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Archive for August, 2013

Cutting out the Middle Man: Giving Students the Tools for Advocacy and Activism at School.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we know more than our fair share of advocates.  Principals, parents, community members, teachers, preachers, business people and more unite to improve educational outcomes for students across Washington state. However, with all these valuable resources, student participation can easily be forgotten in the education advocacy equation.  LEV strives to keep students at the center of our efforts.

One of our summer interns, Grace Armstrong, who is studying Special Education at Gonzaga University, decided to tackle this issue head on. This summer she developed a workshop entitled “Advocacy and Activism at School.” Her goal is to give students the power to fix issues they see at school, rather than relying on an adult to help, which oftentimes never happens. With this workshop, students will identify a needed area for change at their school, uncover the root causes and long-term effects of the issue, and examine their personal investment in repairing the issue. Most importantly, they will develop a strategic action plan on how to influence people in power and conquer these school-related issues through advocacy and activism. This workshop is focused on forming student and community coalitions, so students can advocate not only for their needs, but the needs of many.

Grace has already presented the workshop at several local community centers and has more scheduled.  She says, “the students teeming energy, curiosity and passion blow me away. They have so much to discuss surrounding issues from bullying, to unhealthy school lunches, to falling behind in class. You can tell they want change and they want it now.” Grace can’t wait to continue this workshop series at more community centers and summer camp programs around Seattle. Contact her at grace@educationvoters.org if you would like to schedule a workshop!

Grace blogpost

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog

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iGrad – a dropout reengagement program

What happens to a student once he or she is drops out of school? How do Washington’s public schools effectively re-engage students who have dropped out?

Without a solid district-wide plan to re-engage students, many high school students may find it nearly impossible to graduate with a high school diploma, let alone go on to earn a post-secondary degree.

iGrad is an individualized graduation and degree program located in the Kent School District.  Now entering its second year, iGrad serves youth 16-21 years of age in a dropout reengagement program.

Students who have not been successful in a traditional high school may choose to enroll in iGrad where they can opt into one of four types of programs and earn a:

  • Kent School District High School Diploma
  • Washington state High School Diploma
  • GED
  • High School Diploma leading to an Associate’s Degree (from Green River Community College)
  • High School Diploma leading to a Career Certificate

The flexibility of day and evening classes, access to a post-secondary education, and the possibility of earning a state-funded Associates Degree from Green River Community College is a very appealing option for a growing number of students.

Current enrollment at iGrad reaches approximately 500 students. Principal Carol Cleveland, iGrad’s dedicated and highly effective principal anticipates that the program will be able to house approximately 900 students for the 2013-2014 school year.  iGrad is also highly supported by Kent’s Superintendent Dr. Lee Vargas.

The potential for this program is huge.  Not only will iGrad reach students from Kent, but the program also pulls students across King County.  As we look towards more equitable options for students who have been affected by disproportionate discipline, who need more alternative schooling options, and who need access towards a post-secondary credential- iGrad presents a viable model.

Posted in: Blog, School Discipline

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The next lurch forward

By Lisa Macfarlane

Last week, NPR profiled Robert Moses, one of America’s most courageous civil rights leaders. In the early 1960’s, Moses organized Mississippi sharecroppers to fight for the right to vote, helping to shape the civil rights movement in the South. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Moses left the US and taught secondary school in Tanzania, returning in the mid ’70s and eventually settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While in Cambridge, Moses started to see the disparities in the educational offerings between schools in low and high-income areas and decided to do something about it. So in 1982, Moses used a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award to start the Algebra Project, a nonprofit working with low-scoring math students to prepare them for college-level math courses. The Algebra Project has since expanded to more than 200 schools, and also provides professional development to math teachers across the nation. Moses’ organization is clearly an extension of his lifelong campaign to extend civil rights and freedom to the poor and disenfranchised.

The Algebra Project emerged from Robert Moses’ belief that civic equality is rooted in educational equity. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of civil rights leaders like Moses and education reformers across the country there are still too many kids of color that are not receiving the education they deserve.

Take Washington state, for example. In our state, only 54.6 percent of black high school students passed the End of Course Math 2 Assessment during the 2010-11 school year, compared to the state average of 79.1 percent. Talk about a modern version of Jim Crow.

Like Moses, I believe that access to a high-quality education is a civil right. In order to move forward as a nation, we need to ensure that all of our kids, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status, are academically challenged and prepared for the future.

Moses could not have said it better: “The next lurch forward in civil rights is that every child in America gets a quality public education and that our nation’s promise of freedom continues.”

Lisa Macfarlane is the Washington State Director for Democrats for Education Reform and co-founder of the League of Education Voters. This post originally appeared on the Washington Democrats for Education Reform blog.

 

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