Archive for April, 2013

Black Roundtable engages members on charters, accelerated learning

Newly appointed Washington Charter School Commission members Trish Millines Dziko and Steve Sundquist fielded questions at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable in Federal Way. Multiple questioners focused on the commissioners’ plans to ensure that “at-risk,” educationally disadvantaged students get more opportunities to excel, as intended by the charter law’s supporters. Sundquist and Dziko said it’s too early to predict outcomes, but assured the group that they remain committed to supporting excellence and expanding opportunities for at-risk, disadvantaged students throughout the process. The first meeting of the Charter Commission was April 4th in Olympia and the next will be April 30th in Bellevue. More on public charter schools.

Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) Executive Director Reid Saaris detailed how his organization is helping districts get more black, brown, and low-income students into Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge courses and programs. Saaris announced that Seattle Public Schools has agreed to partner with EOS in four high schools to be named soon.

The next regular meeting of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable will be Tuesday, May 28th from 5:45 to 8:00 p.m. at the new Technology Access Foundation headquarters, Bethaday Community Learning Center at 605 SW 108th St, Seattle, WA 98146. All are welcome.

Below are some pictures from the event:




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Sine Die 2013

On Sunday, April 28th around 6:00 p.m. the gavel fell and the 105 day regular session was brought to a close. Almost as swiftly as the 2013 regular session ended, Gov. Inslee called for a special session to begin on Monday, May 13th in order to focus on three main issues:
1. An operating budget that makes a substantial down payment on education, but not on the backs of seniors or the poor;
2. A transportation plan that preserves funding for existing infrastructure projects and funds new projects; and
3. Important education policy measures to ensure that new education funding will achieve results.

LEV walked into the 2013 session with three priorities:

Work with the legislature to ensure the McCleary decision to fund basic education is upheld and utilized well.

LEV has advocated before and during the 2013 session that it is time to amply fund education and look towards new avenues for revenue in this state. As the operating budget continues to be crafted and debated we will be steadfast in our support of a system that fully pays for education, but not by cannibalizing vulnerable populations.

Prioritize the investments and funding in education that have been made to Washington’s students and have been proven effective.

LEV, along with our coalition partners, brought to the table vital legislation addressing accountability and access from early learning through higher education. So far we have had significant progress in:

  •         Early learning through SB 5595 and HB 1723
  •         Assisting persistently low achieving schools to be more accountable through SB 5329
  •         Alternative assessments for teacher certification HB1178
  •         Support for programs that close the opportunity gap, such as academic acceleration through HB 1642

Minimize the negative impact of discipline policies on students.

As a brand new issue, brought forward from the community, discussions around the discipline policies in our schools have come leaps and bounds. From an issue that was barely spoken of last session to now a rallying point for many legislators eager to end racial disparities and close the opportunity gap, there is still much work to be done this year and in future years. The bills tied to this issue have been labeled NTIB (necessary to implement the budget) and will be negotiated out during the special session.

The mini-interim between now and May 13th will send legislators back to their home districts for a few weeks. As LEV continues to advocate for the policy bills and budgets still in the works, this is your opportunity to connect with your individual legislators to remind them the impacts their choices make on you, your children, and your community. Look for more updates on budget progress and key policy bills, as well as how you can stay involved as the 30-day special session kicks off.

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A student’s perspective on charter schools

This post originally appeared on the Washington Charters blog

Macy-Olivas-headshot-150x150Macy Olivas is a student at Whitman College in Washington, and a graduate of Preuss Charter School in San Diego, CA.

She advocated for Washington to adopt charter school legislation in January 2012, Macy relates her experience as a student in a charter school. She talks about how the school, which drew students from across the city, changed her life compared to her peers.

“I witnessed friends that I went to elementary school with get involved in gang activity, get pregnant, and when we reached high school, even drop out,” she recalls. “Although we all grew up in the same neighborhood, our mentality of what was going to become of our future could not have been further apart.”

She talks about the support she and her peers received at their charter school that led to their success. The school offers more instructional time by increasing the length of the school day and school year; provides intensive graduation and college counseling; and requires honors and AP level coursework. But, Macy says the biggest impact made was by the faculty at her school.

This support had fantastic results. In her class of 102 students, all of whom came from low-income families across San Diego, 100 percent graduated, and 94 percent went on to a college or university.

She says ultimately her experience inspired her to become a teacher and to share the opportunities she had with other students from her background. Her charter school provided her with a great education and, she says, “a great education shouldn’t be the exception—it should be the rule.”

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Guest Post: What is PBIS?

This guest post was written by Lori Lynass Ed.D., the executive director of NorthWest PBIS Network, Inc. It originally appeared on the Our Schools blog

You can learn more about PBIS and other strategies to keep classrooms safe while keeping kids in school at the event Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids on May 8th at 7 p.m. at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Insitute in Seattle. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.

With an increased focus on school discipline issues, suspensions and drop outs, many people have been hearing more lately about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), however many people are still not sure just exactly what PBIS is.

Incorporating policy efforts and evidence-based practices from the fields of education and mental health, the PBIS model has emerged as a three-tiered framework of support focused on prevention and early intervention strategies that promote positive school climates and provide needed non-cognitive skills to students. The premise of PBIS is that measures are put in place proactively so that problem behaviors are less likely to occur and academic engaged time increases. PBIS emphasizes the prevention of problem behaviors and promotion of a positive school culture at the first tier and offers group and individualized intervention services for students who continue to struggle with problem behaviors at the second and third tiers. PBIS is a framework–not a program. Schools can choose to use various evidenced-based programs within the PBIS framework.

Now implemented in over 20,000 schools nationally and about 500 schools in Washington, PBIS actually took root right here in the northwest at the University of Oregon which houses the National Technical Assistance Center for PBIS. PBIS is supported as a best practice by the federal department of education and OSPI. PBIS is invaluable to many Washington schools who have witnessed reductions in problems behaviors, instances of bullying and harassment and referrals to special education that are related to behavioral issues. In exchange, schools are gaining back academic instructional time; and staff, parents, and students report being more satisfied with their schools.

PBIS is really about systemic change. To implement it, schools need professional development, coaching and technical assistance support. Many of these supports have been cut in the past few years with funding reductions so organizations like the NorthWest PBIS Network have worked hard to provide free and reduced costs supports to schools.

Examples of How PBIS Has Impacted Schools in Washington:

Komachin Middle School in North Thurston is in year two of PBIS implementation. They call their program the “Wolf Pack” and they highlight giving Positive Office Referrals for students who make considerable behavioral improvements and have the “Howl of Fame” for students who consistently demonstrate the school values. They are reporting their best year yet in regards to student disciple referrals and suspensions with a 49% reduction in office discipline referrals and 45% reduction in suspensions.

At Ridgecrest Elementary in the Shoreline School District principal Cinco Delgado reports that the school has not had one major office referral over the last several weeks. He reports, “It is night and day here with PBIS because teachers now have more tools and can handle behavior in the classrooms”. The school calls their PBIS program the Ram Pride program and they emphasize the school values of being Respectful, Responsible, Safe and Kind. They have also recently started the Check, Connect and Expect program for their students who need additional support at the Tier 2 level.

Want to know more about PBIS? Visit or

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Top 5 Reasons We Can’t Wait to Meet Sen. Mike Johnston

Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston is a rising political star and an education inspiration, and he’s coming to speak at our 2013 LEV Breakfast. Here are five reasons why we can’t wait to hear from him:

  1. He’s lived what he’s talking about.Sen. Johnston was a high school English teacher in Greenville, Mississippi with the Teach for America program. After earning a master’s degree in education and a law degree, he returned to Colorado and started his career as a principal. There he lead two alternative high schools serving Colorado students held in state custody or living in group homes and detention centers.
  2. He’s committed to supporting great school leaders.Sen. Johnston is co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools, a national non-profit that recruits and trains urban principals.
  3. His work speaks for itself.His hard work in education and politics have earned him well-deserved accolades. In 2011, TIME Magazine ranked Mike among the “Top 40 Under 40 Rising Political Stars,” and Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the “7 Most Influential Educators” in 2010.
  4. He believes truth and hope go together.During his first year in office, Sen. Johnston championed the Great Teachers and Leaders Law, groundbreaking legislation that alters teacher evaluations by measuring student growth.
  5. He knows change is possible.In 2005, Sen. Johnston became the founding principal of MESA (Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts), a redesigned urban high school in the Mapleton Public Schools that made Colorado history by becoming the first public high school in which 100 percent of seniors were admitted to four-year colleges.

And if you need one more reason to come hear him speak at the 2013 LEV Breakfast, look forward to hearing inspirational lines like this:

We hope to see you there!

What: 2013 LEV Breakfast, featuring Keynote Speaker Senator Mike Johnston

When: May 16th, 7:30am – 8:45am

Where: Sheraton Seattle Hotel

RSVP today!

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How many emails have we sent to our legislators?

Thank you so much for taking time to take action! It is important that our legislators know that we care about education funding.

As of 10:53 a.m. April 26th, 1,880 emails have been sent!

We will continue to update this blog post as more people complete the action.

Interested in doing more? Head over to our Get Involved page!

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Apply for the ESN Steering Committee Grant

The community spoke and we listened. To ensure that Excellent Schools Now (ESN) better represents underserved and underrepresented students and communities, the ESN Steering Committee, comprised of LEV, Partnership for Learning, and Stand for Children – Washington, is re-opening the ESN Steering Committee grant process. Available are two 18-month grants of up to $80,000. These grants are intended to enable recipient organizations to operate as full partners on the ESN steering committee as we mobilize our work on the priorities, educate grassroots and grasstops activists about the ESN policies, and recruit additional organizations to the coalition. Sound like something your organization could be interested in? Applications are due May 17.

Our colleagues at Partnership for Learning will also be hosting a conference call, April 29 at noon, to go over the grant application and answer questions.

Details for the call
April 29, 12 p.m.–1 p.m.
Conference Call Number: 1-877-366-0711
Participant code: 69308676#.

ESN is a coalition of nearly 40 education, business and community-based organizations in Washington state working statewide to achieve meaningful education reform that increases student achievement, closes the achievement gap, and prepares students to be college and career-ready. Check out ESN website for more information.

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Washington School Districts Intending to Be Charter School Authorizers

This blog post originally appeared on the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools website

April 1 was the deadline for school districts to submit a notice of intent to the State Board of Education (SBE) to apply to become a charter school authorizer. SBE is tasked with approving the local school boards that can authorize charters and will oversee the performance and effectiveness of all charter schools in the state.

The thirteen districts that applied for authorizer status come from across the state, in both rural and urban communities, with a wide range of student demographics and needs.


School districts accepted as authorizers will be able to select the charter schools they think are best for their district, adding their own criteria for selecting charter management organizations. They will also be responsible for reviewing and holding accountable the charter schools they accept into their district.

Districts who have submitted letters of intent have until July 1 to complete their authorizer applications submit them to SBE. The application includes questions about the district’s vision for what charter schools will accomplish there. It also asks districts to detail their capacity for managing and overseeing charter schools and what criteria they will use to accept, oversee, and, if necessary, revoke charter school authorization.

For more on what steps are next for school districts looking to become charter authorizers, check out the Washington State Charter School Timeline.

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Guest post: Restorative Justice: Helping kids learn from their mistakes

This post appeared on the Our Schools blog on April 8th, 2013. It was written by Joseph Thomas, an intern at ACLU of Washington State. It is crossposted from the ACLU Washington blog.

Kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school. That’s why our state has a mandatory attendance rule that requires students to go school or give a good reason why they have missed a day of class time.

But our current discipline laws allow schools to expel or suspend kids as a punishment for breaking rules sometimes for even minor infractions. These laws have resulted in an increase in kids–especially kids of color–missing out on an education, falling behind in class, and often dropping out and getting involved in criminal courts. Schools are missing an opportunity to teach kids about self-discipline, good citizenship, and empathy by kicking them out instead of using their misbehavior as a teachable moment.

As an intern, I’ve been researching Restorative Justice. This is an approach that has been successfully used to reduce suspensions and expulsions, especially among students of color, in schools across the nation, including in Oakland, Denver, and Chicago. Restorative Justice focuses on the needs of all parties involved (victims, community, and offenders). Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility and make amends for their actions, through such means as apologizing or performing community service. Rather than simply punishing and ostracizing misbehaving students, it educates and integrates them into the community.

My interest in the use of Restorative Justice and other Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies is more than academic. Without strategies like these, I might not have completed high school and college and been poised to start law school in the fall.

When I was a teenager in eighth grade, I was really into wrestling. The Undertaker was my favorite wrestler, and his choke slam was my favorite move. The choke slam is when you pick someone up by the throat and throw them to the ground. One day at school, I ran into a fifth-grader who was making fun of the Undertaker. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with me and I showed him a choke slam.

I carried on with my day as if nothing happened until lunch, when the principal came to the cafeteria (never a good sign), walked right to my table (an even worse sign), and asked me to come to her office. She asked me why I thought she called me in, and I didn’t answer, though I knew. She told me that slamming a 10-year-old against a cement floor is not why parents send kids to school. The principal said that they do not tolerate students putting their hands on each other and that I was going to be suspended.

A suspension from school is the worst. You feel like a failure, and worst of all you feel like nothing you do can ever make up for it. But there was even more to come, and in hindsight I’m thankful there was.

The school called my grandmother, with whom I was living. As the principal, my grandmother, and I talked about the situation, I saw nothing but disappointment in my grandmother’s face, which is worse than anger.

At home, I was banned from watching wrestling. At school, they wanted me to learn how older kids need to be careful around younger kids, so besides the three-day suspension, I also had to volunteer in the kindergarten class. When I look back, it’s clear that the behavior intervention actions used – discussion, involvement of multiple affected people, and volunteering – made a big difference. Because the school and my family took the time to address my behavior, I never went back to the principal’s office.

By not assuming the worst in students and trying to fix behavior before it gets worse, Restorative Justice engages in what should be a standard at schools. If I had just been suspended, without the conversations and volunteer experience, I wouldn’t have learned the important lessons I did and may have continued to act out.

I was lucky to have supportive school and home environments. But what happens to kids who don’t have those supports? Kids don’t come fully assembled; they should be given the opportunities to learn from their mistakes and grow.

Attend Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids. Register here.

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It’s past time for urgent action

This post was written by Rev. Donald Davis and originally published on the Our Schools Coalition blog.

As a Black man and as a pastor leading a diverse congregation, I’m angry. Really angry, and that’s unusual for me. I’m a patient man, but my patience has run out with the administration and the school board in Seattle Public Schools.

District leaders may be taking steps to improve climate and academic outcomes for Black students, but their efforts are incremental, piecemeal, and most importantly–too slow. It’s past time for urgent action on a large scale. Now.

In the 2010 teachers contract, the district and the union agreed to create a committee on closing the achievement gap. Three years later, despite the rhetoric, the committee has not been formed.

Meanwhile, the federal Department of Education is investigating disparities in discipline, which trouble me greatly. The Seattle Times article on the subject raised my blood pressure, especially the quote from ACLU spokesman Doug Honig who said, “In effect, the suspension or expulsion can put them so far behind in schoolwork that it becomes an educational death sentence.” He’s right and I’m eager to know Superintendent Banda plans to mobilize his leadership team to do better. That effort should be public, open, transparent, and immediate. So far, I’ve heard about a couple committees meeting semi-privately, but that’s not enough.

School board members and administrators readily say they took a look at discipline numbers about two years ago and knew then there was a problem. People with kids in school in Seattle have known there was a problem for decades.  It’s time to solve the problem. Now.

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