Archive for May, 2013

Learning more about New York City’s iZone

Beginning in the Fall of 2010, New York City’s Department of Education founded the Innovation Zone, better known as iZone. Like school systems in Baltimore and Denver, iZone is a portfolio district, meaning that the district manages a “portfolio” of school choices that includes traditional public schools and charter schools.

Initially compromised of 81 pilot schools across New York City’s five boroughs, iZone launched three aggressive initiatives to increase student success while challenging the traditional classroom-based learning model:

1) iZone 360 – re-invent the classroom through whole school re-design
2) iLearnNYC – provide more educational resources by deploying online and blended learning strategies
3) Innovate NYC School – develop a more personalized, student-driven learning experience through the use of technology

While there is no typical iZone classroom, all iZone schools share common threads:

  • Teachers and students receive real time data and information. This enables teachers to track their students’ progress and provide extra help or more challenging work as needed.
  • Students are encouraged to gain real-world experience through internships, externships, attending guest lectures, and independent study.
  • With the support and guidance of their teacher, students are encouraged to take interesting online classes to supplement their classwork.
  • Teachers collaborate with one another to make sure their lesson plans address the needs of their students and align with global college readiness standards.

By 2014, iZone is expected to consist of 400 schools in the New York City area.

To learn more about the iZone, be sure to attend LEV’s June 13 Speaker Series: Creating new models of teaching and learning: From NYC to Highline. Details below.

What: Creating new models of teaching and learning: From NYC to Highline
When: June 13, 2013, 7 p.m.
Where: UW at South Lake Union, Room TBA

Learn more about the iZone here and here.

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Getting Washington’s charter schools right from the beginning

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

Working with teachers, school districts, local leaders, parents, and state officials, we can build a public education system that works best for Washington’s students.

It is that time of year. The mad dash to the school-year finish line: winding up projects, attending school concerts and award ceremonies, and preparing for summer activities. But for Washington state’s public charter school supporters, work will shift into high gear just as most students begin their summer vacations.

While the first public charter schools will not open until 2014, there is a lot to be done to prepare for their opening and ensure any new charter school is set up to help every student succeed.

This work is not easy. I know from my previous work in the charter school sector—as well as school reviews I have been a part of across the nation—that building high-quality charter school capacity starts long before the school doors open.

The good news is Washington state is well positioned to accomplish this. Last November, voters passed Initiative 1240, the public charter school law, to support the creation of 40 public charter schools across Washington state over the next five years. Charter schools are authorized by the Washington Charter School Commission, an independent state agency, or by a local school board that has been approved by the State Board of Education.

Charter schools are public schools. They are open to all students, and do not charge tuition. These new schools must meet rigorous performance goals and, if the goals are not met, may be closed. To ensure we are opening high-quality charter schools on day one, the Washington State Charter Schools Association has been formed. This new statewide nonprofit aims to support the start-up of these new schools.

A Washington State Charter School Leadership Cohort will be a prominent feature of the new Association. Year-long internships for new charter school leaders will focus on the use of data, cognitive coaching and best leadership practices. Cohort members also will participate in trips to observe and learn from the most successful charter schools that have made a real difference in students’ lives.

As a member of the Association’s board, I am excited to bring what I learned in California to my home in Washington. Working with teachers, school districts, local leaders, parents, and state officials, we can build a public education system that works best for Washington’s students.

As part of a diverse educational ecosystem, charter schools will extend high-quality school options across the state—targeting those student populations that, to date, have not had success within the more traditional system. Our goal is to ensure that the new charter schools in Washington state become part of a broader public school system that inspires our students, helps them succeed in school, and leaves them prepared for college and their careers.

Every child in the state must have equal access to high-quality schools. Washington’s position as a national leader rests on the skills and abilities of its youth. Charter schools serve a vital role in the public school system by improving educational outcomes for all students. Working together, we can ensure that all children in our communities have access to high-quality public schools.

Marta Reyes-Newberry is a board member of the Washington State Charter Schools Association

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Collaborating to Create High Quality Public Charter Schools in Washington State

This post was written by David Bley and was featured on the Washington State Coalition for Public Charter Schools’ blog.


It is a concept we instill in our children as early as possible, from sharing toys with siblings to being a team player at school. It is what makes good sports teams great. And what helps communities overcome tragedies.

We know that, when it comes to education, our state cannot help more students succeed if we don’t collaborate and share ideas. Teachers. Principals. Parents. Students. Communities. Funders. We are all in this together.

“Washington is in the fortunate position to learn from the most successful charter schools in other states that have made a real difference in students’ lives.”

Our goal is to bring this collaborative spirit to emerging efforts around charter schools in Washington state. Last November, voters approved the creation of up to 40 public charter schools over the next five years, making Washington the 42nd state to offer charters as another public school option for students. These public charter schools  will be open to all students and won’t charge tuition. Teachers and principals will have greater flexibility to adapt to student learning needs more effectively, using a variety of tools and approaches. Parents will have new choices to assure their children graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

What does this new law mean for our state? For one, we are not starting from scratch. Washington is in the fortunate position to learn from the most successful charter schools in other states that have made a real difference in students’ lives. It means we can start with an unrelenting focus on quality, accountability, and a fearless willingness to close those schools that don’t work. We also know that new public charter schools have the greatest impact when they work hand-in-hand with the school districts in which they are located—so that ultimately all of public education is stronger.

One important part of that is the launch of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, which the foundation supported through a planning grant. The association will focus on three key areas: sharing accurate information about charter schools to parents and community members, helping charters develop leaders, and advising charter school operators on the technical aspects of Washington’s rules and laws.

 ”We know charter schools are just one piece of the puzzle of student success.”

We are particularly excited about the opportunity to learn from other schools that have been successful in supporting children historically been left behind. Students who have not been able to access to high-performing public schools—including low-income students and students of color—will have new options to explore. Charter schools are public schools and can provide choices for parents  to find the best school that fits their students’ needs.

We know charter schools are just one piece of the puzzle of student success. Our local education investments also support high-quality early learning programs, better feedback and professional support for teachers and principals, more meaningful learning assessments for students, community-driven and comprehensive efforts like the Road Map Project, and other strategies that increase personalized learning opportunities for all students and improve academic outcomes.

For the Gates Foundation, we also can learn from our grants and partnerships in other states and school districts. We have a long history of supporting the growth and replication of high-performing charter schools across the nation, and also encouraging their collaboration with district schools.

This work must reflect our sense of shared responsibility and mutual accountability to the one thing that matters most: our children and the educational pathway they must successfully travel.

Join the conversation on Impatient Optimists.

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Governor Inslee signs two early learning bills

Great news for Washington’s littlest learners; Governor Inslee has signed HB 1723 and SB 5595 into law! Here are some of the changes you can expect:

Under HB 1723

Under SB 5595

  • DEL/The Department of Social and Health Services will provide improved consumer service, meaning they will return all phone calls within 2 business days, develop a process to submit forms online, notify parents and child care providers 10 days before loss of WCCC benefits, and provide consumers with a document that is easy to understand regarding what services they are eligibile for, etc.
  • Creates a task force comprised of legislators, representatives from various early learning stakeholder groups, and child care providers. The task force will develop recommendations for creating a tiered-reimbursement model for WCCC and a mixed delivery system for ECEAP.
  • DEL/DSHS must work to design a more flexible subsidy system that accounts for small fluctuations in family circumstances, ensure that minor changes in parent’s work schedule(s) don’t interfere with their WCCC authorization, enable parents who participate in 110 hours of work or related activities to be eligible for full-time child care services, and simplify the requirement to count child support as income.

* This is void if not funded by 6/1/13.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723 Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723
Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

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Community members attend school board meeting, rally for our schools

This post originally appeared on the Our Schools Coalition blog, of which LEV is a member.

More than 35 Seattle students, parents, and community members came together at last night’s school board meeting to share their message with Seattle Public Schools’ leaders.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.


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LEV Board Member urges support for the WA DREAM Act

This afternoon, former immigration lawyer and current LEV Board Member Steve Miller spoke in support of the Washington DREAM Act at a rally hosted by LEV partner One America. Read the text of his speech below: 

The Founders of the Washington State government had a vision for us.

It is embedded in section 1 of Article 9 of our Washington State Constitution:

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders without distinction or preference on account of race, color caste or sex.

Allowing Dream Act kids to be eligible for state need grant for higher ed in this state falls squarely within the intentions and vision of this state’s founders.

These students are not foreign students, but children residing within our borders, children who have grown up in Washington, have gone to school here, graduated from here and have their homes here. Many know no other home.

We are in a major battle in the other Washington to confront the broken immigration system in this country that has resulted in the Dreamers’ current status as members of a caste imprisoned in a Kafkaesque  limbo.

We in THIS Washington should do what we can now to fulfill the vision of our state founders to make today’s needed education, which does not end at high school, available for all children residing within our borders without distinction on the basis of race, color, caste or sex.

We need to support the future of these children. Making higher ed. available to low income Dreamers keeps faith with our past and invests in our future.

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Governor signs bill to help turnaround schools

“Our kids can’t wait for schools to improve. They need high-quality schools now.”

This is a favorite mantra of LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo, who is known for her impatient optimism.

Community leaders and legislators agreed that it was time for our state to do something about persistently low-achieving schools. The time for hoping the problem would get better was over.

Today Governor Inslee signed SB 5329, which gives the state a larger role in school accountability and turnaround efforts. The legislation calls on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to design, a statewide system of support, assistance, and intervention for persistently low-achieving schools.

The legislation implements the second level of an accountability system created in 2010 to assist the ten most persistently lowest-achieving schools in Washington to become more accountable. School performance is based on the Achievement Index, a State Board of Education-developed accountability framework.

Thanks to SB 5329, persistently low achieving schools will receive additional support from OSPI to implement a three-year required action plan. OSPI will develop the action plan criteria and the corresponding system of supports for each level of challenged schools. If schools do not improve in three years, OSPI, working with local districts, will require additional actions to increase student achievement.

LEV worked with our partners Stand for Children and Partnership for Learning and a bi-partisan team of legislators in both chambers to develop the legislation.

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KIRO: 3 decades after desegregation, students say race a factor in unequal punishment

From the Our Schools Coalition blog.

KIRO News reports on the growing movement in the community to push Seattle Public Schools to address disproportional effects of discipline on students of color.

KIRO unequal punishment video

Join us Wednesday, May 8 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute for Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids to learn about alternatives to punitive discipline that are working in our community right now.

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