raise revenue or close tax loopholes, is unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that the Washington state Constitution sets the rules for the Legislature and only requires a simple majority to raise revenue or modify tax preferences.

This ruling is a huge win for Washington’s kids and schools.

The League of Education Voters joined forces with the Washington Education Association, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers to challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 1053.

Washington citizens have consistently supported initiatives that would make it difficult to raise taxes — most recently this fall when 67 percent of voters approved Initiative 1185, which re-instated Initiative 1053.

Raising revenue should be difficult, but not impossible.

Read more here:

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →

Charter School Implementation Moves Forward in Washington

Public charter school implementation is moving forward in Washington thanks to voters’ approval of Initiative 1240, which will allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington over the next five years.

Still not sure about what charter schools are?

Below is a list of the top five things you should know about charter schools:

1. Charter schools are public schools.
Public charter schools are free and open to all students and receive state funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.

2. Public charter schools must meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools and will be held to high accountability standards.
Charter schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes. Schools not meeting the accountability standards will be closed. At the end of the five-year implementation period, an evaluation will be conducted to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.

3. Charter school teachers are subject to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools.
Great teachers are essential to student success, and teachers in public charter schools must meet the same teaching certification requirements as teachers in all other public schools.

4. Charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools.
Public charter schools can set their own schedules (such as offer a longer school day or school year), have more control over their curriculum, budget and staffing decisions, and can offer more customized learning experiences for students.

Charter schools are free to innovate in ways that improve student achievement. For example, there are charter schools focused on STEM education, performing arts, project-based learning, college preparation, career readiness, language immersion, civic engagement, classical education, global awareness or meeting the needs of autistic students – just to name a few.

Many successful and high-performing public charter schools are dedicated to serving low-income students and student of color and are succeeding at closing achievement and opportunity gaps.

5. Washington is the forty-second state to have public charter schools.
Initiative 1240, which became law December 6, 2012, allows up to 40 public charter schools in Washington state over a five-year period. The law was carefully designed to incorporate what other states have learned in 20 years of experience with public charter schools. In Washington, we modeled our law on the best of what works in other states, that’s why our law is already ranked 3rd best in the nation by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Next steps

This week, the nine commissioners to serve on Washington’s Charter School Commission will be announced. The Commission will be charged with reviewing applications, authorizing, and holding accountable quality public charter schools.

The State Board of Education is in the process of approving rules pertaining to charter schools.

We expect the first charter school in Washington to open in the fall of 2014.



Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (1) →

Voters support schools; states should do more

This opinion piece was written by LEV Board member Thelma Jackson and originally appeared on February 27, 2013 in The Olympian.

As voters continue to support their local schools, the state must step up and share responsibility.

Fifty-three local school boards went to voters asking for more than $1.7 billion in levies for their schools in this February’s special election. Communities responded with overwhelming support to these requests, passing all but one levy, and most by a large margin. In a time of rhetoric about how voters are unwilling to support education through revenue, this election stands in stark contrast.

In fact, voters approved more than 98 percent of local levies across the state, committing $1.7 billion in taxes to their schools. When voters pass these levies, they know their money is going directly to helping children, providing necessary services to help students get an excellent education.

In many school districts, local levies make up 25 percent or more of the total operating costs of a district. In my North Thurston district, it’s 21 percent. These local dollars often pay for necessary school costs like staff salaries, textbooks, or a sixth period in school—a far cry from the “extras” they were originally intended to provide.

Read more here.

Posted in: Blog

Leave a Comment (0) →