Archive for June, 2013

Combatting summer learning loss is key to closing the achievement gap

By Lynne Tucker, School’s Out Washington

Today is National Summer Learning Day, a day dedicated to build awareness about the importance of summer learning in closing the achievement gap.

For over 472,000 of Washington’s children living in poverty, summer means boredom, loss of free school meals, and limited access to programs that keep them learning, nourished, and ready to return to school on track and at grade level in the fall.

“Summer Learning Loss”, the process where school-year gains are lost during summer months, happens if youth are not engaged in learning activities.

Research tells us that the cumulative impact of summer learning loss is the single greatest contributor to the achievement gap for 9th graders – a time when we see higher rates of school drop-out.Buena group story

Access to high-quality summer programs is a critical piece of ensuring that investments made in education are maintained over the course of a child’s school experience. Children deserve an education that allows them to achieve and graduate career and college ready.

Gary Huggins, chief executive of the National Summer Learning Association, says studies show that kids lose as much as two to three months of math and reading skills over the summer, with the losses being more marked among lower-income kids.

A recent survey of teachers by the National Summer Learning Association, found that 66 percent of them said they’re spending at least three to four weeks at the beginning of the school year teaching old concepts that have been forgotten.  Summer is great as a break from school, but it doesn’t have to be a break from learning.

School’s Out Washington and our state’s after school and youth development programs’ support and provide quality summer learning programs to ensure our state’s investments in education are maintained over the course of a child’s school experience, including summertime.

In communities across the state, summer programs are offering kids academic support, enrichment and experiential learning that enhances what they learn doing the school year while providing opportunities to learn, grow, and be healthy with access to free nutritious meals and physical activity.

For more information and resources on summer learning, visit School’s Out Washington’s Summer Learning Resources page.



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Meet the Inaugural Washington State Charter Schools Leader Cohort

Today the Washington State Charter Schools Association announced the members of the inaugural Washington State Charter Leader Cohort. These committed, trailblazing school leaders were chosen from a national search that resulted in over two-dozen applicants. Representatives from parent, university, school district, and charter communities participated in the selection process. These leaders will apply to lead high-quality public charter schools for underserved students in Washington state.

Kristina Bellamy-McClain

Kristina Bellamy-McClain is the principal at Emerson Elementary School, a high-poverty school in Seattle, Washington. She began teaching through Teach for America and went on to teach in Lynwood, California and Anchorage, Alaska before becoming a principal. She earned a Masters in Education, Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska in Anchorage and a Masters of Arts in Elementary Education from Loyola Marymount University.

Brenda McDonald

Brenda McDonald is the principal at Garry Middle School in Spokane, Washington, a position she has held since 2005. She began her career in education as a Special Education teacher and Math Specialist in Walla Walla. She is currently working on completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Washington State University, where she also earned her Superintendent Credential. She holds two Masters, one in School Administration from Whitworth College, and one in Curriculum and Instruction, from Eastern Washington University.

Maggie O’Sullivan

Maggie O’Sullivan is the principal of Mirror Lake Elementary School in Federal Way, Washington. She completed the Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the University of Washington, and holds two masters: a Masters in Education from Stanford University and a Masters in Liberal Arts from Wesleyan University. She began teaching at Foster High School in Tukwila, where she taught for 6 years before becoming a principal.

Cohort members will receive coaching on writing a charter school application and board member recruitment. They will also receive a planning stipend during 2013-14, and a variety of support services, including travel to visit high-performing public charter schools, and office space.

This post originally appeared on the Washington State Charter Schools Association blog.

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Conditional support for the revised Achievement Index

The wheels of progress moved forward yesterday for Washington state, no thanks to the state legislature.

While the legislature convened for its second special session to pass a 2013-15 budget, a working group of the State Board of Education (SBE) advanced a significant piece of work to enhance our state’s K-12 accountability system.

Last spring Washington state applied for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind requirements and received a one-year conditional waiver. This waiver can be renewed for a second year if the state meets certain interim benchmarks.

One of those benchmarks is updating our Achievement Index.  As part of its work to update the Index, the SBE convened an advisory Achievement and Accountability Workgroup (AAW) to collect stakeholder input as it develops the revised Index.  LEV has participated in the AAW since its inception last fall.

The AAW voted yesterday to support the draft Index.  LEV was among a handful of conditional support votes.

The current draft of the Index is a substantial step up from what we have now.  The proposal incorporates student growth, includes measures to try and close achievement gaps, and includes a college and career readiness indicator.

Despite the good work that has been done, LEV still has significant concerns about how English Language Learner (ELL) students are or are not incorporated into the Index:

1) Though student growth and proficiency data of current ELL students are included as part of the Limited English subgroup in the Index, English language acquisition data of ELL students is not incorporated in the Index.

2) We support the recommendations of the Quality Education Council (“QEC”), in their 2010 study, that long term outcome goals for ELL students who have exited TBIP should be included in the state accountability system.

As a recent Seattle Times editorial stated, it is critical that we get this right.

We look forward to working with our partners both on the AAW and elsewhere to continue to tackle the issue of how best to hold our education system accountable for the outcomes of ELL students, special education students, and all groups who have had persistent and unacceptable opportunity and achievement gaps in our state.



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Summer learning loss: Why we must support students year-round

As an avid runner, rower, and soccer player currently recovering from my third knee surgery, I am keenly aware of the process of atrophy, and feel it happening more and more to my body with each passing day that I am unable to exercise as intensely as I would like. The body needs to be worked out regularly and often to maintain aerobic fitness, physical strength and maximum health. I know that my return to running in July following a more than 3 month layoff will be a painful reminder of what has been lost during that time.

The mind is no different than the body, and so it is that summer learning loss is an absolute reality in the cycle we have set up within our educational framework in this country. As sociologist Karl Alexander from Johns Hopkins University has shown so clearly in his data (p. 255-258 in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers), our calendar system based on the rhythms of the agricultural season no longer makes sense when trying to strive for strong educational outcomes for the wide range of students now in our public schools. While a few fortunate young people may have their minds challenged and nurtured all summer with family trips overseas (who wouldn’t want to see Versailles up close and personally after studying it in a World History class?) and other extended enrichment opportunities at home and abroad, for low income and other underserved students, the reality is that they return from school breaks and summer holidays with lower achievement scores than before (in one particular Hopkins study, while wealthier students make consistent 15 point gains in reading over the course of summer vacation, low income students drop by 4 points). Teachers thus begin a new year often scrambling to get students back up to the place where they left off before even considering the possibilities of advancement, and the only fault of the students was lacking the resources to keep the learning process going all summer long on one’s own. Access to resources is a very different issue than motivation to learn or inherent ability to achieve.

At Rainier Scholars, we are committed to using the summer months for intensive enrichment and cultivation of the mind for our low income students of color, setting a goal that scholars will emerge after two summer sessions in our academic program (plus an extra school year of twice weekly classes) working 1-2 grades above grade level, not having fallen behind their peers who are already in enrichment settings but actually having kept pace and in some cases accelerated right on by. We witness daily the profound impact of a regular diet of mental and intellectual challenge, and though the popular myth is that students only want the summer to “chill out and relax,” we see near-instant results in the self-esteem and confidence students take into their next educational setting.

Just as running, lifting weights and riding a bike keep one’s body sharp and ready for performance, so too does reading classic texts such as Romeo and Juliet and analyzing whether one should marry for love or money, solving equations and mastering Algebra, conducting DNA lab experiments and debating critical human rights issues around the globe keep one’s mind sharp and ready for excellence. Yes, our minds and bodies all need a day or two of rest every now and again to recharge and refresh, but we all know how much atrophy occurs after 3 months; why would the mind be any different?

Sarah Smith is Executive Director of Rainier Scholars and a member of the Our Schools Coalition.

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Keep resources from the estate tax dedicated to education

During a press conference yesterday, Governor Inslee expressed frustration over a lack of progress in the legislative budget negotiations.  He also expressed frustration with a loophole in the state’s estate tax.

Washington’s law states that estate tax revenues go into the Education Legacy Trust account, which funds public education.

In 2006, Initiative 920 was an attempt to roll-back the estate tax. It failed by 66 percent of the vote.  Voters chose to support public education with resources provided with the estate tax.

A recent Washington Supreme Court decision created a loophole in Washington state’s estate tax. It allows wealthy married couples to avoid paying estate taxes. According to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, the court decision is projected to cost Washington state $160 million in the coming 2013-15 budget cycle,

HB 2064, which the League of Education Voters supports, reaffirms the public’s will to support public education through the estate tax. We must ensure our schools have ample, equitable and stable funding. We cannot meet the stability requirement of our Constitution if we allow the resources needed to fund our schools to be lost for no good reason.

Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The estate tax, which applies to less than 1 percent of the wealthiest families, is one of our few progressive taxes. It is an equitable, targeted revenue source that the people of the State support. Over ninety-nine percent of estates, including all family farms and most small businesses, pay no estate tax.

The intent of the original estate tax law and the support of the voters were clear. The resources garnered by the estate tax are to be dedicated to education. Taking these dedicated funds away because of a legal technicality is not good policy, does not reflect the public will and is not reflective of stable and rational approach to governing our state.



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New study looks at Latino academic achievement in Washington state

A recent study examines the ways Washington state can move forward in meeting the needs and promoting the prosperity of its Latino residents. The report, Investing in our Collective Future, looks at a wide range of data on Latino education in Washington state, from early learning through higher education, and presents policy options for moving the state forward.

These recommendations come as the Latino population in Washington and in the nation are increasing. Washington ranks 12th in the nation for Latino population, and 19 percent of all students in Washington’s public schools are Latino. It is the fastest growing population in Washington, but Latino students’ college-going rate, postsecondary enrollment, and earnings are not growing in proportion to the population.

For a well-educated and highly trained population, it is clear that we must do more for Latino students. The report focuses on improving Latino educational access and achievement in the state. It suggests a wide range of ways to better prepare Latino students for success, from P-20 preparation, to parent and community engagement, to transforming institutions to better serve Latino students and families, to reforming funding to prioritize programs that support Latino students.

Preparing Latino Students for Success

In order to promote success for Latino students, the report recommends common sense reforms that will improve quality of education for all students. These include integrating education across early learning through higher education; introducing Latino students to a rigorous curriculum and academic supports; increasing access to evidence-based education programs; and supporting arts education to promote creativity and cognitive development.

Committing to Support Latino Parents and Families

However, these changes cannot be successful without the involvement of parents and families. The report’s policy recommendations reflect this, calling for an increase in communication with parents using appropriate technology in both Spanish and English, with a specific focus on making sure parents are aware of student progress and achievement. In order to increase the number of Latino students going on to higher education, the report’s authors also recommend explicit communications to parents around college-going practices.

Transforming Institutions

With the support of their families, Latino students will have an advantage, but that advantage will not be fully realized until Washington state’s institutions also support them. The authors recommend a variety of institutional changes that will make a difference for Latino students, including making explicit strategies to raise Latino college enrollment and completion; providing various routes to accessing financial aid for all students, including undocumented students; and increasing the number of Latino teachers by giving incentives to educational institutions to produce and hire more Latino teachers.

Prioritizing Resources

Finally, the report’s authors make clear that none of these changes can happen with the appropriate financial support. That’s why they suggest increasing financial aid options for students, in particular those who pursue degrees in the STEM and other high demand fields; and supporting Basic Skills funding in the state.

The report’s recommendations offer a way forward for Washington in supporting its fastest growing population. Read the full report here.

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